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Crowdsourcing is the new black when it comes to marketing

Crowdsourcing: it’s a scary concept for marketers who are only just getting used to conversations with consumers as opposed to monologues. Crowdsourcing takes the idea of marketing as a two-way conversation a step further. Conversation is still two-way (how could be anything else), but consumers have much more input in the manner in which marketing is carried out; sometimes they even have  more input into how the end product is finalised.

Like all new methods of marketing, crowdsourcing has had its share of early adopters but it’s taken a few years for it to gain traction and become a serious consideration for serious marketers. And, as with all new forms of marketing, it makes people nervous. They’re not too sure how to go about it. They’re not sure of its worth. They’re not sure how they’ll measure success.

Brandon Evans says, “The future presents marketers with two distinct options: Hire armies of employees and agencies to try to keep pace, or figure out ways to collaborate with consumers in a much deeper way throughout the marketing process.”

According to Evans, the choice is obvious – consumer partnerships are the only way forward. This involves creating a “brand crowd”, a set of people on whom marketers can continuously rely for feedback, information, ideas and distribution.

An important part of this is providing appropriate rewards and incentives to not only encourage participation but to encourage repeat participation. Your brand crowd needs to feel valued, but it also needs to get value in return.

Todd Wasserman says that you need to be smart when determining rewards. Offering a trip is not a good idea because, no matter how amazing the destination, there are factors that could turn people off. People are, by and large, lazy. Even free trips require effort and planning. They also like immediate gratification. Trips can take time to arrange and they often fall on the back burner until the offer expires. Cash, discount vouchers and free products are immediately available and provide something tangible for participants to look forward to. Wasserman also suggests that more than one prize be made available – a tiered approach is a good idea. You also want to keep the prizes coming. This is especially important if you want to build a brand crowd.

The practicalities of crowdsourcing marketing

  • When you make an open offer to the wider online population be prepared to be inundated with replies. You might not be; you might only hear the sound of crickets as you wait for replies, but you could find yourself with inboxes overflowing with responses. Should this happen you need to  be able to sift through the ideas, reply to people as necessary and shortlist good suggestions.
  • You will get rubbish ideas. You will get ideas that have nothing to with what you asked. You can minimise these time wasters by being as specific as possible. Wasserman cites John Winsor, CEO of Victor & Spoils, who said: “Write a super-tight brief. Be super-clear about what you want.”
  • Related to the above point is the need to keep things simple. Don’t ask consumers to complete redesign a marketing campaign or product. You’re looking for participation, not fishing for new staff. (Although that is one way to go about recruitment.)

Marketing through crowdsourcing is like any other marketing strategy in that needs to be well planned to be successful.

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