If you've ever attended a college business course, or taken a look at the future of your business, you've probably come into contact with the SWOT analysis. You may have never put one together, may actively use it, or you may have put it together as part of your business plan years ago and it's been sitting on the shelf getting dusty for a number of years now.
No matter your relationship with the SWOT analysis, it's an important aspect that can support your strategic planning initiatives and numerous beneficial business results. Therefore, we're going to highlight some ins and outs of putting it together, the results of using it, how to devise actionable strategies from it... both for marketing and business, and the relationship you should have with it as your business progresses.
Why Should You SWOT?
There are a number of reasons you should put together, review, and update your SWOT analysis:
A cohesive SWOT analysis can support your forward looking strategies and help define your cohesive marketing strategy. It can give you a sense of direction on how to take advantage of your strengths and industry opportunities, as well as how to mitigate or solve those weaknesses and threats in the market.
It can be used to make specific business purchases, develop a budget around your strategies, as well as put together marketing strategies.
The analysis can be the catalyst behind open discussion about your company's next moves.
It serves as an opportunity to look at your positioning in relation to your competition... an extremely important part of doing business that defines your differentiation and ultimately sales. Here's our post on Competitive Intelligence if you'd like to learn more.
You can merge qualitative info and quantitative data together into the analysis and subsequent strategies.
What are the Characteristics of a SWOT?
The SWOT is a 10,000 foot analysis that addresses both the internal strengths and weaknesses of your business as well as the external opportunities and threats related to your industry or market.
Strengths & Weaknesses
Overall, think of these as the qualities that either help you or hinder you from achieving your mission.
Opportunities & Threats
These are the external aspects of competition, technology, the market etc that can either help you or hinder you from achieving your mission.
As compared to a lot of other deeper types of business analysis, this one's pretty streamlined. More goes into putting it together, but the outcome is as straightforward as this example below.
The Build Out
If you haven't built one before, or need to update yours... where should you start?
Pulling together the information to analyze and assess is integral to this process. If you don't have all the info, you could be making moves based on bad data & information.
You should start by putting together discovery questions to pull the facts & figures out of the different audiences you'll connect with.
For the strengths & weaknesses, you should ask diverse questions that cover all aspects of your business. Some example ones could be:
What problems do your product/service solve?
What are your cutting-edge features?
How long is your sales cycle?
What is your development process like?
How is your supply chain setup?
How do your target audiences perceive your company?
What is your internal culture like?
How is your revenue model performing?
The Opportunities and Threats can be even more open ended, so it serves to have a defined process built around this to keep you focused.
That's where a PESTLE analysis comes in. It engages a process to review categories of external factors.
The categories covered are P for Political, E for Economic, S for Social, T for Technological, L for Legal and E for Environmental. So, you're in essence looking at all different angles of research and review related to your industry or market.
Some example questions could be:
Is your industry growing or contracting?
Are your target audiences evolving in a way that plays a factor in the future of your business?
What are your competitors doing to acquire customers? Ie channels, strategies, tactics etc
Will any government policies affect your business?
What tech advancements are on the horizon?
Does your location offer any environmental opportunities or threats?
Who To Ask About Your SWOT?
There are 3 avenues for pulling together the facts & figures needed.
Start with your internal fact finding. This could be a discussion with your co-founder... or we're a fan of inclusion, so you could be pulling together answers from different departments and mutliple different levels within your company.
Research. Answer those discovery questions you put together in the previous step with some good ol' fashioned research. Everything from Google searches to Statista should be able to help you out in getting to the bottom of things.
This is a resource not used enough in our opinion... but ask your customers. They are the ones on the front lines of a relationship with your company, and it will probably amaze you what answers can be unearthed by asking them.
Pull It All Together
Once you feel all your questions have been answered, review them, analyze them and distill them down to the top themes for each of the 4 sections of the SWOT.
Shoot for a max of 5 points for each quadrant so as you develop the points into actionable strategies, you don't get overwhelmed.
The SWOT analysis helps to lay the groundwork for future marketing opportunities, but you also need to make sure your content marketing strategies and tactics are on point. Have a quick call with us to cover a quick discussion about your marketing:
There are a number of beneficial outcomes from the time and effort you've put into your SWOT Analysis. We broke them down into Marketing and Business related.
The 2 pieces your SWOT analysis can support in building out your marketing foundation are:
Your marketing goals. Whether you use OKRs, like we help companies with, or KPIs, the items in your SWOT can help in setting future marketing goals for your business.
Key Messaging. You can use the points to help develop marketing plans around your internal strengths and external opportunities, as well as marketing that helps to mitigate your weaknesses.
General Business Related
This is really where the rubber hits the road. You can generate some actionable items based on your SWOT by going through this 4 step process :
STEP 1 : Identify actionable items by combining pieces from 2 quadrants.
Strengths > Opportunities. Use your internal strengths to take advantage of opportunities.
Strengths > Threats. Use your strengths to minimize threats.
Weaknesses > Opportunities. Improve weaknesses by taking advantage of opportunities.
Weaknesses > Threats. Work to eliminate weaknesses to avoid threats.
STEP 2: Prioritize the strategic options from Step 1 based on business aspects like using the resources at your disposal efficiently (labor, capital etc), how quickly it will improve your business operations, and what revenue opportunities can result from the strategic shift. STEP 3: Set goals & action steps (Objectives and Key Results) as well as a timeline for implementation based around your chosen items.
STEP 4: Measure the outcomes of your action and shift strategies as needed
Updating Your SWOT
As mentioned in the intro, a lot of businesses' SWOT's are currently dust ridden and hidden deep in a file folder somewhere. This is performing an injustice to your business, as simply going through the process of updating it can unearth a lot of guidance to your next steps.
Our recommendation is to go through a SWOT update about once every 6 months, or if there is a significant shift internally or externally in your industry.
Marketing is constantly evolving, and there are tons of opportunities that SMBs are not taking advantage of in order to boost revenue.