Lean Data Goes Deeper

One of the most interesting questions we’re grappling with right now on the Impact team at Acumen is how to develop a more robust, rigorous, and transparent form of quantifying the social value our companies create. While I don’t believe we will ever fully understand all the social value created – and while there will always be room for debate and interpretation – I do think today we have the tools to get a lot closer to customers and hear how they value products.

And if we can figure this out in a clear and compelling enough way, I believe that would open the door to creating a true marketplace for social impact.

What we’ve learned with our Lean Data Initiative is that we can, thanks to the prevalence of mobile phones and other enabling technologies, now quickly and easily gather data directly from our customers in ways that drive insights for us and our companies – everything from customer loyalty metrics to poverty levels of who is being reached to customer satisfaction.

What we’ve been kicking around – and where I’d love your help – is the best approach to quantifying self-reported value.

Meaning, after a customer has purchased a product (a solar light, safe drinking water, an improved seed) and experienced the benefit, what are the best, most reliable ways to ask her how much she values that product? Because she is the one who is living it, accruing benefit from it, she is best placed to explain what it’s worth to her.

We’ve been having fabulous conversations on our team, conversations that get back to the basics about things like consumer surplus and why demand curves slope down; conjoint/discreet choice analysis to get to revealed preferences; and things as simple as asking how much, having experienced a product, someone would have been willing to pay for it.

To clarify the kinds of things we’re thinking about and where I’d love your thoughts:

  • How to best phrase questions that help Acumen’s customers accurately articulate the value they get from a product or service
  • Whether there’s a best way to ask “how much would you have paid” after people have a product to understand how much they value it
  • Prize-based, conjoint approaches where we give a subset of folks $100 to spend on one of a few bundles of goods / services, to understand real rank-order preferences

I’d appreciate ideas for approaches that might help us get the answers we’re looking for. Suggestions welcome in the comments or please just email me directly.