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Marketing Research: SWOT

This guide provides an overview on how to use the library resources for marketing research.

What is the difference between a SWOT Analysis and an Environmental Analysis?

SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) is a simple but useful framework for analyzing your organization’s strengths and weaknesses and the opportunities and threats that you face. It helps you focus on your strengths, minimize threats, and take the greatest possible advantage of opportunities available to you.

The aim of any SWOT analysis is to identify the key internal and external factors that are important to achieving the objective. These come from within your organization’s unique value proposition. SWOT analysis groups key pieces of information into two main categories:

  • Internal factors – The strengths and weaknesses internal to your organization.
  • External factors – The opportunities and threats presented by the external environment,
    i.e., competition to your organization.

SWOT analysis may be used in any decisionmaking situation when an objective has been defined. SWOT should be applied at multiple levels in the business development planning process.

At the enterprise level, use SWOT to help build a strategic plan. SWOT analysis can be used to “kick off” strategy formulation.


An environmental analysis categorizes the changes and forces that affect your company either directly or indirectly through your customers, suppliers and competitors. This type of analysis is usually conducted in the process of preparing a strategic plan, with the goal being to identify threats and opportunities for your business. Some environmental forces include:

  1. Political
  2. Economic
  3. Social
  4. Technological

Strengths

An organization’s strengths are its resources and capabilities that can be used as a basis for developing a competitive advantage. Consider your strengths from both an internal perspective, and from the point of view of your customers and people in your market. 

When looking at your strengths, think about them in relation to your competitors. 

  • What advantages does your organization currently have?
  • What do you do better than anyone else?
  • Does your organization have an excellent reputation?
  • Does your organization have outstanding subject matter expertise?

Weaknesses

Consider weaknesses from both an internal and customer-centric basis: Do other people seem to perceive weaknesses that you don’t see? Are your competitors doing anything better than you? Be realistic now, and face any unpleasant truths as soon as possible.

  • What weaknesses does your organization cur­rently have?
  • Does your organization have the resources to invest to do this job correctly?
  • What could you improve?
  • What are people in your market likely to see as weaknesses?
  • What factors lose you sales?

Understanding SWOT Analysis

Resources on Preparing a SWOT Analysis

Opportunities

A useful approach when looking at opportunities is to look at your strengths and ask yourself whether these open up any opportunities. Alternatively, look at your weaknesses and ask yourself whether you could open up opportunities by eliminating them.

  • What good opportunities can you spot?
  • What interesting trends are you aware of?
  • What are current changes in technology and markets on both a broad and narrow scale?
  • What are current changes in government policy related to your field?
  • What are relevant changes in social patterns, population profiles, lifestyle changes, etc.?

Threats

Don’t overlook external factors, such as new government regulations or technological changes in your industry.

  • What obstacles do you face?
  • What are your competitors doing?
  • Are there new regulations that threaten your approach?
  • Is changing technology threatening your position?
  • Could any of your weaknesses seriously threaten your business?