Are you and your customers on the same planet? Better check your Drake Equation

N = R* • fp • ne • fl • fi • fc • L

I was chatting with a (single) friend recently and he mentioned how hard it is for people to find somebody they find compatible. I said jokingly that they need to consider their search as an analogy for the Drake Equation. This is a model conceived by SETI Institute board member and former astronomer Dr. Frank Drake as a way to estimate the number of technologically-advanced civilizations that might exist in our galaxy. Put simply, the Drake Equation comprises a host of defining characteristics that are used to estimate the possible number of communicative civilizations that might be found in the universe.

As I thought about this, it occurred to me that we all have a series of Drake Equations. This is reflected in our choices, the trade-offs we make, and, as 30 Rock’s Liz Lemon would say, our “deal breakers!” Going back to my initial thought about choosing a spousal partner, we all have certain qualities and attributes that we look for in what will hopefully be a long-term relationship. But doesn’t this also apply to businesses?

The search for intelligent markets

The best businesses segment their customers/clients and profile their wants and needs. These profiling variables constitute the “secret sauce” of engagement and communication. These relationships are constantly evolving. With “listening” strategies, we’re able to more sharply define these segments and get a deeper, broader perspective on their respective wants and needs. But we need to go further. We need to consider the social context of engagement, and this is where the Drake Equation for business comes into play. Instead of a shotgun strategy aimed at 70 or 80% of a given market, perhaps you’ll do as well or better by concentrating on the 15% who really matter.

A match made in Heaven

What are the factors and indicators that drive customers and clients to connect with you, your business and your brand? Can you use a Drake Equation type of algorithm to drive your engagement strategy online and in real life? To put it in a more down-to-earth context, you can use such findings to identify what you should be doing to attract more customers and improve the customer experience, or your products, your services, or even your business model. Instead of focusing on how to sell more, perhaps more of a Drake approach to our market research can show us how to become more attractive – by learning how to recognize, and then emit, the perfect mating calls.

Earth calling [your business]

The Drake equation was always about triangulating multiple data sources, and for astronomers that approach is paying dividends in the identification of planets that could be similar to ours. Using this analogy, it is now the imperative of companies to do the same – to formulate their own Drake equations in terms of identifying those who are the most passionate about their product or service. That same formula could also point out some interesting things that you should do, and not do, to demonstrate the care and attention you’re investing in that relationship.

Recalling Lady Gaga singing “I don’t want to be friends” in her hit single Bad Romance, I think what she means is that she is unwilling to settle for anything less than a truly meaningful relationship. In this same sense, your customers today are looking for the real deal. They are more than willing, and certainly more than able, to let the world know if they are getting anything less, and they will be even happier to let us all know if they have at long last found true love.


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