When was the last time you did a SWOT? How often do you refer back to it when making choices in your business?
I would say for most people the answer is when you set up your business and when you set up your business. There is no shame in that but it’s why I wanted to talk about them.
To encourage you to take some time to do a SWOT I made a little template to help make the process easier for you. You can download it here.
So what is a SWOT?
A SWOT analysis is a classic business tool. Over the years its become one of those things that most founders know they should do but it can often feel like a set and forget situation, something you tick off the to-do list when you start out. But it became a classic because it’s really effective/useful (it just sounds a bit naff).
A SWOT asks you to take a long hard look at your business/service/product/market based on four key elements:
- Strengths (internal factors) what are you good at? what makes you stand out in the market?
- Weaknesses (internal factors) what could cause you to stumble in growing your business?
- Opportunities (external factors) where could you take things in the future?
- Threats (external factors) who/what could get in the way to achieving growth?
How do I do a SWOT?
I would recommend printing out my template, grabbing pens/highlighters/post-its, making a cuppa and finding a comfy spot. Like any good brainstorming session, this isn’t about right or wrong it’s about getting as clear as you can on each item. So allow plenty of time to do it justice.
It’ll be very strange to look at your business this way but part of being an entrepreneur is facing the realities of business, even if we don’t like them. Plus you’ll be surprised at what creative ideas you can have for your business (for example, one of the threats you identify might inspire a whole new Google ad campaign).
Personally, I go back and redo my SWOT every 6 months. I’m just about to sit down and do it again actually. Business evolves so its worth looking at again every so often. It doesn’t take as long in follow-up sessions because you are adding/removing items rather than awkwardly staring at a blank page. I’ve found it helps me refocus on my goals.
How do I use the SWOT later?
From a marketing perspective, a SWOT allows you to consider how the activity you are about to commence will play out. We can all get excited about the idea of promoting our work/product but we need to be strategic about it or we may end up in a crying mess (especially as entrepreneurs who may be making the product as just 1 of 100 things we do in the business).
For example, let’s say you’ve decided that one of your strengths is the quality of your product (let’s say you make tea towels) but one of your weaknesses is how long it takes to make each tea towel. From a marketing perspective, it makes sense to promote how great your tea towels are but before you hit publish on that Facebook ad the strategic thing to do is make a stock of tea towels so when the orders come in you have some ready to ship.
So how do you use your SWOT in business? Is it time to undertake one just to check in with your business and marketing?