SWOT analysis systematically examines the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats affecting your business or product. It offers a clear structure and sheds light on opportunities and roadblocks early on; it helps your team design business strategies effectively. Some everyday use cases of a SWOT analysis include product planning, entering a new market, and launching a branding or rebranding campaign.
Now you know what SWOT stands for, but what do they mean in context?
Strengths: what your organization does well or what distinguishes you from your competitors. Strengths can represent external and internal factors. Knowing your strengths helps you identify and maintain a competitive advantage.
Weaknesses: inherent features of your organization, product, or offering that could use improvement. There are always weaknesses to uncover, even if they're not obvious or easy to identify.
Opportunities: potential openings or chances in the market that you can capitalize on to move your company forward. Identifying and pursuing opportunities requires an open mind. It's an especially beneficial exercise for product planning.
Threats: adverse conditions that can negatively impact your future success, such as shifts in the market, supply chain issues, or a shortage of resources and talent. Anticipating threats and taking action against them protects your company from failure.
The most challenging decisions to make in a growing organization are the high-level ones that dictate your company’s future success. That’s what a SWOT analysis is excellent for. One of the key benefits of a SWOT analysis is that it allows you to understand your current position objectively and either confirm or disprove preconceptions. Therefore, it’s best to do a SWOT analysis early in your strategy development process and before you decide on any new strategy.
Here are some additional triggers for when a SWOT analysis is appropriate:
When you receive new funding or are working with a different budget
When a new competitor enters your space
When your business’ performance has been stagnant, and you’re in search of a way to accelerate growth
Remember that you don’t have to do a SWOT analysis in isolation. Conducting them alongside other strategy tools—such as user research, mind-mapping, or competitor analysis—helps you gain a more comprehensive picture of the situation you’re dealing with.
Who to include in a SWOT analysis, and the results depend on the topic of your analysis:
Is it a new or existing product line?
Is it an upcoming go-to-market approach or an expansion effort?
Is it your current sales strategy?
Those with meaningful perspectives to offer on the topic are the ones to include. For example, if you’re doing a SWOT analysis for a new product line, the ideal stakeholders to include would be your product management team, subject matter experts, and your customers. If it’s business expansion, you should invite executive leaders, business analysts, and the sales and marketing teams.
As mentioned, a SWOT analysis explores four core areas: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. When conducting a SWOT analysis, separate details by each of these four areas. We get more into creating one below, but Airtable’s SWOT analysis template is the easiest and most organized way to create one.
To flesh out those details, gather input from different stakeholders and create a list of ideas as you go through each area. Below is some guidance for how to write each section.
We recommend starting with strengths because it puts you in a positive mindset. The goal is to identify and document the things that put you ahead of your competition and give your company long-term viability. These can be external or internal strengths. To identify strengths, ask these questions:
What is your unique selling proposition (USP)?
What are you (your product or your team) really good at?
What do your customers consider your strengths?
What resources are unique to you? (e.g., intellectual property, talent, funding)
No one likes to focus on weaknesses, but thinking through them helps you create a strategy that helps you rise above them. Even the most successful companies have flaws, so finding several doesn’t mean you’re bound for failure.
Here are some helpful questions to uncover your weaknesses:
What features of your business could you improve?
What internal or external factors are causing the most friction in your organization?
What resources do you need more of?
What might people outside of your organization consider your weaknesses?
Opportunities represent the possibilities for your business. Analyzing opportunities is where you can get creative and dream up different paths you can take to conquer more of your market. Ask yourself:
Are there any emerging trends in your market?
Is there a potentially viable tactic or strategy that others in your space have yet to successfully try?
Is there a way to use your strengths to create new opportunities?
No SWOT analysis is complete without deeply reflecting on your company’s threats. These are unfavorable conditions in the market that you ought to keep an eye on. While it’s unlikely you can altogether avoid your threats, knowing them will help minimize their impact on your ongoing strategy.
Here are some questions to point out your biggest threats:
Is there something your competition is doing that you’re not?
Of your weaknesses, what might become a threat to your business if you don’t fix them?
Are any of your competitors quickly gaining market share?
Are there new technological advances that might impact your ability to sell your product(s)?
Are there any significant events or movements in the industry that would hinder your sales or cause your customers to lose confidence in you?
To get the most out of your analysis, use as many different perspectives as you can to fill out each of the above sections thoroughly.
A completed SWOT analysis will contain a wealth of information that indicates what you should start doing, what you should do more of, and what you should stop or avoid. Use this knowledge to design concrete next steps, assignees, and timelines in your upcoming strategy.
You can format your SWOT analysis however you want, but it’s typical to find them in a spreadsheet or grid. The best way to ensure you’re doing a SWOT analysis correctly is by using a template. Airtable’s template is easy to use, accessible, and customizable for various contexts, stakeholders, and use cases. Below is an example of a SWOT analysis for a hypothetical bakery business.
When doing SWOT Analysis with Airtable, your analysis will be more comprehensive and easier for everyone on your team to access and contribute. Airtable is perfect for strategic planning because of a few key features. It’s a centralized platform for documentation and a relational database that allows you to pull from different data sources. Using Airtable will enable you to notify, assign, and gather input from various stakeholders, and it integrates with many of the tools your team already uses.
SWOT analysis is a critical tool for evaluating opportunities and developing a strategic, competitive path to success. With your newfound knowledge of SWOT analysis best practices, and Airtable’s easy-to-use template, you can now confidently apply the SWOT framework to your team’s strategic planning.
Download Airtable’s free SWOT analysis template to simplify your strategic planning process and generate powerful, actionable insights for success.
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