In the latest episode of Marketing B2B Technology, we interview Jason Byer, Marketing and Partnerships Manager at crowdspring.

At a time when attention spans are shortening and competition rising, having great design assets can be vital to a successful marketing campaign. crowdspring is a collaborative design platform that simplifies the design process.

Jason discusses how businesses can produce great designs whilst sticking to strict brand style guides, and the importance of the creative brief.

He also shares why he thinks marketers shouldn’t get hung up on the tactics and the advice he would give to someone just starting out in their marketing career.

Listen to the podcast now via the links below:

Transcript: Interview with Jason Byer – Crowdspring

Speakers: Mike Maynard, Jason Byer

Mike: Thanks for listening to Markteing B2B Tech, the podcast from Napier, where you can find out what really works in B2B marketing today.

Welcome to marketing B2B technology, the podcast from Napier. Today I’m joined by Jason Byer. Jason is the marketing and partnerships manager at CrowdSpring. Welcome to the podcast, Jason.

Jason: Thanks, Mike. Excited to be here.

Mike: It’s great to have you on. So I’m, you know, just tell us a bit about your career. How did you get to work at CrowdSpring?

Jason: Absolutely. So I met our CEO through his startup lab, but startup Lab is a company where you’re creating multiple different companies, multiple brands, trying to find a product fit for those brands, finding partnerships, and then spinning them off into their own companies. And so that’s, that’s an interesting type of environment where you’re trying to create a brand from scratch and then build it up very quickly and sell or spin it off. And so I met the CEO through through that company, and have been working with CrowdSpring for about six years. And I really enjoyed the partnership side partnerships and marketing because I get to speak with a lot of great companies, and get to tailor the conversations towards you know, challenges were each facing in our market.

Mike: That sounds great. And I have to admit, I did have a look at your LinkedIn. And if there’s something that really jumped out, is it right? You were sponsored to do an Ironman by a beer brand?

Jason: A Yes. And the jersey was was pretty exciting. So I did a full Ironman in Wisconsin. And, you know, most people are boring bike parts on their jerseys, you know, shoe companies. And so I had, you know, the big Sam Adams seal and Boston lager was on my back and, and it was a looped marathon course, the marathon is the final portion of the Ironman. And it was a double loop. So everybody that was cheering people on saw you twice, and they were like, hey, the beer man is coming back again. Yeah, says it’s a good time.

Mike: That sounds like it sounds like great branding and the fun time, although hopefully you didn’t drink too much of the beer beforehand. It was mainly after

Jason: No, no, no, I’m part of the athletic crowd that you know, we we exercise and do this so that we can enjoy beer in the cookie afterwards.

Mike: Oh, that sounds like so much fun. Anyway, let’s get back to CrowdSpring. So, you know, I think one of the things perhaps you ought to explain is exactly what you do at CrowdSpring. Because it may not be a brand that everybody knows.

Jason: Absolutely. So we’re a 15 year old brand. And what we focus on is providing affordable custom branding and design services. And so we have 33 categories of branding and design, everything from naming a company or product, which can be very early stage, creating that core brand identity with your logo, and then all of the marketing materials that go along with this. So your packaging design and your postcards and your flyers and presentations for pitch decks. And then we have a pretty unique category of physical product design, where some large enterprises have used us to design physical products that are then manufactured, and we do this much cheaper than traditional agency resources, and you get a lot of creativity, all of these projects come with dozens of different designs. And so you’re able to see the brand or the product come to life and, and grow in a way that perhaps you wouldn’t have thought it was going to take that direction.

Mike: So just walk through how it works. If I want for example, you know, a marketing flyer design or something like that, how would I go about using CrowdSpring? And then what would happen? What are all these designs? I see coming back?

