Tag Archives: Product Testing

10 Ways Small Businesses Can Harness Big Crowds

Sourced with compliments from: http://cs.sbtv.com/Post/?id=2512

Would your small business benefit from reducing costs, improving product and/or service quality, more effectively competing with bigger companies, innovating more, enhancing your expertise, and better managing your own capacity and the capacity of your small team? You bet!

In this post, I discuss 10 ways that your small business can leverage crowdsourcing. I’ll explain each suggestion and will recommend ways that you could take advantage of the service for your small business. I’ll include examples for each suggestion to show how a small businesses can leverage each service.

First – a short background. For the past 20+ years, many companies have outsourced certain types of work – such as product design, manufacturing, or customer service – to a third-party. Often, the third-party was located overseas (India, for example). Historically, outsourcing was the done mostly by larger companies. Although outsourcing continues to be a popular option for companies in many different industries, the diminishing savings from outsourcing, coupled with some of the disadvantages (quality, communication issues, turnover, etc.) have made outsourcing a less attractive option.

Over the past 6-7 years, some companies have found new, more creative ways to leverage others – through crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing involves taking a task which is traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, and outsourcing it to a large group of people – rather than to a specific third party (like one would do when outsourcing). Some large companies have been leveraging crowdsourcing for years (see Innocentive below).

How can your small business leverage crowdsourcing? Here are 10 suggestions:

1. uTest.

What it is: uTest is the world’s largest marketplace for software testing services. A community of 20,000+ quality assurance professionals from around the world help software companies test their web, mobile, gaming and desktop applications.

How You Can Leverage uTest: If your company develops software, you can leverage uTest to provide functional, usability, load and performance testing. Companies that develop software know that testing is time consuming and tedious. And while larger companies often have quality assurance staff – or entire departments focused on testing – small businesses must rely on their own employees or third parties to thoroughly test their software products. By crowdsourcing software testing, you can both control and reduce your costs, and make sure that your products are thoroughly tested before they are released, without putting tremendous strain on your small development team. You pay only for the services you need/use.

2. Innocentive.

What it is: InnoCentive is an online marketplace where organizations in need of innovation can leverage a global network of over 160,000 people to solve technical and business problems.

How You Can Leverage Innocentive: If your company runs into a business or research and development problem, Innocentive could be a great alternative to help you overcome that problem. You set the challenge reward (these are typically in the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars). While the cost to post a problem to Innocentive and attract a robust community of people to help you is not small (you set your own reward amount), many small businesses developing complex chemical or electronic products incur much higher costs when working with third-party contractors. And while Innocentive has traditionally been a great option for large corporations – it is equally attractive to smaller companies that must find ways to overcome complex and expensive problems that are delaying product launches.

3. Amazon Mechanical Turk.

What it is: Mechanical turk is a marketplace for getting various tasks performed by distributed groups of people. Tasks posted to Mechanical Turk are typically broken down into small components and multiple workers typically work on different components of each task.

How You Can Leverage Mechanical Turk: There are unlimited ways that you could leverage Mechanical Turk. For example, you can post tasks to have people write short blog posts for your small business blog or newsletter. You can have people create lists for you if you are developing a website focused on sports statistics or other types of statistics. You can have workers on Mechanical Turk transcribe audio and/or video files for you. (Tip: for transcription, you could also use a service like CastingWords, which uses Mechanical Turk to manage the process for you). You can have workers on Mechanical Turk answer surveys about a product or service (your own or a competitor’s). You can have workers on Mechanical Turk obtain data from multiple websites on a regular basis and provide it to you in a specific format. Think about any task(s) in your business that require large groups of people and you’ll come up with simple, low-cost (you set your own price) and effective ways to leverage Mechanical Turk for your business.

4. Inkling.

What it is: Inkling runs prediction marketplaces. These marketplaces could provide, among other things, early risk warnings about products and services (or about interruptions to your supply chain, for example), could help quantify the probability that an event will occur, and can predict how your business will perform.

How You Can Leverage Inkling: Inkling at first look appears more appropriate for larger companies – and the case studies posted on Inkling’s site promote use by large companies. However, there are many ways that small businesses can leverage Inkling. For example, if your company is developing a new product, you can use an Inkling marketplace to predict whether your product (or several variations of your product) will be successful in the marketplace. Given the often high costs of marketing and advertising, being able to predict which variation of a product is likely to be most successful is an incredible advantage to blindly launching a new product (or service).

5. Get Satisfaction.

What it is: Get Satisfaction allows companies to support customers, exchange ideas and receive feedback about products and services.

