Strategy

The Power of “Why?”

Why Question Lightbulb

The best managing director I ever worked for had a favourite question: Why? It became known that if you were to present to him you needed to prepare yourself for a lot of prodding with that three letter word.

We are planning to hire an in store promotion team to boost our sales.

Why?

Because our research shows that shoppers who may be inclined to buy our products are changing their minds at the shelf.

Why?

Uh…because they are being persuaded by the competition.

Why?

Because there is more information about the competitor’s products at the shelf.

Why?

Well, you get the picture.

While encounters like this could grow frustrating, they often redirected our efforts in a more effective direction. In the above situation we had planned to hire a temporary promotional team. The “why” exercise highlighted that it is lack of information at the shelf that caused the shoppers’ shift in purchase. This could be remedied by improving information on the packaging, placing educational shelf material, and many other longer term and less costly solutions.

Why is an important question to ask ourselves as marketers. It helps us differentiate between “need to do” and “nice to do” activities. Not every campaign needs to encompass the full 360 degree marketing mix, and not every activity will lend itself to efficient return on investment. It is important to prioritize, especially when you are working with a limited budget.

It is also important to ask this question when analyzing market research. You may be able to draw quick, topline conclusions from research, but repeating the question “why” with every conclusion will help you drill down into the data and uncover some truly valuable insights.

Our MD’s relentless string of whys used to make me sigh, but now I hear it in my head every time I am about to make a strategic decision. It sometimes drives me mad with uncertainty, but more often it saves me from misinterpreting data and making wasteful decisions.

So the next time you’re finetuning your strategy, make sure to integrate one key question into your thinking: why?

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