Jason: Yeah, so first off, the way we differentiate ourselves is through curation, you know, what we realised is, you know, platforms like Upwork, or God forbid, Fiverr, the business owner is the one who is taking the risk. They’re the ones trying to figure out, is this person capable? Are they going to deliver on time? Do they know best practices, you know, it takes a lot of time trying to find that person and takes the risk. So what we did with our model is we have a heavy emphasis on curation 212,000 creatives on the platform, and we manually review each of them that join to make sure they can participate at a high level in these categories. And when you post a project, you’re giving us some information, you’re telling us about what the project is your company, your brand. And we make the questions very simple, because we want to make sure that you’re able to communicate the core information and then allow the creatives to take that information and shape the designs or the names, the products that we’re providing. And then there’s unlimited iterations. And so you can give feedback, you can modify the designs, but you’re getting dozens of different custom designs to be able to see different directions. It’s It’s described as a lot of fun by businesses because they’re like, Wow, we didn’t expect to be able to get so much creativity. The process typically takes seven days. We can do it as quick as one day if somebody’s on a very quick time schedule, but we find seven days is ideal and we work with both small businesses, as well as large enterprises that, that have used us to kind of ideate on their maybe not their core brand identity, but some of the products that they’re trying to gain a little bit more traction in the marketplace with.

Mike: So it sounds interesting. So basically, what you’re doing is it like running a competition, you know, lots of designers submit their ideas, and then the, the company picks the best one from their point of view.

Jason: Exactly. So the client that’s posting the project gets to select which one they think is, is strongest for their needs. And if I could use some examples, you know, in some of our large companies that have used as we’ve got Barilla pasta wanted to launch a different pasta shape, and which is really interesting. I mean, there’s nothing really innovative and pasta shapes over centuries, really. And you know, so if you want to get a little bit of traction, you want to do something unique, they created a contest where they were trying to find different pasta shapes to get a little bit more PR, LG uses to design a phone. And so that was through the product design industrial design category. We’ve got companies in the energy sector for things like charging stations for electric vehicles, some very interesting projects outside of the core logo design or core branding or naming products.

Mike: That’s interesting. I mean, presumably, though, the branding the design, and marketing side is the biggest part, though, is it?

Jason: In terms of volume in terms of volume, we do a lot of work with small businesses, agencies use us for their work, our pricing is public, we’re very affordable, we have 100% money back guarantee. And so this is very attractive for the small business owner that can’t spend 1000s of dollars with an agency. Whereas our, you know, enterprise level customers, they pay the same rate as everyone else. We have strong intellectual property protections, we were founded by an intellectual property attorney. So intellectual property and privacy is baked into our DNA, and which is, you know, attracts a lot of the enterprise level clients. And while those can afford either large in house teams or agencies, they like the idea of getting dozens of different custom ideas outside of that ecosystem, right. Or maybe asking their agency or their creative director internally to say, hey, post a project, you know, your jobs aren’t in any danger, we just want to help you get some additional creativity for you know, a brand or a product that might feel a little stale. And so we’ve got plenty of creative directors, where this could be seen as kind of a competitive resource to their internal teams. But they’ll post a project to help their their teams start iterating and thinking differently about the problem.

Mike: It’s interesting. I mean, one of the things I noticed, you mentioned that the pricing was public, you have standard pricing, I know there are other companies in the sector that do a similar thing, where basically, you can name the price for your particular design. So why did you pick a standard price for each piece of work?

Jason: So we still have the ability to work directly with a client and the name, your price. And even when you can name your price, we still have a minimum threshold, we don’t want our creative team getting taken advantage of by a company your brand, you know, saying hey, will you do this for you know, less than market rates. And so we want to make sure we stand behind them and say, hey, look, here’s what good design costs, it doesn’t have to be 1000s of dollars, but it’s certainly not $50. Right. And so we want to set that minimum. So that so that we protect them, and it’s still still very affordable, we have the ability to to negotiate based on the price. And what we find is this happens with scope, right? So if a company a large enterprise comes to us, and maybe they want to post, you know, dozens of projects, but maybe the variation isn’t that significant between each one, that’s where we can get a little creative on our side, because this is custom work. And we want that core price. So that we can say, you know, here’s what’s going to be delivered, here’s what is within scope. And here’s what we would consider out of scope. If you’re looking to do something that’s out of scope in this category, we allow you to increase the price to meet that. But we want to make sure that there’s a a minimum to protect our creatives and a minimum so that the average business that comes can see that this is affordable design.

