Conduct an Old-fashioned SWOT Analysis to Find Your Competitive Advantage
The SWOT Analysis (Strengths – Weaknesses – Opportunities – Threats) has been around for a long time as a way to take a critical look at your own company. Strengths and weaknesses are internally focused… opportunities and threats are for looking outward. What you do is think about your own firm in terms of each of the four categories: “What are our strengths?”, “What are our weaknesses?” and so on. In those answers could be ideas for helping you to move your company forward. Not a bad process. But even though it’s “old school,” with a few tweaks, the SWOT Analysis can continue to play a valuable role in helping to look deep inside your firm to find your competitive advantage(s) and market position to help drive future success.
Tweak #1… Don’t just look at your company as a whole and ask the SWOT questions. Break your company down into smaller pieces – not only for a more critical look, but to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks. These smaller pieces might be categories like your people, your products, your technology, your marketing, your sales team, your customer support, your offices, etc., etc. Then take each piece and ask the four SWOT questions. For example, “What are the strengths of our people?”, “What are their weaknesses?” and so on for each category. It really helps you to drill down.
Tweak #2… This should not be just an executive team task. Ask a variety of people in your firm – different positions, different levels of seniority, etc. Everyone has a different perspective so everyone will have a different opinion… and they’re all important. And complete candor is critical – you want to hear all the good and the bad. But some of your employees may not be completely truthful, fearing reprisals if they have less than complimentary things to say. For that, consider having an outsider that you and your employees trust to manage the process.
Tweak #3… while this step may be more a little difficult, it is worth the effort. Once you’ve completed a SWOT analysis of your own company, consider doing it on your top 2-3 competitors – to the best of your ability. While you won’t have nearly the level of insight you’d like to have, collectively, you probably know more about them than you think you do.
Tweak #4… commit to doing the SWOT Analysis annually. With the changes taking place in our industry at pretty rapid clip, re-doing the SWOT each year will ensure that you take the opportunity to think about the implications of all those changes. Once completed, aggregate all the comments by topic. Then, as you read through them – look for trends across all employees or ideas that repeat often. These trends and ideas can form the foundation for your future business and marketing & sales strategies.
While this step will take only a few days to complete, the results can give you a competitive advantage that will last for years.