I may not know much, but I’m learning.
I have the joy of telling myself this multiple times on a daily basis. Every person I come into contact with, every article that pops up in my inbox, every tweet that flashes onto my screen. Each one is an opportunity.
That being said I’ve been pushing myself to engage in the growing world of crowdsourcing and crowdfunding, as well as the unique culture of Angel Investing and Venture Capital, with great help from the writing of Mark Suster at www.bothsidesofthetable.com.
Without further build up and certainly no more ado:
3 Reasons to Crowdfund (from a new set of eyes):
1) Networking –
I feel like a broken record saying this, but it bears repeating, this is an excellent opportunity to not only engage your network, but engage it like a spiderweb.
This is an opportunity to reach out to the contact you’ve made throughout your career and through your experiences while simultaneously gaining a touch point with the contacts of your contact. While you may have a vast, or tiny, network it will grow exponentially when you start engaging and activating the network of those around you.
As a blatant form of promotion I’m going to reference PODIUM funds as an example (just as a warning, or heads up) With PODIUM Funds (www.podiumfunds.com for those of your playing along at home) when your business is brought forward as a potential deal on the website you bring forward your network as well, not only as Shareholders (people who have invested in PODIUM to help fund local businesses) but as Participants (people who are active on the site by voting and commenting on deals to help them through the initial stages of funding).
The opportunity that comes forward breaks down like this: Company A wants funding and comes to PODIUM where their deal is posted on the website. Company A activates their network to invest in PODIUM to help them get funding. Company B does the exact same thing. Company A now has the potential to activate the network of Company B by engaging them to vote and comment on their deal and vice versa.
Effectively what this means is an entire network of people beyond the spiderweb that is your network now have access to who and what your company is. Above and beyond that as Shareholders it becomes in their best interest to support and help grow the companies they have chosen to invest in with PODIUM.
2) Wisdom of the Crowd –
This area, while no less important than Networking ranks number two, but for me that’s only because without Networking the Wisdom of the Crowd simply ceases to exist. The Wisdom of the Crowd is exactly what one would think it is, drawing off the collective experiences and expertises of a community of people who have invested in one way or another with your company.
As a small business wouldn’t this be a brilliant method of expanding your reach? To tap directly into the marketplace? To speak directly with your consumers and investors? What better way to understand what consumers want than to have them have a stake in your business, to have your success be vastly important to them.
That way the relationship is a two way street. It becomes Push/Pull. Information is given out to your investors while at the same time they are telling you what they want, what works best for them. So however many iterations of taking a product to market your startup or small business may go through you won’t be searching for customer experiences to extract your learning from, they will be brought out by your investors.
3) Passion –
Alright, I get that this one is a little abstract but it is certainly an ever present idea. And some of you may have just slapped your forehead, but at times the obvious needs to be stated. So here it is, my third reason for a small business or startup to look towards crowdfunding, to showcase their passion.
As a potential investor in a startup if I see passion and drive, chances are you’re going to win some points with me. As a consumer if I see passion in a local business and not in another (in the same sector) chances are that first business is going to get my money, even if I have to pay a little more, or drive a little further for their product or service.
Passion makes the world turn, but beyond that people relate. They may not be passionate about the same thing, chances are going to be slim on that one, but chances are extremely high that there is something in their life that drives and pushes them.
People recognize and support passion.
If you’ve got it, flaunt it. Pitch yourself beyond the typical dance that is generally required in business and reach out.
Right now the crowdsourcing/crowdfunding community is still young, growing and unique, so hop in, showcase your passion, bring your network and tap in to the wisdom of the crowd.
To deviate once again from the norm, I present to you another post.
When I think Customer Service, I immediately cringe a little bit, and most of my life as an employed person has been in one form of Customer Service or another. Where I cringe is in that automated message.
Or being told to push 1 if I want “Technical Support” or 2 if I want to “Check my Account.”
Or better yet, these new voice recognition phone systems. If your only choices are English and French, and you can’t understand me clearly say “English” we’ve got a problem right off the bat.
Or perhaps when you finally get a hold of someone at the contact center and their only concern seems to be how they can get you off the phone the fastest and back to the beautiful wait time between calls.
