We’re big proponents of having a strategy in place before you start your marketing efforts. For a lot of small business owners, one of the first steps to creating a small business marketing strategy is to perform a SWOT analysis. Learn more about what that is and how it can drive your small business marketing efforts.

What is a SWOT analysis?

analysisSWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats, and so a SWOT analysis is a technique for assessing these four aspects of your business. The primary objective of a SWOT analysis is to help organizations develop a full awareness of all the factors involved in making a business decision. This technique was created by Albert during a study conducted to identify why corporate planning consistently failed. Since its creation, SWOT has become one of the most useful tools for business owners to start and grow their companies and is especially impactful when it comes to determining an informed marketing approach. A SWOT analysis will help you think about your company in new ways and produce potential opportunities that will help you take back market share and gain a competitive advantage.

How do you conduct an analysis?

For best results, you’ll want to gather a group of people who have different perspectives on the company. Select people who can represent various aspects of your company, from sales and customer service to marketing and product development. Of course, if you’re a small business, you may not have a large group to pull from. In that case, it’s perfectly acceptable to include clients and vendors; anyone who will give you honest feedback on your strengths and weaknesses. Next, it’s time to brainstorm, starting with strengths (the “S” in SWOT). Questions such as:

  • What are you doing right?
  • What’s working well?
  • Why do your customers love you?
  • What tools do you have at your disposal that help run your company?
  • What competitive advantage do you have over your competitors?

The goal is to create an exhaustive list of all your strengths. Now that you’re pumped up, time to hit the “weaknesses.” Here are a few questions to get you started:

  • In what areas does your service or product fall short?
  • What disadvantages do you have compared to your competitors?
  • What resources are you lacking?
  • What shortcomings do you see in your team?

Though a bit of a bummer, it’s critical to really dive deep here so you don’t have a blind spot regarding weaknesses. Next is “opportunities.” Now that you’ve done a deep dive into your business’s strengths and weaknesses, it’s time to identify potential opportunities. Based on the strengths and weaknesses determined, where does your company have the advantage? Keep this in mind: Opportunities are external factors in your business environment that are likely to contribute to your success. Here are a few questions to get you started:

  • Are there upcoming events that might expose your company to new customers or markets?
  • Is your industry growing as a whole?
  • Is there talent available that you can add to your team?
  • Is there a way to package products or services for a higher profit margin?
  • Is there a product or service that customers ask for that we don’t have, but could?

It’s exciting to see some real possibilities for growth and how you can market it. However, one more step first: “threats.” Like opportunities, threats are external factors that you have no control over. However, knowing what’s out there can help you better prepare and position your marketing message. Here are a few questions:

  • Do you run the risk of supply chain issues?
  • Are there market trends that could render your product or service obsolete?
  • Is there a new competitor ready to enter the market?
  • Is your team stable or do you risk losing employees?

Finishing this exercise may leave you elated or worried. Either way, knowledge is power, and doing this can help you better position your company for success.

How does a SWOT analysis help marketing?

informed marketingMarketers largely influence a business’ strategy and decision-making process. Through findings made in SWOT, a business can effectively penetrate the marketplace and quickly capitalize on opportunities. Use the insights gained to drive your marketing efforts. For example, marketing strategies that use strengths to take advantage of the identified opportunities can provide great results. For example, you may increase advertising of your service to local businesses for upcoming holidays. You’ve combined your location (strength) with an opportunity (an upcoming holiday). Understanding your strengths drive your marketing message. For example, if you know that you have a significant base of very happy clients, you may leverage testimonials and reviews more heavily in your marketing. You might even initiate a referral program knowing you have many satisfied customers. On the other hand, knowing your weakness can help you carefully craft a marketing message that isn’t misleading. For instance, if you know your marketing resources are limited, then your strategy should be laser-focused, not spread out among multiple platforms. And keep this in mind: sometimes knowing your weaknesses can help you drive a marketing message that gives it a positive spin. Are you the smallest company in your industry? Leverage that in your marketing message to show how your small team really knows your clients. Do you offer fewer services or products than your competitors? Tout how you only offer what your expertise dictates; you’re not a jack of all trades and diluting your deliverables.

A SWOT analysis most certainly can help a business overall. Using that intel to make marketing decisions and drive a better small business marketing message can only enhance your small business marketing efforts overall.

Patty Hughes
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