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The Fighter Pilot’s Secret to Boosting Your Profits

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Today I want to discuss a simple mental model you can use to supercharge your marketing and growth efforts.

It’s the best framework for rapidly improving ALL of your marketing campaigns.

Plus, you can use this idea to build a lean, mean and frighteningly effective marketing team.

The story starts at the height of the Cold War…

John Boyd was a fighter pilot before he became the grand swami of American military strategy in the late 20th century. He combined the prickly personality (and genius) of Steve Jobs with a desire to kill as many of America’s enemies as possible. Terrifying. But there is much to learn from this warrior-scholar.

He gets his start in the military at the tail end of World War II and ends up flying fighter jets against the North Koreans in the 1950s. And then he sits and watches as bomber pilots take over the Air Force. He’s unhappy. Those guys didn’t understand anything about combat except dropping tons of high explosives on the ground. That was inefficient and those lumbering bombers are (practically) defenseless as they slouch towards the target.

Boyd gets obsessed with answering the question of who will have air superiority in the next war. Without it, the United States bombers wouldn’t even have a chance to fly over their targets…they’d be shot down first.

Unfortunately, Boyd is a divisive figure in the Cold War military bureaucracy. And Boyd is marginalized and ignored. (Perhaps his habit of jabbing generals with cigars mid-lecture made him disliked)

So he gathers together a group of his closest colleagues and forms the “Fighter Mafia.” The Mafia’s goal: to disrupt the order of the Air Force and teach the bomber command generals something about war-fighting.

So Boyd goes back to school and learns as much as possible. He studies everything under the sun: combat tactics, systems theory, quantum mechanics, philosophy, fluid dynamics, physics and more.

Based on his curiosity and erudition, he comes up with his Theory of Energy Maneuverability. He uses it to help design, test and build some of greatest fighter planes in aviation history. And the OODA loop. Which is what we’re really interested in here.

OODA:

Observe.

Orient.

Decide.

Act.

His thesis is simple: he who moves through these steps the fastest, learns the most, accumulates the most advantages and wins.

How does this apply to marketing you ask?

Well, it provides the most powerful framework I’ve discovered for rapid iteration and improvement of your marketing and growth.

By using this mental model, you’ll focus your team on the levers that will grow your business and profits. You’ll quickly learn what works, what doesn’t and how to effectively act in an uncertain world.

Sound good?

Good.

Let me give you specific examples you can start using today to grow faster. We’ll explore the OODA loop for marketers in the context of a paid traffic campaign. But don’t make the mistake of believing this methodology only works with that engine of growth. It applies all the same to viral loops, referral programs, and content marketing.

Observe

This is where it all starts. You want to begin by observing, gathering input and making judgments on your situation and the general situation in your market.

Let’s say you’ve got an artisanal, organic, non-GMO ferret treat business. You manufacture organic, locally-sourced, non-GMO treats for the discerning ferret owner. And you want to sell more treats.

As you start your OODA loop, you should take stock of your business environment:
— What are your competitors doing?
— What else is being advertised in the channels you’ll use?
— What approaches are similar businesses taking to grow?

So you poke around and start doing some research and you find 2 similar companies. One sells parrot treats and the other cat treats. Perfect.

You take a look at how they’re marketing their goods. Cat company posts funny cat GIFs with healthy messages on Instagram. At the top of their profile they have a link to their store. Their store is simple and optimized for mobile.

horrified_cat

Their funnel looks like this:

Instagram pic –> follow them –> click their profile page –> go to the mobile shopping cart –> buy delicious (and healthy) goodies for your favorite feline.

On the other hand, the parrot treat company is big on Facebook. They have a thriving fan page but also buy a lot of traffic.

Their funnel looks like this:

Newsfeed ad with an angry parrot (uh oh)

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That ad sends people to a blog post that describes the dangers of feeding your beloved parrot that industrial sludge that big corporations call treats.

Then, at the bottom of the article, there is a call to action to buy the first month of organic parrot treats. People click that link and are taken to a shopping cart page to select what flavor they’d like.

After that, they enter their credit card information and choose shipping options. Finally, after that first purchase is made, the parrot treat store offers them hemp parrot cage covers as an upsell.

So their funnel looks like this:

Facebook Ad –> Article Landing Page –> Shopping Cart Page –> Order Page –> Upsell Page.

Alright, you’ve observed the marketing funnels for companies serving neurotic, health-obsessed pet food folks. (mostly joking)

And since that’s your ideal market, now you need a framework for choosing which of these approaches you’ll try out first to grow your ferret treat business.

