Updated: Apr 19, 2020
Picture yourself on a boat, in the middle of the ocean, with nothing to be seen for miles round except water and a few seagulls. Your goal is to catch a leopard shark. So you spend your day on the boat dropping little pieces of stale bread into the water as you drift aimlessly through the sea. How long before the leopard shark jumps into the boat? It probably will never happen. While this scenario may sound ridiculous, it parallels the way many individuals and businesses go about marketing, usually without realizing it. Examining the five W’s (who, what, when, where, and why) can lead to marketing campaigns that are not only strategic and targeted, but also cost and time saving as well as effective! This is why by taking a lesson from the journalist’s school of thought, your business can reel in the shark instead of more seaweed and the occasional soggy tire.
It sounds simple enough, right? In reality, this can be a very complex question that requires much consideration and research. Different types of people respond to different types of advertising and not all potential customers or clients are created equal in terms of value to your business. It is vital to the success of your campaign to identify the types of people who are most likely to bring the greatest return on what you put into your marketing efforts. Consider demographics (their physical characteristics), psychographics (how they think), and their habits. So back to the original illustration, we have narrowed our target from all the fish in the sea down to sharks (we wouldn’t want to leave out all the leopard shark’s friends).
When we want a friend or colleague to do a favor for us, often times simply a few kind words or a rational appeal will do the trick. On the other hand, have you ever tried using a rational appeal with a few pleasantries to get your dog, Rover, to sit or drop your new
shoe that he is chewing on? In the same way, offering your colleague a dog biscuit will likely not get you very far. All that to say, the message or incentive is ineffective if it does not reflect the desired audience, a.k.a. the “who.” Consider doing the homework and conducting the research to find out what your target market will respond to. Web sites such as Survey Monkey and Zoomerang make it easy to create online surveys that can help you discover what your target responds to. Perhaps even use these surveys in conjunction with social networking sites to get them to the right people’s computers. We just discovered that the leopard shark we are fishing for prefers small fish to the stale bread we were using as bait before.
Let’s talk about Dependent Dan for a minute. Dan is a typical college student who works all summer, but when his summer earnings are all spent, he once again becomes dependent on the funds he can convince his parents to send him. If you are the local restaurant in Dan’s college town, “when” becomes a critical question. A marketing campaign in April or May will not reach him because all his funds are gone, whereas a coupon in September might keep Dan coming back for quite some time. Spending habits are not constant throughout the year for most people. Think about when people are most likely to take full advantage of what you have to offer (maybe tax return season, for example). So apparently sharks like to feed at dusk or dawn. That could have saved us from the sunburn we got sitting on that boat all day.
It’s time to become a stalker (well, not really, but maybe a little bit). We now know who our target is, what they will respond to, when they will respond to it, but where should we cast our line? It’s time to think about where our audience spends their time. It has been said that birds of a feather flock together. The same is likely true of your target market. People within the same psychographic (like-minded thinkers) and those with similar habits are likely to also show up at or near the same places. Say you want to run a promotion at your health food store targeting healthy people. Healthy people tend to do healthy things. Instead of finding the cheapest billboards in town that not even birds will pass by, consider investing in that slightly more expensive billboard right next to the gym. Looks like we need to get our boat to the west coast and closer to the shore if we are going to catch that leopard shark.
It’s all about you! Doesn’t hearing that make you feel good? It’s true when it comes to your marketing campaigns and promotions. If you are focused and purposeful about the results you are looking for, your goals become infinitely more attainable. Too often people and businesses want to advertise just because everyone else seems to be doing it. So they end up posting ads wherever they conveniently can. Marketing with weak purpose is likely to return weak results. Do you want new customers or do you want to reinforce your current clientele? It’s all about asking the right questions of yourself or your team to develop purpose. Backing up your promotional efforts with purpose, direction, and creativity targeted at your desired audience makes an ad an effective and efficient tool for your business rather than just another piece of junk mail or clutter on the side of the highway. Why do we want to catch the leopard shark? To see how beautiful it is and take some pictures for the folks back home (and then release it back into the wild, of course).
The journalist who wrote that story on the front page of the newspaper you were reading this morning during breakfast knows how to get your attention and package the information you are interested in. While the five W’s are a standard in journalism, they are too often overlooked when it comes to marketing. The same elements that make a news article interesting and informative can also make or break the way you promote your business.
Purpose and direction are two of the elements that help get a business off the ground. In the same way, they can also make a campaign or promotion successful. By integrating the questions of who, what, when, where, and why into the way you market yourself or your business, the promotional efforts you invest in become tools that grow your business and help you to reel in that shark instead of the typical seaweed.