If your company has an immediate or urgent marketing requirement that involves access to multi-disciplinary resources within a short time frame, then this article is for you.
It explores how businesses can use a proven military-based decision-making model to help review, adapt, and react in times of fluctuating market conditions to come out on top. It also outlines how to use specialist advice from external teams to solve complex, and possibly unknown, issues and address urgent priorities that are often time crucial.
So, fasten your seatbelt. The focus of this article is centered around implementing the above with speed and efficiency – it’s going to be a wild ride!
Table of Contents
Objectives Of This Guide
The objective of this article is to help you understand the power of quick reaction marketing force to rapidly address or fix emergency situations related to your marketing funnel.
By the end of this article, you will learn the advantages and benefits of having the right team behind the scenes to help with emergency response, particularly in the digital marketing space.
But First, Where Does Quick Reaction Force Come From?
Quick Reaction Force (otherwise known as QRF) comes from military terminology. The Wikipedia definition describes QRF as “An armed military unit capable of rapidly responding to developing situations, typically to assist allied units in need of such assistance”.
The operative word here is “quick”. The military outlines a typical response time of within just 10 minutes or less according to standard operating procedures – now that is quick!
An example of the importance of speed on the battlefield can be taken from an instance in 2018 where two Australian soldiers instantly responded to an army camp being attacked in Qargha. Their immediate combat first aid ended up saving the life of a badly injured Afghan soldier through QRF manoeuvres.
With similarities between the high-octane battlefield and the fiercely competitive business world, quick reaction force is essential and applicable to both landscapes.
What’s The Problem?
Reaction times in the world of business are a challenge. Companies don’t tend to have teams of trained “soldiers” at the ready to deploy in times of crisis. But such a team isn’t just a “nice-to-have”, it’s becoming an essential component for all businesses.
“Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” – Edward A. Murphy
As the quote above states, challenges are inevitable. You need to have resources in place to handle times of adversity with nimble response times and highly deployable teams, trained to resolve issues efficiently.
The speed at which you respond to challenges and problems can ultimately determine how well your company navigates the scenario. Speed is a pivotal component of your business’ stability and, in extreme cases, even its continuity.
What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
Mr Murphy was vague when he said that “anything” could go wrong. But when it comes to real-life examples, quick reaction marketing force can be crucial during a variety of crisis scenarios.
• An internal marketing resource quits the business and suddenly you need support to steady the ship and keep things ‘business as usual’.
• Your website gets hacked or crashes, meaning your online business revenue stops until you’ve managed to investigate and resolve the issue.
• A form on your website, or your eCommerce checkout functionality, breaks and your marketing budget is wasted on attracting traffic and customers who are unable to convert into sales or provide their valuable contact information.
• An external crisis forces you to adapt your business model, messaging, and marketing strategy to keep up with the changing business landscape.
• You struggle to keep up with a surge in demand and risk losing market share to fast-moving competitors as explored in our previous blog Surge Marketing Deployment: Scaling Rapidly To Attack The Demand Wave.
• Your web team fails to implement an adequate search engine optimisation (SEO) migration strategy when launching a new website, resulting in a sharp decline in organic search traffic and a slip in rankings within popular search engines.
These time-critical issues require immediate attention from specialists who live and breathe these challenges daily.
The moral of the story is, you need Plans B, C, D, all the way to Z to prepare for the inevitable.
“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin
Why Does This Matter?
The most critical factor when it comes to emergency response is time. The faster you can react and respond, the sooner you are able to:
- minimise damage
- recover from calamity
- capture opportunity
- ease the strain on the internal team.
Aligning yourself with the right team can mean you’re supported with adequate resources to handle anything that’s thrown at you. It helps you address notable gaps in available resources such as time, expertise, or staff. It can also improve your company’s ability to bounce back from issues as soon as they occur.
“Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” – Sun Tzu (The Art of War)
What’s The Solution?
