Recently, I was hired by a state-wide law firm to evaluate their marketing efforts and advise them on ways to improve and measure their results. I began by interviewing each of the key attorneys to see if everyone had the same vision for the firm. And as I suspected, each of them had varying opinions about the firm's strengths, the practice areas to market, and how.
This was not a huge surprise based on my previous experience working with clients. Furthermore, companies of all sizes spend tremendous amounts of time and money on advertising and promotions without a communications strategy or marketing plan. Yikes. However, to the law firm's credit, their in-house marketing coordinator had kept a spreadsheet tracking the firm's annual marketing expenses.
That said, based on my interviews and their previous marketing expenses, I decided the best way to help this client was to perform a SWOT analysis, a formal document designed to identify an organization’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. This information is often used as a blueprint for creating a strategic and balanced marketing plan. While most SWOT analysis are administered by marketing consultants and can be costly, you can create your own by following the instructions below.
While the SWOT format can be approached in different ways, for the sake of keeping it simple, start with 4 squares on a piece of paper. Make sure there is enough room to write 5-6 points on each square. Each statement does not have to be detailed, but should be well thought-out to get the most value.
The first row should be your company's internal strengths and weaknesses. Think about your company and things you can control. The second row (opportunities and threats) should include external factors, such as market trends, competition, economic conditions, and other factors that you may be out of your control. Now that you have created the four squares, it's time to add more details.
Identifying your company's strengths is an important part of this exercise, so take your time. For some, writing them down can be challenging, but for others you may end up with a long list. If you fall into the latter category, try to pair your list down to the top 4-6 that "define" your brand. Remember, strengths should be based on your company and internally focused. Each strength should address a single area of your brand. See below for some examples.
Writing down your weaknesses can be difficult, but believe me, you will find this part of the process very revealing. It is essential to understand what your business lacks to help make solid decisions such as: your marketing message, how much to spend on marketing, when to advertise, etc.
Here are some examples of weaknesses:
When considering opportunities, it helpful to review the organization’s strengths. Often times, strengths have the ability to create opportunities. Sometimes the list of opportunities can be lengthy and daunting. Your goal is to only identify opportunities, it is not a to-do-list, so don’t be afraid to think big! Later when you are creating your marketing plan, you can prioritize your opportunities.
Here are some examples of opportunities:
When evaluating threats, look beyond the obvious, like competitors or the economy. This does not mean that you exclude these from your threat list. However, you should expand your thinking to include other threats. For instance, political policies, road construction, material costs, etc.
Here are some examples of threats: