SWOT Template Basics
SWOT template: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Strengths and weaknesses refer to traits like flexibility, a special expertise or lack thereof, and other internal factors that you have some control over. On the other hand, opportunities and threats are environmental factors like the price of oil, changes in consumer preferences, rising interest rates, and other external events that are much more difficult, or even impossible, to control (but that clearly affect your business).
SWOT Template Assessment Matrix
SWOT TEMPLATE: STRENGTHS
Strengths, also known as core competencies, are areas where your or your organization stands out from others in your industry. These can include technology (special code or patents that only you possess), marketing/sales savvy, personnel, experience, or cost advantages.
When you’re trying to figure out what your strengths are, some questions you might want to ask yourself include the following. To gain a realistic picture of your strengths, it’s also important that you ask these questions of your employees, customers, business partners, and industry experts:
- What unique advantages does my company have in the marketplace or industry?
- What does my company do very well?
- What does my company do that surpasses our competitors?
- Is there access to resources or distribution channels or technology that is unique to my company?
- How do individuals within the organization contribute to our success?
- What expertise or unique experience do I or my employees have that will have a positive impact upon our business growth?
- What other strengths does my company have that provide it with a unique advantage in the market?
The strengths that you and your company have are relative to the entire industry. Therefore, if all of your competitors have the same cost position or access to the same distribution channels, then you cannot consider that a strength; it simply becomes a minimum requirement. A good example of this is in the banking industry, where exceptional service is critical to keeping customers (especially as banks find it harder to compete on interest rates alone). Using a customer relationship management (CRM) system to communicate with your clients is a nice-to-have asset, but it is not necessarily something that would be considered a strength, since it has become a minimum requirement rather than an exception for most banks. However, if a bank does something different with the software that allows it to better serve its customers, then the use of this specialized program is turned into a strength or core competency.
Write down 3 most important strenghs to your SWOT template.
Obviously weaknesses are areas in which your company fails to excel or lacks expertise altogether. Therefore, not possessing some of the qualities noted in the strength category can be considered weaknesses if your major competitors have these abilities. But if your competitors don’t have these skills either (perhaps everybody’s poor at managing changing customer demand), then this may not be a mortal weakness—yet. Important questions to ask yourself to determine your weaknesses include Relative to our competitors, what areas are we simply not proficient at?
- Do we lack experience in a vital area such as sales, or do we lack the ability to develop new products that will contribute to our growth?
- Do we have a shortage of people with the right experience, skills, or expertise?
- How much knowledge do we possess about certain markets or industry sectors that are relevant to our business?
- Do we lack technical skills or need improvements in our ability to operate smoothly?
- Are we experiencing production capacity problems because our systems are not working at peak performance?
- Are our manufacturing/production costs too high, yet we are not able to lower them in the near future?
- What other areas need improvement?
It’s far easier to admit to your strengths, but a candid appraisal of your weaknesses is important. If you have colleagues or friends whom you trust, ask them if they think your assessment is accurate. If you have employees, their input is vital, too. If you personally are not good at selling, don’t delude yourself into believing that you can overcome this simply by being passionately committed to your business. Talking to others may help you see that your competition might be just as passionate—and have a talented sales force as well. However, if everybody in the industry is weak in a certain area (such as limited distribution channels), you may see that this may not be a major weakness yet, since it puts you on a level playing field with your competitors. Once you have clearly defined your areas of weakness, then you will be in a better position to determine if they can be turned into strengths.
Write down 3 most important weaknesses to your SWOT template.
It’s always fun to daydream about business opportunities—a new location, a possible new product line, an expansion through acquisition, or discovering an underserved market.
Opportunities are external factors in the marketplace that you do not control, yet that present you with the ability to grow your business if you position yourself correctly. Opportunities can include strong demand for certain products, lack of satisfaction with available product options, and/or limited competition. Here are some questions to help you identify opportunities in your market:
- Is there strong customer demand in the market for our products or services and the value that we provide to our customers?
- Is there a lack of satisfaction with the products that are currently offered or available?
- Is our competition limited or weak in certain areas that we have not yet addressed or attacked with full effort?
- Is there a lack of competitors or substitute products or services that currently satisfy customers’ needs?
- Are there readily available and/or easily accessed distribution channels (e.g., the Internet or the opening of a new trade channel) that we
- can take advantage of?
- Are there opportunities to easily enter a new or related market?
- What other opportunities are there in the market that will help me launch my business?
- Are switching costs (perceived or real) low?
Write down 3 most important opportunities to your SWOT template.
By threats, I mean conditions in the marketplace that make entry or growth less desirable, more difficult, or even risky, including competitors, regulation, tax law changes, new technologies, cheaper overseas labor, and litigation. Threats include obstacles that stand in the way of your company’s achieving success because you lack control over them. An example of a threat that is being faced by many businesses today is the movement of production facilities to low-cost countries like India and China. If your competitors now begin to benefit from significantly lower production costs, this could have a major impact on your organization, your pricing scenario, and the industry as a whole. To identify threats to your business, begin by asking yourself questions like these:
- Do barriers to entry, such as limited distribution channels or the closure of certain channels for importing or exporting products, affect my business?
- How much competition is there in the market?
- Are there a lot of substitute products, making it difficult for me to differentiate my value?
- Is my company affected by an increase in the price of supplies or lack of availability of certain supplies required to develop or deliver my product?
- Does inertia affect my business (i.e., people are “happy enough” with the present solution to their problem)?
- What regulations affect my business, now and in the future?
- Have there been any changes in customers’ interest in my product or service?
Write down 3 most important threats to your SWOT template.
Fill in the SWOT template matrix with your own data and thoughts!