Mike: It’s really interesting. It sounds like you’ve probably got designers from around the world many in lower cost economies, you’re you’re actually ensuring they earn a decent wage, which is great. You’re protecting those those creatives. But in fact what you’re offering your clients is quality. It’s not about cost. It’s not about sourcing, you know, the lowest cost economy, it’s about sourcing the best design is that is that really what you’re trying to do.

Jason: It is we and to backup our creatives, we have a large portion in North America that are working with us. The interesting thing is is these creatives get excited to be able to work with brands they’d never be able to work with on their own right so CrowdSpring is able to bring them 1000s of small business clients but also people like the Dallas Mavericks, LG Barilla pasta, these companies that you’re not gonna be able to reach out to and say Hey, can I do this, this work with you? And so it creates a lot of excitement for them to be able to say hey, you know, I got to You know, stretch my creative muscles, maybe early in my career. It’s really this idea of democratising design, where we don’t care where you’re from, you need to be able to speak English and communicate well with the clients. But we let the design speak, we let the designs that these folks come up with show their true skill. And I think that’s just a an amazing opportunity for somebody at any stage in their career to be able to work with some of these and allows the larger enterprises to tap into potential that isn’t at the top agencies, right. They’re not they’re not already working there.

Mike: I mean, that sounds great. It seems to me like you could have a problem where, you know, if I run one of these projects, and have multiple designs come back, and actually like maybe two or three of them rather than one. I mean, how would you deal with, you know, a client actually wanting to take more than one design? Is that possible?

Jason: Absolutely, it is possible, we actually created a product around this problem. It’s called focus groups. And so what we found is folks, creating these projects are saying we like three different designs we can’t pick. And sometimes that’s not a problem. If you’re running a custom illustration project, you can find places in your website marketing materials for multiple illustrations. But if you’re running logo design, or presentation or packaging design, you can only have one. And so we created the focus group product where you preload several designs that you like, you share that with your network by either directly through email or direct link through social media, and you get feedback. And you’re getting feedback directly from either the customers or the stakeholders at the company, and maybe family and friends as well. And you’re getting that feedback to help you figure out you know, what designs and iterations you want. If you do want to purchase multiple every project comes with the intellectual property to transfer one design over per project, but we make it really easy to either offer to buy it from the creatives after the project is complete, or to add multiple awards into your project from the beginning where you can say, Look, we’re going to award three different participants, because we know we’re going to need at least three designs for say, a custom illustration project.

Mike: It’s interesting. I mean, obviously, one of the things that really is important is the ownership of intellectual property. I mean, that’s, that’s really key. How do you ensure that your creatives are creating genuinely new designs rather than maybe plagiarising? Some stuff? Is there a process in place to stop that?

Jason: Absolutely. As I mentioned, we’re founded by an intellectual property attorneys. So we take this seriously. And it starts with who we bring onto the platform. So if you went to CrowdSpring, and go to join up in the top, you’d find if you’re trying to join as a creative, you’d be put on a waitlist, and we open up that waitlist maybe two or three times a year. And we do this because it’s incredibly labour intensive on our part, we manually review everybody that joins the platform, and we make sure that they’re qualified for the specific categories they want to participate in. So just because you can design logos, doesn’t mean we allow you to name products or design packaging materials, you may be able to do that. But you have to prove that skill set to us. And so it starts from the beginning by bringing on folks that have strong quality, and in educating them right from the beginning, about what’s important for CrowdSpring, what’s important for our brand. And that’s privacy and intellectual property protections and intellectual property protections under that umbrella means you’re creating custom work, you’re not ripping off, you know, the Disney font or Ubers logo, right to be cute. And so it starts with that curation, it starts with the expectation from the creatives, we provide them with a reputation score that follows them throughout the life on the platform, and it fluctuates up and down, based on about 80 different factors. So it’s not just about how many projects they want, it’s about the quality of their work. And following the rules. We have strict and our creatives understand this, we have very strict protections against violations for intellectual property or privacy, you’re gone, there’s zero tolerance policies for this, you’re immediately removed from the platform, and you cannot join again. And we have protections in place to make sure that you know, we know you know, this person cannot come back onto the platform. Because it’s such a manual process for us.

