In the world of journalism a very well establish approach suggests that every article needs to address the 5 W’s, or the 5 W’s and 1 H in order to deliver a complete story:

Why What How Where When Who

Who, What, When, Where, Why and How

Same Questions, But Ordered for Your Marketing Mix

While I’ve found that these questions are great questions when writing virtually any fact oriented type of writing, in terms of marketing I’ve found that there are rather substantial returns if you organize your thoughts around these core questions in the exact right order I’m about to share with you.

Why The Order Matters

When it comes to marketing, I like to structure my thinking in multiple paths with some being high level and other ideas and activities living way closer to the ground. That said more often than not if I’m spending too much time close to the ground my efforts tend to get too narrow or too fragmented and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this regard. Something about missing a forest for the trees comes to mind.

And more to the point with regard to the way you order these questions, my marketing methodology is focused on strategy driving tactics, and then using tactics to advance strategy. While there is a need for a healthy balance between tactics and strategy, leading with tactics can be a perilous approach.

So what does this have to do with the order of the questions? Frankly everything because if the marketing is all about throwing shit against a wall I’m pretty sure that no matter how you slice it you are going to end up with shit. Ending up with shit is not what is considering an ideal end state…

So here goes – my preferred method for tackling these questions – in the order you will want to tackle them to maximize your return on your marketing efforts.


I like to start with Why because it forces me to really address on a broad level why I might be doing something. If I can’t find a good business reason that is tightly aligned with some specific goals than there is pretty good chance I should be doing something else instead.


What exactly is the intended activity. Often this is a question that will need to be revisited as when you get further into the sequence there is a good chance you are going to make some marketing discoveries, but the intent here is to determine what exactly you are going to be doing, and at this stage you already know why you are doing it.


Just because you might know what you are doing (like targeting more people living in the Reno area making between 75 and 115K), you do not necessarily know how you are going to go about doing it. For a blog post the answer is easier – you are going to research (you do research don’t you!) and then you’ll write. But for a more detailed campaign the how question can be pretty complex. You’d never start a process with how…


The How leads to the Where. We know how we want to do something, now we need to figure out where the best place(s) to do it is.  Maybe we start with our site. Then we guest post.  Perhaps a spend is involved.  Bottom line is you need to spend some time considering where all this stuff is going to happen.


Okay – now we are getting somewhere (oh wait – we just covered that….) The light at the end of the tunnel is near. If the number one rule of real estate is location, perhaps the number one rule of marketing is timing. When. When. When. There are instances when marketing is thrust open us and good marketers can take advantage of those opportunities, but for the most part you are the primary initiator of your marketing efforts so it is critical that you really think through the particulars surrounding when.


This sounds like an easy one, but you’d be amazed at how often I see efforts fall down on the Who. Effective marketing requires time. It also requires real skill as there are so many components and distinct skills that go into marketing. Who is going to be doing the heavy lifting and actually executing on the vision? Beyond the efforts on your side, Who is going to be on the other side interacting with your marketing? Hopefully as you went through the questions you kept your audience needs at top of mind – otherwise you’ll need to go back to the beginning and create a new stream focused just on your end users….

And so you see… the order matters. Actually a great deal.