Do you ask yourself what, who, why, how and when?

Sometimes people really complicate the art of communicating. So much so that even large companies convey their message badly to the wrong target groups. Maybe because they are into the latest fad in marketing? Regardless of the reason why, to succeed you need to start by asking yourself what, who, why, how and when. It all starts by having a strategy that delivers your message in ways that makes people do what you want them to do.

Who do you want to reach?

How can you succeed in getting your message across if you don’t know who it’s for? Who could be interested in what you have to offer? If you don’t know or believe that all people will be interested, I suggest you think again. Not all people are interested. Some could be but not right now, some are definitely not and some people are interested in what you have to offer right here and now. So how do you reach the latter group?

What do you want your clients to do?

The main interest of potential customers is not you and your products and/or services. It’s what’s in it for them. Do you provide information that make them understand what they gain from your offer? Or do you write about yourself, your products and services? Obviously you have to provide such information but in a way that makes clients realize what’s in it for them. How would you solve their problems? And don’t’ forget the importance of customers being able to contact you. If not, what’s the point in making an effort? May sound like a strange thing to point out but it happens that you have to make an effort to find contact details on a companies web site.

When is a good time to communicate?

Timing is key. When is the right time to sell your products and services to your target market? The right time depends on your clients and customers and a lot of other factors. But you really have to ask yourself when they need your products and services as well as if the demand depends on the season? What age group is likely to be most interested in what you have to offer?

When do most customers have problems you can solve? Does something have to happen in their lives for them to need you? For some companies that’s crucial, for others not.

Where do you reach your target group?

What medias should you use to get your message across to your potential clients? Using your web site and blog are musts nowadays. But are you using social media strategically to reach your target group? Where do you find them? Are they local or spread all over the world? Do you tweet your customers? Apart from that do you need newspapers, television, newsletters or direct marketing to succeed? Or it may be as simple as to donate some products to a local charity to create good will in your neighbourhood?

Why should people do what you want?

Are you able to make an offer that’s hard to refuse? In other words offer your target group something special that they normally can’t get. It’s not about just a bargain since people are prepared to pay full price for what they really want. But not always. So when you are doing a promotion it’s a good idea to offer something special in order to succeed. Could be a discount, bonus, premium gadget or some kind of a guarantee. The key is to get the message across that they are getting a good deal. Get your clients to feel that what you are offering is worth more than what they are paying for it. That way they feel good since they are making a good deal. If necessary hire a communications consultant to help you out. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune. And don’t forget that everybody loves a good story.

A lot of the time we think it’s more complicated and that we need to do more than is actually necessary in order to succeed. But communication isn’t rocket science. Once you start asking you will find the answers. There is mostly not a need to apply the latest theories you read about in Harvard Business Review. Many people are actually so confused by all the new theories constantly being launched they think they need more time, money and resources. But is that really true? You can do a lot with a little. Many great projects are started with a simple idea and a willingness to work hard. What if you don’t need whatever it is you think you need to succeed? Wouldn’t it then be a good idea to start by contemplating what, who, why, how and when and get the message that you can solve their problem across to your target group? If you do it right people who have a need will know, like and trust you. And then they will try, buy, repeat and refer.

52 thoughts on “Do you ask yourself what, who, why, how and when?

  1. Great questions and ones we need to keep asking or risk finding ourselves out of step and out of touch with our target audiences.

  2. What an awesome and informative post. These steps are, and should be, the basis of almost any form of communicating.
    It is the foundation, for communicating your comments or ideas, or even products to your audience. As with a house, if your foundation is weak, it will not stand. These are the first steps that need to be taken.

  3. These are such simple questions to ask yourself before and can really make a difference in how successful your message is in getting across to people. However, as you mentioned, these are the questions that are often overlooked.Really honing in on the basic essentials such as what, who, why, how and when, can help to enhance marketing efforts.

  4. What's often missing in communicating to clients — and potential clients — is what do you want them to do? In so many presentations I've seen, the presenter never asks specifically what she wants from the audience. I might be just another meeting, or to meet other people in the organization but you should never leave without asking "what's the next step?"

  5. Communication is key. Potential customers will not show interest in your product/service until you can prove it will bring some benefit to their lives.

    Everyone cannot be our target group and this is fine. Focusing on those who are interested, may be interested will give you a better outcome.

  6. Many times the basics can get lost because we make it more complicated then it needs to be. We do seem to overthink things. If those words were close at hand and visible, we'd be reminded to keeping it simple and real.

  7. This is a cornerstone post Catarina! Knowing who you're talking to, why you're talking to them, and your relationship to the person, establishes the ground work to whether or not they see the benefit of what you have to offer. Voiceover copy for products often begins asking a question, "Did you know…? or 'Have you ever..?" The goal is for the VO to establish an instant relationship with the listener using their voice. You have less than 3 seconds to connect. So it's critical that you know WHO and WHY? We say , "Tell don't Sell" You're right it isn't rocket science, it takes doing your research.

