Analyzing Your Place in the Market


A SWOT analysis examines four aspects of performance that typically determine the success or failure of a company, employees or even an individual. Standing for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, this analysis can help new and emerging companies determine their proper place in today’s competitive marketplace. A SWOT analysis can also help established businesses chart their future as they consider issues common to all peer companies.

Strengths: Your Competitive Advantage

What makes your company special? What makes your employees excel? Your answers to these and scores of other questions will help identify your organization’s strengths. Look for your firm’s strengths by scrutinizing every aspect of your business and each one to peer companies. No area is off-limits. Examine management structure, training and company culture. Study pricing, new product development and market penetration. When you know your strengths, you can leverage them to improve your company’s overall competitive standing or your employees’ performance.

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Weaknesses: Another Word for Opportunity

A weakness isn’t a flaw as much as it is a caution signal, alerting you to areas that need improvement. Identify them, and then avoid them or work to improve these facets of your company. Ask yourself where your company can improve? Does it have the financial and human resources to do so? Can it take advantage of other opportunities that arise? Can you hire outside resources to strengthen areas where your company is weak? One magnified weakness can bring a firm to its knees, making the time and cost of shoring up limitations comparatively small.

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Opportunities: Your Path to Growth

Opportunities surround you and your business. Your task is to find them and leverage your strengths to take advantage of them. For example, what can’t competitors copy? Your answer could be an opportunity. Do you have room to grow your business by selling new products and services to existing clients? Maybe your company can expand into new markets with existing products and services? Identifying strengths, weaknesses and threats can yield opportunities for your business. Leverage your firm’s strengths to exploit growing trends.

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Threats: Obstacles That Can Trip Up Your Business

While weaknesses are internal, threats are external. You can turn a weakness into a strength, but you have to work around threats, which you typically can’t change. A weak economy and a giant company that begins selling your product or service are threats. The weather is a threat for retailers, travel companies and others. Take a macro—or long—view of your threats and develop a plan that addresses them.

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The SWOT Analysis: Putting It All Together

It’s one thing to make a list of your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. It’s another thing to take that information and develop a plan of action. Once you complete a comprehensive SWOT analysis, incorporate your findings into your business plan and marketing plan.

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