Marketing 101: Creating a SWOT Analysis for Your Blog or Business with Example
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Often time, marketing gets thrown around often on the web, and many experts have no formal training in the basics of marketing. On the whole, I think this is great, as the internet has lowered the barrier to entry to starting your own business. I believe there are basic, 101-level marketing techniques that get skipped in this new on-demand world. Today, we will discuss one of the foundations of creating a balanced marketing plan, the SWOT Analysis.
The SWOT Analysis is an exercise to write down, discuss, and ponder your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats for your company and have a guiding focus to help filter your decisions. While today we will concentrate on creating a SWOT for your blog or business, on the whole, you can use this same framework for departments, categories, and ideas to help frame up your marketing decisions. In addition, at the end I will share our SWOT for Branding Beard to give you an idea of what the finished product should look like and how it can be used.
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SWOT Analysis Format
Let’s start with the format. For the most part, you should create 4 squares on your paper with enough room to write 5-6 points under each. These don’t have to be incredibly detailed, but they should be well thought-out get the most value. In the diagram above, you will see the layout and why it is formatted in this way.
Take special note to the rows and columns of the illustration above. The first row should be internal strengths and weaknesses. Think about your company and things you can control. The second row (opportunities and threats) should include external factors. Think about how policies, other companies, competition, and other factors that you may not fully control.
The first column (strengths and opportunities) are helpful and positive for your company. Think about what you do well and what you could do better by leveraging your strengths. In the second column, these are harmful to your company and your success. Think about what is holding you back and what could cause hiccups outside your company or in the future.
We will get into examples of each below, but understanding the format of the SWOT is important to getting the most value for your time.
Strengths – SWOT Analysis
Defining your strengths on paper will allow you to validate your decisions and align to what you do best. For some, writing down strengths can be uncomfortable, but don’t let that uneasy feeling stop you. Often times I start with a large list of 10-12 strengths and pair it down to the 4-6 strengths that define my brand. This helps to ensure that when I use the SWOT as a framework to make decisions, I’ve already prioritized my strengths. Remember, strengths should be based on your company and should be internally focused.
I believe your strengths should be in order with the strongest first, but others may have a different opinion. Each strength should be a free-standing statement that has application to whatever you are building your SWOT on. In our example, we are doing a SWOT for our overall business, but you can break it down further to examine a much more focused part of your business.
In addition, I like to find a theme for each of my strengths and then a sentence defining that. Others will just create a sentence. I find the themes help me focus my thoughts and allow for a general theme and a specific example, but this is not required.
So want some examples? Here are the strengths for Branding Beard:
- Experience. Over 12 years of marketing, branding, eCommerce & online experience allows personal examples when writing posts.
- Focus. We have a broad, but defined niche that offers plenty of content that will resonate with readers from many industries.
- Connections. We have a large network of influencers to consult & tap for information.
- Education. We have taught classes and enabled teams on these concepts in a professional environment.
- Creativity. We bring a different perspective to our posts because we have used the concepts we write about in our career.
Weaknesses – SWOT Analysis
Writing down your weaknesses can be hard, but I believe it is one of the most illuminating parts of this process. Understanding what you are lacking helps you make sound decisions and ensures you don’t go down rabbit holes that can derail your business. Studying your weaknesses can also help you to find resources and processes that fill in the gaps. Remember, weaknesses should be based on your company and should be internally focused.
Just like with strengths, I believe your weaknesses should be in order with the strongest first. Each weakness should be a free-standing statement that has application to whatever you are building your SWOT on. In our example, we are doing a SWOT for our overall business, but you can break it down further to examine a much more focused part of your business.
In addition, I like to find a theme for each of my weaknesses and then a sentence defining that. Others will just create a sentence. I find the themes help me focus my thoughts and allow for a general theme and a specific example, but this is not required.
Unlike when you answer the weakness question in an interview, you should not try to spin a positive into a negative. This is an internal-facing document, so you should be truthful and find areas where if you improved, your business would be better.
Here are the weakness examples for Branding Beard:
- Lack of Resources. We do not have an abundance of time or money to grow through advertising or paid marketing.
- Unknown Entity. Building a strong brand takes time and as a new brand.
- Missing Roles. As a small team, we currently don’t have dedicated editors to ensure perfect quality assurance.
- Lack of Daily Posts. Because of our small staff size and time to create high-quality posts, we have not been able to meet our goal of posting unique content daily.
Opportunities – SWOT Analysis
Now that we have our strengths and weaknesses, its time to start taking a look at our opportunities. While these don’t have to correspond to your strengths, I’ve found that using your strengths as a springboard can be a very helpful strategy to get you started.
Each opportunity should be a statement that is reasonable to accomplish. Understand, that opportunities should depend on outside influences on the company. This is not your to-do list or a list of goals, rather a list of opportunities that can be tapped if certain things happen. Think big!
Here are the opportunity examples for Branding Beard:
- Talented Contributors. We have the chance to utilize our network of contacts and growing networking opportunities to contribute on a consistent basis.
- Networking & Cross-Promotion. Our strength of Focus gives us the opportunity to use our broad niche to partner with
- Traffic Growth. Being featured on large, well-respected sites has helped us grow quickly & gives us an opportunity to pitch additional articles or find to other large, respected sites who love our content.
- Social Media. As our social presence continues to grow, we increase our ability to expand our reach across all social media.
Threats – SWOT Analysis
For many, the threats section is the hardest to wrap their head around. I like to think of it like this: What could change at another company that would hurt my business the most. Consider the government, location, vendors, partners, & how their decisions could impact your business.
Remember, these are external threats. The threat section is important to ensure that you don’t find a single point of failure. For example, many MySpace resource sites in the early 2000’s died a quick and sudden death when MySpace changed their model and fell out of favor. Those who saw this as the weakness it was could have diversified and ensured that they had other niches that could withstand the worst-case scenario.
Thinking about weaknesses today, hosting your blog on Medium, relying on YouTube for all your content, or spending your entire budget on one particular advertising channel would be a potential threat. A threat is not something you necessarily need to fix, but it is something you should understand and be aware of so you can plan and pivot if the thread comes to life.
Here are the threat examples for Branding Beard:
- Dependency on External Traffic Sources. We get traffic from a very wide variety of sources, but Google, Facebook, & others combine for a large portion. Changes in algorithms or policies could substantially reduce traffic.
- Changes in Platform. Our site is built using many open-source technologies and free software such as WordPress. If these platforms or technologies change their structure, it could significantly impact our business.
- Death of Social Media. Changing social media policies, sites folding (Twitter), or being sold and cut apart (LinkedIn) could negatively impact our business.
- Loss of Monetization Channels. Since we are a content-based site, we rely on digital advertising to pay the bills. If any of those channels fold or start converting at a lower rate, it could negatively impact our business.
- Net Neutrality Issues. Changes in political policies related to net neutrality could have a far-reaching impact on the internet and my business.
Branding Beard SWOT Analysis
Now It’s Your Turn – Build Your SWOT Analysis
Whether you type it in a plain-text editor, draw it on a paper, or whiteboard it in your office, getting your thoughts down on paper is a great first step to understanding your business and where to put your time and energy. This is important for all businesses but vital for small blogs with limited time and resources.
Want to discuss your SWOT or get feedback? We have a brand new group for that! Join the Branding Beard Branding & Marketing Support Group on Facebook and post your SWOT and/or questions and our team will help answer as many as we can!