So you own a business. Then you know that it takes work. You spend countless hours establishing business operations, budgets, and creating a marketing strategy. However, many businesses, from start-ups to well-established corporations, have never felt the need to take a step back and ask themselves three major questions about their business:
- Who are we?
- What do we stand for?
- How do we compare to our competition?
Your brand is much more than a sleek logo or clever slogan. In fact, your business is more than it’s name or even you—its owner. To be honest, once you’ve laid the groundwork for your business, it almost becomes an individual separate from you (because we know you think of your business as your baby—we do too). It has it’s own personality, tone of voice and relationships with consumers.
Your business is a representation of your dedication and hard work, and most importantly, a reflection of how your current and potential clients see you. Establishing a successful brand doesn’t happen overnight, and you can’t tell consumers how to feel about you. There are several internal and external factors that can shape your brand and affect your success.
That’s where a SWOT analysis comes in. It is a critical analysis tool for both start-ups, who are developing their brand persona for the first time, and also for more established second-stage companies, who may have “lost their message” somewhere in the hubbub of daily business and sales or are looking to rebrand. Either way, in order to build a successful brand with a SWOT analysis, you need to examine your business under a microscope.
A traditional SWOT consists of four parts—Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Each section consists of questions that will reveal a treasure trove of information—where you are as a company, where you need to be and the steps you need to take to get there.
Strengths and weaknesses are internal analyses that examine the factors you have the most control over when it comes to organizing your business. Opportunities and threats, on the other hand, are external factors. Although you may not have as much control over these, it is still extremely important to acknowledge them when making your business decisions. So, let’s dive into the ins and outs of your business.
Your company’s strengths are a measure of the internal operations you do best. Think of how your business operates on a daily basis and find all of the positive factors that help improve efficiency, morale, and customer interaction. When evaluating your business’ strengths, consider the following questions:
- What advantages do we have over competitors?
- Do we have any unique resources available only to us?
- What do our consumers like most about our business?
- What is our business’ unique selling point (USP)?
W — Weaknesses
Weaknesses are often a topic often avoided by business owners, managers, and almost everyone. It can be hard to acknowledge that our business is not perfect; however, it’s important to recognize the areas where your business has room for improvement. Consider your the areas you know your business could perform better in, and ask yourself the following questions:
- What areas of business can we improve on to become more efficient, improve morale, etc.?
- How can we improve our internal operations to better compete with our competitors?
- What has been our most commonly faced customer-related issue?
- How can we improve our consumer experience?
O — Opportunities
Once you’ve evaluated your internal operations, it’s time to look outside into your competitors and market. Opportunities are exactly what they sound like—opportunities outside of your current business operations that you can take advantage of and turn into strengths. Examine how you can tap further into your market and expand your business with the following questions:
- Is there an new market or sub-market emerging that we can start appealing to?
- Are there any new technological advances we use to expand our business and reach new consumers?
- How can we adapt our business to changing consumer tastes and preferences?
- How can we get involved in our community in a way that is mutually beneficial?
T — Threats
Analyzing threats is an extremely important part of building a successful brand with a SWOT analysis. Although you have the least amount of control over these factors, it’s important to recognize them, so you can organize your business to operate around them in the most efficient way. Consider your competition and the following questions when uncovering your business’s threats:
- Who are our top competitors and what do they do best?
- How are supplier and vendor prices affecting our business?
- Are there any economic, governmental, or social trend barriers to our business?
- Is there any new technology being developed that may make our business obsolete?
In order to establish a strong brand, it’s important for you to dig deep into your business and examine it from all angles. A SWOT analysis can help to uncover strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that you may not have been aware of, and it also keeps you up-to-date with your competitors, target market and other factors that may affect the success of your business.
You should remember that the more in-depth you want the findings to be, the more thorough and extensive your SWOT must be. Conducting a SWOT to answer the tough (and even the not-so-tough) questions will give your company a new perspective regarding the branding and marketing direction you need to take. Not only will you be able to build a successful brand with a SWOT analysis, but you will also be able to move forward and grow your business with more insight and confidence.