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The Ins and Outs of SWOT Analysis for Marketing Growth Use this remarkable tool to realign your marketing campaign with what will give you the best results.

By Craig Simpson

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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What if there was an analysis tool that helped to shine a spotlight on all the critical aspects of a company's situation so that an intelligent, focused direct mail program can be developed?

There is: It's called SWOT Analysis.

By performing a SWOT analysis of your business and marketing strategies, you can:

  • Highlight your Strengths
  • Acknowledge your Weaknesses
  • Identify Opportunities to build on
  • Target Threats to reduce or eliminate

By targeting this analysis on your direct marketing campaign(s), you can discover ways to save money in producing the campaign, create a more effective program, and overall build your profits and your business more quickly.

What is SWOT?

SWOT is an acronym that stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. You can think of your strengths and weaknesses as internal factors that are present right now. Opportunities and threats are external factors that point to the future. By identifying your strengths and weaknesses, you can build on your strengths to take advantage of your opportunities, while you modify your weaknesses so you become less vulnerable to your threats.

When you use SWOT to identify competitive advantages by linking strengths to opportunities, this is known as MATCHING. This is where you find your niche and go for it. When you link up your weaknesses to threats, and then use that to change your tactics, that's known as CONVERTING.

For example, let's say you've been marketing your product to people in their 20s. But now, it's your tenth year in business, and your loyal customers – and potential new customers – are now in their 30s. Meanwhile, 20-year-olds are moving on to something else.

By keeping your old marketing tactics, you're losing business. But by gearing your advertising towards your older customers, you're performing a conversion. Another conversion tactic would be to design products that appeal to younger buyers. In either case, you've identified the problem with SWOT, and you have a way to shift your marketing to build your business.

In some cases, threats and weaknesses can't be easily converted. But with knowledge, they can be minimized or avoided. This will become clearer as we look more deeply at the SWOT elements, and then apply them to an example.

Breaking Down SWOT

Our first step is the "S" in SWOT: identify your strengths. Look at your products and services and identify what it is that you do or offer that is better and unique compared to any of your competition. Maybe your product is better. Maybe you have more experience. Perhaps you have tons of testimonials from happy clients, and your reputation is the best in the business. Do you have awards or letters of commendation? WHAT MAKES YOU DIFFERENT and SPECIAL?

Our next step is to take a good hard look at yourself and identify your weaknesses. This isn't quite as much fun, but you have to see what could keep you from reaching your marketing objectives. Where do you need to improve? Are people complaining about unresponsive customer service? Do you not have a system in place to follow-up on your direct mail campaigns? Are you failing to track your direct mail campaigns and as a result you have no idea what works and what doesn't? Maybe your budget is tight and keeping you from running the campaigns you know you should. You can deal with all these issues, but not until you've identified what they are.

Now, we go on to look at your opportunities. What great new products or services are you developing that could open your business to a whole new niche or better prepare you to fulfill the needs of the niche you're in? Has some change in your supply chain made it possible for you to offer special pricing? Is it time to run a Holiday Special? Or maybe you have excess merchandise and can offer an Inventory Blowout. What is happening right now in your business or the environment that could allow you to expand your customer base and build sales?

Finally, we want to look at potential threats that could derail the effects of your marketing campaign. Is there some direct competition out there that is eating into your target audience? Maybe new technology threatens to make your product obsolete. Maybe upcoming holidays make this a bad time to send a mail campaign because people are too busy with other things. All these issues could make you rethink your products and your marketing campaigns.

SWOT Pointers

  • Be aware that all SWOT analyses are more subjective than scientific. This is your view of the situation at this point in time. YOU are the one who is identifying the issues. There's no SWOT-meter that does something like a chemical analysis. And two people working independently may come up with different looking analyses. So keep that in mind, get input from others, and be prepared to redo your analysis every six months or every year to see how things are going and if changes are necessary.
  • Be HONEST. Don't overemphasize your strengths or underemphasize your weaknesses. Don't ignore the elephant in the parlor. You can't get the most value from the SWOT exercise if you "stack the deck."
  • Be as specific as you can in looking at your company. Define your customer. Define your product. Look at real numbers where available.
  • Be clear on the time factor. This is what your company looks like today. This is where your company could be in the future. How will you get from point A to point B?
  • Keep your competition in mind. How are you better than them? How are you worse? How will these issues play into your marketing?
  • Keep It Simple Stupid. It's possible to get too involved in over-analysis and navel-gazing. Don't do that! Use the SWOT tool -- don't be used by it so you end up in analysis paralysis!

A Basic SWOT Example

Let's say you run a number of fitness studios. Your SWOT might look like this:


  • New, clean locations
  • Full facilities with latest equipment
  • Lots of personal attention from fitness coaches
  • Group classes


  • No wet facilities: sauna, steam bath, pool
  • Only big enough to accommodate 250 members, which limits income
  • Space issues
  • The setup works well with singles, but may not be as appealing to families


  • Lots of people want to lose weight and get in shape
  • Many facility locations are in neighborhoods with many young professionals who want to meet people
  • People are starting to think about wearing bathing suits next summer so this is the time to appeal to their wish to look good


  • Another fitness company has been established in this area for years
  • Increasing taxes and a poor economy mean people have less income

Looking at all this, you might decide to market these facilities as:

  • The great, new modern way to work out
  • The smaller number of patrons means lots of personal attention. Better sign up now before all the available spots are gone!
  • Meet fellow young professionals in our group classes
  • Special reduced early-signup rates, and group rates for families

These are just some BASIC ideas for this quick example, but you can see how the SWOT analysis could really focus a marketing campaign. Of course, testing is mandatory. Look at your sales and ask yourself, is this marketing approach working? Would another approach work better? Only by testing will you know for sure. But SWOT is a great way to get started.

Craig Simpson

Author and Owner of Simpson Direct, Inc.

Craig Simpson has managed thousands of direct mail campaigns and grossed hundreds of millions in revenue for his clients over the past 15 years. Simpson is the owner of Simpson Direct Inc., a Grants Pass, Oregon-based direct marketing firm, and a respected speaker/presenter on the topic of direct mail. He is the co-author with Dan S. Kennedy of The Direct Mail Solution. He blogs at http://www.simpson-direct.com/blog/.

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