Now I realize this makes me seem like an old man on his rocking chair telling the kids to stay off his lawn, I get that. But! I do have a point and I am going somewhere with this.
What I don’t get is why Customer Service has to be such an outright disservice. Where did that last morsel of caring disappear to?
Why are we so scared, as Customer Service professionals, (or Client Relations, or Customer Care, or whatever you would like to brand yourself as) to undertake that conscientious shift and flip this game on its head?
Where did the conversation disappear to? Where did our want to listen go to? Where did the want to provide customer with service vanish to?
I may be a proactive person, for the most part, but I’m putting a call out to all those in the Customer Service field, to start being reactionary. Get yourself into the conversation, become engrossed and listen to what is being said to you. Not only that, but genuinely care about what is being said and react to it. Don’t give up control, be it a sales or customer service call, but guide the conversations you are having by becoming involved.
I wrote it earlier and liked it as I wrote it, so I’ll put it down again.
It is a conscientious shift.
If centered, bolded and underlined doesn’t express my perceived importance in that phrase, I’m not sure what will.
So get involved. Get listening and you’ll see the doors begin to fly open. People are begging for the change, we just have to be willing to make it.
Your Body will know if it’s not the right way to go, just listen closely to your heart and follow.
You must be willing to abandon it all.
You must be willing to starve.
“Against Me! – You Must Be Willing”
Sure it speaks to a lot of other things as well, but when it all comes down to it Gary Vaynerchuck’s Why NOW is the time to CRUSH IT! Cash in on your passion, is all about passion, I mean it’s even in the title, so it has to be true.
When I’m reading something I generally give it 100 pages. If I’m not engaged after that, it generally finds a nice new home on my bookshelf and gets dusted every once and awhile. Luckily Vaynerchuk had me hooked at the end of page 50, at which point I went back and re-read the first 50 pages with a new fire lit under myself.
It all happened with one line and everything just clicked.
“There’s no way I can make a hundred grand talking about stickers.” That’s why you’re going to crush it—because you’re the type who’s going to say, “Stickers? Hell, yes, stickers!”
Maybe it got me because it seemed outlandish, maybe because the passion clearly shone through, or maybe I have a deep seated love of stickers. I’m still not sure, though what I am sure about is this is where I got hooked. And from there on out I could see it. In every word he dictated there was passion. In every quote placed throughout the book there was passion.
It wasn’t a “get rich quick” book or a “how to make the system work for you” book, but rather a “how to work it” book. There was no quick answer. Vaynerchuk clearly lays out the time commitment and the sacrifices you will have to make. It’s all there and the message is clear: If you want to work it and start being successful, find your passion and pursue it until there is nothing left in your body to give.
As I told a co-worker of mine after his presentation on our company Mantra, if he had of gave me a sweeping overview of how the company perceives things and “the company thinks this” or “the company thinks that.” I wouldn’t have gotten it. But because he conveyed the company Mantra through his own personal understanding it clicked in my head. I saw how it inspired him, I saw how it brought out his passion and in turned that helped me to see mine.
Passion is a very underestimated force.
Now it’s been a few weeks since I’ve read the book and still I find myself integrating “crush it” more and more into my vocabulary. Going out for dinner with friends? Going to crush it. Going to write a blog post? Time to crush it.
To sum up this quick interpretation of the book if you react to things being told to you on a personal level, CRUSH IT will resonate with you for months. The passion in the book is clear and it hits home fast.
Heck, at this point I’m relatively sure that if Gary Vaynerchuk asked me to be part of a mob I’d have my torch and pitchfork ready before he finished his sentence.
So go on, get out there. Read the book. Listen to the book. Eat the book if that’s how you learn, but go out and embrace your passion. Find it and chase it down .
“We could just go with crowdfunding?”
“C’mon, you know you wanna.”
While I imagine that’s not exactly how the conversation or thought process worked, you’ve ended up with a crowdfunding platform somehow. In the last post “Blindsided by Investing” I laid out what, for me, is the biggest positive to the crowdfunding model, from an investor’s standpoint.
