How to Use the Five Whys Method

How to Use the Five Whys Method

Welcome back to another episode in our passion marketing series. In the last episode, we discussed how to find the level 10 passions of our customers. Today, we’re going to dive into the five whys method and how we can implement it in our businesses. 

Key Takeaways

Here are some of my key takeaways from this episode:

  1. We have to listen to our customers; that is the only way we’re going to find the level 10 passions of our target audience. The five whys method is the most effective way to do this. 
  2. When we ask “why” five times, we get to the core reason, the core motive. When we take care of the core motive, everything else takes care of itself.

Finding the Level 10 Passions 

The five whys method is a very important strategy to help us identify the level 10 passion statements of our target audience. Most of the time, a business owner or a VP of marketing thinks they know the passion statements of their ideal customers. However, when I go and do this exercise with them, they are always wrong. 

I have never yet had a CEO who could guess correctly the highest level 10 passion of their target audience. The same goes for myself. I will do my research and guess what I believe the level 10 passions of my customers are, and even though I come close, I have never got it right. This is why we should always do the five whys method on our customers. The biggest mistake you can make is assuming you know what the answer is going to be. 

We have to listen to the customers; we have to be customer centric. That is the only way we’re going to really find out what the level 10 passions of our target audiences are. Even if we think we know what it is, there probably is a higher level passion we haven’t thought of. When we can figure out what that level 10 passion statement is, we can use that in our marketing, content creation, and channel creation. 

Years ago, when I was at we developed a service called Parent Profiles, where families who want to adopt can find a pregnant woman considering putting their child up for adoption. At the time, we had a hopeful adoptive mother who worked for us come do the five whys method for us. I asked the hopeful adoptive mother why she wanted to use this service and after the fifth why, her answer was, “Because I have a hole in my heart.” 

While I shared this story in the last episode, I wanted to remind you why we use the five whys method. Her first answer was “Because I want to adopt,” but her fifth answer was so much more emotional and powerful. We could then use the level 10 passion statement in our marketing strategies to really resonate with our customers. That is the goal of this five whys exercise. It’s to help you get to the core of why people would really buy your product on an emotional level. 

Rebranding Monetization Nation

Even though I know the importance of running the five whys method, there have been times where I’ve forgotten to do it, one very recently. 

When I created this show, Monetization Nation, I went out and I asked a bunch of people why they would use my consulting services. Everybody’s answer to that was, “Because I want to make more money.” So, I mistakenly gave my show a title about making more money. I call this show Monetization Nation because that’s what everybody told me they wanted. 

However, the mistake that I made is I didn’t use the five whys method. I didn’t seek the deeper reason why people would want to make money. So, recently in preparation for this show over the last week, I went through and did the five whys exercise for my show. I went back to my target audience and I asked them why five times.

When I did this, I found out that almost everybody who buys my service isn’t doing it because they want to make money as the core reason. In fact, when I did that exercise, several people told me that money wasn’t their core motivator at all. They weren’t driven by money. It was very common for people to say they were working with me because of freedom. They wanted the freedom to live the life or the lifestyle that they wanted. 

Now, in marketing going forward, I’m going to use “freedom” a lot more in my marketing messaging. I just found the level 10 passion statement that I didn’t have initially. In the past, I made the mistake of thinking I knew what the passion statement was for my target audience when I branded this Monetization Nation show and I was wrong. Don’t make the mistake I made. 

Going forward, we’ve been working hard for a rebrand coming for Monetization Nation. We are going to change the name of the show, the social channels, the Facebook page, the YouTube channel, the podcast, the website, everything is going to be changed. That’s how important this is. I need to change my channels to reflect the level 10 passion of my ideal customers. 

Toyota Case Study

The five whys method was originally developed by Toyota, specially by Mr. Toyoda, the founder of the company. He developed this method to help them find the core reasons why problems were happening on their cars. When a problem happened and they weren’t able to diagnose the issue right away, they made sure to ask “why” five times. 

A lot of the time there was a deeper reason to why the problem really happened. When they found the core issue, not just the surface level issue, they could actually fix it for the long-term. Here is an example of how his used this method:

       1. Why did the robot stop? 

Answer: The circuit overloaded causing a fuse to blow. 

