Crowd Sourcing! Get Customers to Run Your Biz

Written by on December 10th, 2010

Starbucks is doing it, Dell is doing it, Cisco is doing it and now you can do it too!

I normally don’t review products and services but ran across IdeaScale today and had to share it with you.  IdeaScale provides any business, organization the ability to use crowd sourcing to collect the ideas thoughts and suggestions of others to improve your products, events, services and more.

Starbucks was in my opinion late to crowd sourcing game, but did a great job at implementing it and using customer feedback to increase buzz, brand exposure and customer loyalty.  Their mystarbucksidea.com collects the suggestions and thoughts of their customers in three areas; 1) Product Ideas, 2) Experience Ideas, 3) Involvement Ideas.   Within each category there are sub categories.  For example Involvement includes, Building Community, Social Responsibility, Other Involvement Ideas and Outside USA.

Collectively there are nearly 100,000 ideas that have been submitted and voted on.  An idea that gets the most votes, rises to the top and becomes an idea that Starbucks staff begins to explore.   I participated when I could no longer get “Maple Nut Oat Scones” from Starbucks anywhere in Ohio.  These scones had an incredible thick layer of icing on them and were perfect with coffee. (Even though my kids thought they tasted like dog biscuits!)

So, let’s get back to the point.  IdeaScale will enable any company or organization to create a similar environment for FREE.  That’s right free.  I can guarantee you Starbucks is paying tens of thousands of dollars a year for their software platform and IdeaScale will do the same thing for your organization.

Not sure what to do?  Consider this:

  • Hospitals could use IdeaScale to build communities of learning around diseases and health issues
  • Associations could use it learn what issues members are facing and then reassign resources to helping them
  • B to C companies could use the Starbucks model and use it to improve customer service, get customers involved in product development
  • B to B companies could use a password protected version to use as a company suggestion box
  • Religious organization could use it to increase discussion around the previous weeks sermon and challenge members to live the message in their daily lives

We created a version of this for our company in 1995 to increase the sharing of ideas within a tech company I founded.  I firmly believe the successful leaders and companies of the future will be using crowd sourcing tools like this to run their companies.

In a recent IBM study, Capitalizing on Complexity:

  • 8 out of 10 CEO’s expect their environment to get more complex
  • 49% believe their organizations are not ready to deal with this new complex world
  • 95% of top performing companies identified that getting closer to customers was their most important strategy
  • This group of CEO’s expect 20% of revenue in the next 5 years to come from new product/service lines

The same IBM study found that majority of CEOs did not believe their staff had the answers to the enormous challenges their companies face.  Crowd sourcing could provide that solution.  In my opinion, crowd sourcing will help organizations handle the enormous challenges businesses face.  So check it www.ideascale.com   Interested in learning more about Crowd Sourcing join our complimentary Webinar.  Click here for the quick GotoMeeting registration!

Wisdom of the Crowds – Concept will Change Your Business

Written by on June 28th, 2009

The first business I started while in college, I called Aardvark Studios.

I’ve never been very creative when it comes to naming a business so after days of searching for the right name, Aardvark stuck.   We took pictures of graduates when they received their diplomas on graduation day, and then mailed a free proof to each graduate, giving them an opportunity to order enlargements.  By the time I sold the business, 25 years later, we were photographing about 200,000 graduates each year.

So I had to laugh when I saw a story in the New York Times about a company founded in 2007 called Aardvark.    The firm was jumping into the online advice business, the same business that Microsoft’s new Bing has entered, Hunch and Yahoo’s Answers.  Aardvark’s twist however is it’s among the first that provides an intelligent way to reach out to authorities on subjects within your circle of friends.

The second thing that makes Aardvark different from others is the answers are created real time and specific to your question only.   When you pose a question like:

  1. What wine goes good with chicken?
  2. What’s the best grad school for someone interested in marketing?
  3. What’s the best computer for my 15 year old daughter?
  4. Where do I go when I visit Italy this year?
  5. Which mower should I get to mow an acre of fairly flat land?
  6. What do I have to look out for when I buy a new car?

Aardvark fires out the question through your Facebook friends and their friends and then delivers the response to you through your IM.

What it tries to do is target those with the best chance of answering the question.   Instead of blasting the question to everyone you know, it sends a limited number at a time so not to over burden the entire system.   It also utilizes information from other social networking profiles to match interests, demographics characteristics and other factors.

If no one answers a question, Aardvark continues to broaden the group of people until it gets an answer for you.  If you are like me a response usually invokes additional questions so Aardvark enables the person asking the question to respond to the person who answered it with additional questions.

Like any other tool, the more people that use it the more powerful it will become.  When you sign up,  you will be asked to share 3 areas you are knowledgeable  on.  This helps the system know which type of questions to send to you.

So how will this change your business?

