When deciding on a new marketing strategy, it's always a good idea to review your current situation. A SWOT analysis is a good starting point.
A SWOT analysis is an assessment of your organisation's strengths and weaknesses, and an evaluation of the opportunities and threats it faces.
It's largely inward looking, because it's mostly about things you can control or influence - at least when it comes to your response.
You can conduct a SWOT analysis completely in isolation, or you can do it relative to your nearest rivals (although that requires you to make a lot of assumptions).
It's a good starting point when it comes to examining your current situation ahead of developing a new marketing strategy because it:
Gets you to take stock before rushing ahead
Forces you to define and consider all your variables
Provides a benchmark to measure progress against
So, how do you perform a SWOT analysis?
Firstly, we've always found it useful to do this as a team exercise because then you get a number of different perspectives that can be useful. If you have the space, take four big sheets of flipchart paper, label them Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats respectively, and stick them to a wall in a grid. Then, take each in turn and write ideas down on sticky notes that you can later place onto your wall grid. When you're happy that you've captured everything, take a photo of your work and then transfer it into a written document, but maintain the grid format
NB: you can do this on a table if you lack space on a wall, and even just write your thoughts down on pre-printed grids. If you're a team of one, consider asking clients and suppliers to contribute their ideas concerning strengths and weaknesses.
When you're doing your SWOT analysis, think of it like this.
Think about the things you do really well and that your competitors aren't able to match you on. Are you particularly innovative or do you use really effective processes that make you slicker than the rest? Are you especially good at getting your message in front of your audience? Do your brand values stand out? Do you have sector-specific knowledge?
What are the things that seem to hold you back? Where are your marketing efforts least effective? Which areas of your business are least profitable? What resources do you lack (for example, your rivals may be bigger and more established whereas you may not have staff in key areas of your business)?
Now think about what lies ahead. Feel free to dream big here, the world is full of opportunities for those that recognise and try to take advantage of them. Is there a new market you could enter, or might you have unique insights into something that could give you an edge over rival businesses? Has a rival business recently closed and could you pick-up its clients?
Every business faces threats to its success. You may lose a valuable team member, or find it hard to recruit to fuel your growth. Cash (or a lack of it) could also be a concern. The trick is not to obsess about these threats but to acknowledge them so you can think about how to minimise them then mitigate for them should they ever be realised.
When conducting a SWOT analysis like this, as well as documenting the facts as you see them, it's a good idea to think about how weaknesses could be turned into strengths and how threats might be turned into opportunities.
Consider also how strengths might make it easier for you to take advantage of opportunities, and how weaknesses could make threats more likely (then you can do something about both).