Looking to conduct a SWOT analysis? Read on for SWOT analysis templates, plus top tips and SWOT best practices.
What is a SWOT analysis?
A SWOT analysis is a simple and practical form of evaluation model. SWOTs look at a combination of internal and external factors, as well as assessing strengths and weaknesses. This combination of evaluation metrics means a SWOT analysis is particularly useful for gaining a thorough overview of a business, product, brand, or project.
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SWOTs allow you to think about your own internal strengths and weaknesses, and well as begin to think about external opportunities and threats that could affect your company performance. It also allows you to explore what the differentiators between yourself and your competitors is.
SWOTs have been around since at least the 1960s, although their origins are unclear, and are still used today in businesses across the world.
Whilst a SWOT is good starting point for evaluation, the disadvantage of a SWOT is that it doesn’t produce actionable outcomes – rather it helps you understand where you currently stand, and how you can begin to move your business forward.
A good SWOT should always be followed by further planning and development.
The simplest way to build a SWOT analysis is to use a SWOT analysis template. Consultants and freelancers should check out our consulting templates that are custom designed to impress clients and other stakeholders.
What does SWOT stand for?
SWOT is an acronym which stands for:
The first two letters of our SWOT, Strengths and Weaknesses are internal factors that you have control over, and you should look within your company or business to complete these letters. Opportunities and Threats are external factors that you do not have control over, and you should look outside of your organization complete these letters.
Strengths are the areas that you excel in. What do you do better than anybody else? What do people praise you for?
To identify your Strengths, spend some time thinking about what you’ve done well, what tasks were well within your comfort zone, and any times that you’ve exceeded expectations, or achieved fantastic results.
Next you identify the areas that need improvement. Think about things you find difficult to achieve, times you’ve struggled to meet expectations, and areas that you don’t feel confident in. Look back at your Strengths list and think about the inverse.
Weaknesses should always be things you have control over, and things that you can put steps in place to improve upon.
Moving onto the “O” in our SWOT – Opportunities are areas that your business could take advantage of. Is there an unserved or underserved market that you could grow into? Are you maximizing your media coverage? Could you change or develop a product to better serve a wider audience?
Within Opportunities, you should also look back at your Strengths and Weaknesses lists, and include any weaknesses that could be turned into a strength as an opportunity.
Finally, threats are potential or upcoming obstacles that you should be wary of. In this case, by threat we mean emerging competitors, changes in the market, things that would negatively affect your business. Most commonly, you will not have any control over your threats but it’s still important to be aware of them so that you can develop contingency plans.
Why Would You Use A SWOT Analysis?
It’s important to remember that your business doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and that you should analyze both internal and external factors. SWOTs allow you to gain a good, thorough understanding of where your business sits within the wider market, as well as identify potential opportunities to explore.
The benefit of a SWOT analysis is that you can directly compare every individual letter to its three counterparts. You can explore the relationship between your strengths and your weaknesses, but also look at how your strengths could be used to help leverage opportunities, and assess the potential your strengths have to help improve your weaknesses.
These relationships are particularly evident when using a 2×2 grid SWOT system.
When using the 2×2 grid system for a SWOT analysis, it is much easier to compare all four categories at once.
If you’re an existing business, a couple of key times you should be conducting SWOT analysis are:
Product or Service Launches
If you were launching a new product or service, a SWOT analysis would be useful to help you develop effective product positioning. By looking at what you do better than anybody else, where your weaknesses lie, and opportunities and competitors, you would be able to ensure that your product has the best chance of success.
When developing or building a new business plan, a SWOT is a great starting point. It allows you to evaluate your current performance, identify areas for improvement, and look for new opportunities.
When going through a period of rapid growth within your business, you should take some time to conduct a SWOT analysis. This will help to ensure that you are able to reach your growth goals. Doing a SWOT also helps you identify any possible weaknesses that may become issues for your growth further down the line. A consulting proposal template is a great place to start if you’re drawing up growth strategy for a client.
When developing a marketing plan you should conduct a SWOT for your product or service. By looking at what you do better than your competitors you can start to understand the best way to market your product. Equally, by looking at opportunities you can being to understand potential new markets, as well as underserved areas that you already market within. Marketers, consultants and freelancers often include SWOT analyses in competitor analysis reports–use a consulting report template to build your own.
Bottom line: Start with a marketing plan and gradually include a SWOT into the mix.
A SWOT analysis can be used to evaluate the strengths of a team. This is particularly useful if doing a restructure or creating new departments. By conducting a SWOT, you can identify areas of weakness in your team and put plans in place to hire or train team members.
In some circumstances, a SWOT analysis may be applicable for personal growth. If, for example, you were looking to move up the career ladder in your existing profession, or to change careers completely. If creating a SWOT for personal reasons, you should slightly reposition your thinking regarding “threats”. Rather than thinking about competitors or change in the market, think more about things that may hold you back personally – ie. a lack of finances, an upcoming relocation.