  8. You made a correct distinct point with your post. Being a post military person, I was a student of Sun Tzu, who said "Know thy self, know thy enemy”. In this case replace the enemy with customer. I think companies, and people fail because they know neither. They have no idea who they are, and have less of an idea who their customers are. How can you target a marketing strategy when you do not know where it is going, and do not know where it started from.

  9. There are only ever gains to be made by analyzing the rhetorical context of any communication situation, though it’s an art form that is often overlooked or passed off as not being important, but to really did into the context of communication can reveal great insights for all involved.

  10. You need to keep in mind that in order to successfully connect with your target audience you have to pay attention to what they want to hear/read, not just what you want to tell them. In recent years improved measurement technologies have exposed the ineffectiveness of many advertising techniques and this is a big reason why.

  11. The interesting thing is, when I used to do improvisational theater, we would start every scene by getting from the audience – who, what, where, when and why. It makes sense that the questions needed to be asked to create a story would be similar questions needed for promotion. Because a good campaign will tell the story to the clients of what their life could be with what you offer.

  12. Catarina, you provide an interesting list of how to go about finding and reaching your target audience. Lots of businesses do not yet see the value in spending time on a blog, but if you can reach your target audience by doing so, it is worth the time you invest.

    1. Glad you like my list of questions, Leora. Yes a blog can be a good idea for some. depending of course on who you are trying to reach. If it's very old people it will not work apart from maybe in some countries.

  13. It is important to know your why. Why are you selling a particular product or service? Who is your target audience? What are their wants/needs? Can you realistically meet them?

  14. Isn't it funny how the basics get lost so often? I had to laugh when you said that we tend to make it more complicated! We do seem to overthink, everything, don't we? Maybe this is a good one for any vision board…just as a reminder to never forget, Who, What, When, How and Why! If they are staring you in the face, they won't get lost in the periphery:)

    1. Glad you agree with me, Jacqueline. Don't you think there is a slight difference between overthinking and complicating? Overthinking can actually lead to a simplyfying outcome:-)

  15. Catarina, I have always considered what, who, why, how and when as part of writing but never thought about it in a business sense. I’m redoing my Etsy site and will as those questions as I update. Good stuff, thanks.

    1. And doesn't asking ourself such questions really facilitate for us, Doreen?. It doesn't matter if this or that app is popular at the moment. If you don't reach your target group by using it, don't use it.

  16. Enjoyed reading your thoughts on the art of communication … Catarina – would like to link the blog with my website with your permission.

    I am enjoying my summer vacations in France

  17. Having majored in journalism in college, I'm hardwired to ask the aforementioned questions in virtually all of life's various scenarios – both with regard to business and private life. It's among the best habits I've ever developed, as the natural result is to think critically about virtually everything. I highly recommend everyone learn to ask themselves these five (or sometimes six) simple questions by default, both within the context provided within the post as well as in a more general sense.
    My recent post Treatments for Vulvar Varicosities

  18. This is so funny because last night my husband and I were watching a really old (to me anyway) movie with Rodney Dangerfield. He enrolled in college to help motivate his son who was failing there. In a business course his professor was giving all kinds of theory to run a business and almost every point, he would either question or give the simplest answer. And the truth is, his character made more sense than the professor!

    Valuable post Catarina.
    My recent post Power Up to Profits – A Book to Boost Your Marketing Energy

  19. Back to the basic questions. I think we forget that simple thing that can make such a difference in communication. The KISS principle at its best.
    My recent post Blog Changes For Geek Girl USA

  20. Clear communication and the knowledge of what your demographic wants is key to growing business. I agree, when communicating you should always know the what, who, why, how and when. Some business owners are truly poor communicators and need a PR person to handle it for them.

  21. I really like your last paragraph. When anyone walks feeling like they just got the best deal of their life, they want to tell everybody and have no shame in going over the details. This speaks volumes. So making an offer as enticing as possible and selling it just the right way can create many happy returns for the future.

  22. Hi Catarina
    Thank you for this and your other articles – i do agree with the what, who, how, why and when – it is something I ask all the time when it comes to measuring business performane.

    I just closed one phase in my life – I documented 28 years of R&D into integral quantitative/qualitative research and decided it was 'crap' – too complex, only 1-5% of the population would understand – but the processes make complexity simple. I did the 4W's and decided on the how – all people struggle with time = money and lots of it – within the right mindset – has to be correct – changing the mindset is the key to all people to have time and money simultaneously. I have never done a blog – but I am busey working it out.
    Thank you for reinforcing my selfbelief in the what, who, how, why and when -they apply to everything in live.
    Thank you – cheers Kurt so much to learn about the 3 tabs below

  23. Each on of your points are well taken and should be shared with all… especially entrepreneurs who are just getting started. The questions if answered with honesty, integrity and a desire to create a "win-win" scenario for all involved can lead anyone to success. Wonderful, practical post.

  24. A good article, Catarina – the KISS principle is key, as you say… People often over-complicate things, be it process or message, and lose their audience as a result.

    1. Thank you. Seems we agree Guy. The main fault many times is that they don't know what they are trying to communicate and exactly to whom, why, how and when. Not to mention just talking about what they want to talk about and forgetting about what's in it for their client/customer/audience.

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