Have you been wondering why your small business is not doing as well as you’d like? Are you struggling to come up with solutions and ways to improve?
Growing a small business can be challenging, but it can also be gratifying with the right tools and strategies.
Hi, my name is AJ! I successfully grew my small business over the past decade and recently sold it for multiple seven figures.
Throughout this journey, one of the most important tools I used to assess our growth potential was a SWOT analysis.
I started Small Business Bonfire (SBB) to help small business owners like you easily grow their businesses.
So, what is a SWOT analysis? Let’s break it down.
Components of a SWOT Analysis
A SWOT analysis is an invaluable tool for any small business owner.
SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats, and it is used to identify the internal and external factors that affect your business.
Think of it like a GPS for your business – it helps you better understand where you are and what direction to take. It is a guide for your strategic planning process.
When done well, a SWOT analysis can help you to maximize your company’s strengths, minimize your weaknesses, take advantage of opportunities, and be aware of potential threats.
I frequently used SWOT analysis with my digital marketing agency to help set and achieve our growth goals.
Let’s take a closer look at the components of a SWOT analysis.
Strengths refer to the qualities or advantages of your business that give you an edge over competitors.
This could include anything from your brand, products, services, people, and technology.
Questions you might ask yourself when considering what your strengths are include:
- What sets my business apart?
- What do I offer that is unique and beneficial to customers?
- What advantages do I have over my competitors?
- Why do customers choose us?
Weaknesses refer to the areas of your business that are causing issues or need improvement to stay competitive.
These are typically things like inefficient processes, lack of resources, low customer loyalty, ineffective marketing strategies, and inadequate training.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when considering your weaknesses:
- What areas of my business need improvement?
- What processes are inefficient or outdated?
- Do I have the right resources and tools to be successful?
- Are my marketing efforts effective?
Opportunities are the external factors that can help you to grow and expand your business. Awareness of these factors can help you take advantage when the opportunity arises.
These could include growing markets, new technology, emerging market trends, untapped customers, or strategic partnerships.
When considering opportunities, you might ask yourself questions like:
- What trends or changes are happening in my industry?
- Are there any potential partnerships that could benefit my business?
- Are there any untapped customer segments that I could target?
- What are my competitors doing that I could learn from?
Threats refer to external factors that could harm your business. These things are out of your control, but being aware of them can help you prepare and respond accordingly.
These include changes in technology, increased competition, economic downturns, or changes in customer needs and preferences.
Questions you might ask yourself when considering what your threats are include:
- What challenges might I face in the future?
- Are there any new competitors entering the market?
- What changes in technology could affect my business?
- Are customer needs and preferences changing?
- What changes are happening in my industry?
SWOT Analysis Benefits
A SWOT analysis helps you to identify your strengths and weaknesses, as well as opportunities and threats, which can be invaluable when formulating a plan of action.
There are many benefits to using a SWOT analysis. Let’s take a look at some of my favorites!
SWOT Makes Problems Easier to Manage
A SWOT analysis helps you to break down your challenges into manageable chunks, making them easier to tackle.
By isolating the areas that need improvement or adjustments, you can make a plan of action tailored to your unique needs and goals.
When broken down into individual components, your company’s weaknesses and threats become more manageable.
If you can identify the issues, you can take steps to address them.
SWOT Analysis Can be Applied to Almost Every Business Question
A SWOT analysis can be used to answer almost any business question.
It can be helpful in finding answers to business-related questions as it considers the all factors that impact growth.
It’s a versatile tool that can help you to identify opportunities, set goals, develop strategies, evaluate progress, and more!
For example, you could use it in the early stages of a product launch or when deciding whether to enter a new market.
SWOT Analysis Includes Data from Multiple Sources
The data you use for your SWOT analysis should come from multiple sources, both internal (your own records, surveys, etc.) and external (competitors, industry research, etc.).
This helps you to get a more well-rounded view of your business and can be extremely helpful in making decisions.
For example, if you’re considering entering a new market, you’ll want to consider internal factors (like resources and personnel) and external factors (like customer needs or economic conditions).
Using data from multiple sources can give you a better understanding of the potential risks and rewards associated with a decision.
SWOT Analysis is Cheap to Prepare
One of the best things about a SWOT analysis is that it’s easy and inexpensive to prepare.
You don’t need fancy software or tools – just paper, pens, and brainpower.
Take some time to consider the four components of a SWOT analysis and determine what factors are affecting your business.
When you complete your own SWOT analysis, you’re sure to get a complete picture of your business and be able to make informed decisions without breaking the bank.
When to Perform a SWOT Analysis
A SWOT analysis should be performed regularly to help you keep track of your business progress and adjustments.
It should be used to make any business decision or set goals for the future.
Sometimes the SWOT analysis will be less detailed, such as a quick reflection before making a decision.
For example: At my digital marketing agency, we would do a more informal SWOT analysis weekly, looking at growth opportunities and other SEO agencies (threats) and their rankings on Google.
