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How Supplementing Marketing with Crowdsourcing Can Transform Your Business

Relationships between businesses and customers have traditionally been “top-down” informational flows. These methods go way back. The Egyptians were known to have utilized outdoor advertising in 2000 BC by carving public notices in steel. Much later in 1472, the first print ad was produced in England to advertise a prayer book. Bulova Watch ran the world’s first TV commercial in 1941, a 20-second slot that ran before a baseball game.

Then the Internet came, and with it the online ads that we know today. As it grew and changed, so did the face of advertising. Ads began a shift to “storytelling” where the product or service was no longer the centerpiece. Instead, brand values itself and the communities around it became the star. And listening to the community has never been more important than ever. Audiences, in particular “millennials” – anyone born in the 80s to the early 2000s, who would have grown up alongside the Internet and technology, are reining in control on what they want to see.

Today, “content marketing” has become something businesses and individuals need to master in order to stay relevant. Even that, however, is not the entirety of the battle. Brands increasingly need to keep their customers involved yet under control, fostering a sense of collective ownership. Marketers and community managers alike have blurred the lines over the past years but have never been able to truly erase this divide.

Crowdfunding for Market Research

Enter the crowd.

As the old adage goes, “the customer is always right”. In this digital age, alternative methods like crowdfunding have become a way for individuals and businesses to raise funds from interested and engaged communities. For them, it also presents the advantage of going around the “barriers” presented by traditional fundraising avenues. This ease of doing business has helped propel crowdfunding into a USD 6.92 billion global industry, according to Statista.

Online crowdfunding has now become a way to get market validation, effectively bypassing traditional market research models. Marketing costs have come down drastically over the past decades, largely due to the low costs of digital advertising which allow for flexible budgeting. In contrast, a traditional market research project (including a focus group, questionnaire design, etc.) can easily run into tens of thousands. In one notorious example in the early 2000s Singapore’s Urban Redevelopment Authority spent $400,000 on a brand consultancy to come up with a new name for Marina Bay.

Marina Bay kept its moniker.

Measuring Consensus

It can be argued that most of an organisation’s woes revolve around “consensus”. Businesses and individuals alike are looking for this “consensus”, or validation in their decisions and actions, for a future gain. The case of Marina Bay was one such example. Another particularly difficult and costly example is that of a collective property sale – such as for an apartment building. Collective sales are a painful and drawn-out process, requiring a team of lawyers to set out the terms and gather the consensus of the tenants.

A similar problem exists in the current crowdfunding model. Unhappiness and disputes have arisen numerous times when the element of consensus between a business and individual is lost. The two-way interaction in crowdfunding and sourcing is a highly noisy process.

But in crowdfunding and sourcing, how do you determine that something has “quality” – be it feedback, or work? How do you filter through a large crowd of individuals with their own stances? Much of the rhetoric has focused on building a community, but it may be time to take things a step further – by relying on them.

The Transformation

Studies (Editor’s Note: Sources available at the end of this article) have shown that a crowd of “average Joes” were able to function in a similar capacity to an “expert”. But how then, do you rein in this organized chaos?

The decentralized nature of blockchain itself may hold the key to unlocking the true potential of blockchain. Every member of the community now has a role to play in facilitating and even moderating discussion. In this model it is imperative that brands ask the right questions in order to get the right insights from the community. For businesses, individuals, and their community looking for greater interactions with each other, the possibilities offered by blockchain couldn’t have come at a better time.

The challenge at hand may not be your digital transformation – it’s getting your communities to agree with you in the first place.

This article first appeared on: APAC Business Headlines (https://www.apacbusinessheadlines.com/digitalmag/vci.html#features/8)

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