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Look for opportunities and ways for others to contribute to your business.

In past posts we’ve discussed contributions you can make to others; in this post we’ll look at contributions you should seek from your potential and existing customers and other users. You might be surprised how many different ways they can and will volunteer their time, energy, and expertise to help you build a better business, product or service.

For example, you can ask for their opinions on what products you should create and the order in which they’d like to see them released. Who knows better what would be most useful than your potential customer? That’s exactly what we did when planning the development of SMARTSTART products.

Many will also volunteer their time to help you with testing new products and services. This is especially important when your product or service must work on multiple platforms — chances are you won’t own every one available but somewhere out there are people who have the equipment you don’t. Ask if they’d be willing to work with you by testing your prototype or beta version. Then, make sure you make it easy for them to give you feedback and that you have a process in place for letting them know what you did with their suggestions and contributions.

Reward people who take the time to point out flaws, mistakes, and typos in your copy and communications materials. You won’t find everything that needs fixing before launch but correcting what others find shows you are serious about producing the highest quality materials possible.

Wishing you had more products and services to sell? Perhaps you’ll find your users have many great things you could realistically move through your selling machine. This is how Amazon made it big; there’s no reason why you can’t make it work for you too! It’s just a matter of scale.

User contributions are not new. Think Wikipedia, eBay, even Google. What is new is how you can make it work for you. Think about it.