Other times, it can be more in-depth and involve multiple data sources. We did more of an in-depth SWOT analysis quarterly to understand our strengths and weaknesses better.
Other times that an in-depth SWOT analysis would be beneficial include the following:
- When starting a new venture or project
- When launching a product or entering a new market
- When making changes to your existing strategies
- When evaluating progress on a project or goal
No matter the situation, there are many competitive advantages to be had by using a SWOT analysis.
What's Included in a SWOT Analysis
A SWOT analysis comprises four key components: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
Usually, a SWOT framework is used and represented as a diagram or table, with each component on its own row.
By conducting a detailed evaluation of each part, you can gain insight into the current health of your business and identify areas for improvement or growth.
There are two types of factors within a SWOT analysis: internal and external.
Internal factors are those related to your business itself. These are factors that you can control and use to your advantage.
Evaluating these components of your operation can help you determine areas that need improvement or where growth opportunities exist.
Some examples of internal factors include:
- Organizational Structure
External factors are those that come from outside of your business. These are out of your control but can still impact your operations and success.
Evaluating external factors helps you to identify potential threats and opportunities.
Understanding what happens in the external environment allows you to prepare for changes and take advantage of opportunities.
Some examples of external factors include:
- Customer Needs
- Economic Conditions
- Industry Trends
- Technology Changes
- Legal/Regulatory Requirements
Why is a SWOT Analysis Important?
A SWOT analysis is important because it can help you to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to develop a business strategy that will benefit your business.
By understanding the internal and external elements affecting your operations, you can make decisions to set you up for success.
The insights provided through SWOT Analyses can help you to better understand your business, set goals, develop strategies, and evaluate progress.
Sometimes a SWOT analysis is paired with a PEST analysis to provide an even more comprehensive understanding of your business.
PEST stands for Political, Economic, Social, and Technological factors. Looking at these external factors can help you uncover even more opportunities and threats.
How to Do a SWOT Analysis
A SWOT analysis is relatively simple to do but requires some careful thought.
This shouldn’t be a solo exercise – it’s important to involve your team or other stakeholders in the process.
I recommend that you approach it systematically by following the steps below.
Step 1: Determine Your Goals
The first step in any SWOT analysis is to determine your goals.
- What are the goals of my business?
- What do I hope to achieve through this SWOT analysis?
- What decisions am I trying to make?
Having a goal in mind will help to focus the analysis and ensure that you get the insights you need.
Step 2: Gather Resources
Once you know your goal, it’s time to gather resources.
Start by listing internal and external factors that could affect your decision.
Gather data from multiple sources such as:
- Financial Statements
- Customer Surveys
- Industry Reports
- Competitor Websites,
- Market Analysis
You should also use your own knowledge and experience of the business, industry, and market.
Step 3: Compile Ideas
After gathering all the resources, it’s time to compile your ideas.
- Step 1: List out the strengths and weaknesses of your business. This can involve anything from processes and skills to technology and customer relationships.
- Step 2: Move on to opportunities. Think about market trends or customer needs changes that could benefit your business.
- Step 3: Identify potential threats, such as new competitors or changes in the legal/regulatory environment.
You can use a SWOT matrix (we’ll discuss this later) to help you organize your thoughts or a SWOT analysis template if you need guidance.
Some websites offer a free SWOT analysis template, but be sure to select one that’s tailored to your business.
Step 4: Refine Findings
Once you have identified the internal and external elements, it’s time to start analyzing them.
Look at each factor in detail and consider how it could affect your business.
Evaluate the potential impact of each factor on your goals and ensure you are looking at things from different angles.
Then pick out the key issues that could have a significant impact and prioritize them.
Step 5: Develop a New Strategy
The final step is to develop a new business strategy based on your SWOT analysis findings.
The following can be helpful when creating a strategy:
- Take into account the internal and external elements you identified, as well as any additional information you’ve gathered
- Create a plan for using your strengths and opportunities to overcome weaknesses and threats.
- Determine a set of actionable steps that you can take to reach your goals.
Doing this ensures your business is well-equipped to handle changes and capitalize on opportunities.
The most popular way to use a SWOT analysis is by making a chart with four quadrants.
This is called a SWOT Matrix. List the factors relevant to your business in each quadrant to help you visualize and prioritize them.
Below, we will look at some SWOT examples of the different components of SWOT.
SWOT Analysis Weakness Examples
Weaknesses are internal factors that can limit the success of your business.
Examples of weaknesses include:
- Poor customer service
- Inefficient processes
- Lack of resources
- High employee turnover
- Lack of experience in the industry
SWOT Analysis Strength Examples
Strengths are internal factors that can help your business succeed.
Examples of strengths include:
- Well-trained staff
- High-quality products/services
- Strong customer relationships
- Unique selling points
- High brand recognition
- Good financial position
SWOT Analysis Opportunites Examples
Opportunities are external factors that could benefit your business.
Examples of opportunities include:
- New technology
- Changing customer needs
- Expanding markets
- Growing industry trends
SWOT Analysis Threats Examples
Threats are external factors that could potentially hinder your business.
