Saturday, December 19, 2015

Are you using an OODA Loop in your healthcare marketing?

The healthcare vendor world regardless of product or channel is a very competitive place with clear winners and losers. It’s a winner take all proposition with hospital and health systems, hence the need for a sales and marketing strategy that can give an edge. And that can be difficult in a parallel world of messages, product capability and solutions.

Let’s first start with what is an OODA Loop? Developed by USAF military strategist Colonel John Boyd, OODA- Observe, Orient, Decide and Act applied it to military combat operation process at the strategic level. It is now making its way into the business world and how a competitive edge can be gained resulting in sales, growth, and revenue. This approach cycle favors agility over raw power in dealing with individuals or groups of individuals in any endeavor.

Besides the obvious goal of winning the sales, the activity of sales and marketing is to get inside the decision-making process of a company.  Boyd has postulated that decision-making takes place in a recurring cycle of observe-orient-decide-act. Now, any sales and marketing team of a company that can process this cycle quickly observing and reacting to events more rapidly than a competitor, or to a competitor’s mistake, can get inside of the process and again a competitive and tactical advantage.

But first, let me take a moment to apologize my readers. The above-shortened explanation does not do the nature or complexity of OODA Loops justice. It serves in a small way to at least provide a conceptual framework worthy of further investigation.

Now think about how this applies to sales and marketing cycles for healthcare vendors in the provider space. 

Depending on the healthcare product or service, the sales and marketing cycle can be over a very long time span that could be defined in months or some cases a year or more. Sales and marketing gather information (observe), form a plan of action around customer activity, their intentions and competitors (orient), make decisions and act on them. This cycle is continuous in nature given the changing market dynamics, companies, needs, and requirements. 

The precise application of this process gives the healthcare vendor the advantage over a competitor who is merely reacting to conditions as they happen, or just isn’t paying attention to the opportunity. It also allows for the sale and marketing team of the healthcare vendor to recognize and capitalize on competitor mistakes, forcing them to spend time and resources in correcting the error.  By the time the competitor realizes what has happened and reacts, the headline and story have already been written. It’s too late, and they have lost any tactical advantage.

A word of caution is in order. More often than not, teams working the OODA Loop often get stuck in the D (decision) and no action is taken allowing the competitor to gain the upper hand. If a healthcare vendor is going to use the OODA Loop process, then they have to understand that decisions need to be made.  Otherwise, it is just a waste of time, energy, and resources.

So what does it take?
  • A far more sophisticated understanding of the OODA process than what is here.
  • Sales and marketing team which is highly integrated, collaborative and responsive.
  • Sales and marketing operations built on agility.
  •  Creation of an OODA Loop Team.
  •  An ability to respond rapidly to changing conditions measured in minutes and hours, not days or weeks.
  • A culture that accepts ambiguity and can tolerate rapid shifts in strategy and tactics.
  • An aggressive mindset that recognizes competitor mistakes and can drive action and accountability in responding. 
  • The ability to rapidly shift sales and marketing resources.
  •  Abilities to be different and succeed.

Nine steps that are a tall order for most healthcare vendors and many in their wildest dreams will never be able to do this.  But then, all you have to do is learn and use OODA Loops to beat your healthcare vendor competitors into submission in the market.


For more topics and thought leading discussions like this, join Healthcare Marketing Leaders For Change, a LinkedIn Professional Group.

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