The Five 'Whys' To A Pitch

If you are or ever have raised a toddler, you are very familiar with the “why” phase, where every request or instruction is met with a “why?” This is exhausting and sometimes eye-opening, because the question is usually asked with complete honesty and as part of the child’s learning process. It forces you to think about the nature or reasoning of your request, and makes you articulate things you take for granted as logical.

Perhaps this was what inspired industrialist (and Toyota founder) Sakichi Toyoda to come up with the idea for the Five Whys, which became the grounding principle for the Toyota problem-solving methodology, and is now widely used for many purposes.

This approach is highly useful for solving marketing problems, too.

Take for instance the decision to run an agency pitch. Over the years, I have learned that asking “why” and identifying the true drivers for wanting to run an agency pitch can be extremely helpful for the marketing organization to understand whether or not a pitch would solve the root problems that led to the desire to run a pitch.



For instance, the reason that the agency seems incapable of delivering the kind of marketing the CMO wants might not be because “the agency sucks” but because the marketing team sucks a little bit themselves — for instance, not writing clear and inspiring briefings, or changing their minds often throughout the plan development process. Pitching for a new agency won’t solve the root problem, and I can predict that within 18 months, the marketing team is going to be equally unhappy with the new partner.

Over the years, a number of principles have been added to the Five Whys so that the process runs more effectively. Here are a few I think matter a lot.

First off, if you want to figure out the possible reasons that might lead you to decide to pitch, it’s important to gather the right people to deep dive into the “why.” The people who know the most about the agency’s abilities and challenges are the people who work with them on a daily basis. This is not always the CMO or the leadership suite. So ensure broad representation across the marketing team to discuss and dissect.

Another important principle is to distinguish causes from symptoms. It is a worthwhile exercise because treating symptoms sometimes helps with short-term relief, but does not address the long-term issues, as any doctor will tell you.

It’s also really important to make the discussion factual and rooted in knowledge. If the starting point for unhappiness is that “the agency sucks,” then what facts does the team have to back up that assertion? Has the agency been evaluated every six months on clearly aligned and fair metrics? Has the agency evaluated the marketing team, and what does that assessment tell you?

These are just a few simple pointers. The actual list is much longer, but overall I’m suggesting you approach the pitch process in a structured and factual manner.

In the end, a pitch may be truly relevant to address critical issues. Just understand your whys.

1 comment about "The Five 'Whys' To A Pitch".
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  1. Robert Barrows from R.M. Barrows, Inc. Advertising & Public Relations, June 1, 2018 at 2:29 p.m.

    And don't forget the 6th Why, or perhaps the 1st Why: "Why hast thou forsaken me?"

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