I’ve worked with a number of clients this year (both big and small) and conducted a modified strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis for some of them to help them gain clarity for the direction of their business and/or content marketing efforts.
After performing a competitive SWOT analysis for one of my customers, I determined a new way to position his company that was previously not spoken for. In other words, I helped this client find a true differentiator. For another client, I uncovered numerous content marketing opportunities that none of his competitors were filling. And the list goes on. Let’s put it this way, I’ve never conducted a SWOT analysis and NOT found multiple areas to address, all for the benefit of better business.
The model I follow is a slight hybrid. It starts with the primary business but then also brings in a few major competitors and a social media juxtaposition. I’m sure that you could make this more involved and complicated (add in search terms, a branding study, etc.) or less complicated as your time, talent and dollars allow. But the point is, it’s worth your time to conduct a SWOT analysis and the model below is a great starting point for you to cater as you see fit.
The SWOT process at a high level
- Determine major competitors
- Sign up for all blogs, emails and newsletters for your own company and competitors
- As you work the steps below, compile information about the websites and social media channels
- Identify the strengths and weaknesses for the business
- Identify the strengths and weaknesses for social media
- Identify the opportunities and threats for the business
- Identify the opportunities and threats for social media
- Answer additional key questions
- Analyze your findings
- Make recommendations/act
Determine major competitors
Ok, this one may seem a no-brainer because of the adage, “keep your friends close but your enemies closer.” What I find interesting though is the fact that many people want to jump right in and replicate what competitors are doing. But at least one innovation guru says differently. Stephen Shapiro suggests that you should figure out what your competitors are NOT doing and do that.
Sign up for all blogs, emails and newsletters for your own company and competitors
I put this higher up in the process because it takes some time to get on all the email lists and such and you want to have enough samples to study. Take it a step further and download a few resources. In these samples, you will see the frequency of messages. You’ll learn whether or not you get a call within five minutes of a resource download. Essentially, you’re gathering intel which will be helpful to you in the process.
Compile information about the websites and social media channels
Start a spreadsheet and compile information as you work the steps below.
For the website, gather this:
- Is there a blog? (Also, posting frequency, types of content, first impressions.)
- Social media presence on site (Are there icons, sharing buttons, etc?)
- Subscriber sign-up on site (Is there a newsletter or other type of sign up?)
For social media gather this per each social media channel. For example, for Twitter, you could gather this information:
- url (@handle)
- Number of Tweets
- Number of people following
- Number of followers
- Number of likes
- Frequency of posts
- Types of content posted
- Other observations or patterns
It might also be helpful to take a screenshot so you can juxtapose all the social media home pages if you’re a visual person and/or if you will be presenting the information to other team members.
Identify the strengths and weaknesses for the business
Here’s an example from one of my clients:
Identify the strengths and weaknesses for social media
Identify the opportunities and threats for the business
Identify the opportunities and threats for social media
Answer additional key questions
Once you’ve done all the steps above and have had time to digest it all, ponder any number of these questions and add any of your own:
- Are there tools or features we are not using?
- Are there any new technologies/tools/plug-ins that we should explore?
- Are there changes in our industry to which we need to adapt?
- What is the market missing?
- Is our target market present on social platforms we aren’t using?
- What else does our ideal customer want on social media that we could provide?
- Where is our target audience hanging out that we aren’t?
Analyze your findings
This is when you put your thinking cap on to pull together all of the information you uncovered and address any patterns to arrive at a solid list of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. You will have learned more about your own business and your competitors alike.
Based on what you uncover and the time, talent and dollars that you have available to you, develop a strategic plan.
Conducting a competitive SWOT analysis will give you objective clarity for how your business fits in or stands apart from the crowd. In some cases, it will give business leaders the insight needed to make operational shifts within the company and/or it will provide insight into new marketing tactics. At the very least, it will give you an edge that you couldn’t see before.