Thursday, May 08, 2008

Introducing the Conversation Value™ Model and Preview of WOMM-U Sessions

As mentioned in an earlier post I'm speaking at WOMM-U today and tomorrow about WOM measurement and how to scale WOM programs. On the WOMM-U website WOMMA bills my session as "Your CMO says: 'If I gave you X dollars more for WOM, what would I get?'"*

The purpose of this post is to give a preview of how I plan to address this topic and it coincides with some exciting news with ChatThreads regarding the announcement of a new WOM ROI metric. We call it "Conversation Value™" and it's a measure of the revenue impact of consumer conversations.

I've been working on this model with Dr. Barak Libai, who has been a visiting professor of marketing at MIT and a professor at Tel Aviv's Faculty of Mangement (and also a fellow member of WOMMA's Academic Advisory Board).

The Conversation Value™ Model incorporates consumers' WOM behavior into a life-time value (LTV) model, which allows companies to quantify the bottom-line value of each conversation about a brand.

The two categories of inputs are LTV-related and WOM-related. (We feel that if you calculate the value of a customer just based on a LTV model that you actually underestimate the value a customer brings to the firm because it doesn't take into account their WOM.)

For LTV inputs we calculate the average value a customer brings to the firm through their own purchase behavior, adjusted based on a discount rate that takes into account the time value of money (money now is worth more than money later).

The WOM inputs are collected via ChatThreads' analytics platform. The inputs include generational relay rates (the number of people told from Generation 0 to Generation 1, Generation 1 to Generation 2, etc.), which is a measure of reach, as well as generational purchase rates (the percentage of people who report purchasing the product or service at each generation).

The value of each conversation, or "conversation value", is calculated by combining the life time value and WOM referral value and dividing this by the number of conversations with unique people. The "net present conversation value" is computed by subtracting the costs for the marketing initiative from the conversation value figure.

You end up with a dollar amount, like $1.20, for example, and this number means that each time a person had a conversation with a new person as part of a marketing initiative (whether it's an advocacy or influencer WOM program, or a more traditional event marketing or sampling program) the company made $1.20. The value could be a negative number as well which means the initiative failed to generate a positive ROI. Companies can track this number over time and work to optimize their initiatives in order to increase their conversation value.

Interestingly, conversation values can range dramatically by cateogry and by each of the inputs to the model, such as the profitability of each unit sold and generational relay and purchase rates.

Something else that's really cool is how you can run simulations to understand what happens if, for example, each program participant reached just one more person at each generation, or purchased X% more. Or what happens if you decided to scale the program larger (for example, by engaging additional program participants). Additionally, you can use the model to look at cost per conversion so that you can compare an initiative designed to generate WOM to other media channels. This will give media planners, buyers, and marketers a clearer sense of how to allocate their resources.

We are developing Conversation Value™ Models for ChatThreads' clients and will be releasing some research reports and white papers in the near future. For the time being you can come to my interactive sessions in Miami. Hope to see you here!

* BTW, the hypothetical CMO's statement above may make it seem like you can just buy WOM or have a successful WOM program by just throwing around some additional money. I don't think this is what the conference organizers intended when they wrote their short blurb, but I'll certainly dispel this notion when I discuss it today. What they were getting at, I think, is understanding the impact of resource allocation and how to go about it in thoughtful and strategic ways (or, this is how CMOs probably should be talking about it anyway!).