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Why vs. How. Marketing secret sauce.

Michael Samsky — Cadillac Square — See more at

I love diving bugs bunny style into rabbit holes. That’s why, a chrome extension that serves up diamond-crusted how to marketing articles on my start tab, is pure crack cocaine.

One afternoon, hopped up on caffeine, I officially went into full information meltdown. I had spent the afternoon binging on How-To goodness but managed to learn absolutely nothing.

I was busy but useless. Well-researched but utterly irrelevant. What went wrong?

My afternoon wallowing in marketing how-to articles started with me trying to answer the question:

“How do I write a comprehensive and helpful buyer persona?”

Easy enough right? Marketing 101. I did get the information I wanted but not the insight I needed. Why?

I started with the wrong question. I should have asked —

Why should I write a comprehensive and helpful buyer persona?”

My list…

  • I want to understand the conversation my audience has with themselves when they make travel plans.
  • I want to uncover an undiscovered tribe of traveler that can’t wait to visit cities like Detroit.
  • I want to know how to make my city the stage for someone’s most important moments.

Sum it up…I want to know how to make someone fall in love with Detroit. This “Why” puts my team on a different path. A path to a message that will resonate deeply with curious travelers who want to experience Detroit for themselves.

The nuts and bolts of how to write a buyer persona would lead down the wrong road. I would have been mired in technical details:

  1. Is there a template that I can download?
  2. Do we use powerpoint or a Google Doc to present the final document?
  3. What questions do we answer and how did others answer them?

In the end, I would have a cookie-cutter template that looks great but accomplished zilch.

Let me give you another example.

How Asking Why Shredded Our Influencer Strategy

Influencer marketing has the gurus all a flutter. Double dare you to type in “How to create an influencer marketing strategy.” Be careful, that particular rabbit hole is deep and lethal.

Snoop says “shizzle” — I’m not that cool. Thanks Vecteezy

We almost got mired in this quick sand before we flipped the question.

Why should we have an influencer strategy?

Here are our reasons:

  1. We want to attract people who love being the first to a new place
  2. We want to share the locals-only, shizzle that makes a city sizzle.
  3. You have to see Detroit to believe what’s going on here. You won’t believe it unless someone you trust gives you go-ahead.

Think about those three why’s and you’ll see that we didn’t need a particular set of tactics — we needed a particular type of person. Real people who can make other people move. Unfortunately, coupon-clipping, freebie seekers aren’t the answer.

We want mavens.

Asking Why put us on a whole new course. By the way —

“Why” Questions Always Leads Here

I’m sure you noticed that questions derived from “Why Should” drew us closer to our customers.

In marketing, “Why” questions always lead back to people. Great marketing leaders wrestle with “the why” constantly. Want to be great? Change your question.