Toyota’s 5 Why Approach to Problem Solving

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This is part three in our four part series on creating a B2C2B content strategy for your business. If you missed part one, Why Experimentation is Necessary in Marketing, start there, followed by How Authentic Growth, Not Traffic, Drives Your Business.

Two Key Principles To Understanding the Root Cause of Success

In the business world, Toyota is known as an innovator — not so much for their cars, but for their approach to lean practices, continuous improvement, and problem solving. One of their core methods is the “t” exercise in problem solving. In essence, you look at a problem and ask why five times. This drills down to the root cause.

But how does that apply to marketing? Let’s revisit HubSpot Growth Marketer Anum Hussain and her four principles on content strategy. In particular, “5 Why” is a great complementary tool to her third principle: allow data to inform intelligent decisions:

use-analytics-to-solve-marketing-problems“But the main lesson here isn’t in how SEO is the flame fueling B2C2B content growth, but how we have to constantly be looking at the data we have available to watch how every input to our strategy is playing out. Even when all is well, we shouldn’t keep from questioning why we’re succeeding. In our case, we uncovered insights that will (hopefully) help us succeed at a more rapid rate.”

The “5 Why” approach works when you want to find out what’s going on behind your analytics. By understanding the root cause, you’ll be able to make intelligent decisions on your marketing. This often requires a little bit of a detective hunt when looking at analytics. Let’s say you’re a local restaurant and you’ve noticed a sudden spike in business over the weekend.

Problem: There was a spike in business over the weekend.

#1 Why was there a spike? Because the website traffic spiked appropriately.

#2 Why was there a website traffic spike? Because there was a large amount of social media traffic.

#3 Why did social media spike? Because one tweet got a lot of retweets and likes.

#4 Why did that tweet gain traction? Because it linked to an on-site coupon.

#5 Why did the coupon work with Twitter when it didn’t do much on Facebook or search engine results? Because it connected to the core demographic.

use-data-to-make-decisionsThis is an imaginary example, but if this was a Forward Push client, I’d then pull up the metrics for that particular coupon and research all acquisition sources to confirm the hypothesis that Twitter was the right avenue for it and should be the focus of further digital marketing campaigns. What we’ve done here is take a practical issue and apply it to metrics, allowing the data to drill down layer by layer (traffic > acquisition source > social media notifications > to action) until we had a definitive view that told us more about our target audience — what they prefer to use and how to best connect with them.

Hussain doesn’t necessarily call out the “5 Why” method, but it’s a sensible tool to break down any problem. Toyota uses it primarily for manufacturing issues, but it can be applied to nearly anything, from your daily life to your marketing plan. For the purposes of your marketing, it’s a perspective that will allow you to move past the surface of your data tells you to really understand the variables and mechanics underneath. When you have a clear grasp of root causes, you’ll be able to confidently make intelligent decisions about your marketing, saving you time, money, and a lot of grief.

Keep Asking “Why?”

It’s easy to just assume that a spike in website traffic or downloads or social media follows is simply due to the first level of explanation — in many cases, the most obvious answer is the correct one. However, a smart marketer always confirms that by digging deeper. If you have questions on applying this strategy — or any of Hussain’s other principles — to your business, get in touch with me at Forward Push. I’m happy to answer questions or offer additional services to help drill down data and create a marketing plan based on intelligent decisions.


By Marc Apple

Marc Apple is recognized as a leader in the marketing industry and has 20+ years of experience helping businesses of all sizes improve their digital marketing. He specializes in website design, SEO, social media, and paid search programs. He is a frequent contributor to other marketing websites and speaks regularly about marketing to small business owners and startups. To learn about Marc and to contact him, visit his author bio page.


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