So if you follow this process you’ll have a clearer understanding of what will improve your brand so you can build strong brand awareness.
A SWOT analysis is a great place to start because it provides you with the tools to get you started.
How to Conduct Your Own SWOT Analysis:
- Identify Direct and Indirect Competitors
- Identify Strengths and Weaknesses
- Identify Opportunities and Threats
What a SWOT analysis does is allows you to compare your business with your direct and indirect competitors to see what you do better and what they do better.
Strengths and weaknesses are internal factors that each business can control and improve.
Whereas opportunities and threats are external factors in the marketplace that you have little to no control over.
They look at possible industry trends to look out for that could affect your business. These could be marketable opportunities or they could be possible threats to your business.
When you do an in-depth SWOT analysis you’ll have a great sense of all the internal and external factors that might affect your brand. And if you understand this it can help you to make the right decisions to improve your brand and build brandurance.
We want you to get the most out of this process so we have a link to our step-by-step SWOT Analysis Guide below that you can download and follow along as you go through this series.
We recommend that you perform a competitor analysis at least once a year.
This way you will always be examining changes in the market and ensuring you don’t miss new contenders who might have entered the game since the last time you performed one.
To get started you’ll want to first identify your top three competitors, but also be on the lookout for indirect competitors as well.
Direct competitors offer products or services that are exactly the same or very similar to what you offer.
Indirect competitors are those whose products or services are different from yours but could potentially satisfy the same customer needs to reach their goals.
Let’s say you are a wedding photographer, your top three competitors will likely be other photographers and photography studios.
Remember in order for them to be direct they have to also offer wedding photography specifically. If they offer other types, it’s likely that they are specialized and too focused on what they excel at to compete with you.
To find these you could simply Google wedding photography and see who comes up at the top.
If you have a Google My Business Listing look at the companies that are listed in the “People Also Search For” at the bottom.
Make sure when you do you are in a private browsing window so that your search history doesn’t affect the results.
We also recommend surveying your network groups and community members to see if a particular brand’s name keeps popping up.
Consider your service location and reach — are they servicing the same area that you are?
If you are servicing New York and they are in LA, then unless you are trying to expand into that area, I wouldn’t worry about them
This is also a reason to do this annually, new players always enter the market and your own strategy might change — one year you might completely ignore that LA photographer, and the next year your expansion plan might make that area relevant — which means they are now your competition.
After you’ve identified your top three direct competitors make a list of indirect competitors as well.
For our example, we’ll likely look at amateur photographers, smartphone cameras, and photo editing software.
Remember everyone has a camera nowadays and we all know that person who is ready to take photos at a special event in a flash — we’re looking at you, Auntie.
For indirect competitors, it isn’t as important to go into as much depth in your analysis, but you do want to keep them on your radar.
Take the iPhone for example, while it has become a glorified camera in the past decade, knowing how it sells the technology will help you to understand how to sell your expertise instead.
Remember people don’t buy products or services, they buy solutions. So by understanding how Apple is selling their camera technology you’ll understand how you can sell the process, the experience, and the knowledge you bring that their tech just can’t.
No piece of equipment knows the right lighting, composition, psychology, or styling that makes an impactful photo, but you do. So your SWOT analysis will prepare you to address those concerns to your potential customers.
Now that you understand what a SWOT analysis is and why it’s important we can begin by analyzing the strengths of you and your competitors.
To begin we’re going to be examining your brand and your top competitors looking for what makes them stand out, what they are doing well, and what you can learn from each one.
Strengths and weaknesses are internal factors that you have control over.
When looking for strengths we are looking for what the business does well and what it is known for.
Generally, these are internal resources or assets as well as things that differentiate each business from the competition.
Finding the weaknesses of your competitors allows you to know what you can do better, and finding your own weaknesses will help you to strategize ways to leverage them and turn them into strengths.
Look at internal things that could be improved. These are generally linked to resources limitation, but can often just be not taking full advantage of an opportunity or poor execution with a given resource or strategy.
As you can see on your SWOT analysis guide that you downloaded there are four categories in which we will examine our brand and our competitors
SERPS – which looks at key factors that help brands to rank online in search results.
Here are a few things you can look for:
- How do they appear on Google?
- Are they running ads?
- What does their sitelink look like?
- Do they have a business listing?
- Look at their listing and examine reviews.
Website – which looks at how well it’s laid out, what is the user experience like, and how well it conveys value.
Here are a few things you can look for:
- Are prices listed?
- Are their call to actions above the fold?
- How long did it take to load?
- How easy is it to navigate?
- Is it mobile-enabled?
Social Media – what is being used, how are they being used, and are there any unique marketing strategies being utilized.
Here are a few things you can look for:
- What platforms are they using?
- Do those platforms make sense for what they do?
- What aren’t they using?
- Are their social handles consistent?
- Is their Brand Tone consistent?
- How are they using each platform?
- How is their engagement?
Other – And lastly looking at any other factors that could influence how their brand is perceived such as PR appearances, content marketing, as well as any other things you notice along the way.
When it comes to finding external factors it can be a bit tricky.
Opportunities are generally external factors such as gaps in the market, areas of little competition, or an emerging need.
Threats are also external factors such as new competitors, a shifting industry, new technologies, or the status of the economy.
The trick is to really know your industry and consider all the cultural and market factors that could affect your business.
This is also a great place to consider those indirect competitors as well.
For example, in 2000 Blockbuster didn’t even consider Netflix as competition because they made 16% of their revenue from late fees. Had they considered the changing tide of consumer culture in the home video space they would have known that streaming was going to completely demolish that.
We recommend starting to brainstorm things out of your control that you notice.
Each industry is different so what one might see as a threat another might see as an opportunity.
Take this year COVID was a huge threat to most businesses, but if you were Zoom or another video conferencing system it was an immense opportunity.
Each of these questions can give you a better understanding of what threatens your business and also what you could leverage as an opportunity.
- How is the economy?
- Are economists calling for a big shift? If so, what does that mean for your business?
- Is there a technology or new service making it possible for your consumers to reach the same goal your brand promises to help them reach?
- Are there any global factors that could affect your business? Such as a pandemic, overseas manufacturing or labor, or natural disasters.
- Does your business rely on manufacturing or parts?
- Is there any step in your supply chain you don’t fully control and, if negatively impacted, would your business suffer?
Also, consider internal pieces that are not in your control:
- Are you the only one running your business? What happens if you get sick or injured.
- Are there employees or contractors that you rely on? What happens if they get sick, injured, start families, or quit?
A few resources you should consider when looking into these pieces would be news, economic sources, your local SBDC, or running an IBIS report.
Make a list and consider how you can turn each threat into an opportunity or how you could prepare yourself for them if they came.
Consider every shift in the market that could benefit your business and keep an eye on how that opportunity is progressing.
While you can never be fully prepared for every change, managing the ones you know will help you stay flexible for the ones you can’t see coming.
Performing a SWOT Analysis is a great way to understand how to out-compete your competition.
You’ll want to compare your strengths and weakness to get a better sense of how you can leverage each strength, as well as how you can adapt to your weaknesses.
And finally, look at the market as a whole to find trends and cultural shifts that could affect your business.
When you do this it will help you to SWOT away any threats that could cost your business.
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