When I ask a client if they have a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) Analysis, eyes glaze over and arms fold. It’s a tangible reaction and a totally understandable one. Analyses, reports, and plans have a bad reputation for clogging up the business engine, especially for small businesses which must operate non-stop to keep their wheels turning.
Putting together a SWOT doesn’t have to bring your business to its knees. Here are the basics in a nutshell. Take a whack at it and pass it around for comment. Your marketing/sales engine will be more targeted and fruitful. You might even get some surprising insight in the process.
First, review your Value Proposition: Can you fill in the blanks below?
“We provide/manufacture/sell XXXX (what) to XXXX (whom) for the purpose of/to solve the problem of XXXX (the problem/need/desire). We are unique/different because we XXXXX (how you are different from competition), instead of XXXXX (the “less appealing” way the other guys do it).”
Obviously you need to wordsmith the statement above so that it reads properly, adding words and phrases that reflect your brand. Once you define your Value Proposition, you should always be prepared to state it!
Now, create a SWOT chart with your Value Proposition in front of you:
- Strengths: What are they (think people, product, promotion and sales) and what are your doing as an organization to keep them strong?
- Weaknesses: What are they and what steps are you taking to eliminate or mitigate them?
- Threats: This is a critical area, especially given today’s hard-driving, fast moving information culture. New competitors can emerge overnight. Who are they today? Where might they likely come from tomorrow? How can you get in front of the curve and be ready? Keep a list. Which ones can be turned into opportunities?
- Opportunities: What are your current and future opportunities? What steps are you taking to develop opportunities into tangible new business?
Above is an example of a SWOT diagram.
[This image is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.]
Every SWOT analysis should have actions attached to build upon strengths, attack weaknesses, develop opportunities and manage threats. Just knowing them isn’t enough.
Have I oversimplified the process of creating a SWOT? Yes! The more time and attention you put towards the process, the more accurate your SWOT will be. The key is to start. It is far better to create a simple SWOT than nothing at all!
Once you’ve created it, keep your SWOT somewhere visible and make sure everyone in the organization is on board with it. Review it at least a few times per year to stay on track.