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9/3/2010
03:53 PM
Michele Warren
Michele Warren
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Squadhelp: Helping Small Businesses Tap The Crowd

Have you recently launched a small company but can't come up with a catchy name? Or maybe you've been in business for quite some time and you're stuck on trying to find a good moniker for a new product or service. Or you need to test-drive your new-and-improved website to find out how user-friendly it is.

Have you recently launched a small company but can't come up with a catchy name? Or maybe you've been in business for quite some time and you're stuck on trying to find a good moniker for a new product or service. Or you need to test-drive your new-and-improved website to find out how user-friendly it is.You could always hire an ad agency or a marketing consultant, but there might be a less expensive way to go: crowdsourcing. Why not leverage the power of community to rustle up some great ideas for your company?

That's what Lauren Cola, president and CEO of ASAP Advisor Services, did. Her company, which handles marketing and data management for the investment industry, periodically comes out with new products and services, so she's frequently on the lookout for taglines that'll stick. On more than one occasion, she's enlisted the help of the masses at Squadhelp, a website where business owners can post contests. "We've gotten hundreds of smart and creative [entries], and some were simply top-notch brand and identity concepts," Cola says. "Even if you can afford a brand marketing firm, Squadhelp can provide a secondary level of useful feedback about your product or service."

Squadhelp has actually made crowdsourcing its business. Launched this January, the company has hosted 150 contests and pulled together a community of about 1,200 users -- people who regularly visit the site and enter contests that are held there. "Anybody can participate; all you have to do is register," says Manish Gupta, president of the Chicago-based startup. "It's all about leveraging the collective intelligence."

With a low point of entry (it costs just $25 to run a contest) and relatively small reward amounts (in most cases, contest holders dole out anywhere from $100 to $150 to the winner), Squadhelp is targeting small businesses, Gupta says. During the course of any contest, registered users can access their online dashboard to view entries and post comments about them. Users can also rate entries on a scale of "1" to "5." Those scores serve a twofold purpose: First, they let contestants know whether they're on the right track; second, they allow contestants to establish a reputation. A contestant with an average rating of "4" or "5" might have more clout (that is, his or her entries might be given more serious consideration) than a contestant who's rated "1" or "2."

Contestants can earn badges as well, whether for winning multiple contests or for consistently getting high ratings from contest holders.

In the beginning, most Squadhelp contests were held by business owners looking for a catchy name or an appealing logo. But it looks as if people are using crowdsourcing a lot more, and a lot more creatively, now. Today, users run contests in search of website designs, promotional videos, website usability enhancements, written pieces to promote their business, and website "buzz" (the winner is the contestant who can generate the most traffic for a company's website).

So if you're a small-business owner in search of some good ideas, think about it. Tapping "the crowd" has never been easier.

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