Why Ask “Why?” — Questioning Some Basic Marketing Conventions

Marketers universally recognize that a fundamental aspect of the acquisition process is identifying the “Who.” The Who usually represents a tidy description of the people they want to buy their product. Data points such as age, gender, income, and credit-worthiness — these categories are typically enough to satisfy the Who.

The next question is invariably “Where?” Meaning, where does the prospect reside or work? It can also refer to where the prospect is situated in real-time — i.e. their geolocation. The Where can include an IP address, a mobile number, a Zip+4, or make it through the “last mile” to the individual’s household.

The process gets a little more complicated when you ask “How?” Meaning, how should you reach your prospect? Through what channels? Will one channel, say email, perform better than another? Or will a multi-channel approach increase close rates? This kind of analysis may require more advanced analytics to statistically model attributes to predict which channel, or combinations thereof, is best.

Once the “How” is established, some companies set up a “Next Best Activity” plan to keep customers engaged if the first offer is declined. This gives marketers a second chance to keep what they believe to be their next best offer, service, or rationale, in front of prospects. In this example, the “How” entails the “What” — that is, the product or service you are selling, along with how the benefits are presented, and any secondary offers. Generally speaking, in any given marketing department, there are far more opinions around the “What” than other aspects of the process.

I believe this fairly sums up the basic Who-What-Where-&-How of marketing as it is widely practiced.

The process seems logical enough. And anyone who follows this game plan could hardly be accused of not following “best practices.”  On the other hand, how many times have you heard that phrase trotted out to deflect doubt, when it seemed like there was in fact good reason for doubt? I believe this is one of those instances. Because simply addressing the Who-What-Where-&-How, as I have described them, misses the big picture. It’s like seeing the world in black-and-white, or in only two-dimensions.

Asking “Why?”— as in the why-behind-the-buy, or, more specifically, to uncover the inner motivations that are driving people to do, or desire, what they want in the first place — gets to the root of the Who-What-Where-&-How. It can light up the entire acquisition process, revealing the missing, and most important dimension, in communications.

For example, let’s revisit the beginning of the process, the “Who?”

By asking “Why?” we can see how the tidy list that marketers start with is often insufficient to drive the sales process to a completely successful conclusion, because the selected variables do not reveal the true motivational dynamics of the prospect audience. As such, the “What” —  i.e. the product and the messaging that surrounds it — is also likely to miss the mark.  And in most cases nobody knows why.

Why consumers buy products or services differs drastically, depending on the perceived benefits to them at a deep, personal, and often unconscious level. As an example, take a commodity we’re all familiar with: coffee. In point of fact, people consume it for different reasons, based on what we call their “Motivational Styles.”

For one group, “coffee connects.” It’s a social drink, par excellence. For another, “coffee inspires. It fuels their quest for answers. It’s their liquid muse.” For a third group, “coffee heightens their sense of now.”  And of course, for the majority of people, “coffee gets them going in the morning, and keeps them going throughout the day, through thick and thin.”

Indeed, this is an entirely different take on a common beverage, one you would never expect most marketers to conceive. But the point is that it reflects a deeper psychological reality. The challenge then becomes to align the right statement (the What) with the right audience (the Who). However, the only way to gain this understanding is to ask “Why?”

As Roger Daltrey, the lead singer for “The Who” wailed, “Tommy, can you hear me?” Well, I’m crooning for the “The Why.” And if you’re out there Tommy, and all my marketing colleagues, I hope you’re listening!

It is time to add the Why to the Who-What-Where-&-How of marketing. And it couldn’t be easier. Minds+Motives has made it easy to score your customer and prospect files; to segment your audience based on how individuals view the world and prefer to communicate. This allows marketers to add emotional depth and psychological truth to the acquisition process, and dimensionalize what was before a flat, colorless world.

Okay, still not convinced? As a responsible marketer, I’m going to quickly glance at my “Next Best Activity” chart and give this one more shot. So hang on for another minute.

Think about the people you know and the different motivations and communication styles they display. Some, for example, may require a more personal connection. And how they intuitively feel about something is their primary basis for making decisions.    Others may seem more independent and analytical. While still others seem pragmatic and down-to-earth. There’s a high probability the people you feel closest with reflect the same qualities that you value in yourself. Now, put on your marketing hat. Can you see how this information can help maximize the effectiveness of your acquisition efforts?

Externally focused traditional and big-data solutions are not alone sufficient to address the needs of today’s marketers who realize the value of asking “Why?” What’s needed is an insightful, appropriate, and non-judging inner-view of the prospect audience. The old Who-What-Where-&-How of marketing just doesn’t cut it.

I’ll just add one more point as I check my “Next Best Activity” list. The intention of Minds+Motives is to provide inspiration as well as information. It is a tool for the creative folks, the artists and writers who work at their Macs, and the data and account managers who crunch the numbers on their PCs. Everyone stands to benefit from asking “Why?”

Peter Weinbrecht is a Strategic Advisor to Minds+Motives and a Board Member

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