Anyone who has studied journalism or worked as a journalist — or any third grader for that matter — is likely familiar with the five W’s and one H. Who, what, where, when, why, and how have been a part of our lexicon for centuries, but have you ever wondered where those principles got their start?

It was Hermagoras of Temnos who defined any issue by seven “circumstances”: who, what, when, where, why, in what way, and by what means. Aristotle and Cicero tweaked Hermagoras’ circumstances further, creating the foundation for the five W’s and one H we have today. Bet you didn’t know that you can thank early philosophers for that.

Like the ancient Greeks, top B2B marketers also understand the value of telling a business value story that captures your readers’ attention. You need to connect with your audience (who), engage them with something remarkable (what), use the right channels (where), time it (when; gentle reminder, please don’t email me on Sunday morning), give customers a reason (why) they should care, and show them (how) your product can solve for it.

Simply put, the five W’s and one H ensure that your story captures the important circumstances of the situation with a messaging architecture that enables sales teams to take the conversation forward. If your company invested money in a third-party content piece, like a Forrester Total Economic Impact business case study, you should implement a plan to use that marketing asset to its best advantage, raising awareness and generating leads.

But let’s return to Hermagoras to apply the foundation he created for us to a valuable cornerstone piece of content like a TEI. As one of our customers from a recent survey told us:

The TEI study is a credible, educational asset that can serve two purposes — first, the financial information for cost savings, but also as a major customer reference tool.

Here are seven best practices to help you and your sales team go to market with maximum impact:

1. WHO is your audience?

Where to look: composite organization

What to do: Use the characteristics of the composite organization to develop your list of look-alike accounts for promoting a TEI.

At its core, a Forrester TEI study illustrates what benefits, costs, risks, and flexibilities a prospect may face should they purchase a company’s technology. If ABC company hires Forrester to conduct a study, a consultant would speak to some of ABC company’s customers to holistically understand their experiences. Upon completing these interviews, the consultant will synthesize the results into a composite organization to use as an example throughout the study. This anonymous “mash-up” represents your ideal customer profile and simplifies results for readers (i.e., your potential customers). By doing this, consultants ensure that the characteristics (revenue, industry, etc.) align with your target audience.

2. WHAT are you trying to accomplish?

Where to look: composite organization

What to do: Use the composite organization to find those look-alike accounts to focus your outreach.

One of my favorite questions to ask clients is, “Why did you decide to purchase this study?” I tend to hear things like “to enable sales to tell the ROI story,” “brand awareness,” or “to gain more leads.” While those are great starters, I encourage you to fish with a spear and not cast a wide net. Be more specific: “To create interest and sales activity with named enterprise accounts” or “to expose midmarket clients to our new offering’s benefits.” By knowing what your goals are — and for what audience — you will be more focused on your outreach.

3. Tell the “before” story (WHEN)

Where to look: Key Challenges

What to do: Use the Key Challenges section to create customer-centric marketing messages about the pain points your customers are experiencing before they buy.

During customer interviews, TEI consultants will ask about the catalyst that led customers to purchase your technology. This gives us an idea of when the business landscape changed and how customers’ needs shifted. In the TEI study, you will see a section called Key Challenges; I encourage your sales team to sift through those bullets to find the “before” story. (The Analysis Of Benefits section highlights the “after.”) People say everything is based on timing. By identifying these key indicators, you can enable sales to persuade prospects “when” a nice-to-have becomes a must-have.

4. Use customer examples (WHERE)

Where to look: customer quotes and examples

What to do: Reuse the case studies within the TEI to show prospects what they can do to achieve similar results.

Even though customers highlighted in the Forrester TEI study participate anonymously, their stories still add credibility. Anonymous quotes and examples from customers in the study can help your marketing and sales teams demonstrate where others achieved success using your technology. By showing examples, you are sharing best practices with future customers and allowing them to see other customers’ stories.

5. Force attention (WHY)

Where to look: findings

What to do: Use the findings from the TEI study to ask a provocative question or frame issues in a specific manner that highlights the value of your solution.

Maintaining the status quo — otherwise known as “doing nothing” — is a powerful force that can hold back even the most seemingly interested prospects. In the TEI study, anonymous customers share anecdotes on what they tried before your solution or why something wasn’t going to work. If you want your marketing content to resonate and grab buyers’ attention, focus on answering the question, “Why change?” Look at the question below. Would it make you stop and read?

Do you know x about y? Do you know what x is costing you?

Use the TEI results to create customer-centric messaging and highlight how these pain points, issues, and struggles are about them — and get them to do something. By explaining the issues, you cast a light on the problem, and when those prospects click, they self-identify with the problem. Now you’ve truly fished with a spear.

6. Make some assets easy to digest (IN WHAT WAY)

Where to look: callout boxes and findings

What to do: Use the callout boxes to create small, bite-sized marketing pieces that you can share in parallel with the full study.

A TEI study is a very detailed document, and rightly so: Consultants have to show how we arrived at these results. And because of that, the study can feel cumbersome to readers. Repurpose those TEI findings as infographics, social media posts, blogs, executive summaries, videos, etc. These bite-sized content pieces allow busy C-level executives to digest the material. While the full study shows the entire mathematical breakdown and how consultants arrived at the numbers, some prospects may want the TL;DR version. (BTW: Forrester’s TEI team can help create some of these assets if you’re interested.)

7. Enable the sellers (BY WHAT MEANS)

Where to look: customer quotes and findings

What to do: Reuse customer quotes and findings to create sales selling guides.

We’ve heard feedback that salespeople want to tell a high-level value story rather than explain the math. Instead, encourage sales teams to follow the stories, discuss the use cases, and find a way to talk about them in their own language. Develop your bite-sized content for easier discussions; Forrester even offers video sales training to walk through these stories, highlight the key talking points to hit, and explain where to draw attention. You can also repurpose this information in an external webinar for your prospects — an asset sellers can watch for an explanation. Forrester also offers a lead-generation tool (online calculator) that customers can use to calculate their own benefits, and sales staff can walk customers through those results on their next prospecting call.

To activate your TEI, follow the ancient Greeks and focus on the who, what, when, where, why, in what way, and by what means. These seven steps, and a little math, can make a very compelling story to buyers who need a solid business case for moving forward.

Forrester clients looking for customized advice on how to use their TEI report to enhance their go-to-market strategy and execution should contact their account team.

If you are interested in learning more about our TEI studies or need help developing a business case for one, please contact Forrester Consulting’s TEI team at

Looking for more support on how to create impactful marketing messages? Become a client and read Vice President, Principal Analyst Laura Ramos’ report “Research Overview: Strategic Message Management.”