Some people feel that “theory” is just what it sounds like–theoretical, not necessarily rooted in reality. However, with many industries feeling intense competition in these tough economic times, it may be helpful to return to proper industry analysis to improve the effectiveness of marketing strategies as well as forecast where the industry is headed.

To do so, it is crucial to step back and consider how SWOT analysis can benefit your company for long-term sustainability.

What is SWOT?

According to “Strategic Management” (2012), SWOT is a framework for analyzing a company’s internal and external environment by determining the company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (Dess, Lumpkin, Eisner, McNamara). These factors may alter or even derail a company’s strategy, and only when you can prepare for these factors can you adapt to change and be successful. Success realistically lies in resurgence from change, which is why marketers need to have a plan for building on strengths, working around weaknesses, taking advantage of opportunities, and protecting the company from threats.

Strengths

Strengths are factors that a marketing team should focus on most and communicate across as many forms of media as possible, including social media channels. Owning how your company is different from other companies in the same industry gives you a competitive advantage.

Social media can help consumers interact with your brand and associate those strengths with it. Some companies just need a medium for consumers to interact and even participate in the evolution of a brand. This can be accomplished by inviting users to discussions, hosting contests or sweepstakes, and even developing a crowdsourcing campaign to collect direct user feedback in a participatory arrangement. These tactics will mostly generate positive opinions about the brand and help develop a sustainable brand name that can survive through change.

Weaknesses

Company weaknesses are problems/limitations that require special attention to solve. They can even be motivators to find new, unique ways to sell or communicate value. Brands that recognize weaknesses but strategize to portray them as positive aspects will convince consumers that they are not victimized by their confines.

For example, a retailer with limited ability to develop new, non-traditional products can choose to position themselves in a positive light by taking a public stand that they are “sticking to what works best” and are confident that their product is just as reliable as ever. The competitive advantage here is classic style and dependability rather than unreliable trends.

By turning your limitations into positive qualities that you own as if they were your strengths, you send an important message that resonates with like-minded consumers.

Opportunity

Opportunities require marketers to forecast changes in a particular industry and have a unique strategy ready that will allow them to adapt. Opportunities can take many shapes and vary by industry. Think fads in fitness and diet, technological advances, popularity in pop culture, greater interest in environmentalism, and so on.

A marketing team that can not only recognize these trends but also shape their offering to coincide with them will achieve a competitive advantage that leads to success. Not preparing for the changing interests of your consumers will brand your company offerings as “outdated,” which is often nearly impossible to recover from. For this reason, strive to be an Apple, not a Dell.

Threats

Threats also take many forms and can revolve around larger global or political limitations. The goal of marketers must be, therefore, to protect the company from threats and prepare to change a strategy if it conflicts with future success.

Some demographic components that can threaten a company include rising or declining affluence, changes in ethnic composition, and greater disparities of income levels. Political threats to a company could include federally mandated work quality obligations like minimum wage adjustments or taxation shifts at local, state, and federal levels. Global threats include disconnected global economic conditions, unemployment ratios, changes in stock market valuations, and national distress like war, natural disasters, and so on. These are called threats because they are usually uncontrollable, but in no way the end-all of your company–if you can adapt.

If you were to brainstorm your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, how would it affect your marketing strategy?

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