In the last post on Agile we discussed the flaws of the traditional linear marketing process. So what could be the alternative? This is where we can find inspiration from an unlikely source – the military. John Boyd was perhaps the most prolific fighter pilot the US has ever known. He was an unusual character, a self-described maverick with an aversion to authority, which didn’t always work in his favor in the military. His nickname was 40 seconds Boyd because he would bet any pilot $40 that he would be on their tale in 40 seconds. But he was also an intellectual, who studied the history and theory of warfare. He was one of the main architects behind the F16 which was smaller and lighter than its predecessor the F-15. It was the most agile plane of its time and agility, as Boyd had shown was all that mattered in warfare. After Boyd finished his work on the F-16 he devoted most of his time to developing a framework for agility which he called the OODA loop. OODA stands for Observe/Orient/Decide/Act and to Boyd it was more than a simple summary of the steps human beings go through to make fast intuitive decisions. He thought of it as a general framework for gaining competitive advantage. If you constantly run through your OODA loop you can outmaneuver you’re your competition by getting “inside their OODA loop”. Your decision and action become their observation and by making fast decisions you can essentially control their OODA loop.
Boyd’s concepts are surprisingly applicable to marketing. A simple variation of his loop describes how a modern marketing function can organize itself to achieve maximum agility.
Marketers need to keep all their senses open – not only their eyes but also their ears. In this digital world consumers are giving marketers constant cues about what they need and want. Consumers have always done this but now marketers have the ability to capture these cues at scale. This is because consumers live on platforms that generate data. They write about their needs and opinions on social networks. This is where we can learn from listening to them. They also demonstrate their needs through what they purchase and how they engage with companies. This where is simple observation can help us get to know our customers better. Marketers have a broad range of tools available that can capture all this data and analyze it. Those who keep their senses open now have the ability to get a pretty complete picture of what some have called a customer’s “digital body language”. Reading the digital body language and responding to it is what agile marketers do better than their competition.
The senses will provide you with a constant stream of raw data about what your customers do, want and need. This data needs to be processed to orient it for decision making. This happens by putting new data in the context of what we already know about the customers and what we are trying to achieve with them. This stage involves 3 main steps – Customer Insight, Content Inventory and Connection. We first develop in depth Consumer Insight through processing the data that comes in through the senses. At the same time we make sure we have a Content Inventory that lists and categorizes everything we have to offer to the customer in response to their needs. Finally we make the Connection between customer and content based on what we know they need and what we have to offer them.
A fighter pilot’s spectrum of potential decisions is pretty limited – up, down, left, right, faster, slower – that’s about it. In marketing however things are more complicated. We not only need to decide, we also have to create. The previous stage might identify content gaps or it may expose areas where we have content but where it is not of the right quality. These issues need to be addressed in the creative process. What is different about how content is created in this agile system is how it is connected to the other stages in the loop. It is constantly informed by the information we are getting by our customers. That information can not only give us new insights that can lead to new ideas, it can also give is fast feedback on which ideas are working and which aren’t. This feedback loop can really change the creative process itself, which becomes more experimental and iterative. The agile principle of deliver today and adapt tomorrow can be applied to the creative process. Less time spent on planning and more on real time in market testing.
The end goal is the customer interaction that drives value. These interactions can happen anywhere at any time. The explosion of marketing channels has provided marketers with 2 crucial challenges : within-channel optimization and cross-channel integration. Every time a new channel opens up, marketers need to master it to ensure the interactions are happening in the most optimal way. This is where deep expertise in search, social media, video distribution, e-mail marketing, … is crucial. Within-channel optimization requires deep specialty channel expertise and an ability to create channel specific content. The second challenge is cross channel integration. How can you make sure that all touch points are synchronized in a way that ensures a consistent customer experience across every channel. This is where marketing automation platforms can play a vital role in managing the complexity of all customer touch points.
With Sense Orient, Create and Interact the acronym might have changed to SOCI but in spirit it is still an OODA loop.