I was recently asked this very question by a client, and my answer was, “No not unless you want it to be done that way!”
The conversation then went on like this –
Client: “So what is a SWOT and how can it help me?”
Me: “Well, SWOT is an acronym that stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. A SWOT is an analysis that can be done on your business, product, company or marketplace and it can help you kick start your planning.”
A SWOT and planning isn’t all about creating a formal document; it’s about getting the process of change going. You shouldn’t let the planning hold you back, and make sure the plan keeps you on track and helps to manage your endeavours.
There are lots of ways to start the planning process; a SWOT is one of them. A SWOT can be used to uncover the nuggets of gold within your business. These can then be mined and marketed to fuel the growth of the business, and for its future benefit.
At the foundation of your marketing and business plan are the products and services you offer, along with the personal talents and abilities that you possess. A SWOT will help you strategically use these attributes in the marketplace.
How do you do a SWOT?
A SWOT analysis must start by first defining your objective. What are you analysing? A product, a company, a market? You then move through each of the four aspects (S:W:O:T) in turn.
Strengths and weaknesses are about you and your company – its nature, history, and what it does and doesn’t do well.
- Strengths: characteristics of the business or team that give it an advantage over others in the industry.
- Weaknesses: are characteristics that place the business at a disadvantage relative to others.
Threats and opportunities are external – factors outside of your business.
- Opportunities: external chances to make greater sales or profits in the environment.
- Threats: external elements in the environment that could cause trouble for the business.
These are then listed under each heading or traditionally inserted into a four square grid.
What do you do with a SWOT?
The true value of a SWOT is what you do with the information after you’ve dug out the precious nuggets and dangerous mines from the field. Often this is the hardest part of the process – knowing exactly what to do with this list of goodies and baddies.
Your end resulting strategy should play on your strengths and away from weaknesses to take advantage of opportunities and avoid threats.
Two methods of actively using and implementing a SWOT are:
1. Matching and converting: You can make use of a SWOT by what is called matching and converting.
Matching is used to find competitive advantages by matching the strengths to opportunities.
Converting is to apply conversion strategies to convert weaknesses or threats into strengths or opportunities.
If the threats or weaknesses cannot be converted a company should try to minimize or avoid them.
2. Action SWOT: Another way to successfully use a SWOT is what I term an Action SWOT. It creates a list of things to ACT upon. Using this method results in a practical action plan of things to do from the SWOT.
That ‘To Do’ list can then be directly incorporated into your tactical plans.
A simple table is used for this:
- List your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats on the left hand side of the table under each relevant heading.
- On the right hand side you design an ‘ACTion’ for each tem listed on the left. Each action should directly address an issue identified in the SWOT.
|Capitalise on this STRENGTH by:|
|Address this WEAKNESS by:|
|Build on this OPPORTUNITY by:|
|Minimise this THREAT by:|
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