Examples of threats include:
- Changes in technology
- Changes in the legal/regulatory environment
- Economic downturns
- Political unrest
SBB SWOT EXAMPLE
Let’s look at a SWOT analysis example Small Business Bonfire (SBB).
This website is a small business blog that provides resources and advice to entrepreneurs.
- Experienced team of writers and editors
- Established brand presence
- Unique content and resources
- Internal processes are well-defined
- Limited resources to support growth
- Lack of visibility in search engines
- Limited advertising budget
- Growing demand for digital content
- An increasing number of small business owners
- Growing demand for online resources
- Growing competition in the market
- Changes in search engine algorithms
How to Use a SWOT Analysis
Now that you know how to do a SWOT analysis, let’s look at ways to use this information effectively.
The most important thing is to create a plan of action based on the findings.
This could involve creating strategies for utilizing strengths, minimizing weaknesses, taking advantage of opportunities, and mitigating threats.
Let’s look at different scenarios in which a SWOT analysis can be used.
When Implementing a Large Organizational Change
When a company is looking to make significant changes, such as a shift in strategy or a change in leadership, conducting a SWOT analysis can help identify potential problems.
Look at the following elements of a SWOT analysis when implementing a change:
- Strengths and Weaknesses – used to determine what kind of resources are required for the change and how best to approach it
- Opportunities and Threats – should be used to identify any external factors that could affect the success of the change
When You Launch a New Product/Service
You can use a SWOT analysis to identify potential risks or advantages associated with launching a new product or service and gain insight into how successful your new product or service could be.
This can help you decide if it’s worth investing in the development and marketing of this offering, as well as what strategies you should adopt for its success.
Use the following elements of a SWOT analysis to determine how best to proceed with launching a new product or service:
- Strengths and Weaknesses – used to determine how well the product or service is likely to perform
- Opportunities and Threats – helps identify potential risks associated with the launch, such as changes in customer needs or emerging competitors
Identifying Growth Opportunities
A SWOT analysis can also identify potential growth opportunities for your business.
It allows you to take a holistic view of your current situation and consider what kind of strategies can be used to reach your goals.
Look at the following elements of a SWOT analysis when identifying growth opportunities:
- Strengths and Opportunities – used to identify areas where the business can capitalize on its strengths or take advantage of current opportunities
- Weaknesses and Threats – used to identify potential areas of improvement and mitigate external threats that could hinder the business’s growth.
Identifying Company Performance
A SWOT analysis can also be used to assess the performance of your business.
While financial reports can provide a snapshot of your performance, a SWOT analysis can provide more insight into the underlying factors impacting your performance.
Have the following elements of a SWOT analysis in mind when assessing performance:
- Strengths and Weaknesses – can indicate areas of underperformance or potential risks
- Opportunities and Threats – used to identify external factors that could be influencing your performance, such as changes in customer needs or emerging competitors
SWOT Analysis Round Up!
A SWOT analysis is an excellent tool for small businesses to gain insight into their competitive position and identify areas for improvement or potential risks.
By utilizing a SWOT analysis, you will have an easier time making informed decisions about your business strategy and staying ahead of the competition.
So, if you’re looking to better understand your business and identify potential opportunities for growth, don’t forget to use a SWOT analysis!
Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below. Good luck!
FAQs about topic
When writing a SWOT analysis, it’s important to be objective and include both positive and negative information. Start by brainstorming the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that apply to your business. Then, use the information to create a plan of action that you can implement to reach your goals.
A SWOT-balanced scorecard is a tool that combines the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of an organization with a balanced scorecard, which is used to measure the organization’s performance against its objectives. This tool can provide an overall picture of a company’s current status and help identify areas for improvement.
The most difficult part of the SWOT analysis is identifying potential risks or areas for improvement. It’s important to look at the external environment and consider how changes in customer needs, competition, or technological advances could affect your business. This will enable you to create strategies that are better prepared for any potential risks and capitalize on any potential opportunities.
The biggest mistakes in SWOT analysis are focusing too much on strengths and not enough on weaknesses, overlooking potential threats, and not crafting an action plan based on the findings. It’s important to be objective when conducting a SWOT analysis and consider both positive and negative information so that you can create an actionable plan for addressing areas of improvement.
The two common errors in producing a SWOT are failing to identify external forces and not creating an action plan based on the findings. It’s important to consider external factors such as changes in customer needs, competition, or technological advances that could affect your business. Additionally, it’s important to create an action plan based on the SWOT analysis findings so that you can take steps to address potential risks and capitalize on any opportunities.
McDonald’s uses a SWOT analysis to assess their competitive position and identify potential areas for improvement. They use the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats identified in the SWOT analysis to create strategies for improvement and stay ahead of the competition. For example, they have implemented new menu items and marketing strategies to capitalize on opportunities and address weaknesses. They have also created strategies to mitigate threats, such as changes in customer needs or competition from other fast-food restaurant chains.