How You Can Leverage Get Satisfaction: Get Satisfaction has numerous price points, ranging from FREE to $899 per month. It’s a good alternative for small businesses that have popular products and active communities, but small teams. Many small businesses use Get Satisfaction as their primary channel for customer support.  For example, if you’re marketing a popular free product, you may have a very active and devoted community, but little money to provide customer support. Similarly, if you’re a startup, you’re most likely spending your money on development and not spending enough on providing customer support. Get Satisfaction helps you to leverage your community to help you deliver customer support to your users and lets your team focus on building and improving your core product or service.

6. Twitter/Facebook

What it is: Twitter is a social network. Users on Twitter communicate by sending text-based messaged of up to 140 characters in length. The messages are public (there is a private message option) and other people can subscribe to receive all your messages or find your messages by searching or visiting your page on Twitter. In turn, you can subscribe to other people’s messages. This process – “following” – allows people and companies to build communities of “followers” on Twitter (some of these communities are small – numbering in the single digits, but some communities are in the thousands, tens of thousands, and even millions of people). Facebook is also a social network. In addition to text based messages, Facebook allows you to upload photos, videos, and interact with other people who can become your “friend” on Facebook. Like on Twitter, your friends on Facebook can see your public messages and you can see the public messages posted by your friends. Companies can set up “fan” pages on Facebook where companies can interact with their customers and fans.

How You Can Leverage Twitter and Facebook: You can use your communities on Twitter and Facebook to help you generate ideas, to give you feedback about ideas, to help you with research questions, and in many other ways. For example, if you’re a freelance journalist or a copywriting agency, you could ask your communities for ideas about stories. Or if you’re a manufacturer of electronic products, you can ask your communities for ideas to improve your products. If your small company makes a popular software product, you could ask your communities for feedback about your latest public beta release. If you have a gift basket business, you can ask for feedback on your latest basket designs on several newsletter templates you’re considering. The possibilities are unlimited.

7. Mahalo Answers

What it is: Mahalo Answers is a social community where anyone can ask questions about anything. Members provide answers to the questions and in some cases, earn “tips” for the best answers.

How You Can Leverage Mahalo: Small businesses that do not have large communities on Twitter or Facebook must find ways to get help from existing communities. Even if you have existing communities, it sometimes helps to seek opinions outside your communities. Let’s say you have a small business on Etsy, selling various kinds of crafts. How should you effectively and inexpensively market your Etsy business? You can ask for advice on Mahalo. What if you’re building a voice mail application and doing market research to find out how many voice mails are left in the U.S. every month? You can spend time looking for the answer on Google or Bing – or you can ask for help on Mahalo.

8. Start a needed service

What it is: Sometimes, you’ll have an idea for new ways to leverage crowds and will see an opportunity to create a service that doesn’t already exist. For example, HARO (Help A Reporter Out) is a very successful free service founded by Peter Shankman – designed to help journalists request expert interview sources for stories. Peter started the service because he was constantly receiving requests for help from his journalist friends and he came up with a way to leverage crowds to answer those requests directly.

How You Can Leverage: Each company described in this article found a creative way to deliver a product service to others. Just like Peter Shankman, think about problems facing your business – or your industry – and assess whether you can find smart ways to solve those problems. As you can see from the many examples in this article, there are unlimited creative ways to crowdsource solutions to common (and uncommon) problems. The key to building a relevant business is to find an opportunity  – an industry need that is being unmet – and develop a solution that meets that need. In fact, you can use some of these other services, such as Twitter, Facebook, or Mahalo Answers, to identify opportunities and even explore possible solutions.

9. Create your own “crowd”

What it is: I’ve listed online services, but you shouldn’t forget the communities we’ve built offline. Those communities include your existing customers, friends and families, your co-workers, people you meet at seminars and conferences, or even random people you meet in shopping malls or at the Starbucks.

How You Can Leverage offline crowds: You should be using any and all relevant “tools” available to you. While online tools are often easily accessible and low cost, you might find that your offline communities can provide more insight. For example, you can ask your friends and families (or co-workers) for feedback and suggestions about a new product or service you’re considering offering. If you’re considering increasing your hourly rates for a service, you can ask for feedback about what people are currently paying and how they’d feel about different rate levels. If you’re a small accounting firm, you might ask for feedback and suggestions about a new brochure you’d like to send to potential clients. If you’re a real estate agent, you could ask for feedback about print advertising you’re considering running in the local newspaper. Once again – the possibilities of how you leverage your own crowd are unlimited.

