Why an article on SWOT Analysis?
Almost everyone in the field of any business has done a SWOT analysis either for their organization or for themselves at least once, and most probably, many times. So why an article on such a well-known and frequently practiced subject?
You may have noticed the “ “ around SW in the title. This article looks at the Strengths and Weaknesses aspect of the SWOT analysis from a different perspective.
So shall we read on?
SW from whose angle?
Every business need to know their strengths and weaknesses but from whose point of view? Mostly this is done from the perspective of the business or what can be called the “inside out” view. The moot question is whether the target customers also view them similarly.
What if the aspects perceived as strength by the business, is not perceived as strength by the market it serves? Or worse, what is not recognized as weakness by you is perceived as a very big weakness by the customers? This is a real possibility in the “inside out” approach.
Let us take an example. Let us assume a business considers its brand as its strength. Let us also assume, there are three equally well-known brands in that product or industry. From the market point of view, unless there is a significant positive differentiation for one brand compared to the other two, the brand by itself is not a strength at all. The customers could be viewing all three brands as good enough for their requirements and therefore will be looking for something more to make his “buy” decision. So the strength of the brand name by itself is no longer a strength.
The “outside in” approach
While the traditional SWOT analysis exercise is “inside out”, this article highlights the benefits of the opposite approach or “outside in”.
The “outside in” approach looks at your business model and its strengths and weaknesses through the eyes of the market and customers.
However, it is easier said than done. To make such an exercise honest and truthful, it is important to know the customer’s business needs with a high level of accuracy. Without such an understanding of the customer’s value chain, one can never look at his or her own strengths and weaknesses objectively.
So how do we carry out this exercise?
One of the obvious method is to interact with the customers themselves to understand what are their priorities and needs and based on that understanding identify your own strengths and weaknesses. This is possible in the B2B business. If the business is B2C, then it will possibly need an extensive market survey.
Listening to the customers or potential customers always bring in enormous benefits. When you listen seriously and re-orient your own strategy, your own business model becomes robust and more relevant to the needs of the customers.
Let us see another example to substantiate this approach.
Suppose, timely delivery of products is very crucial to your customers in a particular geography with difficult terrain, say mountainous region, where landslides are frequent. Once this requirement is understood, a business may decide to have their warehouse in that region and carry an inventory to deliver on time.
Instantly, this becomes the biggest strength for your business and the measurable benefits will be far more than the cost of operating such a warehouse and increased inventory carrying costs.
We live in a dynamic world and the external environment keeps changing. So what is strength now may not remain a strength forever or even in the near term. This needs to be recognized and an ongoing effort is made to revisit your strengths and weaknesses constantly.
In the example given before, let us assume your competitors, seeing your success, also establish their local supply chain solutions to deliver on time. Your strength no longer is unique and the competitive advantage is lost as the competitors match your moves or even improve on it.
Consider this new approach to SWOT analysis. This will convert this often used technique in board rooms from a power point slide to a real strategic move that will strengthen your business model.