The saying goes “Look before you leap,” and there’s certainly a kernel of truth to it. While it’s tempting to want to jump into your business with both feet, you should take a step back before committing to a digital marketing . The field moves rapidly, and you’re going to want to narrow in on exactly what you’re looking for from your marketing strategy using a SWOT analysis.
Marketing is an investment, and one that can cost you a lot of money in the long run. You wouldn’t wander into an unknown forest without a map or try to climb a mountain without equipment, so why put your business in that position?
Instead, you need to map everything out, pick the right gear, and hit the road with a complete picture of what your final destination is. That’s where a SWOT analysis comes in.
Why a SWOT Analysis?
When we refer to a SWOT analysis, we’re talking about the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats that your business faces. It lets you look at all of the facets of your company, both internally and externally.
When you conduct a SWOT analysis, you are laying everything out on the table. It helps you get a more holistic view of what your business is and who you are as a business leader. Only after this kind of evaluation can you begin to construct a digital marketing plan.
Internal vs. External Factors
The strengths and weaknesses of your business come from within. Internal factors could include anything from cohesive branding standards to a problematic employee on your team. Anything that you find makes running your business more or less difficult on a micro and macro scale should be listed under this category. You use internal factors to create processes for reaching goals for your company because these are the factors you are in control of.
External factors are those that are mostly out of your control, but that you can seize or avoid based on their availability. This would include topics like the amount of direct competition in the area, grants available for your business, and the level of access you have to the audience that you’re marketing to. You use these factors to determine your company’s goals. While you have little to no control of external factors, they can be used to motivate and direct the way in which your company pursues digital marketing.
Three Rules for Conducting a SWOT Analysis
When you’re ready to sit down with you team and conduct your analysis, there are three rules to keep in mind:
- Be completely honest with yourself and ask that your team do the same. If you aren’t approaching this process with an open mind, and you’re unwilling to come to terms with the weaknesses of your business, a SWOT analysis is a waste of time. If everything was perfect, you wouldn’t need a digital marketing plan in the first place.
- Don’t get too bogged down with the “why.” During the actual analysis, focus on the “what.” When you’re prioritizing your analysis later, you can think more about why a particular factor is the way that it is and what you’re going to do about it. During the discussion, focus on the straight facts and avoid conjecture. Ask that others do the same.
- Choose your team wisely. Creating an echo chamber, where everyone waits to hear what others are saying before forming their own opinion, isn’t going to help your progress. You want disagreement. You want candor. You want to create an open forum where people can tell you what you might not see from your position. If everyone in the room is just repeating what everyone else is saying because they’re afraid to be honest, that’s a business weakness in and off itself.
Now that you’re ready to conduct your analysis, let’s dive into the questions you should be asking:
Think about what your business is good at, where you’ve seen growth, and what you pride yourselves on. What are the advantages do you have that others do not?
Then, ask yourself:
- What makes us unique?
- How are we better than other companies offering the same commodity?
- If we spoke to our competitors, what would they say they appreciate about our business?
- What connections and community networks do we have that others might not?
- What talents does our team bring to the table?
- What values do we have that makes our business desirable to our demographic?
- When it comes to marketing, what do we do well?
- What resources do we have?
- Technological know-how
- What have we already accomplished?
- What are we set to accomplish in the next year?
While it can be difficult to look at your business from an objective lens, it’s necessary to understand your weaknesses. Every business and person has things that they could be better at. Some are optional, like remodeling an unattractive building, while others are absolutely necessary.
As you begin discussing your weaknesses, think about:
- What do our competitors do better than us?
- What data do we lack to indicate changes we could be implementing?
- What about our commodity is too similar to other products out there? What makes us blend in with the crowd?
- When it comes to marketing, what do we struggle with?
- What genuine customer complaints have we received?
- What parts of our team aren’t growing at the rate we’d expect?
- How are we limiting a customer’s ability to share honest testimony and word-of-mouth reviews?
- What does our branding strategy lack?
- What data are we lacking about the demographic that we’re targeting?
- Is our skill bank lacking something that competitor’s teams have?
- Is our pricing structure conducive to success? Do we sell for too much or too little?
Think about opportunities in the community and beyond to hone your competitive edge. What resources is the landscape that you work in offering to your business? Think about the connections that individual team members have for networking and what competition exists around you that might also seek those opportunities.
Opportunities come in many forms. Prompt discussion with these questions:
- What markets already exist that would purchase and value our product?
- What markets already exist that our competitors haven’t considered?
- Is there an advantage in our chain of production that we have and could further utilize?
- Is there another product or service that complements what we already sell and could be marketed as an add-on?
- Are there untapped opportunities to create marketing plans, both digital and physical?
- What can we do to create an online reputation that outshines our competition? What is being said about the competition that we can capitalize on through improvements?
- What social media channels would our demographic frequent? How can we market there?
- How can we make our website stand out? What resources do we have access to that could transform our digital presence?
- What keywords are our customers searching for? How can we create content that fulfills that need for information?
- How can we shift the product or service that we offer into an online form, whether through ecommerce or digital booking?
When you’re talking about threats, you’re really thinking about the outside forces that could make running your business more difficult. Threats exist in your environment, and they often come from sources like the government or competition. While you can’t stop the other party from doing what they’re doing, you can plan to mitigate them before they turn into full-blown problems.
- How is the market and technology changing? Can you keep up?
- Do you have the money necessary to remain competitive in the market? How will adding a marketing plan change that?
- What are competitors offering that you aren’t?
- What does the job market look like in your operating area?
- What demographic trends are happening in your area?
- Do you have the access and resources to learn about new developments in marketing, such as content or email marketing?
- Do you have a team of people who are ready to take on a marketing strategy?
- Is your item or service a trend? If so, what are you going to do when the demand decreases?
- How will government regulations limit your business?
- How will development projects (like construction or buy-outs) affect your customer’s ability to reach your store?
As you wrap up your SWOT analysis, consider bringing in other stakeholders, members of your demographic, and people from around the community. Doing so can bolster your data, giving you more information to work with when you begin evaluating whether or not it’s time to create a digital marketing plan.
After the SWOT Analysis: Where Does Digital Marketing Fit In?
Once you’ve answered the questions in the SWOT analysis, you can take a step back and see the whole forest instead of just the trees. If you’re staring into the face of a massively underfunded budget and a lack of in-house resources to carry out a digital marketing plan, it’s not your time to sign a contract with a firm. Wait until the strengths and opportunities outweigh the weaknesses and threats. Jumping in too soon will only result in a blown-out budget and disappointment in your marketing team.
While it’s natural to want to look at your business with an optimistic eye, digital marketing is better approached with a lot of realism. Your company is not better or worse than any other simply because you do or don’t have a marketing strategy. That comes down to the values that you’ve built into the structure of your business.
Instead, digital marketing should be a tool that you use to enhance your strengths and hunt down new opportunities. It can help you set realistic, attainable goals. It can give you a laundry list of things you’re doing well and things that are going to help you grow, but it all depends on how much effort you put into it. Before pursuing digital marketing, step back and ask yourself: What are the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that my business faces on a daily basis?” It will pay dividends in the future.