There is clear carry over from investor to company looking for investors. For investors there is a clear value in actively supporting these local businesses. Pushing their success means your dollar goes further. As the company who is being funded the value lies in the exact same spot. By bringing these investors into your business, and once again let’s use a restaurant in our example, you are not only establishing a solid customer base with people that openly want you to succeed, but you’re gaining their networks as well.
So not only are you gaining what should be considered a strong customer base, but it is a base that wants you to succeed.
At the same time you are also getting feedback direct from your consumers. These are people that once again have an inherent value in your success. You should be able to use that value and create an environment where they will let you know what they like and don’t like about your business. What can be improved, and what is stellar.
So, right off the top you have a customer base that not only support you and want to see you succeed, but is motivated to provide you with methods to see that success come to fruition.
On a side note, I’m trying to think of ways to actively use Social Media resources like Twitter and Foursquare to help drive not only the feedback but the customer base as well. Off the top of my head my initial thought is to use the “Mayor” system in Foursquare to drive discounts. Again, if we assume this enterprise is a restaurant, you can drive some competition and incentive by offering discounts to customers who have checked in the most on Foursquare.
Have any ideas or suggestions? Let me know by commenting or tweeting me @JayAClarke
Here’s the ground.
Here’s my feet.
They are on the ground.
And this is my eureka moment, like driving 90 in a 50 zone and merging from on ramp to highway into the side of a transport truck.
I’ll admit, right off the bat that I haven’t been involved in this game for very long. The crowdsourcing/crowdfunding world seems to be exploding and gaining traction day by day. I’m learning, day by day and step by step, I’m learning. Since I have been involved I’ve been absolutely blown away by what is available and becoming available in the industry and the possibilities it presents.
Where this ramble is going is me eventually getting to the point of explaining this post. To highlight something that has absolutely acted as a game-changer for me with regards to crowdsourcing/crowdfunding.
For me this absolutely trumps everything else from an investment standpoint. The one thing that has me so enamoured with crowdfunding, and with the way PODIUM is set up (www.podiumfunds.com), is that you can actively make your investment work for you.
The concept behind this is mind blowing for me. Take PODIUM for example. I invest my $5000 and now I’m a Shareholder. As a Shareholder I get to vote on deals (companies that have come forward looking for funding) and decide which deals my money is going to be invested in.
So let’s assume there’s a restaurant that is looking for funding (funny, there is, www.tmdish.com) or in this hypothetical example, let’s actually assume it has gone forward and is getting funding. My money is being invested in this company. It becomes in my best interest to actively go to this restaurant. The more I support the restaurant the better it is going to do. But we can even go one step further than this, I can begin activating my network. I can Tweet about my experiences at this restaurant. I can foursquare my location and leave tips like “Try the beef dip!” or “$.25 wings on Wednesday” or whatever it may be.
The idea is that I am actively supporting my investment, in every sense of the word I am making my money work for me. And that is absolutely mind blowing.
If I gave my money to a mutual fund I have no idea where it’s going. Heck I could be protesting the oil sands and unknowingly have money directly linked to them. That’s the risk I take. But here I have the ability to channel my money where I want it to go and once it’s there, well I have the drive and capacity to make that work for me.
And here’s the kicker, that’s just me.
Imagine if there were 50, 500, 5000 people that are investors in PODIUM. Imagine each of these investors care about making money and supporting local companies (novel idea I know). Each of these people have a network, be it 1 person or hundreds. It intrinsically becomes in their best interest to drive themselves and their friends and family to this restaurant. To not only support their investment, but to support a local entrepreneur.
And for me that’s a win/win. Your investment shines and the local economy starts to grow.
Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where this is no path and leave a trail.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Welcome to Hypothetical Company A! (or any letter really, after all it’s your hypothetical company)
The finest producer of “Things and Stuff” in the marketplace, where our goal is to produce the highest quality products that change the way the world works. We’re glad you, upstanding member of our target demographic, have found your way to our little corner of the internet. Here we will engage you and other members of our above mentioned target demographic in order to make Market Predictions / Innovations / Research and Discovery / Branding.
