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‘Swotting’ Up On Your Business

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Lately I’ve seen a real rise in people blogging, doing podcasts, using social media and trying out lots of different marketing tactics. But sadly, too often that’s what they’re doing: trying different things. The biggest failing that many businesses make is that they just dive in and try stuff without any sort of strategy.

To put yourself in the strongest position, you need to know your market inside out and back to front. Basing your work on factual decisions will make everything you do so much better. But don’t just take my word for it…

I’m a big believer in doing a marketing audit. This is a process of evaluating all areas of your business, the competition and your market to get a holistic view of what is happening and how best you could move forward. When I’ve completed that, I always go through each element and sum it up in a SWOT. I then use this to create the strategy, as it’s such an easy way to highlight the good things in any business, as well as the issues.

For anyone who isn’t familiar with a SWOT, it stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. It’s broken down as such:

  • Strengths – the strengths of your company
  • Weaknesses – the weaknesses of your company
  • Opportunities – the opportunities in the market that you can leverage for success
  • Threats – the threats outside of your organisation that can and do cause you problems

To do a SWOT properly, it’s worth spending a bit of time gathering factual information. What is your biggest seller? What do you do better than your competitors? What are the barriers to your sales, and what is the next big trend that you could latch onto? But this doesn’t have to be days of research. It could be hours. But by spending a bit of time being very honest with yourself about what your company does well and where it needs improvements, it could make all the difference between whether you make good decisions or not.

An Example

Let’s take a look at an example of how a SWOT has actually changed a company’s perspective. A few years ago I did a marketing plan for a company that manufactured taps and showers. They told me that they were focusing all their research and development into innovative products that saved water and looked amazing. They sold to the hospitality market, and they were sure that some hotels would bite their hands off for these new energy efficient and futuristic designed taps.

Sounds good, right? Surely that’s what people want? We want to save water and we want things to look fantastic.

Yes, that’s what we might think. But it turned out that wasn’t the reality. What really matters in any market is what people are willing to spend their money on. What they actually want to buy.

The prospective customers for this company were fascinated by fancy taps on exhibition stands, which is where they had got the idea that their new innovative design was a must-have. However, a few hours of research quickly revealed that what the hospitality industry actually wanted was 1. value for money and 2. something that looked nice and worked. British manufacturing was also high on their agenda. They wanted to support UK based businesses. But more important than anything, they wanted it to suit the general design of the room and be as cheap as possible.

It didn’t matter so much at the time that they’d save X amount of pounds ten years down the line due to the efficiency of this incredibly fancy tap. They needed something functional, not bad to look at and that would work well now.

The SWOT revealed a great deal that the company simply hadn’t considered. They’d been so blinkered by this belief that they were going to change the future, they forgot about the most important thing of all: what the customer wants.

Here is a little breakdown of what we revealed in the SWOT that they just hadn’t thought about in their marketing:

  • The brand name was well known in the market and it had a great deal of heritage. They had a huge advantage that they’d overlooked
  • They already had an upmarket range and a basic range, but they’d got bored of marketing these and were ready to move on to the next exciting thing. But both were still selling well in the market. Doing more unnecessarily was making them lose focus on what was working
  • There is no seasonal buying, so they needed steady, consistent marketing all year long – which they weren’t doing
  • UK production was declining, therefore it was a strong position for them that their taps were made in Britain. People were genuinely looking for this
  • They had inconsistent branding that they hadn’t sorted out that could affect sales
  • They had never actually asked their customers what they wanted and what they thought. They had always just assumed that they knew through sales person feedback

We managed to solve so many problems that they’d simply not noticed because they’d never stood back to analyse the company, the market, and what customers wanted.

How much do you assume and how much do you know? If you’ve not done a SWOT in a while (or ever) I highly recommend giving it a go. It if makes you realise just two things about your company that could be useful to know, it’s well worth the effort.

If you want to find out what happened next and how we turned that research into action, take a look at my next blog.

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