Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Next Flavor of the Day for Healthcare Vendor Sales & Marketing - OODA Loops in Nine Steps

Something in the integration of sales and marketing in healthcare vendors could be amiss. One camp is still living in the 90s. Another in the 2000s and yet another in the 2010s around the selling and marketing process. I forgot to mention as well, leadership reading an article, attending a conference, or hearing speaker assuming they know it all and then mandating a change in organizational direction. Size of the company matters little for it happens in all of them.

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 physicians, hospitals, 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.

Enter the concept of OODA LOOP applied to sales and marketing.

But, 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 into 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 gain 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 formalized process could apply to sales and marketing cycles for healthcare vendors in the provider space. 

Sales and marketing gather information (observe), form a plan of action around customer activity, their intentions and competitors (orient), make decisions (decide) and execute (act). This cycle is continuous 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 written. It’s too late, and they have lost any tactical advantage.

A word of caution is in order. Often, 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 must understand that without decisions, it fails.

So, what does it take? 

1.       A far more sophisticated understanding of the OODA process than what is here. 
2.       Sales and marketing team which is highly integrated, collaborative and responsive. 
3.       Sales and marketing operations built on agility. 
4.       Create an OODA Loop Team. 
5.       An ability to respond rapidly to changing conditions measured in minutes and hours, not days or weeks. 
6.       A culture that accepts ambiguity and can tolerate rapid shifts in strategy and tactics. 
7.       An aggressive mindset that recognizes competitor mistakes and can drive action and accountability in responding. 
8.       The ability to rapidly shift sales and marketing resources. 
9.       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 must do is learn and use OODA Loops to beat your healthcare vendor competitors into submission in the market.

Michael is a healthcare business, marketing, communications strategist and thought-leader.  As an internationally followed healthcare strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters is read in  52 countries and listed on the 100 Top Healthcare Marketing Blogs, and Websites ranked at No. 3 on the list by Michael is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives, Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association. As an expert in digital marketing & social media with a Klout score of 64, Michael is in the top 10 percent of social media experts nationwide.  Michael is an established influencer and inquires for strategic consulting engagements can be made by calling   815-351-0671. Opinions expressed are my own.

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