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Understanding The OODA Loop and How Startup Founders Can Use It.

The moment you plan or launch your startup, it’s in a dogfight. And your job as the founder is to outmaneuver, to respond rapidly to uncertain conditions and eventually outlast (and defeat) your competition. It’s just the way it is. (cue the Top Gun theme)

As a startup founder and marketer, why should you bother with OODA loop?

What is the OODA Loop?

The OODA loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) is a model that was created by USAF Col. John Boyd. It was originally designed for Korean era fighter pilots as a way to understand conflict and provide military leaders with a model or method for making decisions and assessing their impact.

The execution of the decision-making process may be viewed as involving the cycling through four distinctive but interdependent stages:

1) OBSERVATION, or absorbing information from the environment by all means;

2) ORIENTATION, or placing this information into a matrix of human understanding and experience;

3) DECISION, or selecting a subsequent course of action based upon the likelihood of either offensive achievement or defensive nullification; and

4) ACTION, or attempting to operationalize or carry out the previously conceived decision.

Collectively, these stages are known as an OODA loop.

The OODA loop applies to startup marketing because we are constantly doing experiments to get quick, accurate results using current analytics tools at our disposal.

Here’s a simple walk-through of how one can create and implement the OODA loop into your startup marketing efforts.

  • Observe: list down your current assets for content, channels, reach; where your customers are; what they want;How are they gaining solutions to their problems?

  • Orient: How do your assets match the needs of your potential customers?

  • Decide: Create an experiment with a definition of success and clear measurement.

  • Act: Conduct the experiment within a short time frame.

Then you go back to the start. The OODA loop is a never-ending cycle of experimentation and optimization.

Here’s a simplified example of how we use the OODA loop to learn.

1. Observe: Start with Customer development - get out and interview potential customers about their problems, and how your product can help solve their need. Note your hypothesis and assumptions based on their responses.

2. Orient: Create a landing page to test out your initial findings. Your copy must be based on the solutions you can provide. Strive to get the “a-ha” moment even with your copy. Monitor the conversions for your landing page.

3. Decide: Review your landing page’s performance based on the conversion rate. Do you need to improve the copy? Or would you want to A/B test another landing page to test out your findings?

4. Act: Change the copy and create a long-form version. Implement and A/B test your landing page campaign. Set a test period of 2 weeks for your landing page.

Now you start again with another OODA loop.

1. Observe: You start this phase by reviewing the analytics for each landing page. Let’s say for this one, you noticed that the first landing page had more views, but the new long-form version has more quality conversions. You also check out the competitor’s landing pages, and it appears that they have videos for their page.

2. Orient: The newer landing page despite being longer contain keywords and copy that is relevant to your target customer. You start another test on a landing page with a video.

3. Decide: You now decide to use the elements and format of the higher converting landing page. You create another version of your landing page with an explainer video.

4. Act: Publish and test out your new landing pages.

Remember, the OODA loop is a loop, so it is a never-ending, repeatable process. You take the lessons from one phase, apply it to the next. Building upon the best tactics to improve.

For startup marketing, speed is essential when conducting experiments. With this, we discover tactics that work really well and activities that we should avoid. Using a model like the OODA loop helps you work through those experiments in rapid succession.

It is all about testing, testing and more testing. (Until you get a certain percentage that failure is no longer a possibility)

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