It’s time to…

ORIENT

This step in the OODA loop is CRITICAL. Here you’ll be weighing options that will affect the rest of your loop.

The key to orienting properly is to be unafraid to make judgment calls and hypotheses.

So you weigh the two options you’ve seen for holistic, niche pet food marketing funnels. Here’s what else you know: you use Facebook compulsively. You know there is a vibrant Facebook community of Ferret lovers.

Since you know it better…you decide you’ll start trying to sell goods on Facebook.

Congratulations — you’ve decided!

So you dial up all those delicious targeting options and start showing your ads to:

  • Men
  • Over 40
  • Who are interested in ferrets
  • Who are also interested in holistic medicine

Boom. You’ve got 25,000 people that fit your demographics.

Now what do you do?

ACT.

Create those ads, write the copy for your landing page, make sure your shopping cart is ready and then turn on the traffic.

What happens next?

You greedily rub your hands together, turn off your laptop, and go get a drink with your mates at the pub.

You tell them that you’re going to be a millionaire in a few weeks because you’re about to corner the holistic pet food market for ferrets.

They laugh at you.

But they never understood you anyway.

After a boozy argument, you go home and fall asleep dreaming of riches.

You wake up and dash to your laptop. Your fingers happily type your password and you login to your Facebook ad account.

Uh. Oh.

You spent $200, got 100 clicks and made $53 in sales.

NOOOOO!

When it comes to making paid traffic work, this is where most people go astray. First they lose some money and then they lose their mind. Big mistake.

But you’re too smart for that. I know it.

After you get over your crushing disappointment, you realize there is vast opportunity if you just:

OODA again!

This is where the magic happens…

First, you observe.

You see that you spent $200, got 100 clicks and had 3 people buy your ferret treats. Your ad got a 0.78% click through rate. Your landing page got a 10% click-through rate. And 30% of the people who landed on your shopping cart page bought. Nobody took your hemp ferret leash upsell.

Now you have some information to work with. And you can orient yourself to take effective action.

Just by the sheer economics of it, you know that you’ll never be able to get rich selling ferret treats if you pay $2 per click.

And if you double the click-through-rate on your ad, you hypothesize that you should be able to double the amount of money you make…which will get you closer to breaking even.

Boom. Time to orient towards improving your click-through-rate. You find a cuter ferret picture and write a new headline.

You upload your new ad, close your laptop, and go to the movies…although you keep anxiously thinking about your new attempt. But you have faith in the almighty OODA.

The next morning, you open up your laptop and here’s what you see:

You spent $200.
You got 300 clicks (TRIPLE!)
You made 8 sales (almost TRIPLE!)
And you made $138.

Sweet. You’re getting closer to making this work. You can almost smell it.

So what do you do?

Quit.

Just kidding. Of course you OODA again.

You dig into the numbers and you see:

Your ad has a 2.1% Clickthrough Rate
Your landing page has a 10% Clickthrough Rate
Your shopping cart has a 30% conversion Rate

After observing those metrics, you hypothesize that if you can increase the Clickthrough Rate on your landing page then you can get closer to making money on Facebook.

You poke around online and find an article called “7 Tips to Improving Your Landing Pages.”

You make all those changes to your landing page. Then you fire up your ad campaign again.

The next day, you wake up and check your numbers again.

Here’s what you see:

Your ad has a 2.1% Clickthrough Rate (Same)
Your landing page has a 22% Clickthrough Rate (more than DOUBLE!)
Your shopping cart has a 30% Conversion Rate (same)

What else do you see?

You spent $200.
You got 300 clicks
You made 17 sales (DOUBLE!)
And you made $327. (somebody took your $59.99 Hemp Ferret Leash upsell)

Whoa! Congratulations. You’ve just engineered a winning campaign from very little using the OODA loop.

Now I must confess, usually it doesn’t go this smoothly.

Most of the time it takes a bunch of iterations, failed tests, and missteps before you discover the winning formula.

But the key is following the discipline of the OODA loop.

If you do, you’ll naturally build a marketing machine that learns and grows. It will be fast. It will be predictable. And it will change the way you do business.

That’s the thing about the OODA loop: when you first hear about it…it seems like common sense. And it is. But it codifies a mental process that normally happens subconsciously so you can unpack it, tinker with it, and improve it in a disciplined manner.

Go forth and use the OODA loop to grow your business!