When marketing tactics are falling flat, teams have various ways to investigate why they cannot meet their goals. Social media account, blog, and other channel-specific audits are invaluable for informing targeted adjustments. Still, there is one incredibly valuable—although resource-intense—way to explore how each of these and much more is factoring into the team’s success: a marketing SWOT analysis.
A marketing SWOT analysis is the most effective way to understand your holistic marketing program’s results and identify ways to increase the likelihood of meeting your goals (and staying in business). The process is thorough and can be daunting for those unfamiliar with the steps. Still, there are several ways to stay focused during your analysis so that it can drive meaningful results instead of trapping your team in an endless analysis paralysis loop of evaluation and brainstorming.
What is a (Marketing) SWOT Analysis?
Simply put, a SWOT analysis is a framework that your marketing team can use to assess your team’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT).
Strengths and weaknesses generally involve internal factors that your team controls, whereas opportunities and threats are external factors, like general market conditions and your competitive landscape.
The SWOT framework helps inform many business planning processes—and you’ll almost always want a cross-departmental team to inform the analysis—but we’re going to focus just on marketing applications here.
We recommend that you conduct a formal SWOT analysis at least once a year. You can complete more frequent mini-analyses to help you stay ahead of the trends. This also allows you to pivot sooner rather than later if there is evidence that your strategy may underperform.
Why Should Your Team Conduct a Marketing SWOT Analysis?
This strategic process ensures that your team is taking a full look at the factors that could impact your success, both internal and external. During the analysis, your marketing team will get a 360 look at your organization and leverage insights from other departments to ensure you’ve considered all angles and priorities.
Here are just a few ways that a marketing SWOT analysis can benefit your team:
- Hard data is better than assumptions. Teams should not build a year-long program simply based on someone’s gut feeling or because “this is how we’ve always done it.” The SWOT analysis will gather data to either reinforce or challenge assumptions, allowing your team to make informed decisions.
- Organizational alignment drives efficiencies. Because the SWOT analysis involves members from your entire organization, teams can become better aligned on their priorities and understand what each group is focused on and creating.
- Overcome creative hurdles. If your team feels stuck on what to do next or how to approach a new campaign, a SWOT analysis can often fast-track your brainstorming and find a more viable solution to drive the desired results.
Who Should Be Involved in a Marketing SWOT Analysis?
A SWOT analysis is a multi-step process, and various team members across your entire company should play a role at some point. So, it’s time to break down those organizational silos.
Here are the main job roles/functions to include during your SWOT analysis:
- Marketing team (entire): Everyone who has some role in helping your team’s marketing efforts should participate in the SWOT process. The marketing team will conduct the initial lift of research and data gathering (we explain more in a bit), participate in brainstorming, and ensure follow-through on the next steps.
- Customer success and sales team: Customer-facing team members should have a wealth of knowledge about your customers, the challenges they face at work, the solutions they hope to find, and how they prefer to engage with sellers. The sales team can augment your marketing team’s initial findings to build a more thorough SWOT analysis draft (which will then be workshopped by the entire group).
- Product team: Your product team likely has thorough insight not just on your own company’s products, but also on your competitor’s products and why customers choose one brand over another. These team members will be incredibly valuable during your SWOT brainstorm, and they can also help inform the pre-brainstorm research.
- C-suite execs (including the chief marketing officer): Your company CMO (or equivalent) will act as an initial quality check on the SWOT analysis, guiding the marketing team in creating a solid foundation that will meet the needs of the other c-suite stakeholders.
These are just a few of the titles that should be involved, and feel free to loop in other departments that you may see fit (such as design, IT, supply chain representatives, and more).
Also, keep an eye out for any of your colleagues with SWOT analysis experience that can help oversee the process. Many professionals with a master of business administration (MBA) conducted extensive SWOT analyses during school. They can potentially serve as a guide for your team during this process to ensure you’re staying on track.
An Overview of The Marketing SWOT Process
How to Start a SWOT Analysis in Four Steps
Before you should gather the individuals we identified above, you’ll want to collect your preliminary research and findings to serve as a launching pad for the rest of the process.
Here are the primary four steps to start a SWOT analysis:
- Step one: Conduct initial marketing team research. Have just your marketing team gather relevant data that will inform your analysis. This can include KPIs and information associated with your social media channels, blog content, recent customer wins (and associated industries), competitor activities, and more. Identify any gaps that need to be filled by other departments.
- Step two: Partner with other teams to augment research. After your marketing team has finished its initial lift of the data pull, reach out to other groups and organizations within your company to fill in those gaps you previously identified. It’s also an opportunity for those other teams to share new data or information that marketing initially overlooked.
- Step three: Share base research findings with the marketing lead. We’re almost to the end of the prep phase. Now, you’ll want your marketing team leader to review the gathered data and provide the green light to schedule the initial SWOT discussion. Or, your team will take an additional pass to fill in any gaps before moving on to step four.
- Step four: Host initial SWOT analysis meeting. Invite your cross-departmental SWOT analysis group to your initial conversation and brainstorming meeting. Start with an overview of the research findings and KPIs, and let those numbers kickstart conversations for each of the SWOT elements.
