How to harness the Intelligence of Customer to solve your problems

Ever heard of the word “[tag]CrowdSourcing[/tag]“? [tag]Fansourcing[/tag], crowdcasting, crowdfunding, or wikinomics? Despite the jargony name, crowdsourcing is a very real and important [tag]business idea[/tag]. Definitions and terms may vary, but the basic idea is to tap into the collective intelligence of the public at large to complete business-related tasks that a company would normally either perform itself or outsource to a third-party provider.

Free labor is only a narrow part of crowdsourcing’s appeal. More importantly, it enables you to expand the size of your talent pool while also gaining deeper insight into what your [tag]customers[/tag] really want. According to Jennifer Alsever, crowdsourcing is a technique that sophisticated companies use to translate the enthusiasm of their most highly-engaged customers into valuable marketing, [tag]branding[/tag], or product-development insight.

You can do it too. He highlighted some techniques on how you can harness the intelligence of the customers that love your business, talk about your business, and better yet, will do free work for your business in today’s increasingly democratic, user-generated, social-networked, marketplace.

  1. Engage in a true dialogue with your customers, or don’t bother at all: If your company does not respect its customers or not really interested in hearing what outsiders have to say even if the way they say is may seem snarky or harsh, then you should probably forget about launching a crowdsourcing initiative.
  2. Identify customers who will provide the most useful insight: Never, ever plant your own people to pose as customers online. This will defeat the whole essence of crowdsourcing.
  3. Reward passionate consumers with insider perks and benefits: People want to know they are extra-special. Give them special status in a customer community to indicate that their advice had an impact on the company’s direction. Also, consider offering your customers discounts on service or products purchased. Discounted products and cash prizes for creative contests can work wonders to motivate your customers to talk back, fill out a survey, or preview a new product.
  4. Give participants clear goals and integrate their ideas into your decision-making:

The idea of soliciting customer input is hardly new, of course, and the open-source software movement showed that it can be done with large numbers of people. The difference is that today’s technology makes it possible to enlist ever-larger numbers of non-technical people to do ever-more complex and creative tasks, at significantly reduced cost.

With a deft touch and a clear set of objectives, quite literally thousands of people can and want to help your business. From designing ad campaigns to vetting new product ideas to solving difficult R&D problems, chances are that people outside your company walls can help you perform better in the marketplace; they become one more resource you can use to get work done. In return, most participants simply want some personal recognition, a sense of community, or at most, a financial incentive.

Visit Bnet for a detailed write-up on Crowdsourcing.

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