Out of marketing ideas? Try crowdsourcing them from your customers

Wouldn’t it be better if car trunks had built-in refrigeration for transporting groceries? What if the shower didn’t let out water until it was actually at the temperature you set it to?

These are just two of thousands of ideas put forward on the crowdsource ideation site Betterific. The ideas referenced above are nifty, but you might wonder how they benefit the individuals who come up with them, or ultimately if these ideas will ever get on the radar of companies in a position to execute on them.  

Increasingly, sites such as Betterific are leading a charge to help companies and organizations crowdsource ideation. Crowdsourcing – as a model – has proven its legitimacy for a number of market applications, including funding, branding (logos, graphic and web design, etc.), and even game development. Now, companies such as Betterific are looking to make it easier for brands to tap consumers and customers for ideas related to all aspects of their business – whether it’s the Washington Wizards seeking ways to enhance the fan’s viewing experience, or frozen yogurt chain 16 Handles looking for new flavor ideas.  

To help businesses get a better sense of how to leverage the wisdom of crowds for product, service and marketing ideation, I turned to Betterific CEO and Co-Founder Micha Weinblatt.

BL: What types of businesses are best suited to leverage crowdsource platforms for ideation?

MW: There are two main ways in which companies can use crowdsourcing, each with a very different feel but similar outcomes. For consumer facing companies (CPG, sports teams, hotels, retail, etc.) crowdsourcing provides a unique and rewarding way to engage with your customers directly, allowing for increased customer loyalty, direct and immediate feedback, idea validation and free customized ideas for product development/services.

On the flip side, any company can benefit from crowdsourcing ideas internally from their employees. From manufacturers, transportation services, municipalities and real estate developers, there are huge benefits to garnering ideas from the people who run your company at all levels. It not only holds the potential for creating greater efficiencies, but also engages employees and creates greater loyalty from within.

A key to success with crowdsourcing is having a plan on how to implement and utilize the ideas effectively. This is something we are trying to learn about so we can help our clients better use the information they get through crowdsourcing.

BL: What do firms need to do to ‘incentivize’ consumers/business users to submit ideas?

MW: It depends on the company; however, people do enjoy the prospect of winning prizes for their ideas, especially if it’s for a company or brand that they really like. For that reason, we do encourage all of our clients to offer a grand prize and several runner-up prizes to our members. It is also helpful when a company agrees to sit down and actually talk with the campaign winners because it demonstrates its commitment to the customer. We haven’t run any campaigns without those incentives.

At Betterific we encouragers to leave ideas on anything and everything, not just on the products and services that are campaigning on the site. The funny thing about ideas is that they’re contagious and people tend to rally around an idea that resonates with them. What we strive to do with Betterific is create a platform that enhances that sharing experience and allows people to enjoy the process of brainstorming together.

BL: How important is it that participants actually see that their ideas (or the winning idea) lead to tangible implementation?

MW: In short, it is very important. Once you solicit ideas from the crowd, you’ve essentially started a conversation. The conversation can’t be one way. Companies need to know ahead of time how they intend to interact with the crowd and communicate back to them regarding where they’re at in the process of idea implementation. It is expected that they will have a method for implementing those ideas that work best for the company. Starbucks’ MyStarbucksIdea website is a perfect example of a successful crowdsourcing “campaign.” They continually update the site to let people know which ideas are under review and what ideas have been implemented. If they didn’t do that, then people would stop leaving them ideas. So, if you want the full benefits of crowdsourcing, you need to be as engaged as possible with the entire process. Idea implementation can also take a while, so it’s important to let people know that you haven’t given up on the process.

BL: In your experience, what doesn’t work? Where do brands go wrong as far as how they solicit ideas?

MW: A lot of companies assume that if people have ideas about them, then people will go ahead and communicate their ideas, either via Facebook, Twitter, an email or a phone call. We’ve found that this is simply not true. For one thing you can’t expect consumers to just start thinking about communicating their ideas to you because they want to. You need to take an active role in engaging with your consumer base and potential consumers. A number of companies we’ve talked to asked us why they couldn’t just run a campaign on Facebook to get ideas. We encouraged them to give it a try. Invariably, each company that tried this got only several comments, most of which were negative in tone. For whatever reasons, this method doesn’t work as well as others.

When you’re a brand, it’s helpful to post a few ideas of your own on things at the beginning of a campaign to get the juices flowing. Start the brainstorm and give the crowd an idea of how creative they can be with their own ideas.

BL: Anything else you want to add that is important?

MW: The funny thing about ideas is that they are ephemeral and often just float off into the ether after someone thinks of them. But usually, ideas are born during a good conversation with friends or an inspired moment. Everyone has experienced a really awesome idea while talking with a friend and then five minutes later can’t remember it anymore. We think these ideas are a hidden goldmine; they just need a place where people can post those ideas as they happen and then get them where they need to go in order to make them a reality.

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