10 ways crowdsourcing can help you grow

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The term crowdsourcing is defined as the process of outsourcing elements of your business by soliciting contributions from an external crowd of people, usually through an online community. Here are ten ways in which crowdsourcing can help ambitious entrepreneurs to innovate and grow their businesses:

1. Crowdsource ideas
The simplest form of crowdsourcing is to ask for new ideas or knowledge. This could be through a formal process using a crowdsourcing platform such and Chaordix and Crowdicity, or through online communities such as Wikipedia and Quora.

2. Crowdsource investment
Crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo enable you to share an investment opportunity with their crowd and if you then reach your financial target within a specific timescale, the crowd invests, and the investors receive prizes or even equity in return.

3. Crowdsource new business
Many big companies have “open innovation” initiatives, which can enable entrepreneurs to grow faster and at a greater scale than on their own. For example Procter & Gamble, GlaxoSmithKline and Google all have targets for new business ideas to come from external partners.

4. Crowdsource new partners
If there is somebody it would be helpful for you to meet, then ask your contacts or use your social networks, such as LinkedIn or Twitter , to help connect you. Remember to be as specific as possible and be clear about what’s in it for them as well as what’s in it for you.

5. Crowdsource new solutions
The solutions are out there, if only you know where and how to look. Take time to define and quantify the nature of the problem you are trying to solve, why it’s important, and then use crowds such as Ninesigma and Innocentive to find the solutions.

6. Crowdsource policies
Many governments and companies are realising the value of getting more direct input from their customers, not only because it leads to better policies, but also it demonstrates and proves greater democratic accountability (e.g. Change.org, Valve).

7. Crowdsource data
Anything that can be digitised can be shared. Organisations such as the Open Data Institute are advocating that all data should be “open by default”. Think about what data you could share or you need, and explore how you might benefit from it.

8. Crowdsource insight
Traditional market research is at best inefficient and at worst inaccurate. The best way to gather actionable insight is to listen to the crowd when they are able to speak freely about topics they care about. Companies such as Listen & Learn Research can help gather and analyse the data.

9. Crowdsource marketing
Smart companies such as Lego and Threadless use their crowds to build a market before investing in production. They ask the crowd what they want and are clear about their decision-making criteria and therefore frequently sell out of any new products and services.

10. Crowdsource talent
Companies such as Facebook and eBay now realise that the best way to find and train new people — employees or volunteers — is through crowdsourcing, which gives both sides the opportunity to test their capabilities, significantly increasing the chance of getting a good fit.

Ambitious entrepreneurs can now use crowdsourcing to tap into smart people and great ideas outside of their companies, wherever they may be. Not only is it increasingly possible to grow your business through crowdsourcing, it is rapidly becoming an essential tool to become and remain competitive in a connected world.

This article was originally posted on the Times SME Hub here.

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