If you’re in marketing or own a business, then chances are you’ve done a SWOT analysis at some point. It’s the 101 in marketing 101, it’s the black bean foundation of a seven-layer dip, and it’s the waffle cone that holds a scoop of mint chocolate chip ice cream.
You get the point.
If you’ve never done a true SWOT (strengths, weakness, opportunities, threats) analysis, then I’m not sure you could possibly really know the state of your business.
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The problem is that most SWOT analyses are very one dimensional -- they typically focus on the products and only the products. Very few SWOT analyses focus on the brand. In my class at New York University, we look at both products and brands in our SWOT analyses, and that’s exactly what we are going to do in this series as well.
Whenever you do a SWOT analysis on your business, make it two dimensional and look from both a product and a brand point of view. Then and only then will you have a well rounded and actionable look at your entire business.
Let’s break it down.
When doing a SWOT analysis, you should only include strengths that your business, and only your business, possesses. Your strengths should be competitive advantages that you uniquely own in your industry. Most business owners just focus on the attributes of the products or services they offer and quite honestly they don’t generally differentiate from competitors. This is why you should also include strengths in your brand as well.
What is it about your brand equity that sets you apart in the industry? What does your brand stand for and how does your brand engage with your customers?
Again, you should challenge yourself to identify weaknesses that your business uniquely faces, and focus on the factors that could keep you from being competitive. Look at your weaknesses from a brand perspective as well. Does your brand stand out in the marketplace and do your customers even realize what your brand is all about, above and beyond the products themselves?
While most business owners can create a laundry list of product opportunities, most neglect to think about where they can take their brand. Think through the various ways you can expand your brand, because those opportunities will likely be even more impactful to your business.
Most threats are universal to all businesses in a given category, which is why you should look at the potential threats to your brand along with product threats. You may only be one crisis away from permanently weakening your brand, so make sure you proactively identify the threats to both your products and to your brand.
When doing a SWOT analysis, most business owners simply list out the facts without any regard to what they all means. Force yourself to think through the implications of the factors you list in your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and what they each mean for your business.
What’s the impact to your business goals? What do each of those factors in your SWOT analysis really mean?
Lastly, focus is the key to making your two-dimensional SWOT analysis really actionable. The study isn’t about making lists, but about thinking about your product and your brand and identifying the two or three factors in each section that will drive your business forward. Focus on a short list of truly actionable items.
By looking at your SWOT analysis on both a product and a brand perspective, you’ll be able to bring a renewed focus and action plan to your business.