How To Complete Each Section
Teams can host the SWOT analysis meeting in various ways, spanning from traditional in-person brainstorms (for those who work in settings where that is currently possible, which isn’t that many of us as of this writing due to COVID-19 related remote work) to conversations hosted via digital conferencing solutions.
Regardless of which way your team chooses, ensure there are systems for the team to collaborate and freely share ideas. Your team can use whiteboards, sticky notes, collaborative documents, and more to facilitate this idea-sharing. We’ve created this Marketing SWOT Template that your team can use to guide your conversations.
Begin your meeting with a quick overview of the meeting’s purpose, how the team will discuss the SWOT elements, and anticipated next steps. From there, you will dissect each of the SWOT elements, starting with the data your team has gathered and then leading into a brainstorm of that section.
Strengths: How To Identify Marketing Strengths
The “strengths” of a marketing SWOT analysis involve any factors or qualities that help your team accomplish your goals. As previously mentioned, strengths are internal factors that your team can control.
These can include any resources, skills, and general advantages that your team has. Use these questions to guide your team in building out your list of strengths:
- What subject matter expertise do we have?
- Do we have access to plentiful resources, such as money or team member availability?
- How loyal are our customers? Do they often praise us online and with repeat purchases?
- Are our employees often serving as brand ambassadors without solicitation?
- What types of content do we have that have exceeded our goals?
- Where are our teams and company offices located?
- What proprietary information do we have for marketing purposes?
- How are our audience size and engagement levels across our social media and various communications channels?
Weaknesses: How to Identify Marketing Weaknesses
Marketing “weaknesses,” in sharp contrast with strengths, are any factors or elements that will prevent your team from achieving your goals. Again, these are internal factors that your team has control over.
It will benefit you to explore these weaknesses without bias or personal ego getting in the way. Unless you can honestly admit what isn’t working for your team, you’re likely to stay stuck in the same rut.
Approach the questions we explored above to determine your strengths from a flipped lens, this time asking where you may fall short or be unable to access critical resources. In addition to that new lens for the above, consider these questions to supplement your marketing weaknesses:
- What processes does our team conduct manually or in a time-intensive manner?
- Is our team turnover rate impacting our ability to succeed? Are there any key roles we have trouble filling with the correct level of expertise?
- What internal blockers are there for our success? Decision-making hurdles, approval cycle lags, etc.?
- How unified are our various departments/do we have a siloed structure that impacts our ability to succeed?
- What type of content or communications channels are consistently underperforming?
This process will likely uncover many quick fixes that your team can make—but hold off and stay on course to finish your SWOT analysis. Once the full SWOT process is complete, your team can more effectively identify the areas you can quickly address and achieve an immediate boost to your results (we’ll discuss how to handle the next steps from your marketing SWOT analysis below).
Threats: How to Identify Marketing Threats
Your team should next explore its marketing threats. Yes, in this order, it should be a “SWTO” analysis, but that doesn’t sound as catchy.
For this area, you’ll turn attention away from your internal organization and factors within your control to the external issues, changes, and occurrences that could hinder your results (or, worst case, put your company out of business).
Get into disaster planning mode and think through everything that could negatively impact your company in some way. Use these questions to start building your marketing threats list:
- Is our supply chain at risk due to supply shortages, natural disasters, or other potential disruptions?
- What competitors are in our space, and how could they hinder our success? How are their products better than ours? Do they have access to more or higher quality resources? How notable is their executive team?
- How is the technology for our industry changing, and how could this disrupt our business six months from now? A year? Five years?
- Are there any industry organizations or coalitions we are not partnering with?
- Is there a potential merger or acquisition activity that we should prepare to address?
- Is there any legal activity we should be aware of or tracking?
This process will likely require your team to read through the latest headlines and industry analysis. The most straightforward place to start is to review the past six months of announcements from your competitors to get an idea of their strategic direction and priorities. Include this summary in the original research your marketing team conducts.
Opportunities: How to Identify Marketing Opportunities
Opportunities are arguably the most challenging part of a SWOT analysis because this requires you to think through activities you should pursue based on your other findings. The goal is to find actions you can take to leverage your strengths, start to improve your weaknesses, and shield your company from external threats.
Questions that can guide you through this area include:
- How can we use our strengths to help achieve our goals?
- Which of the threats we identified are most pressing? How can we mitigate the potential risks of these?
- What weaknesses are holding us back the most? How do we address this?
- Of the potential activities we can pursue, which will drive the highest value with the least resources?
A Marketing SWOT Analysis Increases Your Team Resilience
Take the findings from your initial SWOT analysis conversation to build a new, clean document that organizes the results and highlights the next steps. Share this report with the team via email or through collaborative documents, and host another discussion meeting if there appears to be significant misalignment in the group.
After everyone aligns on the next steps, have your marketing lead gain final approval from your top company leadership. Then it is time to start working on those ideas you generated.
You will rarely create a “perfect” SWOT analysis, which is OK. The SWOT analysis process is iterative, and ongoing analysis of your results will allow your team to make changes mid-course more confidently.
In case you missed it above, we’ve created this Marketing SWOT Template that you can download and customize to guide your conversations. If your team is looking for more information, the #ContentChat community of marketers discussed how to conduct your marketing SWOT analysis in this past chat recap. You can also leave a comment below, and we’ll do our best to help you!