Crowdsourcing has become more common in business, but many still misunderstand it. Too many small business owners think that crowdsourcing and crowdfunding are the same thing, and think of it as only a resource to raise money for their business. While gaining funding is certainly one kind of crowdsourcing, crowdsourcing as a whole has greater uses.
By understanding how crowdsourcing can be used for your small business, you’ll be able to capture the fullness of the resources available in the crowd. This will allow you to innovate and implement new ideas, processes, and methods into your business without investing enormous amounts of money.
Starting a Crowdsourcing Project: Teamwork and a Planning
The first two things you need to use crowdsourcing in your small business is to have a team of people to create and manage the project, and to create a plan around what you want to accomplish and how you plan to use the crowd to do so.
The team that you assemble should have good diversity and represent the major stakeholders in the project. This could include representatives from IT, sales, marketing, and development. If you have a small company, you’ll select individuals that can work together as a team to brainstorm, implement solutions, and make recommendations.
Next, you should think about what the plan is for the crowdsourcing project. Your plan should include the following elements, along with a timeframe for accomplishment:
- Goal: What is the problem you’d like crowd help to solve? Are you looking to solve a problem internally with input from employees, develop a new product with input from external sources, or improve an existing product with input both internally and externally?
- Execution: There are several ways to do crowdsourcing. You could do surveys, a contest, use crowdsourcing to get manual tasks completed or data collected, and much more. Decide what type of crowdsourcing you plan to use.
- Incentive: While the external crowd is more internally motivated than your employees, you’ll still need some kind of incentive for participating in your project. This could be financial, a specific kind of recognition, or company swag.
- Security and Compliance: It’s important to plan for how you’re going to keep your ideas protected and your company information secure as you invite the crowd to help you in your business. Generally, this requires a combination of IT and legal advice, or you can use a pre-existing crowdsourcing platform that a has protection built in.
Completing a Crowdsourcing Project: Implementation and Follow-up
Completing a crowdsourcing project has seven stages, and as you go through each one, your team will need to be actively involved to keep ideas moving through the process. It’s also important to keep any and all stakeholders updated on how the process is going, including contributors.
Here are the seven stages of implementing and following up on a crowdsourcing project:
- Ideate: Participants – internal, external, or both – submit their ideas and suggestions to your company based on the type of crowdsourcing and platform you’ve chosen. This can include design ideas, suggestions, and more.
- Team Evaluation: Once the process of ideation has begun, the most promising ideas are evaluated by your team – or, if you have several complex ideas to review, one team is assigned per idea.
- Refine Stage: The most promising ideas are refined and evaluated, and the best ideas are made into formal proposals.
- Estimate Stage: Each proposal has a cost and benefit analysis showing the estimated cost and benefit to the company if it is chosen to be implemented.
- Review Stage: Experts – either the team you created or additional subject matter experts – review the proposals and cost-benefit analysis and choose a winning idea.
- Fund Stage: Funding is secured from your organization to implement the idea, and any benefits, prizes, or winnings are paid to the innovator.
- Archive Stage: Any ideas that are worthwhile but cannot be acted on immediately are archived and kept for later review and possible implementation.
This process sounds more complex than it is for most small businesses. In many smaller organizations, there aren’t as many stakeholders or as many layers of approval needed to move forward with a new idea. As a result, small businesses often benefit from crowdsourcing even more than larger ones.
Crowdsourcing isn’t just a way to raise money. It’s much, much more – a way to gain new ideas, innovate, and even expand your team temporarily without significant capital investment. As a small business, you can’t afford to let your size keep you from innovating and implementing the best new ideas. Crowdsourcing gives you a way to access those ideas without having to have a million-dollar budget.
For more information about how to use crowdsourcing for your small business, download our Crowdsourcing for Small Business whitepaper today!