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SWOT’s the Plan?

Your Guide to developing long- and short-term business plans 

 

While January and February are when many businesses first launch sales campaigns for the new calendar year, there is never a wrong time to plan for business growth. 

Before developing any new business strategy, it is vital to know where your company stands in relation to the competition. One way to do this is to prepare a SWOT analysis to help determine the most profitable and plausible steps to take.

 

SWOT’s “SWOT?”

A SWOT analysis outlines your company’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. It takes some time, and facing hard truths, to create an accurate business analysis. When you develop a SWOT, it could be helpful to survey your management team as well as your sales staff, customer service team – and your customers. Your employees are hearing complaints (threats and weaknesses) as well as praise (strengths). They might also see a need that opens a new revenue stream (opportunities).

  • Strengths: These can be your reputation, pricing, product line, location, loyalty program, or any other aspect of your business that puts you ahead of the competition and positions your company to withstand external challenges. Your strengths will be the foundation of the marketing plan that supports your new business strategy.

  • Weaknesses: It’s time for brutal honesty. Have you been receiving complaints about staff, service, wait times or products? Are there business locations where you are underperforming? Is your website so outdated that it won’t render on a smartphone? Many of these weaknesses may need to be corrected immediately for the business strategy to succeed; others can help you set sales goals for the near future.

  • Opportunities: Are your competitors struggling from staffing or product shortages? Will coupons and promotions help you gain market share? Are you offering new product lines? Determining opportunities helps focus strategy and execution.

  • Threats: We all face threats from many sides. In addition to “big news” issues like supply chain delays and staffing, each of us deals with company-specific challenges: competitors encroaching on territory, big box stores undercutting prices, poor customer reviews, and more. While your business plan should not be based solely around reactive measures, it should include steps to address the most pressing issues quickly. 

 

As you create a list for each category, consider each item’s importance in comparison to the others. Again, honesty is key – this document will help you plan investments in corporate infrastructure, staffing and sales and marketing goals. When you think your SWOT is complete, ask a few trusted business associates to review it and offer feedback.

 

SWOT’s the Use?

A well-developed SWOT helps you develop both short- and long-term action plans. Tangible threats and weaknesses should be considered first. Aging websites are one of the biggest threats, and offer long-term ROI. Your customers expect to be able to view your site easily on their devices and review your products and services, place their orders, track their deliveries and more. Consider it the “Amazon-ization” of web services. Amazon has built a user experience that anticipates consumer needs before they even ask. Your online account platform does not need to be as expansive as Amazon’s, but should allow customers to complete basic tasks at their convenience. 

Once you’ve identified the immediate issues to be corrected, start planning growth strategies – whether by leveraging the opportunities or mitigating weaknesses. How can your strengths be used to their best advantage? Will a reputation for unique, high quality product lines increase sales in slow-growing location? Are your concierge services attractive enough to draw customers from further afield?

Depending on your company’s goals, you may want to target low-hanging fruit first by promoting a new product line to current customers. Alternatively, if you have multiple locations, you may choose to focus on building sales at the newest or least trafficked. The goals are yours to choose, and the choosing is made easier when you have a SWOT laid out in front of you.

 

SWOT’s Next?

If you are not already working with a marketing company, now is the time to bring in and expert who knows how to best reach your target customers, make the most of your budget (whether four figures or seven), and create messaging that engages the consumer and conveys your company’s strengths. 

Many businesses have sales or marketing goals but haven’t outlined these important metrics. Marketing companies will often create a SWOT analysis as part of the planning process and use that information to develop a creative brief, marketing plan and budget. 

With a SWOT and creative brief, your marketing partner will develop an execution plan, which could include website revisions or overhauls, programmatic advertising for specific consumers or neighborhoods, social media, broadcast flights across radio or TV (including satellite, connected TVs, and spot cable, as appropriate), billboards, print and internet campaigns, and more. Each asset should be geared at reaching the consumers you need and delivering the results you want – both of which were identified by your SWOT analysis. 

Whether you are developing quarterly, annual, or five-year targets, it all starts with SWOT.

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