This has done a great job of of you know, after 15 years showing we mean business that there’s no reason for you to to try to violate these rules, because we’re going to find out projects, once they get posted by the client or reviewed by our customer service team. They’re reviewed to make sure there’s no ambiguity within the scope and the creative brief that are going to cause issues later. And then we review the entries we review the entries, the creatives, police, other creatives entries, and will alert us as well, because the creatives realise that we have to build this platform together, we can’t have a rogue creative, that is acting, acting outside of scope and these boundaries. So it’s created a platform. You know, that’s really strong in terms of the quality and I think what ultimately stands to show that you don’t have to believe me, just we’ve offered 100% money back guarantee for 15 years and we’re in business. You know, you’re not in business every day. at creating, you know, a strong product and still offering that guarantee.

Mike: I mean, that’s really interesting is obviously something you’re super passionate about. And I love that. I guess the other thing that you know, particularly people working in larger enterprises might throw at you is, how do you deal with restrictive style guides, because some enterprises have quite prescriptive guides on style. And I think quite often platforms like CrowdSpring might be associated with new ideas, new concepts, but actually, they’ve still got to fit in those restrictions. So how would someone ensure that that works, and they don’t get something that the brand police, as they call them, would then come and block from being used?

Jason: Absolutely. I mean, I think this is the value to a creative platform like CrowdSpring, that has a strong curation, because this is a challenge for folks, internally, these companies, you know, they’re looking at their brand guidelines, and they’re seeing kind of maybe the Cavalier marketing tactics of newer companies or maybe some of their colleagues and you’re thinking, okay, but I can’t do that, right, I can’t do this, in my, my role, I have these very strict guidelines. And so it becomes a process, especially if you’ve worked there for for many years, where you feel like your creativity is really hampered, you know, as an employee here, looking at these guidelines, looking at things you would like to do. And so by outsourcing this to a platform, and we’ll get into the curation and following side, but the concept of outsourcing this to somebody that can understand your brand guidelines, and still provide some some additional creative and innovative solutions, really allows you to start thinking fresh about what could potentially become a stale brand, which is something we don’t want to happen, right, we want to, we want to follow our brand guidelines, so that we maintain that brand equity, but we don’t want to become a stale in not innovating on our brand. And so that’s that’s why enterprise is like trying out projects on CrowdSpring. To answer your question specifically on the on the brand guidelines, we have a creative brief and that creative brief is the very first step that you take. And you’re telling us about the project, you’re telling us about what your goals are, you know what your potential your competitors are, if you’re trying to model this after, after one of these, you’re telling us your goals for this campaign. And we allow you to upload any documents that you need. And so one of that for the enterprise level clients are their brand guidelines, these are the creative tracks, you have to stay on, you know, these are the fonts, these are the colours, this is the style we’re looking for. And that doesn’t hinder creativity from this audience. It allows them to stay focused on what they’re looking to do. And, you know, what we find is that you’re getting when you have dozens of different creators participating, instead of one or two marketers within a company trying to think about how to be innovative and follow these guidelines. You’re outsourcing this to dozens that are able to see this potentially for the first time. And they’re bringing their fresh ideas. And so having that that those creative rails, as I call them through the creative brief, is not a challenge. We work with that regularly with our clients.

Mike: One of the things you mentioned just talking there, I’m interested you talk about curation, I mean, how do you curate the designs that come back so that it makes it easier for the client to actually pick the one that that’s most appropriate, or that’s best, rather than just being faced with a sea of different options?

