Become a Digital Marketing Warrior Using the OODA Loop



The OODA loop was created as part of a military strategy developed by USAF Colonel John Boyd. Col. Boyd proposed that agility in any military situation involving humans would defeat raw power if the fighters continually used the OODA loop. We can do the same in our digital marketing efforts.


But first, what’s the OODA loop? OODA stands for Observe – Orient – Decide – Act. “Boyd developed the concept to explain how to direct one’s energies to defeat an adversary and survive. Boyd emphasized that “the loop” is actually a set of interacting loops that are to be kept in continuous operation during combat.

The OODA loop applies to digital marketing because we are able to constantly experiment and get quick, accurate results using the digital analytics tools that we all have at our disposal. Here’s a simple walk-through of how one can create and implement the OODA loop into digital marketing efforts.

1. Observe: what are your current assets in content, channels, reach; where are your customers; what types of content are they consuming; how are they acquiring products/services?

2. Orient: how do your assets and abilities match up to the needs and location of your prospect/customer base?

3. Decide: create an experiment with a definition of success and a clear measurement.

4. Act: Conduct the experiment for a short time interval.

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: You have a video of your CMO delivering a presentation at an industry conference.

2. Orient: She knocked the speech out of the park, but there were only 175 attendees at the conference, and your market audience is tens of thousands of C-Suite executives.

3. Decide: You could easily share this video on YouTube, and promote the video in your next blog post and email newsletter.

4. Act: You post the video on YouTube, and write a short blog post, which will also be used as text in the next newsletter.

Now you begin again.

1. Observe: Your audience loves the video, and the video gets more than 1000 views on Youtube; however, many people comment that there are some sections of the video that are not clear and that the audio was not perfect in a couple of spots.

2. Orient: It’s about $1 per minute to get audio and video transcribed using a service like Speechpad, so getting the transcript of your CMO’s speech would be less than $20.

3. Decide: Get the video transcribed, and turn the text into a series of blog posts.

4. Act: Create a campaign based on your CMO’s speech, featuring the video supported by the corresponding blog posts.

Remember, the OODA loop is a loop, meaning it never stops, and is repeated often. The beauty of digital marketing is the speed at which we can conduct experiments until we discover tactics that work really well and tactics that we should avoid. Having a construct like the OODA loop helps you work through those experiments in rapid succession.

Learn more about core digital marketing concepts like the OODA loop.

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About Kevin Sandlin

Kevin Sandlin is a serial entrepreneur and 7-time startup veteran, including one IPO and two acquisitions. Kevin founded CWNP with $500, and grew the company into the industry standard for vendor-neutral WiFi certification & training through great digital, email, and content marketing. Kevin is the founder of Atlanta Tech Blogs and Pitch Practice and teaches General Assembly's part-time Digital Marketing course in Atlanta. Follow Kevin on Twitter @kevsandlin.

Disclaimer: General Assembly referred to their Bootcamps and Short Courses as “Immersive” and “Part-time” courses respectfully and you may see that reference in posts prior to 2023.