Saturday, April 7, 2012

Strategic Marketing 101: The SWOT Analysis

My next post discussing the basics of marketing is the SWOT analysis.  A SWOT analysis is an essential part of any Marketing Plan.  It's best to include it early on in your situational analysis.  It may seem like a simple summation, but it's a great 30,000 foot view of the state of your business and the outside environment.

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

Strengths are any characteristic of the business that may give it an advantage over it's competition.  Strengths can include internal capabilities, resources, and other positive factors that can help the business serve its customers and achieve it's goals.

Weaknesses are characteristics that may place the team at a disadvantage relative to it's competition.  Weaknesses include internal limitations and negative factors that may interfere with the performance of the business.

Opportunities are external chances to improve profits in the environment.  They can be favorable factors or trends that the business may be able to exploit.

Threats are external elements in the environment that might cause problems for the business or project.  They are unfavorable factors that can challenge the performance and profitability of the business.

The goal of a SWOT analysis is to match a company's strengths to attractive profitable opportunities in the market, while eliminating or overcoming any weaknesses and minimizing any threats.  The identification of SWOT's is extremely important, because subsequent steps in the process of the trategic marketing of a selected objective may be derived from the SWOT.  Users of a SWOT analysis need to ask and answer objective questions that will manufacture data for each category (strengths, opportunities, weaknesses, and threats) and maximize the benefits to find a competitive advantage.

If you are a smaller business, and you have never done a SWOT analysis, I would really suggest that you go through this exercise.  Have multiple members of your team contribute to the lists in each part of the table.  Then example the list with your core management team or executive team and talk about each item as objectively as possible.

A SWOT analysis is an essential exercise when constructing a marketing plan for your business.  Doing it will probably open your eyes to factors internal and external that are influencing the long-term performance of your business.