Jason: Yeah, it starts with that creative brief, the more specific the client can be in terms of what they’re looking for, and what the creative rails are, the stronger the results are. This product is designed for any level of business owner or marketer, but the folks that understand design that understand their company, really well get the best designs, because they’re able to communicate that within their creative brief, they’re able to say, what they like, what they don’t like, what’s allowed, what’s not allowed, what exactly, they’re looking to see who the target audience is, when you have all of that information in a creative brief, it becomes much easier for the creatives to say, Okay, here’s what I can do. Here’s what I can’t do. Here’s what I’ve done in the past, here’s how I can modify that to work for this client. And you get some fabulous designs that come back right from the beginning, when you have that much detail. One thing that we’ve done is there’s three different ways to give feedback, you have unlimited iterations and the CrowdSpring projects. And so what you’re doing in that very first step is you are you’re you’re giving either a score out of one to five, you’re giving on that specific design, you’re giving comments on that design, or you’re updating your entire creative brief and saying, Hey, I forgot to mention we can’t use green or we can’t use this word. You know, so you can you can provide directions to all the creatives that way.

Mike: It sounds awesome. Oh, it sounds like a platform that people just have to try to experience what they can get back. It’s really interesting.

Absolutely. You know, the The fascinating part is going if you go to crowdsource dot com forward slash categories, there’s 33 categories of branding and design. And for creatives and marketers, this is kind of an exciting area to say, okay, my wheels are turning on some things we could do, because for a lot of the enterprise level clients listening to this, we’re not going to change your logo, right? We’re not going to touch the core brand identity. But there’s things that you need to do within your marketing. And I’ll give some examples, custom illustrations, right. So within your your marketing to make it feel more human, more fun, more exciting, or communicate maybe a difficult concept very quickly, we process imagery 1000s of times faster than text. So instead of having a lengthy paragraph explaining something, maybe a custom illustration designed specifically, to educate on that problem can communicate more quickly and more succinctly. And so custom illustrations are popular with enterprise level clients. You know, we mentioned logos might be out of the equation for the core brand, but maybe they’re appropriate for things like the podcast, you know, that is targeting a specific group that wants to be on brand with the main company, but wants to show its kind of innovation and independence, you might have internal events, like corporate run walks, or fundraising events, where you know, logos and things like this are needed, packaging, sometimes it’s fun to, to create a product that is on brand, but it’s not something that the company actually creates or sells publicly, you know, sticker mule is an example of this, where they do custom stickers, but the owners and CEO is passionate about hot sauce. And so they created a a hot sauce, and they you know, give it away to to clients. And it’s kind of like a fun interaction with the brand. It’s they’re not in the business of selling or creating hot sauce. But it’s a fun way of extending that that brand into an additional touchpoint. I mean, this is the challenge for for marketers is we’ve got a lot of competition, right? How do we stand out? And more importantly, once we stand out? How do we communicate, we’re different? How do we communicate that the product that we have is for them, right in some ways to do this, or to touch them with different types of marketing that, you know, they’re not used to seeing, they’re used to seeing some of the standard pieces of marketing, but something like a custom designed hot sauce bottle for that company is is much more unique for such categories on CrowdSpring is a great way to start looking at different creative uses of this crowd of designers that CrowdSpring has created.

Mike: I love the way that you get so enthusiastic about all these different approaches to marketing. I mean, I think, you know, perhaps one of the things that people listening would be interested to hear is, when you’re promoting CrowdSpring. What works for you, what are the best channels for winning yourself new customers?