Simple. Straight forward. Generic.
But it’s an outline none the less. A general working idea of where to go with crowdsourcing. The important thing is how you work it and understanding how it works.
In previous posts we went over the Why, How and Who of your crowdsourcing initiative so let’s go over a quick little recap.
Why: This is why you get up in the morning. This is why Hypothetical Company A. Why you, your employees and customers believe in your product.
How: This is the approach to crowdsourcing you’re going to take. These approaches were broken down to “Secretive” “Collaborative” and “Panel Selection” models. These become the determinants on how you engage your target audience and incentivize them to participate.
Who: This is the crowd. The group you which to amass. They might not necessarily be the target audience for your product, or they very well could be. It all depends on your Why and How of crowdsourcing.
So recap done, great, we`re all up to speed. Now making it work.
For that we`ll dig a little bit deeper down, deeper into the Why of your Who. I`d like to thank Chaordix and their helpful webinars for some of these learnings and I highly recommend taking a listen for yourself at Chaordix.
As I outlined in the opening paragraph there are really four reasons that can be pursued when it comes to Why you are engaging your Who.
- Engaging the crowd to test and discover new markets.
- Find trends and approaching changes in the market based on consumers.
- Test new products and ideas.
- Understand consumer challenges to existing products.
- Gauge the appeal and perception of brand with consumers.
- Invite creation campaigns from consumers.
- Invite outside answer to complex problems.
- Use outside expertise to collaborate on new discoveries.
The first three of these reasons for engagement typically take place when the crowd is also your customer base. Their responses are used to further brands or products and to build loyalty. While the last reason, Research & Development is more typical seen in a crowdsourcing environment that reaches beyond the customer base. As is the case with organizations like YourEncore and Innocentive.
Now you’ve got to ask yourself:
What do you need the crowd for?
I remember throwin’ punches around and preachin’ from my chair, well who are you? I really wanna know.
– Pete Townsend
I had been intended to get this done all last week. Not that I’ve been procrastinating, more that I couldn’t find a suitable way to start writing. Or rather, I couldn’t figure where to start writing. The topic is clear, the Who in your crowdsourcing endeavour. Overcoming the flashing icon on the screen, that just lay there waiting, and waiting for me to type something seemed to be a fairly daunting task this past week, luckily I’m surrounded by some inspiring people.
From staring at the cursor endlessly every time I set aside some time to write I realized I was forcing it. Instead of just sitting back, accepting the situation and working through it. I was trying to create something from the frustration I was finding in there being nothing on the page. This realization was brought on by a great blog post made by a colleague of mine, Adam Joyce: http://businessinstincts.ca/adjoycapital/?p=135 .
So now that we have this brief opening of where I’ve been at, let’s get down to why we’re all here. To talk about the Who…of crowdsourcing.
In a previous post I had talked about the Wisdom of Crowds and how companies have begun to reach out towards different defined groups in problem solving efforts. Finding the Who , when speaking of crowdsourcing is all about identifying the audience you want to attract. We know the crowd is smart, we just need to figure out who those people are, and where they are hiding.
Companies like Innocentive (www.innocentive.com) aren`t going to be out looking for individuals with a Political Science degree with no scientific background aside from struggling to stay awake in high school chemistry, we just aren`t the target. These groups certainly aren`t excluded, but they aren`t the target. Their aim is to find people with an expertise, or a hobbyist’s level of interest and knowledge that can apply outside thought to a project.
This is where it becomes incredibly important to have your Why figured out. If you can determine your Why finding your Who should become a much easier job.
So say for instance you know your company is focused on creating an environment where art projects (music, art, theatre) can find a life and funding. And you know you’re vehicle is one where people will not receive finance compensation for their investment. From that alone we should be able to see that people seeking a monetary reward aren’t your target audience. You are looking for people with an interest in these types of projects, with some spare cash to donate who genuinely want to help see these projects come to life.
The Who is always going to be a feeling out process that may take many iterations to nail down, after all nothing is perfect the first time through. What is important, and something to never lose sight of is that your Who is a reflection of your Why. These are the people that are drawn to your philosophy, your culture and the idea that is your company.