SWOT – High Altitude View to Create Marketing Strategies

Successful Marketing Strategies start with tools to create and maintain a Competitive Advantage.  S.W.O.T. is an acronym that stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. A SWOT analysis is an organized list of your business’s greatest strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Here’s a change in thinking – T.O.W.S. to create the Marketing Strategies

EZB Consulting now takes it to the NEXT Level and focuses the Marketing Strategies. We’ve come to understand that the right procedure, could be to discuss threats and opportunities first, then followed by strengths and weaknesses; done as TOWS and not SWOT.

Our experience using SWOT has been inspiring, we use the tool in the early stages of team strategy-development processes. The more we use it, the more enlightened we get. Why? Because at first, we would introduce the tool, then ask the team to focus on recognizing organizational strengths and weaknesses, and end up in a long discussion about “what are we good at” and “what are we bad at.”  Instead of lingering on this discussion, we quickly moved the debate onto Threats and Opportunities.

When we use TOWS, instead of SWOT, teams are able to have focused, productive discussions about what was going on in the exterior environment, to rapidly identify emerging threats and opportunities.  This method provided a solid foundation for coming back and talking about weaknesses and strengths. Do we have weaknesses that leave us susceptible to emerging threats? Do we have (or can we obtain) strengths that enable us to pursue emerging opportunities?

We, at EZB Consulting, use this SWOT/TOWS tool as a starting point to create an overview-summary-high altitude view of the Company.  We use the following, and other tools as well, to zoom in on several important aspects of the business, and the market to begin to create a strategy to gain a Competitive Advantage:

  1. Porter’s Five Forces
  2. RBV or Resource-Based View
EZB Consulting SWOT
EZB Consulting SWOT Process Diagram

Strengths and weaknesses are interior to the company (consider: human capital, reputation, patents, location). You can change them over time but not without some work. Opportunities and threats are exterior (think: suppliers, competitors, prices)—they are external in the market, occurring whether with or without your company. You can’t change them.

EZB Consulting strongly suggest that existing businesses use the SWOT analysis each quarter, to assess a changing environment and respond proactively with a concrete marketing strategies. In reality, we recommend conducting a marketing strategy review meeting at least once a year that begins with a SWOT analysis.

New businesses should use a SWOT analysis as a part of their planning process to develop marketing strategies. There is no “multipurpose” plan for your business, and contemplating your new business in terms of unique “SWOTs” will put you on target immediately, and save pains later.

EZB Consulting business-Idea-to-Plan
EZB Consulting business-Idea-to-Plan

To get the most complete, objective results, we conduct a SWOT analysis with a group of people with different perspectives and stakes in the company.  Management, sales, customer service, and even customers can all contribute valid data.  The SWOT analysis process is an opportunity to bring a team together and encourage their buy in and adherence to the company’s resulting strategy.

EZB Consulting SWOT Analysis Workplace Brainstorming
EZB Consulting SWOT Analysis Workplace Brainstorming

A SWOT analysis is typically conducted using a four-square SWOT analysis template, but we just make lists for each category. Use the method that makes it easiest for you to organize and understand the results.

We recommend holding a brainstorming session to identify the factors in each of the four categories.  As we work through each category, we aren’t too concerned about elaborating at first; bullet points may be the best way to begin. Just capture the factors you believe are relevant in each of the four areas.

Discussion Points during a SWOT analysis

Strengths (interior, positive factors)

Strengths describe the positive attributes, tangible and intangible, at the core of your organization. They are within the company’s control.

What does the company do well?

What internal resources does the company have? Think about the following:

  • Positive attributes of people, such as knowledge, background, education, credentials, network, reputation, or skills.
  • Tangible assets of the company, such as capital, credit, existing customers or distribution channels, patents, or technology.
  • What advantages do you have over your competition?
  • Do you have strong research and development capabilities? Manufacturing facilities?
  • What other positive aspects, internal to your business, add value or offer you a competitive advantage?
EZB Consulting SWOT Strengths - Overcoming & developing marketing strategies
EZB Consulting SWOT Strengths – Overcoming

Weaknesses (interior, negative factors)

Weaknesses are aspects of the company business that detract from the value the company offers or places the company at a competitive disadvantage. We need to improve these areas in order to compete with the best competitor.

What factors that are within the company’s control detract from the company’s ability to obtain or maintain a competitive edge?

  • What areas need improvement to accomplish the company’s vision or compete with your strongest competitor?
  • What does the business lack (for example, expertise or access to skills or technology)?
  • Does the business have limited resources?
  • Is the business in a poor location?
EZB Consulting SWOT Weakness Chain - The Weakest Link
EZB Consulting SWOT Weakness Chain – The Weakest Link

Opportunities (exterior, positive factors)

Opportunities are external attractive factors that represent reasons the business is likely to prosper.

  • What opportunities exist in your market or the environment that the company can benefit from?
  • Is the perception of our business positive?
  • Has there been recent market growth or have there been other changes in the market that create opportunity?
  • Is the opportunity ongoing, or is there just a window for it? In other words, how critical is timing?
  • EZB Consulting SWOT Identifying Opportunities for marketing strategies
    EZB Consulting TOWS Identifying Opportunities for marketing strategies

Threats (exterior, negative factors)

Threats include external factors beyond the company’s control that could place the strategy, or the business itself, at risk. The company may have no control over these, but the company may benefit by having exigency plans to address them if they should occur.

  • Who are the company’s existing or potential competitors?
  • What factors beyond the company’s control could place the company at risk?
  • Are there challenges created by an unfavorable trend, regulatory changes or development that may lead to deteriorating revenues or profits?
  • What situations might threaten the company’s marketing efforts?
  • Has there been a significant change in supplier prices or the availability of raw materials?
  • What about shifts in consumer behavior, the economy, or government regulations that could reduce sales?
  • Has a new product or technology been introduced that makes your products, equipment, or services obsolete?
EZB Consulting SWOT Innovation Threat or Opportunity for marketing strategies
EZB Consulting SWOT Innovation Threat or Opportunity

Once we are finished brainstorming, we create a final, prioritized version of our SWOT analysis, listing the factors in each category in order of highest priority at the top to lowest priority at the bottom.

EZB Consulting SWOT Analysis Prioritization in developing marketing strategies 
EZB Consulting SWOT Analysis Prioritization in developing marketing strategies 

Emphasizing the TOWS analysis: Developing marketing strategies from your SWOT analysis

  • Once we have identified and prioritized our SWOT results, we use them to develop short-term and long-term marketing strategies for the business. After all, the true value of this exercise is in using the results to maximize the positive influences on the business and minimize the negative ones.
  • How do we turn your SWOT results into marketing strategies? One way to do this is to consider how your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats overlap with each other. This is sometimes called a TOWS analysis.
  • For example, we look at the strengths we’ve identified, and then come up with ways to use those strengths to maximize the opportunities (these are strength-opportunity strategies). Then we look at how those same strengths can be used to minimize the threats you identified (these are strength-threats strategies).
  • Continuing this process, we use the opportunities we’ve identified to develop strategies that will minimize the weaknesses (weakness-opportunity strategies) or avoid the threats (weakness-threats strategies).

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