Written by: Atul Suri
About the author: Vice President, Sales & Marketing (SBU Head), HR leader, UN Peacekeeper & Indian Army Veteran
A SWOT Analysis forms the very basis of every decision taken, be it on charting strategies to meet the Vision and Mission of the organization or even for arriving at a well thought of Brand Plan for a Marketer.
I attended a yearlong Higher Defence Management Course at the Prestigious College of Defence Management (CDM), while I was serving in the Army. The Vision of CDM is to be the Nation’s premier Centre of Excellence in developing future generations of strategic leaders for meeting the challenges to National Security. The flagship module or very easily the very raison d’être of CDM is to train Officers to carry out Net Assessments. An integral and absolutely essential part of a Net Assessment is a SWOT Analysis.
Having been through numerous Brand Plans of Product Managers, at all levels, over the years, I feel there is a need to share my perspective through this blog, on certain nuances of a SWOT analysis. I understand that the blog is popular among young Sales and Marketing professionals, which is why I have decided to focus on the very basics for my first contribution on SimApt’s CXOs Blog; for, SWOT analyses practiced by many, in its current form, turn out to be a Sweet Waste of Time (SWOT)!!!
SWOT: Let us get it right
While an earnest effort is made by all to scan and analyse the external environment by considering the Market, the growth, the share of own brand and that of the competitors, regional dimensions etc; very often major data points, though captured, are missed out while plotting them in the SWOT Analysis. Simply put, every data point should find mention in some quadrant of the SWOT Grid.
What most Brand Managers end up doing is to simply list down the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, often mixing up Threats with Weaknesses and Opportunities with Strengths and then directly proceed towards formulating the strategies.
The Strength Versus Opportunities Quandary
Apart from the obvious difference of a Strength being an internal factor and an opportunity being an external one, a strength is an inherent capacity which you can use to gain strategic advantage for achieving your Brand Objectives; whereas, an opportunity is a favourable condition in the external environment, which enables the brand to consolidate and strengthen its position in the market.
The Weakness Versus Threat Quandary
Similarly, a weakness is an inherent limitation, or constraint which creates strategic disadvantage for your Brand and a Threat is an unfavourable condition in the external environment, which creates a risk or causes damage to the Brand Value.
How do Strategies flow out from the SWOT Grid?
Once you have identified the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, it is essential to work out the impact these factors can have on gaining a competitive advantage for your product / brand or organization and only then should you move on to chart your strategies. Merely listing out a long list of factors is not the key to a brilliant analysis, but, identifying the impact it would have on your brand is. So, choose wisely by evaluating each of these factors scientifically. You could create your own Performance – Impact Matrix to evaluate the Internal Factors of Strengths and Weaknesses to arrive at inter se priorities. For the external factors, you could work out a matrix that considers the Probability of Occurrence of the event and map it against the severity of the threat or the attractiveness of the opportunity, to give you greater clarity in formulating your strategies.
Mandatory Strategies and Mixed Strategies
The strategies emanating from each individual factor (S, W, O & T) considered singularly are called Mandatory Strategies. If we do not convert our major strengths or weaknesses into a strategy, it simply means we are not maximising our strengths or minimising our weaknesses and we are not also Capitalizing on Opportunities or Nullifying the Threats. Mandatory Strategies must cater for all these aspects.
Most marketers stop here, considering the job done. But, to get it right, it is very important to work out your Mixed Strategies.
So, what are Mixed Strategies?
Simply put, these are strategies that
- Use Strengths to take advantage of Opportunities (SO Strategies)
- Are designed to overcome Weaknesses by taking advantage of Opportunities (WO Strategies)
- Use Strengths to avoid/deter/defeat Threats (ST Strategies)
- Are designed to avoid threats till weaknesses are overcome (WT Strategies)
To focus your attention on mixed strategies, it would serve you well to list down your factors in a table like the one given below and give due thought to the mixed strategies
The SWOT Analysis is an effective tool that will guide you in formulating your strategies. However, as explained above, an analytical approach should be adopted beyond mere generation of lists under each heading. You must specifically determine the cause and effect arising from each factor in the process, before you commence with strategy formulation.
Remember, while Mandatory strategies will enable you to achieve your objectives, the mixed strategies will ensure you create the competitive edge every marketer desires.