Using the SWOT Analysis to Your Advantage

In a previous post we explained how to use an External SWOT analysis to assess your strengths and weaknesses relative to your competition.  It’s a simple tool that empowers you to develop marketing messages that effectively position the unique products and services you offer. When combined with the information you gathered during the strategy development process (such as the opportunity and enablement assessments) you are ready to develop a full list of opportunities and threats.

To get started, review the list of features you created during the previous stages of the strategy-development process and ask yourself the following questions:

  1. How good are we at this?
  2. How good is our competition at this?

If your competition is doing something that your company does not, you have identified a potential threat. Maybe a competitor offers a superior product or sets a pace you haven’t been able to maintain.  Determine how important this feature is to the market and consider what it would take for your company to implement it in your daily operations.

If neither your company nor your competition performs a certain feature, this may be an opportunity. But, before you swing into action, determine if this feature has direct value in your market. The goal is to identify strategic opportunities rather than waste time and resources chasing a wild hare.

Finally, consider whether the features unique to your company could be elevated to “best practice” status. In other words, what can you leverage tooutperform your competition and become the pace-setter in your industry?  If this feature is important to your industry, devoting additional time and resources to developing it could create a significant competitive advantage.

Usually the list of opportunities and threats will be so extensive that you will need to prioritize your efforts based on available resources and the potential return.For example, maybe trade shows and conferences aren’t a vital part of your industry.  You may attend an event every year or two, but haven’t found them to be especially profitable. How could you increase your company’s exposure by participating in events that are outside your normal circle of influence?  Because capitalizing on these opportunities is key to gaining competitive advantage, the list of opportunities and threats will give you the insight you need to wisely invest your resources.

Keep in mind that this is a dynamic list.  Just as you are identifying opportunities and threats, assume that your competition is doing the same thing.  Revisit the list often and repeat the SWOT process every few months to track emerging trends. As the ancient Chinese general and military strategist Sun Tzu said “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.”

How has this exercise shaped your team’s strategy?  Feel free to post a comment or email me directly at  I’d love to help your company maximize its potential.

See you next week!

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