This kind of tool will affect how your products and services are sold.  Consumers will still be influenced by advertising but they will learn to go to their network for advice on which product to buy.  It will help your staff find quick answers from others within your company.   The world is getting increasingly more complex.  A tool like this will help your staff reach out to others in and outside your business to gain quick answers to problems they are facing.

And if you are looking for a job, it will instantly put you in touch with the right people who can help you!

The end result is, decisions will be made faster, based on more experience.

So I have one question to ask Aardvark.   When I owned my photography business, nearly every week, someone asked me, “Why did you name your company Aardvark?”

So Aardvark, “Why did you name your business Aardvark?”

Should Washington Save the Yellow Pages?

Written by on December 4th, 2008

If the Yellow Pages go the way of dinosaurs and encyclopedias, how will you find new customers?

Yellow Pages

Now that the shock of the 750 billion dollar bailout is wearing off and Black Friday still generated about the same amount of sales as last year, everyone is taking a momentary sigh of relief.

However in Washington as you read this, a furious battle is raging, phones are ringing and businesses, organizations and even governmental organizations are trying to get the ear of congressional leaders in an attempt to get a few million (or billion) of the bail out money.

I’ve been reading a lot lately about the Yellow Page industry, which led me to uncover up and coming “small business advertising products” provided by firms like Yelp and Reach Local. My research uncovered a lot of conversations and information about the demise of the Yellow Page industry.  That’s when I started imagining their lobbyists using their connections to find out what angle they needed to get some of the bailout money.

But only for a second.

Because the more research I did, the more evidence shows the industry, while still very competitive, is hugely profitable and they have customers who swear by the results.

Consumers habits are changing

But the talks of the demise are true. (…More…)

Can Facebook Deliver Leads to Your Business? YES!

Written by on November 30th, 2008

Facebook Add

What would 580,000 advertising impressions do for your business?

Al Gore gets kidded for suggesting he invented the Internet.  Around my house I get teased for suggesting to my kids that I invented Facebook.

Back in 1996, I created an online community for students and called it StudentAccess.  We modeled the community around GeoCities and Tripod with a focus only on college students.  We provided a free home page, email address and photo upload.  We ran ads in student magazines around the country and anxiously waited for students to show up.  Nobody came!   Not only was it a total failure, but I ended up getting sued by Princeton Review for using the name Student Access! (They had a line of books called StudentAccess to Law, Medical, etc.)  Thirty thousand dollars later, we surrendered the URL studentaccess.com to Princeton Review and decided to focus in a different direction.

Fast forward 7 years and Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook, which has become one of the largest – online communities in the world.    Enough old boy stories,  let’s get back to the reason you are reading this post. (…More…)

Facebook API for a Pizza Shop?

Written by on November 26th, 2008

4 benefits of adopting a Facebook API for your business!

Over the past 3 years, I’ve had 1500 people attend webinars who were interested in figuring out how to use Pizza Hut FacebookFacebook in their businesses and organizations.  I like to remind people that Facebook is the new Yellow Pages and in fact it’s probably, like MySpace could be considered the largest phone book in the world.

In the spring of 2007 Facebook announced their Facebook Platform, a programming and business strategy that gave any organization the ability to create a program that would enable them to engage and interact with customers, prospects and others.  Colleges have an incredible opportunity to connect and engage with prospective students, students, fans, supporters and alumni but none are taking advantage of it.

But businesses, who understand you have to innovate to make a profit and work to keep customers due to competition, get it!

Pizza Hut is no stranger to utilizing social media tools to engage customers. Their Facebook page now has over 300,000 fans and to attract more, they offered anyone who became a Pizza Hut fan (through the end of the year) would be eligible for the weekly prize of a $50 gift card. (…More…)

Twitter as a Marketing Tool for YOUR Business?

Written by on October 24th, 2008

Stock brokers, real estate agents, sales people, physicians, service and retail industries can use twitter to reach and engage customers!

Twitter LogoMany consultants, authors and individuals are using Twitter as a personal branding tool.   By following others and commenting on what is happening in their lives they hope to build their own following  hoping it will increase their social media stature and brand.

So how are businesses like yours using it?

I was developing a marketing strategy recently and ran across the website namethis.com It’s a tool that includes online community and social networking tools to access the wisdom of the crowds to help you name products and services.  Their motto is quite simple, “three world-validated names for your thingamajib in 48 hours.

When someone like you or I need help in naming a product, we simply pay 99 bucks and wait 48 for the top three names as determined by the participants in the online community. The creative community sits back and waits for you or someone else to throw out a naming opportunity.   It’s really an amazing process to watch as people from all over the world come forward to give you their input and suggestions.   (…More…)

Social Media, Online Community & Web 2.0 Confuses Business Executives!

Written by on October 3rd, 2008

Social media, online community, Web 2.0 confuses business executives!

You want an Internet strategy but…..

