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The 5Ws + H of business planning

Author's avatar By Dave Chaffey 16 Oct, 2013
Essential Essential topic

What and Why and When And How and Where and Who?

5wsWhat and Why and When And How and Where and Who are words we use throughout the day, but not necessarily together! Combining them gives a simple check that you’re you're using the right approach for business planning. In this post, I’ll outline what to consider and link through to some posts giving more detail.

I like to think of them in this order when relating to planning, although they don’t have the nice poetic rhyme which their original source has, as I explain at the end of the post.

WHY plan?

Start here, since the need to plan isn’t obvious, or at least making planning happen isn’t obvious according to our polling which shows that over half of businesses don’t have a digital marketing plan - here are 10 reasons why we think an online marketing plan is essential.


WHAT to include in your marketing plan?

This is strategy 101. When planning using models will help to review opportunities for growth, which is at the hear of planning. Many of these models are included in our free guide to marketing planning models including:

  • Options for growth by product and market (Ansoff Matrix)
  • Audience Segmentation and Targeting
  • Brand positioning
  • The Marketing Mix forming your value proposition

You also need a solid process, to structure these, this is covered by…

HOW to plan?

To be effective, your plan should have a clear structure and process to make it easier to create and communicate to others. We recommend using PR Smith’s SOSTAC® framework for structuring a plan.

In this post, Annmarie Hanlon summarises her Business marketing plan guide explains 7 Steps to create a marketing plan

To explain how to create a digital plan, we have this free Fast Start Guide that explains Smart Insights RACE planning

WHEN to plan?

We see annual plans as a minimum, but in larger organisations a longer term vision is common. It’s important to define digital transformation - this is a great video of how Angela Ahrendts articulates her vision for Burberry . It will be interesting to see what she devises at Apple.

Given that business, particularly digital business is dynamic we also believe that shorter term reviews are important to set more detailed action plans - we call this 90 day planning.

WHO is involved in planning

In a larger organisation there will be different people, teams even responsible for different channels, so you need a hierarchy of integrated plans, for example:

hierarchy of plans

Check out our guide to structuring digital marketing in a company for more specific examples.

WHERE to Plan

Where is related to the different teams we have just discussed, so instead, if you’re wondering where grouping them originated it’s nothing new, they’re from the children’s poem, Elephant’s Child by Rudyard Kipling.

I KEEP six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.
I send them over land and sea,
I send them east and west;
But after they have worked for me,
I give them all a rest.

I let them rest from nine till five,
For I am busy then,
As well as breakfast, lunch, and tea,
For they are hungry men.
But different folk have different views;
I know a person small—
She keeps ten million serving-men,
Who get no rest at all!

She sends’em abroad on her own affairs,
From the second she opens her eyes—
One million Hows, two million Wheres,
And seven million Whys!

Nice, although the female of the species isn't recognised, a sign of the time when it was written. I hope you find our interpretation applying the 5Ws to planning useful, think of India in the time of The Raj to remember them!

Author's avatar

By Dave Chaffey

Digital strategist Dr Dave Chaffey is co-founder and Content Director of online marketing training platform and publisher Smart Insights. 'Dr Dave' is known for his strategic, but practical, data-driven advice. He has trained and consulted with many business of all sizes in most sectors. These include large international B2B and B2C brands including 3M, BP, Barclaycard, Dell, Confused.com, HSBC, Mercedes-Benz, Microsoft, M&G Investment, Rentokil Initial, O2, Royal Canin (Mars Group) plus many smaller businesses. Dave is editor of the templates, guides and courses in our digital marketing resource library used by our Business members to plan, manage and optimize their marketing. Free members can access our free sample templates here. Dave is also keynote speaker, trainer and consultant who is author of 5 bestselling books on digital marketing including Digital Marketing Excellence and Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice. In 2004 he was recognised by the Chartered Institute of Marketing as one of 50 marketing ‘gurus’ worldwide who have helped shape the future of marketing. My personal site, DaveChaffey.com, lists my latest Digital marketing and E-commerce books and support materials including a digital marketing glossary. Please connect on LinkedIn to receive updates or ask me a question.

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