Crowdsourcing: a Cheap and Effective Way to Grow Your Online Business

Industry Insight

Most owners of an online business, or indeed any business, have a limited amount of capital with which to develop and publicize their new enterprise. Using that finite monetary resource efficiently and effectively is the biggest challenge for any new company.

Compromising on quality is not an option if you wish to succeed. You have to continually balance a limited amount of resources with maintaining quality where it counts by making compromises and trade-offs. How can you maximize the effectiveness of every man-hour of time and every investor-dollar that you spend?

One option is Crowdsourcing, tapping into the collective energy, wisdom and experience of online communities to complete business-related tasks that a company would normally either perform itself or outsource to a third-party provider.

For every task or investment your company undertakes, consider whether crowd-sourcing that activity makes sense. Extending your brain to the web can make financial and strategic sense if done wisely. Here are some crowd-sourcing examples that can help you at different stages of your business.

Identify a business name.

Start with securing a marketable domain name representing your brand. Finding a good domain name is getting more and more difficult these days and every year new startups spend significant amount of time and resources in coming up with a marketable name. Squadhelp is a good crowdsourcing solution: you can start a domain name contest for as low as $10 and receive 30-40 domain name suggestions from experts across the globe in a day or 2. Squadhelp members can rate the suggestions and the best suggestion wins the prize amount. $10 – $50 can buy you 30 to 100 domain name suggestions.

Designing your logo and website

After choosing the name for your new enterprise, start building user experience and brand identity by devising a logo, which often influences your site design. 99designs or crowdSPRING are great sites which let you avail yourself of the expertise of an experienced community of professionals to offer quality designs. You can set your own budget and designers from across the web will post the designs for your project. You can decide which works best for you and pay the winning entrant for a fraction of what you would normally pay a design agency for high-end designs. Most designs will cost you from $200 – $1000.

Creating an advertising campaign

Even the most experienced marketer can use help with advertising or marketing, and most new entrepreneurs are on the lookout for new and original ideas on getting attention for their new venture amid the clutter of the internet. Many aspiring web-moguls have tried BootB, an online marketplace allowing anyone on the web to pitch ideas in response to specific creative needs. BootB might be a bit pricy for most start-ups or small-bore outfits, as the cost varies from $800 – $5,000 for a finished ad campaign.

Software development and programming

Online retailers usually implement a pre-built shopping cart, but occasionally you need to make customization and programming changes to support your online business. Some uniquely devised online ventures need to develop a custom platform. Consider trying ODesk and Elance for good “bang for the buck” resources for software development. ODesk provides greater flexibility, allowing the hiring of specific resources for different activities. Elance is a better solution for projects which already have a definite goal and development path in mind. Both sites provide developer ratings and portfolios, including examples of past work, as well as referrals and testimonials from references, allowing you to gauge the experience level and quality you can expect from the various developers bidding on your job. A complete online retail platform setup or custom software setup can cost under $3000. Small jobs can cost as low as $100.

Website Testing

After you develop your site, it’s time to launch. Engaging crowd-sourced testers can help find bugs before your potential customers do, undermining your brand reputation before you even begin. A good alternative is Utest, with more than 20k testers in 150 countries throughout the world, speaking many different languages and embracing the experience and expertise of a myriad of cultures, income levels and worldviews. You pay the testers based on the bugs they reveal the validity of the bugs, so the more prepared you are before you test, the less you’ll pay. The site’s forums and metrics give credibility to the testers so you know you’re getting good value for your expenditure.

Another good site which rates a websites “usability” is Usertesting. Usertesting provides an affordable way to get feedback on, of course, the usability of your site. For about $29 you can get a rating at uses a custom pricing system.

SEO, Publicity Campaigns, Press Releases etc.

Writing effective, quality articles and SEO and public-relations work demands a level of expertise which is difficult to find at a bargain price. Even if you possess this expertise, spending your own time in performing these activities can take you away from other essential management tasks. You may find it is more economical to hire professionals who work for a fee. For $100 to $500 for article writing, press-release writing, and other SEO activities you can crowd-source your tasks at a site like ODesk, mentioned above.

Business Operations

Engaging customers in development of your new business is an effective and economical way of getting feedback from the very people you hope will eventually patronize your business. You can organize this feedback for products, concepts and services using IdeaScale. You start by posting an idea, which is then expanded by voting and comments from the community. The voting system pushes good ideas to the top and buries poor ones, kind of like crowd-sourcing sites like Digg. The basic package subscription costs $15 a month.

Grunt Work

Small, simple tasks can end up taking a great deal of time and resources away from the larger, more conceptual and professional demands of a new business. However, they are no less essential, and need to be done in a timely and conscientious manner as cheaply as possible. To achieve quick response on a budget, consider Amazon Mechanical Turk. Businesses submit small tasks (called HITs). For example, content development (e.g. adding attributes, or tagging your product images), you can post these tasks on Mechanical Turk for as low as 10 to 20 cents per HIT. Expect to spend $0.25 to $1 for simple, repetitive tasks.

Customer service and online help desk

Support and Community infrastructure is an essential part of establishing credibility for a new business, as well as in helping to retain your customer base and maintaining your online reputation. Help sections, blogs, support forums, FAQs and other comprehensive customer support resources can take a lot of your resources setting up and maintaining. If you’d rather build an instant-on, support community for sharing answers, ideas and solutions, GetSatisfaction is a good option at $19 per month, which gets you most of their starter plans.

Managing, Building and Expanding Your Online Business

With an intuitive and easy-to-use interface, SalesWarp Storefront Management System provides powerful automated tools that help online retailers improve their time to market, streamline operations and expand their market reach. By focusing on the three main phases of an E-commerce business – building the online store, managing the day-to-day operations and expansion – retailers no longer have to rely on additional, disconnected systems to build and manage their E-commerce business.

This fully integrated E-commerce system helps retailers maximize resources and deliver a greater E-commerce ROI. Find out more about SalesWarp Storefront Management System.