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fighter pilot Fighter Pilots, Marketing Execs, and OODAHow fast is your OODA cycle?

It’s a question of critical importance to fighter pilots, who are taught to quickly:

Observe

Orient

Decide and

Act

In the midst of a dogfight.

It’s also very important to marketing and sales professionals. We may not have people shooting at us or lives hanging in the balance on the typical Monday afternoon sitting behind a desk, but more often than we probably believe, we are facing a decision that holds the livelihoods and fortunes of our coworkers and families in the balance.

Unfortunately, the results of our decisions are also not as clear. This may cause us not to recognize and error until months or years after the fact, if ever.  We all know of sales and marketing execs who were “asleep at the switch” and allowed an opportunity to pass by, or permitted a competitor to acquire a key client simply because they failed to Observe, Orient, Decide and Act in time.

Here’s what we mean, in terms of  sales and marketing:

Observe:

  • Do you have an editorial calendar of industry publications and trade shows? (ABCI consulting clients do!) Do you know what will be discussed when among your peers?
  • Do you read industry magazines? If so, do you notice who’s advertising more or less than last month?
  • Do you attend industry events? If so, do you notice whom among your competitors, clients, and desired clients are there?  How much money did they apparently spend on their booth, on after-hours parties, and on giveaways and contests?
  • Do you you watch Google Analytics or WebTrends for your company’s website?  Are you getting more or less traffic this month than last? How are your competitors doing? (ABCI watches this data daily, and reviews it with each of our consulting clients monthly.)
  • Do you have frank and open discussions with your current and prospective clients about what is changing for them?  How will the price of gas affect them if it goes higher? Are they concerned about coming changes in regulation or the economy? Are they worried about tax changes or the “fiscal cliff?”

Orient:

  • What conclusions can you draw from what you’ve observed?  Will you be the first or last to know of a change in the market?
  • Do you have the ability to modify your product or service offering to take advantage of a new or emerging trend?
  • Do you brainstorm opportunities and risks with a mastermind group or informal group of key stakeholders and clients?
  • Do you regularly set aside time to think through your “Plan A, Plan B and Plan C?”
  • Does your company have (or can you create) the capacity to generate multiple streams of income, or is your company a “one trick pony?”  What can you do to diversify?

Decide:

  • How many people are involved in the decision-making process? How long does it usually take to make a change to a product or service, or a marketing campaign?
  • Are you comfortable making decisions based on incomplete information? (Most decisions are made this way – if we waited for ALL of the relevant data, the opportunity will have passed us by!)

Act:

  • Do you have a complete marketing system that is flexible enough to change a component and get quick, accurate data on how well it performs?
  • Do you have segmented marketing lists, a receptive and responsive Twitter and Facebook following that helps you spread the word about a new product or campaign?
  • Are you able to change your website quickly to accommodate a new campaign? (Can you add a new landing page, response form,  and content within a day or two, – as ABCI consulting clients can – or will it take longer?)
  • Do you have long- or short- term advertising contracts? If they are long-term, can you change the content at will?

Sales and marketing are not easy in the current economy.   Ten years ago, you could run the same campaign for years and expect to have reliable results.   In this competitive environment and changing economy, it requires a lot more hard work and resources to keep (or expand) your market position. It also takes a quick and effective OODA cycle!