Where is your organization going? (6 of 15)

SWOT analysis napkin doodle[This is part six of our 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree Step-by-Step series, written by our fabulous intern, Vicki. If you’re new to the series, you can catch up on previous posts. If you haven’t already gotten a 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree, now is a great time to either buy the awesome poster-size version or download the free version, so you can follow along. You can find the free version in Claxon’s DIY tools a la carte menu or in the Marketing 101 Toolkit. You can buy the super spiffy poster here.]

If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there. (Yogi Berra)

Where is your organization going?

If your organization has a well thought out strategic plan, great! You probably know exactly where communications fits into that. If not, never fear! I’m going to take a quick break from the 1,2,3 Marketing Tree to give you a simple tool to fill in that gap so you can move on with your marketing plan.

What the heck is a SWOT Analysis?

A strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis is a framework you can use to assess your position is in the marketplace. The strengths and weaknesses are about the internal aspects of your organization (e.g. resources, skill sets, reputation), whereas the opportunities and threats come from interactions with outside forces (e.g. collaborators, competitors, cultural shifts in a target audience).

Step #1

The first step is to makes lists in each category. This works well as a collaborative group activity, but if you have a hard time getting everyone in the same room at the same time, you can also ask everyone to submit their own list.

You will want to give explicit permission to be critical of the organization. No one will want to sound like they don’t think you’re great. Asking, “If we were to fail, what do you think the reason might be” can help. Don’t worry if there are disagreements. I was talking with an organization recently where some board members felt the large number of programs was a strength and others felt that was a weakness. It is both. The fact that there is “something for everyone” helps them engage with more people, but they also drop some important balls as they struggle to keep up with the juggling act they have created.

Step #2

Once you have lists for each category, it is time for strategy. Compare strengths & opportunities as well as weaknesses & threats. If you are weak in an area where there is a threat, think carefully about whether or not you should be there. You may want to scale back or pull out altogether. If you do continue in this area, you should prepare for this effort taking more resources as you try to convert weaknesses into strengths. Generally speaking, your resources are better spent building on existing strengths rather than turning a weakness into a strength. But it depends on your long-term organizational goals/vision.

If there is an opportunity in an area where you are strong, this is a great place to push for growth. As much as we would all like to pursue all the opportunities and overcome all the threats, that might be a tad ambitious even for an organization as amazing as yours. Hard choices will need to be made and it is wise to be realistic about your capabilities as you make those choices.

EXAMPLE: SWOT Analysis for Chirp

Let’s do a SWOT analysis for Chirp, the school for birds founded by Claxon’s mascot, Roxie. (Check out previous posts for the full back-story.) Roxie met with her friends to brainstorm their SWOT’s and this is what they came up with:

SWOT

Analysis

Comparing Weaknesses and Threats:

Given the organization’s age, limited organizational leadership experience, and lack of established policies and procedures along with the flocking tendencies within bird culture, it seems unwise to pursue a strategy of developing a strong centralized organization with an international scope.

Comparing Strengths and Opportunities:

International ties along with their ability to set initial standards makes the development of a certification process a promising avenue for growth. Rigorous trials of teaching methods will create compelling findings as well as ensure superior training for certified teachers.

Short Term Strategy:

Start trials of different teaching methods with incoming students. To ensure methods will work across a variety of bird subcultures, marketing efforts should focus on bringing in students from a broader range of flocks.

In Sum…

A SWOT analysis doesn’t take the place of a full strategic plan. But, if you are stuck waiting for one, I’m hoping this will help unstick you. There are a lot of alternatives and they all have strengths and weaknesses. (ha!)

At the end of the day, it is just a framework so pick the one that works best for you. The important thing is to take some time to ask hard questions about where your organization should go.

Now that you have a game plan for figuring out where you’re going, we can get back to the 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree. Next week, we’ll be talking about how to set marketing objectives that align with your organizational goals…which is harder than you might think AND very, very, very important!

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