• Laura May

How to carry out a SWOT analysis - Effectively!

A SWOT analysis is a powerful tool when planning your marketing activity and if approached objectively, it can yield real benefits. So how do you carry one out effectively? Here I take you through each stage to get the best out of your SWOT analysis...

SWOT analysis in the plainest terms stands for a review of your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. It is a grid that outlines these areas. You simply fill in each section.

The trick to carrying out an effective SWOT analysis is knowing what should be included in each section, being as honest and reflective as possible, and understanding how each section relates to one another.


This is where you list your unique selling points. What makes you different from other similar organisations? Which areas do you excel in? Even if you are carrying out a SWOT analysis for a marketing strategy, it's important to include all areas of your business that are doing well. For example, having a robust data management system will have a positive impact on your marketing.


  • Dedicated marketing budget

  • Skilled and knowledgeable staff

  • Clear brand guidelines

  • GDPR compliance knowledge

  • Defined processes and policies

  • Excellent customer service

  • Authenticity

Don't be afraid to include your 'soft' strengths in this section - what makes you or your business unique? If it's your personable approach, add it in. Ask yourself what you do better than your competitors? Consider what do your customers say about you when they leave you positive reviews.


This is always a bit more of a trickier section to fill in. Nobody wants to examine their weaknesses! But it's an important step to explore where you can make improvements.


  • Unclear messaging

  • Limited resources

  • No reporting of metrics

  • Lack of media coverage in local newspapers

  • Knowledge gaps in team

Try and be as honest as possible, and if you can, ask a trusted colleague or friend to give you their opinion as well. You may be lacking in an area that you just don't know about. Also consider the complaints you have received in the last six months - are there any common themes? This kind of insight will help you improve on your weaknesses in the future.


This is an exciting area to complete, as it outlines where you may be heading in the future. However, it is also where you begin to really consider external factors, rather than just what you have in house.


  • A new market opening up

  • New partnership opportunities

  • Launch of a new service

  • Development of a new product

  • Collaboration with other industry leaders

  • Increased PR coverage

It's important to look at the marketplace and what's happening in the world at large for this section.


Here is where you list the risks that may face your business. What could be coming in the future (or what has already arrived!) that could threaten the success or growth of your company? Again, a lot of threats may be external, but list internal risks as well.


  • News laws and regulations

  • Cost of growth and limited funding streams

  • Competitor growth

  • Digital platform change

  • Staff may leave and take their knowledge/skills with them

  • Negative PR coverage

Try to think ahead and consider what may be on the horizon. For example, this year has been a bit of a disaster for most businesses and nobody could have predicted it. However, organisations with clear business continuity plans and PR crisis plans will have faired better than those without. So, in the future a threat may another global lockdown. What could you do differently?

Understanding the whole

Once you have completed your SWOT analysis, take the time to understand how each section relates to the other.

Technological changes could be an opportunity and a threat. For example, growing restrictions on Facebook may impact your advertising success. However, knowing this may also help you create adverts that drive more traffic to your website and away from Facebook.

Your personable approach to customer service could be a strength (it is a great way to retain customers and build brand loyalty) and also a weakness (it takes more time and costs more in the short term).

Consider the SWOT analysis as a whole document and if possible, ask colleagues or peers to help you review it.

Why bother?

Carrying out a SWOT analysis may feel like a big job when you begin, especially if you are a small business owner, a freelancer or a charity with limited resources. However, the insight you gain is invaluable.

A SWOT analysis is a chance to step away from the everyday tasks of your job and really reflect. Once you have completed it, you can align your strengths with the opportunities you have identified. You can address your weaknesses and take advantage of opportunities that are coming up.

In my opinion, the most valuable aspect of carrying out a SWOT analysis is understanding the threats that you may face. I am a huge advocate of planning and preparing for the worst - I always hope it won't happen, but if it does I am able to be agile, nimble and responsive. This, above all else, is a business strength that never stops being useful.

If you would like a template for the SWOT analysis or simply to discuss how to approach your own, please do get in touch. You can email me or call me on 07568 398908.

Good luck!


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