Sr. Content Marketing Manager
Wouldn’t it be great if crafting the perfect marketing strategy was easy? The truth is, developing resilient marketing strategies, especially in topsy-turvy times, can feel a lot like trying to run up an icy hill in a blindfold and high heels — nearly impossible.
Still, there are some tools and practices that can make building an effective marketing strategy not only possible but easy and (dare we say?) fun. One of our faves is the SWOT analysis.
Let’s explore how you can use the marketing SWOT analysis framework for your small business and look at some SWOT analysis examples to help get you started.
Decoding the SWOT meaning
A SWOT analysis is a framework that helps you uncover a greater understanding of your business’s position in the marketplace, and it’s an excellent tool for gaining insight into your company’s differentiators and competitors and crafting a compelling marketing plan.
This process is like an intense brainstorm where you identify your differentiation factors and understand what might hold you back in the market. SWOT isn’t a word — it’s an acronym that stands for:
- S – Strengths
- W – Weaknesses
- O – Opportunities
- T – Threats
SWOT analyses have traditionally been created in quadrants. Someone would separate a whiteboard or corkboard into four spaces, and then the team would brainstorm in each space. But a SWOT analysis can be done digitally or on paper, too.
But what do each of these four components mean in the context of a SWOT analysis to help inform your marketing and business plan? We dive into the details below.
How to use SWOT analysis for small business
Two of the components in a SWOT diagram, strengths and weaknesses, deal with internal factors like your team, product or resources. The other two, opportunities and threats, deal with external factors like the market and your competition.
The strengths section of the SWOT chart looks at your business’s internal strengths. When you’re using the SWOT framework to develop a marketing strategy, you’ll be specifically trying to uncover what strengths you have from a marketing perspective.
This means information like your unique selling proposition (USP) or competitive advantage — factors that give you a superior position in the marketplace. Your strengths could also have to do with your team, finances, audiences or tools, like:
- A large marketing budget
- A bustling social media community
- A totally automated marketing pipeline
- A completely unique product that fills a need in the industry
- A new marketing executive with fresh ideas
- A flexible timeline to allow for some trial and error
To uncover your company’s marketing strengths, try asking questions like:
- What advantages do we have?
- What is our USP?
- What resources do we have to help us reach our goals (people, tools, time)?
- Does our audience or existing database give us a jumping-off point?
The strengths section of your SWOT is all about figuring out what clear competitive advantages your organization has at its disposal.
The weaknesses section is about identifying the gaps you currently have related to your marketing goals, business strategy and plan. Like the strengths, your weaknesses can deal with your product, resources, finances, audience and more.
You’re looking for clear disadvantages that will prohibit you from reaching your marketing KPIs, and ultimately your business plan — like a limited budget or an uninformed team. For example:
- A lack of tools or funding
- No existing knowledge of current social media trends
- No automation – everything’s manual
- A short timeline for results
- A lack of vision or clarity about your product or services
- High levels of debt
The best way to uncover your weaknesses is to look at your current data. Be honest with yourself about what is and isn’t working, and take a good look at the facts. To get started, start by asking questions like:
- What improvements do we need to make to have a more successful outcome?
- What isn’t working right now?
- What tasks or issues are taking up too much of our time?
- What limitations do we have with tools or funding?
- What skills or team members do we need that we don’t have?
- What gives us a clear disadvantage in the marketplace?
Getting clear on your weaknesses is never fun, but it’s a crucial step of the marketing SWOT framework and critical to having a successful business.
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Now, we’re getting into the external considerations. We’re shifting the focus from what your organization is doing internally to looking at the external market as a whole.
Opportunities tend to be specific to your industry, so you may need to do some research to gather detailed, up-to-date information. Opportunities are simply external factors that could give your small business a competitive advantage, like:
- An emerging need for your products or services
- Recent press about your business
- Underserved segments in your market
- Training opportunities
- Networking events
- Lack of organic traffic in your niche
- Lack of social media presence in your industry
To uncover these external opportunities for your marketing, try asking yourself questions like:
- What problem in the industry can we help solve?
- What types of people aren’t currently being targeted?
- What marketing tactics are our competitors not taking advantage of?
- What new trends have emerged that we could jump on?
Once you’re done with the opportunities section, you should have a clear idea of how you can uniquely insert your brand into the marketplace to reach your desired results and achieve your strategic plan.
Threats are factors that fall outside of your organization and have the potential to negatively affect your business. When performing a SWOT analysis for marketing, you’ll look for external threats related to your marketing efforts, like:
- Competitors have a bigger social media presence
- A negative press piece or review about your company
- A new competitor with a prominent investor onboard
- New laws/regulations in your industry or that impact your existing marketing tactics
- Emerging technology that competes with your product
- Increasing costs
You might need to do some competitor research here to grasp what’s happening in the industry and with your competitors. Here are some things to ask to start uncovering potential threats in your niche:
- What’s happening in the market that might prevent me from reaching my goal?
- What do our competitors do better than us?
- What are we doing that our competitors are also doing?
It’s essential to identify your threats because you could be doing everything else right and then fail to reach your goals due to some unaccounted-for outside condition — and no one wants that.
Translating your SWOT analysis into a marketing strategy
Once you’ve completed a marketing SWOT analysis for your small business, it’s time to turn that information into an actionable marketing strategy.
To succeed, find ways to lean into your company’s strengths and eliminate or minimize your weaknesses. Work with your team to craft a strategy that capitalizes on your marketing opportunities while reducing your external threats.
Strategic planning isn’t always easy, but having a framework like SWOT makes it much easier to grasp the big picture. Having the right tools, like a right-fit CRM, is also essential.