Jason: It’s education. So what we do is spend an awful lot of time over the last 15 years educating on what is branding? What is a brand identity? How is this going to help you basically compete in the marketplace? How are you going to build a stronger business by focusing on your core brand and your core brand identity. So it’s it’s podcasts like this, it’s live workshops, where we’re helping iterate on things, it’s getting on phone calls with innovation managers, and just riffing on ideas. And so, you know, if there’s, if there’s anybody out there that, you know, is working within a large organisation trying to figure out, you know, what to do differently, what types of opportunities, we could use 212,000 creatives to help their organisation in a creative way. I think the Burleigh pasta campaign is a perfect example of that. You know, it’s like innovating on the pasta shape that hasn’t changed in hundreds of years, gets you more publicity gets you a little bit more of a conversation. And so I’m happy when I get the chance to talk with innovation managers and marketing managers at large organisations where we can just riff on these different ideas, how can how can we work together?

Mike: Oh, that sounds awesome. We’d like to ask a little bit about you know, to get under the skin of what you do in marketing. So one of the things I’d love to know is about marketing advice. I mean, what’s the best bit of marketing advice someone’s ever given you?

Jason: I think it’s the idea of lean into what your brand is actually about. And realise that it’s going to, it’s going to upset some folks. And those aren’t your customers, right? That’s not your audience that you’re trying to create. And you want to make sure that whatever whatever your core brand is, whatever your core value proposition is, that that is what’s coming through and you’re not trying to be something you’re not. We’ve all been on a phone call on hold where it says you know, your, your services really important to us. Please wait for 37 minutes before somebody picks up the phone and it’s like the there’s a disconnect there. You know, if customer service is not your strong suit, don’t say, you know, it’s really important. Don’t say you know that my services or my patronage is really important. You want to make sure that you’re aligning your brand and your messaging with with what the customer truly is. CS.

Mike: I think it was great advice. I love that. I’m interested in what you think of marketing as a career as well. You know, if you were talking to a young person who was thinking about marketing as a career, what would you say to them? And maybe what part of marketing would you recommend they get into?

Jason: Absolutely don’t don’t get hung up on the tactics. And the things that aren’t important. Business is quite simple. When you boil it down, we’re trying to get more customers. We’re trying to reduce churn, we’re trying to increase profit, right? That’s, that’s it. I mean, it’s like, I think what happens, especially with junior level marketers is is we like to tell ourselves, we’re succeeding because of how many Facebook likes we got or retweets. And, and while that can lead to sales and lead to growth, we need to make sure that that that connection is more clear. And it’s not just nebulous. And so I think being clear on what the core principles are for your brand, that you’re trying to advance, and making sure that you’re not you’re not confusing yourself with vanity metrics, thinking that success.

Mike: That’s amazing advice. I mean, Jason, this has been great. I could talk to you for ages. I love your enthusiasm, about design and about marketing, but I’m mindful of time. So maybe the best thing to say is, you know, people want to continue this conversation, they’d like more information, how could they best contact you?

Jason: Absolutely, there’s, there’s a couple of ways. I mean, I think if you’re If this sounds interesting, we have affordable projects that start at $300. So this is not going to break the bank to try something out. To be able to try a project and see how this works. So go to Take a look at the categories and see from there. If you’re a smaller brand, and you’re looking for a little feedback on your brand, we have a free brand identity grader, where we provide a custom 10 page report specifically for your brand. It’s done by a human, we score your brand out of 100 and provide some actionable feedback. And if you’re a larger enterprise, you’re an innovation manager, your marketing manager, you’re trying to figure out an interesting way to follow your brand guidelines, but also be innovative and creative and keep up with some of the tactics that newer brands are using reach out to me directly. I’m happy to schedule a call and, and have a conversation. We’ve built CrowdSpring as a self service platform, so you don’t have to talk to me in order to move forward. But if it’s helpful to be able to riff on different ideas and see how we can work together, I’d love to be able to do that and you can reach out

Mike: That’s really generous. Jason, I really appreciate it’s been a great interview. Thank you so much for being on the podcast.

Jason: Absolutely. Great to be here.

Mike: Thanks so much for listening to marketing B2B Tech. We hope you enjoyed the episode. And if you did, please make sure you subscribe on iTunes, or on your favourite podcast application. If you’d like to know more, please visit our website at Napier B2B dot com or contact me directly on LinkedIn.