The 3 Whys Explained

As part of our ongoing series on copywriting formulas, today I’m explaining the 3 Whys formula. However, the 3 Whys are so much more than a powerful formula for creating compelling copy. The 3 Whys are also a great tool for exploring strategy, defining goals and focus, and finding the meaning behind your work.

The 3 Whys can actually help you find better answers to bigger questions. Let’s find out why.

What are the 3 Whys?

Every parent knows the pain of the toddler’s “why?” phase but asking why is an incredibly powerful question to uncover meaning and motivation. The 3 Whys can help you write effective sales and marketing copy by presenting the most persuasive arguments for your audience. The 3 Whys can also inform a mission statement or business strategy, uniting teams and creating a sense of purpose. 

Because the 3 Whys are used in so many contexts, the specific formula can vary. Here’s a great copywriting formula using the 3 Whys. 

Why Something?

The first why is the most obvious: why something rather than nothing? Why change brands? Why adopt a new process? Why reconsider a vendor selection? Why buy instead of DIY? Asking why do something rather than nothing helps to uncover the problems and pain points that motivate action. 

Why Us?

If the first why uncovers the problem, the second why uncovers the solution. Why is your product better? Why choose to work with your company? Why you instead of anyone else? 

Why Now?

The final why places the problem in perspective by adding a time scale and urgency. Why take action now instead of later? 

Additional 3 Why Formulations

There are a number of different configurations of the 3 Whys, tailored for different needs and purposes. Here are some alternative 3 Why formulas. 

You can use 3 Whys to create persuasive sales copy, by appealing to different aspects of the buying decision:

  • Why is this a rational choice?
  • Why does this choice meet my emotional needs?
  • Why does this choice advance me toward my goals? 

This series of whys connects the reader’s rational and emotional sides, and makes the choice more personally relevant and meaningful. 

You can also use 3 Whys when defining the mission and vision of a company. These 3 Whys can inspire leaders to build purpose-driven companies. Ask yourself:

  • Why do you do what you do?
  • Why do your employees come to work here?
  • Why do customers choose your company?

Finally, back to the experience of raising a toddler, simply repeating why questions three times can help to uncover deeper, more meaningful motivations. In the world of business, inspirational leader Ricardo Semler says that asking three why questions in a row uncovers our purpose and inspiration, generating true wisdom.

How to Use the 3 Whys Formula in Practice

Because the 3 Whys can be used in problem-solving, goal-finding, and in sales and marketing, it’s an incredibly versatile tool. Here are some examples of the 3 Whys in action:

  • The 3 Whys in sales: You may already use this product to make your life easier, but our product is faster and more convenient. Act now for 10% off!
  • The 3 Whys in marketing: This product is widely in use, but it’s harmful for the environment. Our product is a sustainable alternative. Climate action is urgent and important. 
  • The 3 Whys in strategy: Our product improves the lives of our customers every day. We are faster, better, and care more than our competitors. We want to share our solution with more people so everyone can enjoy it.   

When to Use the 3 Whys Formula

The 3 Whys can be used in everything from copywriting to strategy to mentoring sessions or even to help you uncover more about what motivates you. Here are some tips for when to use the 3 Whys:

  • Strategic planning. The 3 Whys help to define and articulate the needs of the customer, differentiators from competitors, and motivating factors that drive action.
  • Focus and goal setting. The 3 Whys help to delineate and focus goals and objectives for companies, teams, and individuals. Why do you do what you do? Why does that matter to others? Why should it happen now?
  • Sales and marketing. And naturally the 3 Whys help craft compelling copy for sales and marketing, explaining why a customer should choose your solution and driving toward a CTA. 


Asking why is a powerful way to uncover our deeper motivations, needs, and purposes. We can ask 3 Whys of ourselves, our companies, and our products, to create copy that is more powerful, meaningful, and effective. In fact, whenever you don’t know what, you can start by asking why

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About Rebekah Villon

Rebekah Villon is a professional writer and marketing consultant who specialises in strategic content for B2B communications. In her personal life, she enjoys the freedom of remote digital work while travelling, pursuing hobbies, and continuous learning.

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