(SPOILERS: Yes. Yes, it should).
Much has been written in the corporate world about the importance of a SWOT analysis. The term itself seems to have taken on a vaguely intimidating quality due to this onslaught of content.
The problem is, many of these SWOT-focused business articles, think pieces, and presentations aren’t always fun to read. (Okay, let’s not sugarcoat it – some of them are flat-out sleep inducing).
But here’s the thing: developing a SWOT analysis is an incredibly rewarding process – one that can be vital to the future of your business.
There’s no need to be overwhelmed by adding a SWOT analysis to your already lengthy to-do list. Hiring an advertising agency to conduct the exercise for you may actually be more beneficial since they’re already fluent in the process and all it entails. Professionals also can look at your brand with a critical eye and expose shortcomings that you might not see. However, we think it’s a rewarding process even if you do it yourself.
The Basics: What Is a SWOT Analysis?
For the uninitiated, a SWOT analysis is a strategic planning technique used to help identify and evaluate the internal and external factors that impact an organization. To be more acronym-specific, these factors include a company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
In other words, SWOT is a way to place your company under the microscope and take a long, honest look at it – warts and all.
The purpose of this thorough examination is to ensure your business is on the right path in meeting its growth projections and success milestones. But, ultimately, gaining a competitive advantage is the name of the game. To do so, you’ll want to play to your company’s strengths while eliminating its weaknesses; similarly, you’ll need to fully comprehend potential opportunities and threats so you’re able to achieve exceptional results in the future.
SWOT analyses can be applied resiliently to organizations of any size, whether you have two employees or over 300. To take it further, they can also be used to examine specific departments within your organization, or even individual projects or advertising campaigns for Google Ads billboards, TV, and radio/podcast.
Breaking It Down: The Four Elements of SWOT
Now that we know a little bit more about what a SWOT analysis is and what it stands for, let’s take a look at each of its individual elements.
This initial element boils down to a simple question: What does your company do well?
During this stage of the process, you’ll want to consider any and all things that make your business stand out among your competitors in the market. These internal factors can touch on anything from a powerful brand identity and quality products to renowned customer service, a top-notch website, strong leadership, and more.
Think of it this way: your company’s strengths are a crucial component of its success. They represent variables your organization possesses that competitors lack.
This category seems pretty straightforward and self-explanatory. But for some organizations, this can be one of the toughest elements to define because it requires critical self-awareness and brutal honesty.
Examining your company’s current brand assets – including its logo, graphics, photography, and copywriting – is a great place to start. If these assets have already been professionally developed and created, you can leverage them across all of your marketing efforts.
Some questions you’ll need to consider:
- Does your company have a solid foundation for its branding and identity?
- Where does your organization need improvement?
- What do competing businesses in your market do better than you?
- Do you have the right team?
- What specific variables are holding your organization back from gaining an edge?
- Are some of your offered services unnecessary? Are they taking valuable energy away from your core competencies?
The answers to these questions can vary wildly, but it’s important to not be discouraged during this step of the process. Identifying your organization’s weaknesses can ultimately help you correct or improve them to gain a competitive advantage or at least obtain equal footing in the market.
This is the stage of your company’s SWOT analysis where you’ll need to shift your focus from internal to external factors.
Think of opportunities as events or changes in the external environment that can potentially be converted into future strengths. Since opportunities can come from a multitude of sources (e.g., positive press, emerging markets, increase in demand, etc.), you’ll need to closely survey your external environment regularly to identify and act on them quickly and strategically.
Consider everything that happened throughout 2020. Though it could certainly be considered the ultimate year of disruption, it also birthed myriad opportunities for business owners around the world. It exemplified the importance of being nimble and ready for anything, as well as the value of having a strong online presence and providing a memorable user experience. (For a specific example, think about Zoom for a moment – had you ever previously heard of the company or used its app?)
Think about how you can leverage excellent relationships that you have with clients. You can create case studies based on the work you do with them that showcases your strengths and ROI for the clients.
Threats, the fourth and final element of SWOT, are every factor that poses a direct risk to your company and can negatively impact the likelihood of its success and/or growth.
Some examples of threats that may develop include an influx of new competition, negative press, changes in laws and regulations, and a global pandemic (too soon?) Much like opportunities, you’ll need to identify these threats swiftly to take preventive measures; otherwise, you may endure adverse issues in the future – up to and including permanent damage to your business.
Questions to consider:
- Does your business have enough capital – or the means to acquire a line of credit – to get through tough times?
- Are you innovating enough to keep up with the competition?
- Do your competitors have a stronger brand recognition, if so, why?
- Do you have the right staff in place to compete on a national level (even if you’re local)?
- Are you the threat? Self-evaluation is recommended.
Why a SWOT Analysis is important to your organization’s health
Imagine you’re about to embark on a cross-country road trip. When you first committed to this idea, you more than likely started thinking about the logistics of the journey and how to plan accordingly. How many days will it take? Where are the hotels you’ll need stay at and have you booked your reservations? Have you had your vehicle serviced lately?
The point is, unless you were feeling especially adventurous, you wouldn’t just pack up the car and hit the road one morning without considering and planning out your travels – you would prepare.
On a rudimentary level, a SWOT analysis can be utilized in a similar fashion. It’s meant to be a strategic roadmap for your company to follow on its journey to success. It invaluably helps your company’s decision-making and planning processes, ensuring you gain insight into the inner workings of the business and the market it serves. It’s your ticket to increasing market share.
The finish line
Our goal as an agency is to always play the long game and stick closely to our core values of delivering the highest quality work possible and backing it up with a superb customer experience.
Preparing to conduct a thorough SWOT analysis is an exciting time – and it’s an experience we love guiding our clients through. When you’re ready to kickstart the process, we’re ready to help.