No need to hide your stash. Be it, the packets of beef jerky that your carping wife doesn’t want you eating, candy bars that your bloated doctor has banned you from snacking on, or tobacco that your neurotic boss doesn’t want you chewing…it doesn’t matter. Because, this SWOT team ain’t about to smoke you out. No, no, no, this SWOT team wants to put some money in your bank, instead.
An acronym for – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats – SWOT (though some marketing gurus prefer the dyslexic version of it; TOWS) has become an indispensable tool for businesses that possess a modicum of awareness of its profit-generating potential.
For some of us, our fleeting flirtations with SWOT would have been restricted to our business and marketing plans, as just mere cosmetic enhancements. No shame in that.
But, it wasn’t until a discussion I had with a friend, slash acolyte — something about keyword research — that I realized a SWOT analysis could actually prove rigorously useful. It could be used to assess the health of your business’s core competences, or assess a particular strategic implementation you’re mulling over. It’s also a logical way of assessing your competition.
A SWOT analysis nudges you towards restless questings, which is a good thing. In my case, I used SWOT analysis to approach a keyword research plan.
Call me wildly old-fashioned, but all I did was rip out a piece of paper from my notepad and grabbed a pencil which was lurking somewhere amidst my paper-infested table.
I must state at this point that contrary to popular belief, prehistoric tools like the paper and pencil are still in production. These are made available at most stationery stores. I kid you not.
I then drew out 4 quadrants, which looks somewhat like what you see in Fig.1 below, albeit, much less impressive.
(Fig.1) SWOT ANALYSIS
Strengths and Weaknesses
If you noticed, Strengths and Weaknesses fall under the Internal column. More often than not, this is a reflection of what’s occurring within your business itself.
What should you consider under this column? Well, let’s find out:
Internal Column of a SWOT Analysis
What are you currently doing that is pushing your project forward?
Your competitive advantages?
Do you have a strong brand?
Your business’s main source of revenue?
Do you have the ability to innovate?
Does your business have focus?
Are you, or is your business capable of adapting to rapid changes?
Advantages of the company
Unique selling points
Advantages of your product or service
Resources, employees and assets
Price or value you offer
Factors that put you at a disadvantage?
Something your competitor is doing that you’re not?
Is your marketing effective?
Does your business lack focus?
Customers complain a lot?
Lack of ability to implement new ideas to carry your business forward?
Disadvantages of your product/service?
Processes and systems
Opportunities and Threats
Opportunities and Threats are listed under the External column. This column forces you to wander outside of your business environment, giving you critical acumen into missing components within your business, or potential/current threats to your ongoing stability and success. Points to consider are:
(Fig. 3) External Column of a SWOT Analysis
Simple Isn’t It?
But highly effective, I must add. I had my friend provide me his SWOT analysis and although we shouldn’t have been surprised, the analysis did beam some enlightening apercus — keywords which we would have otherwise overlooked — if not for the SWOT analysis.
The overarching stipulation you’d have to bear in mind when conducting your own SWOT analysis though, is to be absolutely thorough and honest when approaching it. Only then will you truly be able to zero in on — how to build on your strengths, how to resolve your weaknesses, how and where you’re able to exploit your opportunities, and how to avoid, or combat threats – all the while restraining yourself from quixotic aspirations.
Feel free to also take your analysis one step further by conducting a TOWS (as mentioned earlier) matrix, which is somewhat similar to a SWOT analysis, but much more in depth. Here is what one might look like:
(Fig. 4) TOWS MATRIX
With TOWS, you’re cross-referencing everything you’d analyzed in SWOTS for a more crystallized outlook of your analysis. Definitely one to use for deeper analysis.
So, there you have it. A simple tool in your business arsenal that’s powerful enough to unlock the enigma of business existentialism — giving you answers whenever a situational analysis is called for. A SWOT analysis might not be able to answer the fundamental questions of life, but it’ll put some money in your bank.
Is That All You’re Going To Leave Me With, Kevin?
I thought I was, until you reminded me that I was felicity in motion. So, I’m not going to leave you hangin’.
Would some SWOT templates tickle your fancy? How about the exact templates I use for my projects with clients? Would that make your day? It won’t be anything fanciful, because a SWOT analysis doesn’t need to be pretty. It just needs to be useful.
So, here you go. Click on the Word icon to download the templates. All of them are in Word(.doc) format so they are easily editable to customize as you see fit.
SWOT — WEAKNESSES.DOC
SWOT — STRENGTHS.DOC
SWOT — THREATS.DOC
SWOT — OPPORTUNITIES.DOC
SWOT — POINTSYSTEM.DOC
Yes, lavish me with silver coins, frankincense and myrrh if you so desire, but at the behest of a simple French philosophy – L’argent ne fait pas le bonheur [Money does not make happiness] – that I live my life by, I sadly must refuse.
Gold on the other hand, I accept.