10. crowdSPRING

What it is: And of course, thousands of small businesses around the world have leveraged our own community on crowdSPRING. crowdSPRING is a community of over 44,000 graphic, web and industrial designers – from over 170 countries around the world. Our community has helped thousands of small businesses from over 50 countries with logo, business card, website and many other custom graphic design needs. Unlike traditional marketplaces, a buyer on crowdSPRING posts their project, names their own price and deadline, and then selects from at least 25 designs to their specifications, from multiple designers (or they get their money back).

How You Can Leverage: You can use crowdSPRING in many different ways – here are 99 suggestions for how you can crowdsource on crowdSPRING (most of these have been posted as projects on crowdSPRING by other businesses). Small businesses have asked crowdSPRING designers to design logos, websites, blogs and marketing materials for them. Other businesses have asked crowdSPRING’s industrial designers to create actual products (mobile phones, devices, watches, utensils) and product packaging (for alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, for consumer goods). The possibilities are unlimited.

Buy Me A Ferrari – A Social Experiment In Crowd Sourcing

Sourced with compliments from http://prmac.com/release-id-8266.htm

Galileo Lab just released “Buy Me A Ferrari”, an iPhone app to test a new paradigm of crowd sourcing and fund raising. What is BMAF (Buy Me A Ferrari)? It is a social experiment to combine the power of the crowd and the money from advertisement to fund ideas and dreams.

The big picture

Obviously this is not just about buying an exotic car, though that is not a bad perk and it captures people’s imagination. The big picture here is that if we can prove that this funding model works, we can apply it to much more deserving causes. Cancer research, pets rescue, you name it. We get to make a difference to real people.

How does it work?
People can download the free app from the AppStore. They tap on one or more ads that interest you. That is it. If a million people click on an ad on BMAF we raise plenty of funds.

Online B2B Marketplaces: Should You Dive In

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Business-to-business marketplaces are proliferating on the Web. Here’s how to tell a site is right for you.

Ron Burhkart was frustrated. His company, On Point Technology, Inc., provides software to help state unemployment insurance agencies weed out false claims, but getting the software written was proving to be a challenge. “We were dissatisfied with traditional models,” says Burkhart, who is vice president of product development. “As a small company, there are times when we need variable resources. We tried the ‘body shop’ approach, where we hired a programmer to come work in our office, and we also worked with an offshore development company. But neither met our expectations. In both cases, there were problems, not only with the quality of the code, but with the quality of the resource pool.” In other words, the coders themselves didn’t have a wide enough skill set to fill all of On Point’s needs.

So Burkhart decided to try Topcoder, an online marketplace where 176,000 software developers compete to create software components and win prize money from customers, instead of traditional fees. (Developers who work on Topcoder projects full-time can earn up to $150,000 a year, and even those who never win a contest receive money in a complex point system that rewards both skill and participation.)

That was three years ago, and Burkhart isn’t planning to go back to hiring developers the traditional way. “We’ve wound up with better, more stable code by leveraging their knowledge base,” he says. “It’s better than we could do internally, or that I could hire locally.” Three of On Point’s five products were built using Topcoder, he adds.

It seems like nearly every week, there’s news of another B2B marketplace springing up online where businesses can trade in everything from automobile components to laser engraving, with a specialized marketplace for nearly every industry. On Point’s experience shows how using these marketplaces can benefit your business, but how can you tell if a marketplace is right for you? Here are some questions to ask:

  1. Is the market for this product fragmented?
    If there’s no good central way to reach the core group of buyers or sellers in your industry, an online marketplace can dramatically improve efficiency. “Our industry is particularly fragmented,” explains Jeff R. Lamb, president of DOmedia, an online marketplace for alternative and out-of-home advertising that includes everything from billboards to skywriting to printed cocktail napkins. “It’s difficult for someone who wants to reach a particular audience to navigate that market.”
  2. How big and well-established is the marketplace?
    “You want enough participants to be able to make a difference, and some history of what they’ve done and how they’ve done it,” notes Jack Hughes, chairman and co-founder of Topcoder, Inc. “We’re going to have a whole bunch of new marketplaces that hook people up, but the outcome won’t be very good, because it’s too easy for people to promote themselves. There should be some mechanism for making sure you get a high-quality outcome.”
  3. Is it easy to see how the marketplace works?
    “A marketplace should encourage transparency,” Lamb says. “Everyone should understand what’s going on behind the scenes, and it should make sense to all players.” Avoid marketplaces that seem to favor either buyers or sellers, or appear to be hiding information, he advises.
  4. Does the size of participating companies matter?
    As a small company, the last thing you want is to feel invisible next to the marketplace’s large players. For instance, at DOmedia, all advertising opportunities are listed equally, whatever the size of the company offering them. “They compete solely on the quality of the opportunity and the data they provide,” Lamb says.
  5. Is there an objective rating for sellers?
    “I don’t think user ratings, which work well in consumer product marketplaces, will work well in a marketplace like this one, because it can be easy to manipulate them,” Hughes says. Instead, look for an objective rating system, provided either by the marketplace itself or an industry association.
  6. Does the marketplace encourage you to share your views?
    The best marketplaces function as online communities devoted to the industries they serve, and buyers and sellers can share industry info and advice along with their transactions. A good marketplace should actively encourage users to participate — and to provide feedback on the marketplace itself. “We are constantly making an effort to reach out and get more feedback,” Lamb notes. “It’s our job to make the marketplace fit users’ needs.”