If you find yourself in need of a swift response to a challenge, change, or new scenario, the solution can be summarised in four words – quick reaction marketing force. As we defined earlier, this is an extremely efficient solution for the military. Lessons can be learnt from its effectiveness on the battlefield, and indeed the business world.
And it’s not just the strategy that we can learn from. Local business professionals like Jason Waller can teach us a thing or two about quick reaction strategies due to their decorated military background.
In a presentation covered by StartUp News, Waller drew upon his decorated RAAF pilot career to pass on his leadership experience and instant response training to a room of eGroup business professionals. He discussed something known as the OODA Loop.
The OODA Loop
The acronym stands for Observe – Orient – Decide – Act. It was devised by US fighter pilot John Boyd as a concept for soldiers to be able to pause, think, contemplate, and react quickly when needing to adapt in urgent combat scenarios.
While a military concept formulated by a fighter pilot, this strategy can be applied in all aspects of business. It draws upon the need to pause, analyse, and plan your decision-making, but with speed and efficiency being of the utmost importance.
The OODA loop was initially designed for a single decision-maker. So, when we look at this in a business sense, where there are often multiple decision-makers working together to address complex problems, it presents a challenge of reaction times being swift and nimble.
With obvious parallels for businesses looking to react quickly in times of crisis, we’ve broken down each section of the OODA Loop to identify its business application. Speed of reaction time determines its effectiveness in the field.
“Better a quick decision, than a late decision” – Jason Waller (former CEO of Spookfish, current CEO of InteliCare)
Starting from the very beginning, it’s essential to pause and take stock of all relevant elements internal and external to your business.
You must observe all elements at ground level – from your mission, objectives, staff, customers, and products or services, through to the solutions and level of quality you provide customers and your unique value proposition. Consider your business environment and observe the marketplace in which you’re operating. From your competitors through to market trends and economics, this will help you to identify opportunities and challenges that exist.
You can undertake this level of analysis by scrutinising all elements of the business as a whole, conducting specific tasks such as a Digital Marketing Audit, SEO Audit, or by performing a website audit to identify areas of improvement for user experience and conversions.
Audits are a useful way to analyse, identify, and isolate issues and challenges when they first arise. This gives you the ability to get to the root of the problem faster, opening the possibility of responding quicker than your competitors.
Some good high-level questions to ask yourself in the Observe stage include:
- How is the business performing compared to my competitors?
- How are we tracking in revenue compared to this time last year?
- What activities are coming up which could have an impact on the business?
- What has, and hasn’t, been working lately within our sales and marketing funnel?
This is considered the most important stage of the OODA Loop due to its ability to formulate conclusions and evaluations. It allows business owners to be present and highly aware of their surroundings and their competitors, often leading to an improved ability to predict future outcomes.
During this stage, it is important to analyse the information you have observed in the previous phase, to then form observations, meanings, perspective, and context from your analysis. By using previous experience as a guide, businesses can benchmark their expectations against their current market position to determine what happens next.
Some useful questions to ask yourself in the Orient stage include:
• To what extent do we need to orient ourselves in the current scenario?
• Do we need to adapt part of the business, or the entire business itself?
• Which resources are available to us in order to make the necessary changes?
• What kind of timeframe, budget, and complexity are we working with?
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” – Ferris Bueller
By this stage, business owners should have all the market intelligence and company data they need in order to justify the best course of action.
Decisions are rarely ever straightforward in the business landscape, so this stage can be difficult when you consider all of the information in front of you. However, regardless of how complicated, difficult, or emotional the decision may be, the OODA Loop commands you to make a swift decision.
This is where businesses can lag behind competitors who may have responded faster during times of adversity. Your reaction time will ultimately determine whether you seize the moment and capture your opportunity, or if you fall behind competitors who may be more proactive and on the ball.
By adopting decision making processes like the ICE methodology, you can quantify the potential outcomes by order of priority and urgency using the three parameters of Impact, Confidence, and Ease. Coupled with an agile digital marketing plan, your business is then able to respond to a crisis or problem with appropriate speed, resource, urgency, and priority.
