Most businesses do not create a marketing plan or do any annual "thinking" about their business. I'm not even going to begin the lecture on that. So let's assume you're one of the few who recognizes the importance of some annual planning. Part of that planning should be a SWOT analysis.
Think of a SWOT (Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis as an annual check up with your physician. It’s preventative medicine. By going through the exercise, you will start with your own business and then look at the market place around you. SWOT is an acronym for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Strengths and weaknesses are internal factors. Opportunities and threats are external factors.
Your goal in doing a SWOT analysis is to capture and communicate, in a very simple format, the key issues your organization needs to keep an eye on over the next 12 months. Naturally, these become the building blocks for your marketing tactics. It’s easy to strategize on how to capitalize on your strengths, but the real marketing genius will come from neutralizing your weaknesses. In many cases, focusing on your own brand (in a later module) will help you put those into perspective. The most urgent of the quadrants is probably the opportunities. Odds are, your strengths will be with you for years. But an opportunity is here now. How do you capitalize on it while it’s still within your grasp?
Remember, the SWOT is not science. It is filled with subjectivity. Use it as a guide, rather than a verbatim mandate.
Keep these in mind:
- Be as objective as possible. It’s difficult to evaluate yourself clearly. Invite others into the process.
- Your SWOT is a snapshot of today. Use it to plan where you want to go tomorrow.
- Be precise in your language. This is not the time for ambiguity.
- Think sound bites. Words and short sentences, not paragraphs.
This is also a great team-building exercise. It will be valuable to you to hear your team’s perspective. If you’re really brave, ask some clients and trusted vendors. You will probably be surprised by at least a couple things that you hear.
What annual check ups do you use? How do you create your plan for the upcoming year?