“The unexamined life is not worth living,” Socrates said, and this applies equally to the individual, the team, the department, and the company. Every business has one or more blind spots, and your ability to identify these blind spots is crucial to meeting your marketing and sales objectives. However, you must identify not only your vulnerabilities but also your strengths, opportunities, and dangers.
Given the current economic climate, international competitiveness, and quickly changing technology, who doesn’t sense paranoia?
However, being paranoid is insufficient. You should understand why you should be paranoid. What are your department’s marketing strategies and the company’s weaknesses? What internal and external threats can not only throw you out of your game but also potentially pull you out of it?
To be honest, many individuals avoid asking these difficult questions because they would rather not know the answers. Ignorance may be lovely in the short term, but it always catches up with you in the long run. Marketing and sales are tough games, and you have to be tough to play them. And you can’t be tough until you identify your flaws and work to reduce or overcome them.
Similarly, it is vital to understand your opponents’ strengths (e.g., business competitors) because they will represent challenges to you and your opponents’ shortcomings because they will represent opportunities to exploit. After all, marketing is a form of warfare, and in order to win, you must be familiar with yourself, your adversary, and the battlefield.
If you know the opponent and know yourself, you need not fear the conclusion of a hundred wars. If you know yourself but not your opponent, every victory will be followed by a defeat. You’ll lose every war if you don’t know your enemy or yourself.”
SWOT analysis was developed as a result of research undertaken at Stanford Research Institute between 1960 and 1970 in order to determine why corporate planning failed.
Fortune 500 businesses supported the early research to find a way to overcome bad planning. A SWOT analysis is a subjective appraisal of data that is put into a logical sequence by the SWOT format to aid understanding, presentation, discussion, and decision-making. The four dimensions are a handy addition to the traditional list of benefits and drawbacks that many of us use to make decisions.
According to its inventors, SWOT analysis simply informs you what is good and negative about a corporation or a specific offer or category. A SWOT analysis is always divided into four categories:
Strengths: What do we excel in; where do we have a distinct edge or big head start?
Weaknesses: What are we not excellent at; what are our weaknesses; where are we inadequate, and where have we been ineffective in relation to the competition?
Opportunities: Where can we capitalize on current market trends; where can we exploit our strengths and the shortcomings of our competitors; what are the chances of a major win, and what excites us the most?
Threats: Which competitors are gaining ground; where are market trends working against us; what gaps may our competitors exploit; and what worries us the most?
You are merely asking questions at this process level; you are not attempting to develop action items or determine strategic direction. Do not draw any conclusions or make any business decisions based on your current responses.
The goal is to gather all relevant input on the table before attempting to arrange and use the data for planning reasons. Every SWOT study I have participated in has produced considerably more data than can be used. Following the initial brainstorming and data collection phase, you must synthesize the data into the most important and relevant data bits.
SWOT Analysis Results
As a marketing or sales executive, you should conduct the SWOT analysis at both the macro (the entire firm or division) and micro levels (your department). In each scenario, you do a SWOT analysis to ensure that all relevant issues are on the table, that you are garnering consensus from the key players, and that you are directing activities that have the best possibility of accomplishing your goals. While the conclusion depends on your specific goals and objectives, in general, you want to employ each of the SWOT quadrants for challenges such as:
Strengths: How can we keep our strengths, improve on them, optimize our advantages, and gain more market leverage?
Weaknesses: How do we persuade the team (or firm) to acknowledge its flaws, fix what can be fixed, minimize what cannot be fixed, or use outside resources to bring us up to speed?
Opportunities: Given our talents and deficiencies, how can we prioritize the various opportunities we have? Where can we get the most return on our people and financial resources?
Risks: Which threats are most likely to wreck our business, how do we mitigate or resist these threats, and what can we do to move out of the line of fire?