“DOmedia reminds us to update our billboards and other information,” notes Ashley Robinson, producer at Massivemedia, which sells billboards and street-level marketing (such as chariot-like promotional Segways). She appreciates the reminders, because it’s easy to forget such matters in the crush of day-to-day tasks. But, she says, it’s worth taking the time over if you want to use an online marketplace successfully. “I’ve learned participation is important,” she says.

New Pepsi ‘Dewmocracy’ Push Threatens to Crowd Out Shops

Source with compliments from http://adage.com/agencynews/article?article_id=140120

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) — The trend of marketers relying on the wisdom of crowds to create marketing campaigns is escalating as PepsiCo turns over the choice of agencies for three product launches to the masses, ramping up the potential threat to ad shops bypassed or relegated to a supporting role in implementing the resulting efforts.

 

Consumers voted on the color they wanted for three new Dewmocracy products and then a paintball of that color was shot at volunteers. The volunteer covered with the most paint at the end won.
Consumers voted on the color they wanted for three new Dewmocracy products and then a paintball of that color was shot at volunteers. The volunteer covered with the most paint at the end won.

In a contest beginning this month, Mtn Dew will hand off marketing duties, at least temporarily, for a $100 million-plus business to several potentially unknown players selected by consumers. Via the contest, any agency, independent film company or individual can submit 12-second clips via www.12seconds.tv outlining their ideas for marketing three new Mtn Dew line extensions.

Those line extensions themselves were created by the crowd. Distortion, Whiteout and Typhoon are the latest results of Dewmocracy, an initiative designed to open up product development to consumers. Last year, the Dewmocracy brands accounted for 25 million cases — or a couple hundred million dollars, according to John Sicher, editor and publisher of Beverage Digest. By comparison, Coke Zero, a major growth engine and core brand for Coca-Cola, sold 96 million cases last year.

“It really is a good piece of business for a line extension, even in this big a category,” Mr. Sicher said.

When Dewmocracy launched in 2007, it involved an online game. This time around, Mtn Dew is using Facebook, Twitter and its private online Dew Labs Community to determine the flavor, color, packaging and names of the new products. Now, it’s also allowing consumers to select the agencies that will produce 15-second spots for each of the new flavors. Digital advertising and point-of-sale materials could also become a part of the mix. Once the flavors and advertising break in April 2010, consumers will vote to determine which flavor will become a permanent part of the Mtn Dew lineup.

Fate of BBDO
Mtn Dew is adamant that the new effort will not impact its relationship with agency of record BBDO Worldwide, noting that it has been a part of Dewmocracy from the beginning and continues to play an important role in the process. BBDO directed a call for comment to the client.

Brett O’Brien, Mtn Dew’s director-marketing, said that the broadcast spots created by the selected agencies will be supported by a “robust media plan,” noting that marketing is a key part of the Dewmocracy process.

“If we’re going to have a dialogue with consumers and have consumers play a role in dictating the future of our brand, they’ve got to play a role in all aspects of it,” said Mr. O’Brien of the decision to let consumers select agencies.

Crowd-sourcing is a growing phenomenon among major brands such as Unilever and Amazon. Frito-Lay’s Doritos brand has run three consecutive “Crash the Super Bowl” campaigns, which ask consumers to vote on their favorite consumer-generated spot. The latest contest offered a $1 million prize if the winner topped the USAToday ad poll, which it did. But while contests like that have been decidedly gimmicky, a more troubling trend for agencies is emerging. This fall, Unilever’s Peperami brand dismissed Lowe, London, in favor of running a contest to find TV and print ad ideas. Just this month, two former senior managers at Crispin Porter & Bogusky launched Victors & Spoils, billed as the world’s first creative agency built on crowd-sourcing principles.

