Labor Day marks the unofficial end to the summer season. This means many solo professionals are kicking it into high gear to finish the year strong and set the stage for a better-than-ever next year. Whether you’re putting together new business proposals or engaging current clients in planning for 2014 (it’s not too soon!), you may want to consider using a SWOT analysis to codify your discussions and demonstrate your understanding of their needs.
If you've never heard of it, a SWOT Analysis is used to assess the Strengths (S), Weaknesses (W), Opportunities (O) and Threats (T) of a venture or business project.
- Strengths are those characteristics of the business or project team that give it an advantage over others. If you were writing a proposal for Coca Cola, brand equity could be listed as one of the company’s strengths. For a grocery store in a bustling community, you might list location in the strengths column.
- Weaknesses are characteristics that place the project or venture at a disadvantage relative to others. A damaged reputation, poor customer service and lagging behind competitors in innovation are examples of things that could be considered as a weakness.
- Opportunities are elements that can be leveraged to your advantage. Public relations professionals can use this section to shine by providing creative insights on how clients can improve position, visibility and ultimately their bottom line. For example, if a client has recently hired a well-known innovative executive, there are new opportunities for industry leadership.
- Threats are external elements in the environment that could cause trouble for the business or project. E-books and e-readers posed a threat to traditional book publishers and retailers. Pending regulations, a new competitor entering the market are also examples of threats.
A SWOT analysis can take many forms, but can be as simple as the following table for a healthcare example:
Commonly used in marketing and strategic plans, the combination of SWOT’s four elements gives a broad stroke view and can be used to guide strategic discussions and strengthen propoals. The SWOT format is another tool in your arsenal to show clients and prospects at-a-glance that you have a firm grasp of their market and business.
If you've ever used a SWOT analysis with clients or prospects, how did they react? If you prefer another method, please share your thoughts in the comments!