      2. Why did the circuit overload? 

Answer: There was insufficient lubricant on the bearings so they locked up. 

      3. Why was there insufficient lubricant? 

Answer: The oil pump on the robot is not circulating sufficient lubricant. 

     4. Why is the pump not circulating sufficient lubricant? 

Answer: The pump intake is clogged with metal shavings. 

     5. Why is the intake clogged with metal shavings? 

Answer: Because there is no filter on the pump. 

If we don’t ask “why” five times, we don’t get to the core reason, the core motive. When we take care of the core motive, everything else takes care of itself. And this same thing is true with the five whys in our own businesses. This is the only really good way that I’ve ever found to effectively find the level 10 passions of my target audience at scale. 

Deseret Digital Media Case Study

When I worked with Deseret Digital Media, I helped them with their growth strategy. At the time, they had about 100,000 social followers. In the past, they had done a brand based strategy so their social channels had their brand on it. They hadn’t grown very large and they weren’t very engaging so I stepped in and we found the level 10 passion of their target audience.

We created a whole bunch of social channels and websites based upon these level 10 passions and in just a few years they went from 100,000 social followers to more than 130 million social followers. Their engagement reached 40 million comments, likes, and shares per month and according to unmetric, I was told this was more engagement than any publisher in the world at that time.

The point is that this can evoke a lot of engagement. When we create channels based on one of the top passion statements we will see much more success. At Deseret Digital Media, one of their passion statements was, “I want a more loving marriage.” So, we created a channel related to creating a more loving marriage and then we created content based around that same topic. When we did this, the engagement went through the roof. 

Instead of sending people a whole bunch of content they don’t care about, you’re finding out what they really care about. You’re aggregating people around what they care about, and then giving them what they care about. It’s really simple. It’s not that complex, but it makes a huge difference. 

How to Implement the Five Whys Method

So how do we roll it out? I’ve rolled this out many different ways to find these five whys. Most of the time, I’ve rolled it out in person in focus groups with huge whiteboards behind me. It’s very visual so it’s easy for me to see the whole picture. I also really like to record those sessions, because there’s a lot of good things that are said that you can’t capture on the board. Record the audio. Take a good picture of the board. Make sure you capture it. 

There’s also other ways to do it in today’s virtual world. A lot of times the people we want to interview are not able to easily join us physically in person, so we can record that over Zoom or Skype or some other video recording technology. I just recommend you have a screen where you’re using a doodle tool, and you’re capturing it and sharing it where everybody can see it. You can also do it in one-on-one interviews. You just need to do it 10 or 12 times so you can interview enough people and get enough feedback. 

Sometimes there’s multiple answers to the why. When that happens, you either have to fork it and then as you go down, ask “why” multiple times. That’s why a visual board helps. Or, you can take the most important “why” if they give two answers or three answers and just continue with that one. 

A new method I have recently tried is texting. I was trying to find the five whys from a group of CEOs and CEOs are notorious for not having a lot of time. It’s very hard to schedule them in and get them all in one place. They’re just really not willing to do that. Even getting them on the phone is hard to do. So I sent them a text. I asked for permission, explained what we were doing, and sent them the first question.This ended up working really well and now I have the text answers so it is easy for me to go back and review the answers. 

The five whys method is the most effective way to find level 10 passion statements of your ideal customers and once you find those that fifth why, you need to then brainstorm to turn it into a passion statement. Put it into an “I am,” “I want,” “I love,” or “I hate.” Then, have your customers vote on the highest voted ones. 

Thank you so much for joining us. If you enjoyed this episode, I encourage you to tune into next week’s livestream on Wednesday about how to effectively interview customers to find their highest level passions. 

Next Steps

  1. Get a free ebook about passion marketing, and learn how to become a top priority of your ideal customers at
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    About the author

    Nathan Gwilliam

    Nathan Gwilliam

    I help organizations navigate tectonic shifts that are transforming the business landscape, so they can optimize marketing, accelerate profits, and make a greater difference for good.

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