“Most agency relationships, they’re still the brand steward. They understand the brand they’re working with at an almost molecular level,” said Chick Foxgrover, 4A’s chief information officer. “It’s unclear whether [crowd-sourcing] will be a trend that takes hold in a universal way or whether it’s more of an experiment. … In general, there’s a lot of experimentation going on in agency compensation. This fits into the context of that larger conversation.”

Outside perspective
Mr. O’Brien said the review will be promoted to indie agencies, indie film companies, universities and film schools, as well as via online messaging and word-of-mouth. BBDO handled advertising for the previous Dewmocracy product launches. This time, BBDO will work on an umbrella spot that explains the overall Dewmocracy program, while the selected agencies work independently on the launch creative.

“I don’t know … that they’ll bring something different — certainly they may have a different perspective,” Mr. O’Brien said about the prospect of using a smaller agency or a film company, rather than a large, traditional agency. “It lets us get an interesting and unique perspective on the brand from people that aren’t living and breathing it every day.”

Asked whether the agencies tapped for the product launches could pick up more Mtn Dew business, Mr. O’Brien said he didn’t know, adding that “it’s certainly TBD.” PepsiCo has worked with small agencies in the past, especially in the digital space, and recently tapped Interpublic Group of Cos. digital agency Huge to handle a piece of business for brand Pepsi.

Mtn Dew has been one of the few trademarks growing in the carbonated soft-drink space, with volume up 1% in the first half, as the overall category declined 2.7%, according to Beverage Digest.

“[Dewmocracy] contributes to our growth. … The Dew fan is excited about engaging with new offerings from Dew. But it also attracts new people into the Dew fan base that say, ‘hey, this is something really interesting, let me give it a try,'” explained Mr. O’Brien. “And retailers love it, because it’s interesting news that drives folks into the stores.”

When campaigns go to the crowds

Crowd-sourcing isn’t new, but it’s increasingly popular, with major brands turning to consumers to create marketing for all sorts of products.

AMAZON: The online retailer turned to consumers this year for TV concepts, eventually awarding $20,000 to the winner, a photographer based in Los Angeles.

CAREERBUILDER: In May, CareerBuilder dropped Wieden & Kennedy. That same month it began promoting the HireMyTvAd contest. The winning ad could be shown during the 2010 Super Bowl.

CHEVROLET: In 2006, a contest to create ads for the Chevy Tahoe resulted in anti-SUV spoofs, but it did garner plenty of attention.

DORITOS: For three years running, the Frito-Lay brand has run a “Crash the Super Bowl” campaign featuring consumer-generated ads.

HP: To promote its Artist Edition laptops, HP launched the You on You Project this summer. It asked consumers to upload videos or remix a commercial using stock footage.

PEPERAMI: The Unilever snack brand dismissed Lowe, London, earlier this year in favor of a crowd-sourcing strategy to find new ideas for TV and print.

 

The 5 Most Entertaining Crowdsourcing Disasters

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http://www.businessinsider.com/the-5-most-entertaining-crowdsourcing-disasters-2009-9

Feedback is great, but never let your customers name the product.

Kraft Foods Australia recently came up with what they thought was a brilliant PR strategy for the launch of a new product: they began selling their new cream cheese and Vegemite spread with ‘Name Me’ on the label, encouraging customers to submit their own suggestions for the spread’s eventual name.

The result was a complete disaster that made fun of the very idea of the contest: iSnack 2.0. (See our slideshow for more)

Crowdsourcing reveals 600 search engine flaws

Sourced with compliments from http://www.computerweekly.com/Articles/2009/09/15/237731/crowdsourcing-reveals-600-search-engine-flaws.htm

A competition for software testers to reveal bugs in major search engines has unearthed over 600 in Google, Google Caffeine, Bing and Yahoo.

The Battle of the Search Engines, as it is known, was carried out by uTest, which uses crowdsourcing to test software.

Over 1,100 software professionals from over 50 countries took part in uTest’s Battle of the Search Engines.

Of the 600 bugs found, about 78 were said to be “show stoppers” – or very serious flaws.

Google had 130 bugs, with 8% show stoppers, Bing had 321 bugs, of which 14% were showstoppers, and Yahoo had 70 bugs, with 10% showstoppers, said the report.

Games firm uses crowdsourcing to test products

Sourced with compliments from: http://www.computerweekly.com/Articles/2009/10/19/238192/games-firm-uses-crowdsourcing-to-test-products.htm

Computer Game supplier Blitz 1UP is the latest business to use crowdsourcing as a means of cost effectively testing its products.

According to a report on Develop-online.net, the company does not have the resources required to test the compatibility of games with different computer platforms.