top of page

How can a triangle help my business?

We'll get to the triangle soon enough, I promise.

But first, the one question I have been asked many, many times, is how can marketing help my business? Whether from a major cruise brand, a football club, an infrastructure giant or a financial planning firm, it always boiled down to this.

How can marketing help my business?

Now, much as I'd like to have all of the answers ready to roll for every client on demand, the truth is I don't. But I do have a particularly useful tool (yes, the triangle) that has helped me help my clients build their businesses.

And it's a tool, I'm more than happy to share.

For a number of years, not too long ago, I ran a Strategic Thinking residential course in the leafy Surrey Hills for Marketing Agency Account Directors. I was there in my role as Head of Insights at the IPM (Institute of Promotional Marketing) and Chris Bestley (IPM Head of Education) and I built and presented the course alongside two best in class, senior Agency Planners, Paul Ellison and Fiona Gaiger.

One of the joys of this course was that it allowed us as a group to clear our heads and take a little time out to look closely at what we did, and how we did it. Many a long lunch and late dinner was spent exploring how to tackle the most difficult part of identifying a marketing strategy, how to begin. We found we all went through a similar process. We began by framing the discussion, identifying product or service strengths, understanding customer needs, and defining brand values.

At the same time, Chris came across a very rough and ready video of an agency account planner, saying how he did it. And it was the best articulation of our process we had yet come across. I no longer have that video or know the name of the anonymous planner but I've been using the process at first meetings ever since. and with apologies to the originator, here's what I do.

Kickstart your marketing planning process

Let's start with something really easy.

I'll draw a triangle.

No artistic or draughtsman skills required.

Just three straight-ish lines.

We start with a triangle because its easy, because we naturally think in 3s

...and because there are 3 key elements we want to look at.

From vague to precise

At the start of any briefing, a myriad of vague thoughts are rushing through my head. I may not know the client, their business, their sector, service or product.

So I draw the triangle. It's funny how frequently that alone reassures the room, after all it now looks like have a plan. The good news is, I do.

I take our triangle and add in three elements I'd like us to investigate as a group.

Typically, in my experience the issue at hand is to do with the Brand. so it makes sense to start with the Brand, and add Product (or Service) and Customer.

I'll talk about the other elements we can examine, and when best to use them, in a later post.

So, for now, we assign each element to the triangle as shown here.


Everything begins and ends with the customer. The person we want to buy our product or service.

Incidentally, you will hear some talk of the 'consumer'. The consumer uses a product or service, or consumes it, a customer buys it. We typically, though not always, look to engage a customer. sometimes they are one and the same thing. And so I tend to use customer, but if consumer works better for you, that's absolutely fine. A topic for us to discuss another day. Right now, the bottom line is we want to engage the decision maker.

Back to our customer. Ask the room what do we know about them? Ask as many questions as we can to make sure we know who we are thinking about in the next part.

  • Where do they live?

  • How old are they?

  • What do they buy?

  • What do they enjoy?

  • What media do they use?

  • What do they care about?

  • What don't we know about them?

  • ...and many more


As with the customer. Lots of questions.

  • What does it do?

  • What's it good at?

  • What's it better at?

  • Is it unusual in any way?

  • Is it remarkable?

  • How new is it?

  • How exciting is it?

  • ...and many more


And finally,

  • What are the brand values?

  • Are these values clear or confused?

  • Are these values remarkable?

  • Are these values engaging?

  • What are the brand pillars or platforms?

  • Are these pillars believable?

  • Are these pillars supportable?

  • Are these pillars credible?

  • Are these pillars, unique?

...and many more

Once we have these answers - it's back to our Triangle.

Only this time we are looking at a whole new set of dynamic questions, each arising out of the answers we have.

We can now use these three bilateral relationships to explore more deeply what the issues are that need to be addressed by your marketing. explore all the dynamic relationships between each of the three elements.

This is where the fun really starts. And usually where real insights start to become apparent. .

  • What's the relationship between the customer and your product?

  • How well does your customer understand your brand?

  • Does your customer trust your brand?

  • Does your customer know enough to trust your brand?

  • Does your customer trust another brand?

  • Does your product reflect your brand values?

  • Is your brand disconnected from your product?

  • What does your customer want the product to do for them?

  • Does your customer know where your product is sold?

  • Has the customer even heard of your product?

So, a humble triangle can spark the most important questions a business owner needs to ask - and answer - before even thinking of engaging with customers.

Later, we'll look at how these answers can help drive your marketing strategy. and how the strategy itself is all about one thing, getting customers to engage. And that means saying the right things, at the right time, to the right people, in the right places, in ways they can understand.

bottom of page