One of the reasons I sold a company I founded in 1995 to create online communities for alumni associations, non profits and companies was to concentrate on helping organizations understand how they could use the Internet to acquire, communicate, retain and engage customers.  Most people we spoke with, likened the Internet as a puzzle they didn’t know where to get started with.

In the 12 years we were building online communities, (Internet Strategies Group) my sales force spent most of their time educating prospective customers why they needed to adopt online communities and social media. To help, I wrote white papers, held conferences, Webinars and books.  We looked at this as the cost of doing business and selling a product that people didn’t understand and didn’t know how it would provide an ROI.

So it’s was no surprise when I read a McKinsey Global Survey (fall 2007) that surveyed how businesses were using Web 2.0 tools and services showed business executives were struggling to figure out how these tools  will help them reach their goals.

The report found:

     • 42% thought they should have invested more
     • 24% thought they should have invested sooner
     • 40% of these companies are not using social networking, RSS, Podcasts, Wikis and blogs.

There are two reasons business leaders are not investing more in Web 2.0, social media and online communities:

     • Confusion
     • Internal focus    (…More…)

Internet TV Right for Your Organization?

Written by on September 6th, 2008

Libraries, Franchise, Retail, Distributors, Police, City Hall, Dentists, Sales, Real estate benefit!

The cable industry revolutionized the delivery of television programs by providing you 500+  channels.  Now the Internet is opening an opportunity for thousands, no millions of TV channels to deliver news and content to consumers computers and cell phones.

This is presenting opportunities for your organization to reach consumers to educate, inform, advertise and gather data. One of the more successful case studies I could share with you revolves around wine!   In my 30’s Jack Daniels gave me the courage to dance on tables. Today, I look forward to a glass of wine at the end of a long day to relax and slow down my brain!  It works.  (ask me later about my Wine diet!)

Probably the most successful way you can use Internet TV is to educate your customers. That’s the direction Gary Vaynerchuck took when he created Wine Library TV.  Like the Internet, wine can be a mysterious and confusing thing.  It has its own language.  Gary’s concept is simple.  He has a webcam pointed at him as he sits behind a table lined with bottles of wine, glasses and a bucket to spit out the wine he’s tasting.

It’s not a sophisticated presentation, but it works.  Gary is by no stretch of the imagination a Brad Pitt or your every day TV personality.  He not only looks like Joe Pesci, but he sounds like him too!  His rapid fire unscripted conversation gets the job done with minimal preparation or time.    He  demystifies  wine and helps consumers feel more comfortable and confident.  His reasoning?

  • The more his audience knows, they more they will buy
  • And when they buy, they will remember they guy who taught them and that they trust!

And it works. (…More…)

Lobster Fishermen Use Social Media & Internet Strategy to Bring in More Dough!

Written by on September 1st, 2008

Tips to use social media to increase profits!

The ridiculously high run up of gas prices in just one year is requiring even lobster fishermen to rethink how they do business.  When times get tough, the tough have to think smarter, not work harder, right?

In the past lobster fishermen were about as far removed from their customers as the Chinese worker who assembles the products you buy from Walmart.

Brendan and John Ready, lobster fishermen from Cape Elizabeth, Maine (both in their mid 20’s and college graduates) started using social media and their website as a strategic business tool to help them by pass the wholesale distribution system and go right to their customer.   Brendan and John decided to use the Internet to not only reach directly to consumers but also engage and involve them in their business.

To do that they built a website which they called, Catch a Piece of Maine. Their unique value proposition is built around creating an experience for their customers. They want to be your private lobster fisherman who works just for you and deliver your lobster to you via overnight delivery services. James Gilmore & Joseph Pine in their ground breaking book, The Experience Economy, suggested that people are looking for more than a commodity product and are willing to pay MORE for an experience that is tied in with the product.   The brothers understood this and decided to use the Internet to build a unique experience for their customers. (…More…)

Lessons to Learn from Radio

Written by on August 5th, 2008

The Akron Beacon Journal, now a part of the Black Press newspaper chain, ran a great article about WKSU-FM, a radio station I worked for when I was in college, oh …so many years ago.

Paula Schleis the reporter zeroed in on how Al Bartholet, WKSU Executive Director used Internet technology, online community and archived content to create a profitable new product.

Bartholet had three issues he knew he had to deal with.  First, fewer young people were listening to classical music and as a result it was increasingly difficult to grow their listenership.  Second government support for public radio is continuing to decline and finally, maybe the worst of all,  the behavior of his listeners was changing rapidly.  They were becoming much more net centered!

A little brainstorming produces results!

Al had a very successful program produced by Jim Blum that aired on Friday nights.  Every program was recorded and over a couple years the station had develop a huge number of hours “in the can”.  As their team brainstormed about how they could embrace the Internet instead of worry about it, the idea floated up that they create an Internet radio station built around folk music.  For Public Radio,  this idea was not evolutionary, it was revolutionary! (…More…)