A SWOT analysis is not an analysis as such, but an interpretation of facts discovered through long-range planning activities.
Developed 50 years ago from analysis from the largest companies, it seeks to provide quantitative reasoning to help structure the setting of long-term objectives.
The results produced provide two distinct categories.
Those that are under 100% control of the company concerned and those where they can only influence:
- Internal strengths.
- Internal weaknesses.
- External opportunities.
- External threats.
Using this framework can be a very powerful technique in a number of ways:
- The SWOT presents a high-level overview of what the company sees as its main issues.
- It helps provide the foundation for communication plans.
- The overview focuses attention on those areas thought to be of an urgent nature.
The Marketing Framework
The results of your research provides the results to develop future strategies for your business.
Everything about your organisation's characteristics, whether good or bad, provides useful information that feeds into your strategy. Analyse all aspects including products, staff, location, technology, manufacturing, relationships, wholesale and retail connections where you have total control. The results provide a platform for change if required within the internal makeup of the organisation.
Research is required to understand exactly how the external environment could affect your business. You'll need to discover facts about your local economy, market growth, competitor actions, market size, government policies and technology advances.
Once you have gathered the information, your analysis should highlight new market opportunities and external threats to your growth plans. Remember you're unlikely to change these factors, but you can influence them.
Developing Plans and Strategies
The above exercise provides numerous areas you may wish to focus on developing further. Before you start to categorise the areas for development, take a moment to summarise the status quo.
Your Results: The Four Areas for Development
Once you've analysed the data, you'll have four sections describing the positives, negatives and the operating environment of your business.
Sometimes it's difficult for company managers to find more than three strengths because we are all very critical of our business. However, every business does great things better than their competitors.
It's relatively easy to list things wrong within a company in this section, but most will not be weaknesses because their impact on performance will be minimal. Be realistic of the areas you are weakest and the investment required to outperform the marketplace.
Your analysis should provide gaps in the market to exploit with new strategies. Using the Ansoff Matrix could improve existing businesses.
Most threats come from government policy, economic change or ease of entry into a new market. You can really only influence these factors but knowing what could impact your profits is essential.
By undertaking this analysis it will help you focus your energies to:
- Build on or maintain your strengths.
- Minimise any weaknesses.
- Maximise your market opportunities.
- Mitigate any threats.
Tips to Improve Your Results
Tip 1: Prepare a SWOT for both your organisation and your nearest two competitors. This analysis will provide real insight into who you relate to within your industry.
Tip 2: Prepare the internal analysis based relative to your competitors. If three businesses have the same strength, then it's not a strength within the overall marketplace. By deleting duplications across the industry, you'll find the real positive strengths only you possess.
Once this analysis is complete, you should develop actions plans focusing on the four elements that are most critical to your long-term business success.
- Strengths: We have the only iPhone app in the market which has 3,240 users.
- Weaknesses: We don't have an in-house telesales department to manage sales.
- Opportunities: A new business park is being built locally for 45 new companies.
- Threats: The downturn in the economy has reduced funding to government departments that could see a reduction in sales.
Get More Information in our SWOT Course
We have developed an in-depth guide with more examples and actions you can follow. This package also includes a handy template with guidance to complete your strategies.
More information on the course is available here.