Some good high-level questions to ask yourself in the Decide stage include:
- What will be our very first response to the initial crisis at hand?
- Which decision will deliver the most impact for the least amount of time?
- How quickly can we make this decision and what will restrict our speed?
- Would a staged decision process help us to achieve both immediate and future objectives and if so, what are our immediate priorities?
Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.” – Peter F. Drucker
This is the stage that many business owners struggle with the most. The temptation to over-analyse available options may mean the time to react has come and gone.
The old notion of “Progress not perfection” applies as the ability to react quickly. This is what separates the survivors from the not-so-lucky. Once you have decided on what you wish to do, speed is critical.
When asked about the OODA Loop, retired Marine fighter pilot and Top Gun instructor Dave Berke likened the ‘decide’ and ‘act’ phases of the model to represent the ‘art’ and the ‘science’ of the preceding two stages, creating a holistic view of the essential importance of each stage within the loop itself.
By fixing issues quickly and introducing new elements of the business when needed, you can implement an efficient and deliberate strategy for handling times of adversity, helping to action issues in real-time without delay.
It is always best practise to implement tracking at this stage so you can leverage the power of digital marketing metrics to determine the effectiveness and impact of your actions. By monitoring your ongoing activity and constantly observing the data, you will develop an innate ability to make dynamic decisions and alterations to your ongoing business strategy during times of crisis management and change.
Some good high-level questions to ask yourself in the Act stage include:
- What resources are needed for us to implement our decision?
- When is the ideal time for us to pivot, react, and make our decision public?
- What key performance metrics will we use for campaign optimisation?
- What will determine a ‘successful’ reaction/response to the problem or scenario compared to what would be deemed a ‘failure’?
You’re not going to have 100% of the information you want. You need to decide however much information is acceptable before moving forward, and you can’t be a perfectionist if you want to beat your opponent.” – Dave Berke (Retired fighter pilot/Top Gun instructor)
Loop & Repeat!
The nature of the OODA Loop is continuous so once you have completed each stage, you can repeat the process as an ongoing strategy for quick response marketing.
Once you have moved on from the Act stage, it will be clear that you need to then Observe the changes, Orient accordingly, make your Decision, and then Act all over again – and so on.
However, the loop isn’t always linear, as described by ex-fighter pilot Dave Berke. He explains that in a combat scenario where two fighter planes are in a dogfight against one another, the more experienced pilot will allow each of the loops to be working together, fuelling each other for an optimal decision-making process. An inexperienced pilot however may just focus on a step-by-step approach to the OODA Loop.
As a fighter pilot, his bias was always focused towards the right side of the loop, with a constant focus on repeating as many reps of the cycle as possible to reduce his risk of surprises in difficult and demanding environments.
By regularly focusing on each stage of the loop and addressing market scenarios and situations in real-time as they occur, you will be ahead of the curve and always prepared for the battle ahead.
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” – Abraham Lincoln
What Are The Benefits?
Quick reaction marketing force allows businesses to thrive in the rapidly changing and dynamic reality of the modern era.
By working with a team of dedicated marketing professionals, you can plan for inevitable challenges before they occur. In turn, this provides your company with an edge over your competitors as you can be proactive in your preparation for issues and challenges that can affect your business, including:
- marketing resource issues
- SEO issues
- digital marketing issues
- Google Ads issues
- analytics issues
- hosting issues
- website issues – user experience, load testing, hacking, crashing or overloading, restoration, and backups.
Partnering With An Agency Can Help
One of the most typical ways to protect yourself from emergency scenarios is by aligning with a marketing agency with the specialist resources and in-house capacity to provide a quick reaction marketing force.
It is not uncommon for companies to have reservations about using external agencies to manage their emergency scenarios. Firstly, it can be difficult to find an agency who is trustworthy, competent, and has the expertise needed to deliver a stellar service quickly in times of crisis. It can also be hard finding an agency that provides a seamless setup process, with minimal liaison and management time required to plug into your systems to get going.
