Is there any greater waste of time than a poorly done SWOT Analysis?!

As you can tell, I have a rather strong opinion on this topic. Like many of you, I was trained to use a SWOT analysis as a part of my marketing plan process. The idea was to get to a great strategy by understanding your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats and then come up with a killer marketing strategy that obliterates the competition.

There was only one problem with this decision making and strategy building process. The SWOT analysis we did was nothing more than a stupid list of things that didn’t have anything to do with anything at all. It was just a list.

Then one day, I was sharing my frustration with a friend and he showed me a SWOT template format that he used that I fell in love with. The idea was so simple and yet so powerful. He basically drilled down to the true essence of each SWOT element.

Internal vs External Focus

The first thing he did was make the distinction between the internally focused elements of the SWOT, the Strengths and the Weaknesses, and the externally focused elements of the SWOT, the Opportunities and Threats.

That simple distinction immediately focused our conversations in the right direction.




Why this is the BEST SWOT analysis outline — EVER

The SWOT Analysis process I’m going to show you here is unique because it has CONTEXT. The way this context is created is by having each element of the SWOT analysis grounded in answering questions that are grounded in reality and in the experiences that your business has had over the last year. Instead of just listing a bunch of stuff, you are answering questions that will actually give you insights into the next appropriate action to take inside your business. This isn’t the complete set of questions — but it will certainly get you started in thinking about new ways that you can grow your company.

Strength-Picture-Quote (1)

[Tweet “”Strength doesn’t come from what you can do, it comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn’t” Rikki Rogers #Quote #SMB”]

Using this core idea I’ve developed a SWOT Analysis template that I’m going to walk you through right here. At the end of the article, you’ll find a FREE SWOT Analysis template download as a Word document.

Strengths Analysis

  • In what areas does (YOUR COMPANY) perform exceptionally?
  • What important bids or proposals did (YOUR COMPANY) win this year? Why did (YOUR COMPANY) win them?
  • Which target markets or customer groups created the most sales? Which created the most profits?
  • What did (YOUR COMPANY) do best this year? What were (YOUR COMPANY) greatest triumphs?
  • Which customers or market segments grew the most? What caused this “success”

weakness (1)[Tweet “”Build upon strengths and weaknesses will take care of themselves” – Joyce C. Lock #Quote #Marketing”]

Weakness Analysis

  • What important bids or proposals did (YOUR COMPANY) lose this year? Why did (YOUR COMPANY) lose them?
  • Which target markets or customer groups created the least sales? Which created the least profits?
  • What were (YOUR COMPANY) greatest disappointments or failures?
  • Which customers or market segments achieved the least? What caused this “failure”
  • Weaknesses with respect to: Target market needs, wants & consumption trends

Opportunity (1)


Opportunities Analysis

  • What new customer wants can you meet?
  • What economic trends are benefiting? How can you take advantage of them?
  • What technological factors are creating opportunities for you? How can you profit from them?
  • What niches and opportunities have your competitors missed?
  • What alternatives does your ideal customer have to what you have to offer?
  • What major changes are taking place in the industry?
  • What are some things that would “never happen” in your industry? How can that become an opportunity for you?




Threats Analysis

  • Are there technological factors creating threats?
  • In what ways do your competitors threaten you?
  • What scares you most about the future of (YOUR COMPANY)?
  • Are major changes taking place in the industry?
  • Is the government increasing the burden of any previous regulations?


The SWOT Analysis Exercise

This is a great SWOT exercise to do as a group as well.  I’ve done this before with larget organizations by assigning a team of 3 or 4 people to each section and then giving them about a week or so to work together to answer the questions.  Then the following week we’d get together to report and debrief.  The great thing about doing it that way is that the whole organization gets on the same page.

Download your SWOT Analysis Template