SWOT Analysis Definition
SWOT is a commonly used acronym that’s used in business. It stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.
These four aspects basically are used to look at your business’s resources (financial, technical, skills, etc.) and understand its weak points. This can be a general analysis to see where you stand, or you can use the SWOT chart to make business decisions based on your assessment.
SWOT is a strategic planning tool first developed in the 1960’s by Albert Humphrey, a business consultant who worked for Stanford Research Institute in California.
Why Would a Business Use SWOT in its Planning?
It is imperative that a business takes time now and again to assess itself against the competition. This is especially true when entering a new market or launching a new product and making decisions on how to market it successfully.
Doing a SWOT Analysis helps a company to assess itself honestly and effectively, as well as take stock of its competition and the industry itself. A well-done SWOT analysis can help a company be more competitive when it comes to business decision. You’ll want a SWOT analysis that is accurate and complete to help your business make important decisions about where it currently is, and where it is going in the future.
The SWOT helps business leaders do this by examining current performance and evaluating other factors that affect the company in general. A SWOT table will help you analyze any external factors that may affect the company in general.
You will then create a table for the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that you have identified. Once the evaluation is done, you can gain more information on your business’s capabilities and strengths. You will likely want to use a SWOT Analysis template to create your Analysis.
Using SWOT to Brainstorm
The SWOT analysis is a simple but flexible yet very simple tool that can be used in many different ways when it comes to planning. SWOT tables have been used for strategic planning, career planning and goals, marketing plans and PR campaigns. , Once you’re familiar with what SWOT is about and how it can work for you, it’s time to dig deeper and learn how to use it to brainstorm.
- Start with a problem or question to be solved. For example, if you’re a business launching a new product line, you’ll want to know what barriers to entry, if any, you may have and what unique characteristics your business can bring to the marketplace.
- Start with Strengths. Strengths can be almost anything that your business can use to its advantage when planning its strategy. You may have strong social media accounts; a large audience on Facebook, and a strong relationship with the press that can help you get media coverage. Other strengths could be your large budget, your product’s USP (Unique Selling Proposition) and a level of customer loyalty that will help boost sales.
- List Your Opportunities. Listing your opportunities will take some research of your competition and seeing what advantages you have over their similar products. Perhaps your competition doesn’t have an edge in the market because they rely primarily on radio and television advertising, and your product is geared toward Millennials. This could give you a sizable amount of prospective customer. Maybe your product is a cookie that uses only gluten-free, locally sourced ingredients, unlike your competitors, who only offer gluten-free cookies. Look at what the competition lacks and try to see what opportunities they are missing out on. Once you’ve completed your SWAT Analysis, you’ll be able to create a marketing plan to guide your business to success.
- Assess Your Weaknesses. Every business in the marketplace has challenges, especially when just starting out. Sometimes your weaknesses will be that you’re a one man or one-woman operation, operating on a shoestring budget. Maybe you are unable to produce your product on a massive scale and will require special niche marketing to reach your customers. Maybe your social media accounts, such as Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus need more followers and interactions for them to truly give you a return on investment. Be honest when assessing weaknesses; a savvy business owner knows that one man’s weakness is another man’s opportunity. Think about how you can turn your weaknesses into an advantage. Maybe you can find a stronger customer base by going hyper-local with your marketing efforts and attending events? Perhaps there’s room on your staff for an intern to help with your social media accounts. By accurately assessing your weaknesses, you’ll know what you need to improve e, and often you can begin taking steps to change this right away.
What’s The Easiest Way to Start a SWOT Analysis?
One of the simplest and most traditional approaches to completing a SWOT Analysis is to use a table or grid to map each talking point. Make a grid for each topic — one each for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and weaknesses. Then list the relevant factors beneath its respective heading. You don’t need to write anything out in long-form unless you want to. Don’t worry about complete sentences – just get the main points down. If you feel anything needs additional explanation for a presentation or other people on your team, you can create a summary paragraph that describes each point in more details.
Make sure you take the time to download your SWOT Analysis template on this page. You can use it to get brainstorming right away!
Here’s an example of SWOT talking points for Mary. Mary owns a local floral business that can handle orders of up to 120 flower arrangements in one order. She specializes in weddings and events. Mary’s products are unique and full of color. She hand-designs each flower arrangement herself.