The adage of “Once bitten, twice shy” also applies to companies who have had bad experiences with agencies in the past, leaving a burning question mark around being able to trust another supplier ever again.
However, choosing the right agency partner can perfectly position you for crisis management and set you up to be poised and ready for any market fluctuations, with a team on stand-by ready for the call-up.
What Should You Do?
Position yourself with a partner who can help your business successfully navigate unforeseen, emergency and time-critical environments to address your requirements with urgency and confidence.
Do this by engaging a marketing agency with a proven track record of delivering fast, efficient, and immediate solutions for clients in times of crisis.
If you’re wondering where you’ll find such an agency partner, we can help!
Our team of tactical digital marketing experts have helped countless clients in their time of need, from fixing up broken websites, to streamlining software integrations, through to detailed audits to review and refine existing marketing systems, and even introducing time-specific campaigns to capitalise on new marketing opportunities within just days from conceptualisation to implementation.
We invite you to browse our case studies for some examples of the type of solutions we have provided to our happy clients in the past.
I’ve just started in a new marketing role but how do I know what is or isn’t working?
This is a common challenge in businesses where high attrition rates can lead to internal gaps in experience and intellectual property when staff come and go. If you’ve just started in a new marketing role, a good approach to adopt is the introduction of audits to analyse your current activity and to identify opportunities for improvement.
For example, if you’re using automation software like Hubspot, you may wish to conduct an audit to consolidate the existing workflows. This helps you identify better ways of maximising the ongoing monthly fee you are paying for the software. For a full list of the different audits you can undertake as one of the first tasks you tackle in your new role, check out our article Digital Marketing Audits: A Guide To Cutting Costs and Improving Performance.
My website is broken, and I don’t speak fluent ‘computer’ – where do I start to fix it?
Regardless of the type of Content Management System (CMS) you are using for your website, WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla just to name a few, working with an experienced digital agency will mean you can handball any website issues to them with the knowledge that it will get addressed as a priority. A website audit can be a great way to identify issues and potential fixes.
For example, an audit may reveal that your customers are becoming confused on a specific page and leaving your website. However, with some simple recommendations and changes, you can ensure you are no longer missing opportunities for sales and conversions.
How do I know if my Google Ads campaigns could be performing any better?
If you don’t understand how to run Google Ads campaigns, it can be difficult to know if they are performing as well as they could be. It pays to align with a digital partner to run a Google Ads audit. This process will enable you to monitor key metrics such as cost per acquisition (CPA), impression share, and specific bidding strategies that may have been historically set up by another agency, but are in need of tweaking to expand your reach and increase your market penetration.
We have performed these for numerous clients, implementing key changes to help them increase their potential revenue while finding a more efficient CPA.
We’ve just launched a new website, but traffic has dropped off – why is this happening?
A common mistake when launching a new website is failing to implement an effective SEO migration strategy to help drive your website’s organic traffic and ranking within search engines like Google. Perhaps one of your pages is hidden from the public, is broken, or you may have indexing issues or incorrect canonicals.
A comprehensive technical SEO audit can identify possible tweaks to your content and website structure to improve or bring back your organic traffic. While the company you used for the website may have created a vibrant, eye-catching website design, SEO is often overlooked and requires specific attention in order to support traffic and conversion goals. You would be surprised how many companies we’ve had to help recover their SEO results after a failed website migration.
Won’t managing a marketing agency take up too much of my valuable time?
It can, but it shouldn’t if you work with the right agency! It should be a collaborative approach where you can have confidence and trust in your agency having your best intentions at the core of their priorities. This should then mean less micro-management and more trust that your agency has your marketing campaigns performing at their peak without needing much of your time.
At Living Online we adopt a proactive approach to marketing, constantly looking to introduce new channels and suggested strategies, platforms and market opportunities all geared around monthly conversions and leads for clients.