The 3WH Model: A Revolutionary Way To Market Your Small Business

Kris Trinity
Jun 4, 2017 · 8 min read

Before trains ran on the Railway Electrification System, they were known as steam locomotives. In order to move that 345,000kg monster from one side of the country to the other, the engine had to generate an incredible amount of steam which was manually fueled into the locomotive’s engine with coal, wood or oil.

In many ways a start-up business is a lot like steam locomotives- they can feel incredibly heavy, labour intensive and burdensome until they get going.

The only way to generate enough steam to get your pistons and wheels moving down the track towards success is to fuel the engine with a marketing and sales strategy that produces consistent customers along your journey.

The problem is that strategy has to be built from the ground-up whilst avoiding being distracted by every marketing gimmick and trick at your disposal.

There is a plethora of marketing channels (social media, publications, events, banner ads, direct mail, television, radio, email etc) and hundreds of strategies that can be used within each of those channels to attract your ideal customer.

Most of this leads entrepreneurs to have a bad case of shiny object syndrome.

Confusion and distraction are the enemies of progress and profitability. It is demotivating and soul destroying shifting from one shiny object to the next in search creating a system which can generate new clients consistently.

The good news is that a marketing strategy does not have to include brain surgery levels of complexity.

Over the past decade, I have worked with some of Europe’s largest publishing companies and helped to launch a number of digital products.

For each successful launch, there exists one strategy which has worked time and time again.

If you implement this one tactic into your business, you will have a game-changing customer acquisition strategy that is consistent and reliable.

The best part is, you won’t need to use every social media channel and marketing gizmo under the sun to be successful.

Introducing The 3WH Model

The 3WH Model is a simplistic framework for small businesses to start figuring out how to achieve any of the following objectives:

  1. Successfully launch a new business
  2. Successfully launch a new product
  3. Restructure your current customer acquisition process

What does it stand for?

The First W: Who?

“Who” are you targeting? What group of individuals are you seeking to attract to become customers? What common traits do those individuals have?

Whether you’re a startup or tech giant, this is the foundation of your strategy. The secret is to find commonalities between your customers.

Things to consider here include age, gender, educational background, job title and industry, income etc.

My pro tip here would be to interview 5 of your current customers (if you are a start up and do not have any customers currently, then think about who your ideal customer could be) and answer the following questions.

  • How old are they?
  • Where do they live (city, country)?
  • Family life? (are they single, married, have kids, etc.)
  • Do they work? If so what do they do?
  • What industry are they in?
  • What are their hobbies? How do they spend their spare time?
  • Do they travel often or have long commutes to work?

Some of these questions may seem insignificant, but as we go through this exercise you will notice where each of these questions fit into the overall strategy.

The key is to find the commonalities and be as specific as possible.

The Second W: What?

The question here is what motivates your target audience to take action and become a customer? What is the ‘why behind the buy?’

To answer this you need to explore how you serve your customers needs. Whatever business you are in, your products and services addresses one of two issues in your customer’s lives;

You are either;

a) Solving a problem

b) Fulfilling a desire

Some of the most well-known companies in the world (Apple, Facebook, Tesla, Walmart) manage to straddle both sides of the fence. In other words, they fulfill their customer’s desires and solve problems.

Using Apple as an example, they have a deep understanding of how to fulfill their desires and solve problems.

Think about the iPhone; as each model or update is released they continue to break smartphone sales records across the world.

Thousands of customers around the world queue outside for days to be one of the first people to own the phone.

All of these consumers could easily afford any other smartphone on the market, so why do they go through this hassle each and every year?

Owning the latest iPhone means something to those customers, it says something about the individual. It could be that ownership of the latest phone will help them to become a leader amongst their peer group, it could also indicate that they at the forefront of latest technology innovations. It could also indicate that they are wealthy.

All of these reasons fulfill their customer’s desires.

The purpose of a phone is to help us connect with others. Smartphones diversify your ability to communicate (Facebook, Whatsapp, Skype, etc). Similar to a Swiss army knife, smartphones are also entertainment centers, calendars, cameras and much more.

This is the problem-solving element of the smartphone.

10 years ago consumers would have to carry several devices and products, today we carry one which solves multiple problems.

The above is the Apple customers ‘why behind the buy’.

To discover what motivates your customer, you need to answer the following questions about them:

  • What are their long term goals or dreams?
  • What Struggles / Obstacles do they face every day trying to achieve these goals?
  • What pain points do they have? What keeps them up at night?
  • How does it prevent them from being a better person/professional?


  • How does your business help them to overcome these issues?

The Third W: Where?

“The first question every Entrepreneur must ask is a question of location: Where are my customers?”

-Michael Masterson, “Ready, Aim, Fire: Zero To $100m in no time flat”

The ‘Where’ of the 3WH Model is defining where your audience exists online. In other words, what content (media) are they consuming and on which social channels?

Often the answer I hear to this question is:


That maybe true. Customers will use several different social channels at a time, but it’s important to recognize that they will use each channel for entirely different purposes and in very different ways.

People on LinkedIn will read, comment and engage with content differently to how they read, comment and engage with content on Facebook whilst traveling home at the end of a hard day of work.

The same could be said for their use of Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat.

The answer to the question of “Where” is not very sexy, but it is the one that makes the most sense:

Look at what your competitors are doing. Consider the following points:

  • Which channel do your competitors use to gain the most engagement with your desired target audience?
  • Where do they get the biggest bang for their buck in terms of audience interaction?
  • Where do they spend their advertising money?
  • What are they doing right and what could you improve?
  • How can you bring your own unique perspective using that channel?

Innovation is not always the solution when you are a startup. A better solution is to carefully analyse what works well currently and replicate it with your own tone and perspective.

Not sexy at all, but very effective.

The H: How?

The final letter in the framework stands for ‘How’. In other words, how do you engage with that audience and convert them into customers?

The answer is Content Marketing.

Founder of the Content Marketing Institute and best-selling author Joe Pulizzi defines content marketing as being,

“A strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and ultimately to drive profitable customer action.”

The W’s of The 3WH Model helped is designed to help clearly define your ideal target audience; Content is a gateway between your business and that audience.

An effective content marketing strategy has an “audience first focus”.

Content Marketing should provide your audience with entertaining, attractive, helpful and actionable content which is easily consumable and positions yourself as the go-to business in your respective market.

There are four formats of content which every business utilises as part of their marketing:

  • Video
  • Images
  • Written (Blogs, eBooks, reviews, etc.)
  • Audio (Podcasts and audio programs)

Although it’s tempting to try to use every format possible, research has shown that having a strategy which focuses on producing one form of content is far more effective.

Choosing which format best fits your business depends upon what suits you and your team, also it’s important to consider what you are capable of producing consistently.

If you are wondering what should your content be about, I produced a Cheatsheet guide for small businesses to help them come up with quick and cost effective ideas:

Download your free Cheatsheet here

Your content efforts should include a call to action, which prompt the audience to further engage with your brand.

This should be added value and complement your existing content offering, it could include signing up for a money off voucher or downloading a video training series.

The key is to capture your audience’s data in order to ascend them through your customer journey.

Are you ready to create your own 3WH Model?

How could you use The 3WH Model to propel your business forward?

Which of your products or services could do with a new approach to customer acquisition?

Marketing strategies do not need to be complicated, but they do require direction. Use the 3WH Model fuel your engine and propel your business forward.

If you need help creating your own 3WH Model then email me here:

kris (@)

Originally published at Revolution Content Marketing.

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