In the study titled “Compliance Without Pressure: The Foot-in-the-Door Technique,” researchers showed that people need a reason to decline an offer, especially a reasonable one. It’s difficult for most people to reject it just because they don’t want to.
But to get to the bottom of why potential customers resist an offer, you have to ask, well, ‘Why?”. Once you understand this, you can optimize it to match what buyers want from your business.
The Five Whys technique explores the cause(s) behind not getting the sales result you expected.
The Origins of the Five Whys
In the 1930s, Sakicki Toyoda, founder of the Toyota Motor Corporation, developed the Five Whys method to explore the cause and effect behind the company’s manufacturing process. The technique is simple in its design but powerful in its ability to reveal the root causes of problems by asking “Why” five times, as noted by Ohno Taiichi, inventor of the Toyota Production System.
“Whenever we find a problem, Toyota’s scientific strategy is to ask why five times.” “The nature of the root cause of the problem and its solution becomes obvious after five repetitions of why.”
Let’s use Toyota’s most famous example, where they get to the heart of detailing the causes behind a robot malfunction:
- Why did the robot stop? The circuit overloaded, making a fuse blow.
- Why? There was insufficient lubrication on the bearings, so they locked up.
- Why? The oil pump on the robot wasn’t circulating enough oil.
- Why? The pump intake was clogged with metal shavings.
- Why? There was no filter on the pump.
By starting at the end and defining the problem, you can break down the reasons behind it and see where the weaknesses are to fix them. However, this systematic approach to problem-solving only works when you implement these three elements to get to the heart of the issue.
- Accurately state the problem
- Answer the questions honestly
- Resolve to actually come up with a solution to the problem
Even as the Five Whys was lauded for its ability to identify problems, there are also criticisms about it being too basic, along with:
- Putting constraints on the questions and forcing askers to not think beyond what’s in front of them.
- Askers who may not be a core part of the team must familiarize themselves with the issue to get closer to a solution.
- Answers become convoluted as more people are involved in the process.
These are fair criticisms, but when you’re using the Five Whys to identify why your offer isn’t resonating with buyers, this technique serves as a starting point to get there. You can use it for website optimization, supercharging your product page, and increase the reach of your promotions.
But suppose you’ve gotten through five questions and still need to uncover the ‘why?’ Keep going. Don’t limit yourself to only asking five questions. It’s not a hard and fast rule. Go through the exercise as many times as it takes to get to the core problem.
Asking ‘why’ addresses complex buying behavior
Even though pricing plays a huge role in consumer buying behavior, there’s always more behind the decision. The 5 Whys framework extracts data from current and potential customers to analyze what was involved in the decision-making process.
Your why questions could show that pricing and the lack of a value-added offer were the main factors causing existing customers to leave. Or reveal that buyers needed more social proof before upgrading to a new, more expensive product.
When you allow people to share their experiences, they’ll tell you precisely what is or isn’t working in their eyes. This is especially helpful since the buying journey isn’t linear but more of a meandering, wandering path.
Studies have shown that when people are given a variety of offers to choose from, companies spend more time and resources on developing offers that attract people with different preferences. But knowing what your customers want before pushing out an offer builds more efficiency into offer optimization.
Using the Five Whys to optimize your offers
About 54% of marketers actively collect information from employees and partners about customer experience. There’s an opportunity to serve customers better. When you have information about existing customers, you can use the Five Whys to catch what customers say about your offers and what is or isn’t working for them.
And once it’s combined with heatmapping and other analytical data, this technique enables you to optimize your site to identify shortcomings, engage buyers, and attract new customers.
This framework helps businesses determine whether a product is too complicated and needs refinement. Or it can help uncover customer use cases that were previously unknown.
It’s a method to zoom in and refine your current offer.
Why did your offer not work?
After getting the answers to your five questions, you’ll see the most pressing problem with your offer, how buyers were affected, and the impact on your business.
After naming the problem and describing it honestly, you’ll have to look at the data behind it. This post-mortem includes reviewing customer feedback, site analytics, and other information showing where customers drop off during the evaluation process.
And sometimes, there’s more to uncover as each answer to the question peels back another layer.
Each of these layers can yield invaluable insights you can use to optimize your offer. This exercise could show that customers needed to see more risk-reducing messaging, such as a money-back guarantee or generous return conditions.
Asking ‘why’ questions forces you and your team to take a step back and work through each point of your offer to expose weaknesses.
Here’s how it looks in action.
Question 1: Why are we getting fewer sales over this time last year?
Answer: We have a 13% increase in traffic, but our conversions decreased on our sales landing page for our new product.
Question 2: Why do we have fewer conversions?
Answer: The people coming to the site now aren’t qualified buyers.
Question 3: Why aren’t they qualified buyers?
Answer: They’re hitting the landing page and immediately leaving, which shows that something on the page isn’t resonating with them.
Question 4: Why is the page not resonating with them?
Answer: Our offer on the page now doesn’t match their awareness stage.
Question 5: Why does our offer not match their stage of awareness?
Answer: We see a higher percentage of people coming to the site from PPC ads, and we haven’t optimized them to match the offer on the landing page.
By asking why questions in this example, we could determine the root cause of those decreased conversions was a disconnect between the ads and the landing page. People coming to this page expected to see something that wasn’t there once they arrived. Therefore, this page needed to be more relevant to their intent and buying stage.
Finding your why turns customers into smart consumers
You and your team can work backward to break down the reasons behind an offer not resonating. The Five Whys methodology reveals gaps in customer research and data that would have led to more persuasive messaging. As you go back in time to figure out where you went off the rails, you’ll have more insight to develop more substantial customer offers they can’t refuse.