How To Create A SWOT Analysis
There are many different ways you can visualize a SWOT.
Use a 2×2 grid
You could use a 2×2 grid. This is a good way to compare all data at once, as each box has a direct relationship with every other box. This makes it easier to think about a SWOT as a whole, in context – rather than as individual segments.
A 2×2 grid is easily stylized and a flexible design style, and you can use brand colors, shapes, or motifs. 2×2 grids are also useful in business reports that contain a lot of information, as they make it easy to digest all elements of the SWOT quickly.
Use a vertical list
You can also use a vertical list. Vertical list SWOT analysis templates work well within reports, on the internet, or if sending via email. If you’re doing this, make sure you make a visual distinction between each segment by using a box or leaving plenty of space.
Use a horizontal table
Vertical SWOTs can be less useful for presentations, due to the orientation of presentation slides usually being landscape.
In this case, you should use a horizontal table. This is good for presentations as it allows you to fill the entire screen with information. Again, just make sure to suitably differentiate the segments with color, graphics, or empty space between the columns.
What To Evaluate In Your SWOT Analysis?
When creating a SWOT it can be difficult to find jumping off points for your evaluation. Often, you either go to big and list “impossible to fix” problems, or think small and spend your time and energy focusing on things that are overall insignificant.
That’s why it’s important to decide an overall goal or objective that you want your SWOT to help you achieve. This could be more sales, bigger growth, better brand recognition, a prestigious award, or more.
Once you have decided on a goal, you can start your evaluation by thinking about:
- Your customers
- Your competitors
- Your market share
- Business growth
- Price point
- Online following
- Customer retention rate
- Budget restrictions
- Company culture
A good way to conduct a SWOT is to hold a brainstorm or open session, with all of the right people like we discussed before, and fill a flipchart with every idea and thought people have on the topic. At this point there’s no wrong answer.
After this is complete, spend some time going through the lists and picking 5-10 “true” strengths, opportunities, threats, and weaknesses. Think about which items on your list are most pertinent to your overall goal. Think about which items are having the biggest effect on your business as it stands, making sure you relate each of your SWOT answers to your original goal.
Once your SWOT is complete you can use the information you have gathered to inform your business strategy.
Spend some time thinking about:
- How you can continue to develop your strengths?
- How you can improve your weaknesses, what procedures can be put in place, or training can you undertake to help with this?
- Also think about how you can leverage your strengths to take advantage of the opportunities you’ve listed.
- Can your strengths be used to tackle any threats?
- What about your weaknesses, will they hold you back from pursuing the opportunities?
- Will your weaknesses further disadvantage you when it comes to your threat list?
SWOT Analysis Best Practices & Design Tips
Whilst SWOTs are a fairly straightforward evaluation model, there are a couple of SWOT best practice tips you should follow in order to maximize the effectiveness of your SWOT:
Use measurable and quantifiable statements in your SWOT.
You should be able to evidence all of the points in your SWOT, aka prove that you are good at the thing you said you are good at. Saying you increase your market share regularly is good, but saying you increase your market share 10% year over year is even better.
Make sure all areas of your business are represented when developing the SWOT.
Get feedback from different departments on both what their strengths/weaknesses are, but ask what they think your strengths/weaknesses are.
Try and keep the lists an even number.
If you have 5 strengths, find 5 weaknesses. For every opportunity, try and write down a threat. This makes it easier to compare the categories.
Have a goal in mind when doing your SWOT analysis.
Whether this is launching a new project or business, or scaling your revenue – SWOTs are particularly useful when there’s a definitive outcome you’re trying to achieve.
Don’t aim for the perfect SWOT list straight away.
Start with much longer lists, gathered in a brainstorming session, and whittle the lists down. Which brings us on to…
Make sure your SWOT is thorough.
Make sure you’ve thought about every possible strength, weakness, threat, and opportunity. A SWOT is only as valuable as the information you include, so make sure you do your due diligence during the analysis.
Format your SWOT in a way that makes sense for multiple uses.
If you plan to present your SWOT analysis to a higher up within your company, make sure it is clear to understand, and presented in a way that makes it easy to take in all of the information at once – such as a 2×2 grid template. If it’s for a company presentation, use a horizontal SWOT analysis template.
Think short, mid, and long term.
Your product might be great now, but what could be happening in the next 6 months that might affect that? What about within the next year? Sure that competitor could be small fish now, but what about if they have an aggressive growth plan in place? You need to be prepared for that to stay ahead of the game.
Use clever design tricks.
Use color in your SWOT to help grab attention, and differentiate different areas of your SWOT.
Ready To Create Your SWOT Analysis?
A SWOT analysis is an invaluable tool for evaluation, and is particularly useful for small businesses or businesses in times of change. Make sure you follow these SWOT analysis best practice tips to maximize your evaluation opportunities, and further your evaluation by conducting a thorough Competitor Analysis.