Recently, Mary met another vendor at a wedding of her regular clients. The vendor, whose name is Dave, also does custom-made orders for big events, but he specializes in personalized chocolates that are given away as party favors. He offers Mary a cut of 25% of the order if she partners with him and offers his catalog at her service counter. Mary will take the order details and collect the payments, and pocket her own commission directly.
Mary’s not sure if this will work for her, so she decides to create a SWOT Analysis to help her with her decision. She wants to know if she can be successful adding this product line to her offerings, so she gets to work at her analysis. She creates a list of talking points that she will later add to her SWOT template.
Here’s what she comes up with:
- Many repeat customers who come to us for business
- Many online referrals from review websites
- We already offer unique, custom products
- Event planners prefer to get packaged deals for discounts
- Only 3 employees to handle increased business volume
- Extra paperwork and record-keeping
- Customers may be confused about the products
- Have to check with Dave about volume of chocolate orders for large-scale events
- No other florist offers custom chocolates
- Great as an add-on order for busy customers
- Online order capacity
- Free cobranding of catalog and sales materials
- Chocolate shortages from global weather events could cause trouble with supply
- Pricing is not stable
- People may go to grocery stores floral departments for cheaper bulk orders of chocolate and flowers
- There’s a chocolatier opening down the street next month
From this SWOT Analysis, Mary can see that although the future of chocolate is not certain, there is a lot of potential, especially since Mary has a loyal set of clients that regularly refer other people to her. Because of this customer loyalty, she has a good chance of customers choosing to add-on the chocolates as an afterthought. With the cobranded advertisement, Mary thinks that she should be able to market and increase her profits fairly easily. She decides it’s a good idea to pursue this new opportunity.
Jeff is a student attending university in his third year. Rather than go home for summer break, he has decided that he wants to pursue an internship in the area. His school will offer credit for the internship as long as he works at least 25 hours a week.
Jeff applies to several internships online. He interview for two of the jobs he wants, one which is with a small company that pays a stipend, and a second job with a major corporation that doesn’t pay at all. Both of the jobs offer important experience and college credit. Rather than decide using a pro and con list, Jeff decides he will base his decision on a SWOT Analysis. He creates a SWOT Analysis for each potential job. He makes a list, which he will later add to his SWOT template.
Jeff’s SWOT for the small business looks like this:
- Strengths: Pays money, offers flexible working hours, potential for employment after graduation
- Weaknesses: Not a well-known company, only serves one marketing function
- Opportunities: Learning new skills such as mailing list software, ability to network with marketers at monthly happy hour
- Threats: Company culture seems very strict, formal dress code, not sure I’ll fit in
Jeff’s SWOT Analysis for the major corporation looks like this:
- Strengths: Prestigious company, impressive internship title, company perks include free lunches once a week
- Weaknesses: No pay, strict work schedule, difficult to reach via public transport
- Opportunities: Some paid trainings, opportunity to manage major accounts, take part in leadership team
- Threats: One cost of living increase could make me homeless
Jeff decides to take the job at the small company. Even though there is only one threat that he has noted at the new job, it’s a significant one. He decides he needs the modest income provided by a paying internship.
Turn Your Weaknesses On Their Head
The first step to fixing a problem is admitting you need help. What are the best ways to gain ground in the areas, which you lack, skills? Maybe it will require hiring an intern or outsourcing certain tasks to experts. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, so don’t feel disheartened when you discover weaknesses. Nothing is insurmountable. Weaknesses are merely areas of the business it’s time to work to improve. Businesses constantly evolve and the digital world increasingly puts new demands on them. As long as your company rises to meet the challenges, you’ll be able to put those weaknesses to rest.
After You Finish Your SWOT Analysis
Give yourself a day or two to think over your findings. Sometimes, if you’re making a major business decision, you’ll want to have a meeting where you crowd source some of the information in the chart. Another set of eyes and ears can help you be more aware of all of your businesses’ strengths and opportunities. It’s also an exciting way to have your team members brainstorm ideas for taking your threats and weaknesses on, head-on.
Speaking with the rest of your workers will help you gain a new perspective on your SWOT Analysis. So make sure you take the time to seek valuable insight and feedback from the people you trust on a daily basis. Problem-solving always works better when you’ve got a team of people to help you brainstorm.
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