Leadership requires exceptional decision-making skills. But in the life of a marketer – who on any given day is having to keep tabs on dozens of channels, tactics, analytics, and audiences to name just a few – it can be easy to fall into a ready-fire-aim approach to decision making. Or if you’re Top Gun’s Maverick, don’t think, just do.
Urgency, pressure, complexity, resource limitations, and incomplete and/or conflicting information can easily influence your circumstances. But as a senior-level marketer, it’s critical that you step back and evaluate risks and opportunities before committing to a decision.
Today, we’re sharing a cognitive approach to decision-making that will give you a clear process to step back and logically assess calls before you make them.
The OODA Loop
The OODA Loop is a four-step approach that restructures decision-making through a process of filtering the information you have, quickly contextualizing it, making an informed decision, and anticipating change. . By viewing a circumstance through this lens, decision-makers are encouraged to think critically, anticipate threats, and neutralize them before they become critical.
If that sounds more like combat than conference room, you’d be right. The OODA Loop was developed by military strategist and US Air Force Colonel John Boyd. Boyd applied the concept to the combat operations process, often at the operational level during military campaigns. However, the same fast-paced decision-making process can be applied to the work you do as a senior marketer.
According to Boyd, decision-making occurs in a recurring cycle: Observe–Orient–Decide–Act.
In following the OODA loop, decision-makers observe a developing situation, orient themselves to strategic opportunities, decide on the best course of action to take, and act on the decision. While this process seems like a linear one, it relies on constant feedback from a wealth of data points in order to update each step for the benefit of subsequent steps.
The 4 Steps of the OODA Loop
As a marketer, you can use the OODA Loop to benchmark your ability to react intentionally, with the goal of continuously improving (shortening) your decision cycles.
Step 1: Observe
This is the data collection phase — ingest all the information you can. As marketers, we have a TON of data at our fingertips. What metrics are you tracking? What reports do you need to pull from Google Analytics? Don’t prioritize your data yet, just aggregate what’s available.
Observation isn’t a single step; it’s a developing awareness based on constantly changing circumstances and imperfect information.
Step 2: Orient
Time to crunch all that data. Leverage raw analytics into insights. Analyze, evaluate, and prioritize information. Size up the fundamentals – threats, opportunities, competitors, etc. Understand how this data impacts the big picture.
Orientation never ceases, but rather constantly evolves as it takes in new data.
Step 3: Decide
From raw data to actionable insight, you are now strategically positioned to decide on the appropriate response. Given the present variables established in the orientation phase, it’s time to choose the course of action that will deliver the desired outcome.
Decisions are hypotheses you plan to test through action. Decisions and actions can take place simultaneously or in a sequence.
Step 4: Act
It’s time to test your hypothesis. After you execute your decision, you must determine if your supposition was correct. What you learn through execution, you’ll repurpose in the next cycle. Because the OODA loop is, after all, a loop, action is never the last step of the process. The goal is for future cycles to be both more accurate and faster.
Action is never the last step of the process. The OODA Loop is a continuous cycle.
The OODA Loop IRL
What do you do if you think your paid search is underperforming? Our team of PPC experts will walk you through the process using the OODA Loop.
Step 1: Observe
If you’re not getting the results you want from your PPC campaign, it’s time to pull some data.
Here are the metrics you need to look at:
You also need to do competitive research to understand competitive spend and the market, as well as research your competitors’ paid and organic keywords. A tool like SEMrush can help you pull this data.
Step 2: Orient
When looking at your campaign’s data, you need to first identify the goal (CAC/ ROAS/ Exposure/ Etc). Then analyze the metrics and competitive research to identify issues, threats, and opportunities.
In terms of external factors, you need to determine opportunities for the following:
Competitors (you can run competitive campaigns, so understanding the competitive landscape is critical).
Opportunities, in terms of visibility (often tied to spend or lack of), as well as platforms (Google / Bing / Paid Social / LI / ETC). Opportunities might also be triggered by campaign changes to maximize performance.
There are internal factors that play a part, too. Website structure and quality are key components of success, so you need to ensure your website is conversion-friendly for max conversion opportunity. The last thing you want to do is drive good traffic to a poor site.
Step 3: Decide
From a paid media perspective, there are proper ways to market based on campaign goals. Understanding what to do with the data is critical. The past data tells a story; you only need to understand how all the pieces form the puzzle.
Step 4: Act
The course of action moving forward should be simple, based on campaign goals:
Set up the match types properly, generally PHRASE, to ensure you’re receiving the proper traffic, not spending against the wrong terms, and optimizing the list regularly.
Build your campaign structure by establishing ad groups, text ads, bidding structure, etc, to maximize performance.
Finally, you need to budget against the market (supply/demand). Budget is everything, and an underfunded campaign will fail. If the campaign funding is too low, the QS (quality scores) will suffer, resulting in high costs for low positions.
Repeat Step 1: Observe
Now that everything is set up properly, you’ll continue to analyze the following data and performance:
CPC (are you favorable in Google?)
CTR (are you 2% or higher, and is your current QS [Quality Score] helping push your QS even higher?)
Conversions (you can look at conversions in real-time based on the proper tracking you just set up, as well as understand what keywords and ad groups are driving the conversions, providing the ability to continue to optimize
Opportunity (you’ll begin to understand opportunity for additional traffic, traffic sources, optimization enhancement, etc)
And the cycle (or loop) continues as you work to identify areas for ongoing optimization.
The OODA Loop for Marketers
The practical application of this paradigm is meant to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of your decision-making. As you shorten the loop, increase response times, and apply the insight you glean through the process faster, you’ll find greater success in decision-making.
By condensing the decision-making process into a short, actionable framework, the OODA Loop allows marketers to outmaneuver the competition by making better decisions, faster.
Talk to me Goose. How are you planning to spend the remainder of this year’s marketing budget? There are myriad ways, but what’s going to bring you the most value and set you up for success in 2023? If you’re finding yourself dog-fighting for market share with your competition, it’s time to put the OODA Loop into action.
Observe → There are less than 4 months remaining in the 2022 fiscal year.
Orient → Assess your remaining budget to be sure you use it to drive ROI. Here are 9 ways to finish the year strong and set you up for continued success in 2023.
Decide → Utilize strategic resources. Chat with experts to ensure you’re making the most of your marketing efforts and driving results for your final push.
Act → Schedule a quick chat with an expert at Speak to outline an actionable, personalized strategy that will amplify your marketing efforts.
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