5 Easy Steps to Solving any Marketing Problem


The most effective way a child learns about the world around them is asking “why?” We’ve all been party to a “why” session with (or as) a child, which not only taxes our intelligence, but also our sanity. Perhaps that is what prompted Sakichi Toyoda to develop the 5 Whys problem solving technique, which is now a part of the famous Toyota Production System and Six Sigma processes. Ask Why? enough times, and the root cause of the problem is revealed. Here’s an example:

5 Why Process

 Let’s apply this concept to marketing. Every great copywriter answers the consumer’s “why should I care” question in headlines, ads and blogs.  And, every great strategy is based on solving a problem. So, using the 5 Whys is a perfect way to make our messaging about the customer rather than about us.

Here’s a great example from the Content Marketing Institute’s Robert Rose:

Ask your group (or just you by yourself) to come up with ideas for content marketing. Chances are the ideas will look something like this:

  • Launch a blog that informs users on how to use the kind of product we sell.
  • Create a white paper series on the business benefits of the kind of service we provide.
  • Use a blog platform to curate news from our industry to position ourselves as thought leaders.

Now, all of these are fun and interesting content marketing ideas. But let’s take one of these — the “curate news” idea — as an example and run it through our “Whys” to get to the true purpose of that idea and how (if at all) it fits into our larger story. (By the way, this is from an actual workshop for a B2B company.):

Idea: Use a blog platform to curate news from our industry to position us as thought leaders.

  1. Why: Why is curating news to position us as thought leaders important to our customers? Answer: Because our customers will see that we have our fingers on the pulse of our business and have a point of view on the industry.
  2. Why: Why is it important that people see that we have our fingers on the pulse and have a point of view on the industry? Answer: Because then our customers and prospects will have more trust in what we say.
  3. Why: Why is it important to our customers and prospects to have more trust in what we say? Answer: Because developments in our industry are changing really quickly and our customers need a trusted partner to keep them on top of what’s going on.
  4. Why: Why do our customers need a trusted partner to keep them on top of what’s going on in our industry? Answer: Because they are really busy trying to be successful and a trusted partner can help them be informed.
  5. Why: Why is it important for our customers’ success to be informed? Answer: Because if they’re informed about the industry from a trusted source, they will be more competitive — and can then be more successful.

Within five “whys” we go from a blog that’s focused on “positioning us as thought leaders” to a blog platform that “helps our customers be more competitive and successful.” Go back and read those “why” answers in reverse and you have a pretty well formed mission statement for that blog.

Download Marketing Works’ 5 Why Worksheet to give it a try. Do you have additional ways to get to the root cause? Leave them below in the comments.


Sandy Fekete • May 9, 2013

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