How is your business doing? No, how is it really doing? Sometimes we get so caught up in the daily routines of our business that we don’t stop to assess how we’re really doing. For instance:
- What is currently working well and what is not?
- Why is one thing working well and another is not?
- What are you looking to change this year?
- To what extent do you know that change will be good?
- How do you know it won’t bomb?
And there are a host of other questions that come to mind.
In the 60s, four business gurus got together and published a book called Business Policy, Text and Cases. And even though the title isn’t catchy, the now well-known but underused concept of the SWOT analysis definitely caught on. SWOT stands for: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. And believe it or not, conducting regular SWOT analysis can revolutionize your business.
There are a number of reasons for conducting a SWOT analysis:
- If you’re just starting a business
- If you’re launching something new or branching into a new market
- As an annual or quarterly checkup
- When business has hit a downturn and you’re not sure why
- If you simply want to improve your business
- Making any major business decision
- To generate new products and services
As a reminder, the first two elements of a SWOT analysis, strengths and weaknesses, are internal. Those represent who you are. The last two elements, opportunities and threats, are external to your business. Think of each pair as juxtaposing each other.
You can perform a SWOT analysis on your own or in a group. And you can even use mini surveys and customer interviews to ensure you have a complete and unbiased picture.
Here are some questions that will help you brainstorm and collect feedback in these four areas.
As you brainstorm your strengths, think not only in terms of your business, but also include the personal strengths of your team.
- What does your business do really well?
- What do your customers like best about doing business with you?
- What do your customers like best about your products and services?
- What strengths do you have that set you apart from other similar businesses?
- To what extent are you currently leveraging your chief strengths?
- What strengths do you have that your business has ignored or downplayed?
- What latent strengths do you possess that you could develop?
- What strengths do you think you have but that others challenge?
- What would you say your greatest strength is as a business?
- Think of your most successful products or services. How well do those products and services exploit your greatest strength?
- What other questions can you ask?
Be honest and transparent about these. You won’t be helping yourself by inflating your strengths or minimizing your weaknesses.
- What are some areas where your business does not do so well?
- What do your customers like least about doing business with you?
- What do they like least about your products and services?
- What weaknesses do you have that make you vulnerable to your competition?
- To what extent do your products and services expose your weaknesses?
- What weaknesses do you have that you either ignore or downplay in your business?
- What weaknesses do you have that indicate you should simply avoid that area altogether?
- What weaknesses do you think you have that others deny seeing in your business?
- What would you list as your greatest single weakness as a business?
- To what extent are you trying to run aspects of your business using that weakness?
- What is your least successful product or service? What’s the connection between those and your weaknesses?
- What other questions come to mind about your weaknesses?
After you’ve thoroughly discussed your weaknesses, spend a few minutes comparing your strengths with your weaknesses. What do you see? What insights does this comparison provide you with?
Now turn your attention to the external factors affecting your business. Conduct the following discussion much like you did above.
- Based on your current sales trends, what opportunities appear to present themselves?
- Considering the market, what other opportunities seem to be lurking out there?
- What are other businesses doing that reveal an untapped opportunity for you?
- If your current product or service became obsolete, what new opportunity would you turn to?
- With your strengths in mind, what opportunities exist that you have not yet explored?
- With your weaknesses in mind, what opportunities exist that you should probably avoid?
- What cultural or societal trends are occurring that could open new opportunities for your business? What would those opportunities be?
- What opportunities have you wanted to explore but haven’t had time to explore?
- What other opportunities do you see out there?
- Considering everything else, what is your single greatest opportunity?
Having completed your discussion on opportunities, look now to those external factors that threaten your business:
- What is the greatest threat to the continued success of your top-selling product or service?
- What singular threat out there has you most concerned?
- What threats does your competition pose to your business?
- What market trends threaten your business?
- What cultural or society trends pose a threat to your success?
- Considering your weaknesses, which threats concern you most?
- With all else in mind, what do you see as your single greatest threat?
The fact is most marketers rarely revisit their SWOT analysis or seek the input of their customers and team to make sure they have a complete and updated perspective.
But those that do, are able to catch market shifts and see opportunities earlier. Which gives them the advantage.
So, to get the most from your next SWOT analysis ask yourself and your team these important questions.
- What new challenges and opportunities do we see emerging?
- What conclusions does this SWOT analysis suggest?
- Where are our views and assumptions different from what your customers are thinking?
- What decisions does this analysis suggest?
- How can we leverage this insight into new products, offers, services, strategies to deliver more value to our customers?
Inevitably you’ll discover areas of impact where you can make small changes to create outsized business results. All it takes is the discipline to update and review your SWOT analysis on a regular basis. And when you do, you’ll have the insights and ideas to run circles around your competition.
About the Author
Collin Dayley is the SVP of Growth and Strategy for One Partners, an innovative marketing agency focused on helping clients create insight-driven campaigns that get results. Learn more about One Partners at www.one-partners.com.