Learn more about performing a SWOT analysis before reading the case study.
The three members of the leadership team at a small marketing consulting firm were interested in expanding their offerings to their clients. Currently the firm has 20 employees (including the three members of the leadership team) many of whom are consultants with the balance being administrative and marketing staff. The last time the company had done a SWOT analysis was when they were first starting up in business and were working on their business plan. The SWOT session enabled them to develop their business plan by having them think through their business goals and objectives for viability and feasibility. At the time, the three of them, plus a few members of their Advisory Council participated in the SWOT analysis. The goal of this SWOT session would be to:
* Determine ways to better position the company in marketplace. * Determine new products and services to offer clients to better compete in a crowded marketplace.
Preparing for the SWOT session
The leadership team wanted to set aside 3 hours for the SWOT session. Given that the business was small, the leadership team felt that everyone should participate. The following decisions were made: * All 20 employees would participate in the SWOT session
* A Friday morning in mid-summer would be set aside for the session (and…as a “thank you” for participating – employees would be given the balance of the day off to spend with family and friends) * The focus of the SWOT session would be toward determining products and services to offer to clients and that information would be provided to participants beforehand so they can begin to think about it * A professional facilitator would be brought in to lead the session since this SWOT exercise was essential to the company’s continued growth and success Additionally, the leadership team was going to provide all participants with a copy of the SWOT analysis done at the very beginning – before the business venture began. While it had a different purpose, it would be valuable for the SWOT session participants to view it and, from the leadership perspective, it would be interesting to compare then to now.
The SWOT session
Brainstorming was used during the SWOT session to gather data for the company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. The facilitator led the group – starting with strengths and working through to threats. An hour was allocated for this task. Each participant spent time writing on sticky notes their thoughts, ideas, opinions, beliefs and known truths regarding the company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. When done, all of the information was posted on the walls under the appropriate heading (e.g. Strengths, etc.)
Prioritizing the information
The next hour and a half was spent reviewing the data with an eye toward: * Looking for themes/commonalities – combining similar sticky notes under themes (e.g., Customer Service) * Prioritizing based on:
* Significant information/data provided by large numbers of participants (e.g, ineffective use of social media was mentioned 15 times!) * What could be “quick hits” for the company to start to effectively compete against the competition * Products and service ideas that can be created within a year’s time frame The table below is a small sampling of the data gathered during the brainstorming session. This particular data is selected as when they prioritized their efforts these were the areas of focus.
STRENGTHS| WEAKNESSES| OPPORTUNITIES| THREATS|
* Long-term employees committed to the company * Customers love the work done by the company * Customer retention is high * Well-known brand in the local area * Company has made a profit every year in business * Client base was growing| * No blog on the website * Ineffective use of social media * No global customers * The business hasn’t expanded in the last few years and seems stagnant. * No presence at trade shows or industry events/ conferences * No “new blood” bringing in fresh ideas * Client base not growing as quickly as in past| * Ask current customers to refer business * Use social media and blogging to build brand name and gain new customers * Expand business nationally * Target smaller start-ups who needed strong marketing to get their business off the ground * Provide sales support services for clients * Offer dashboards for tracking marketing| * Competition was increasing * A number of local competitors were already blogging and utilizing social media * Current customers wanted social media consulting and it was difficult to do so when the company doesn’t do social media themselves
* Lots of individuals and other new small businesses “popping” up who do marketing consulting| Based on the information gathered during the brainstorming sessions and what the participants believed could be accomplished in a one to two year timeframe to have a significant impact on the business, the following was decided to meet the objectives: Objective: Better position the company for success in the marketplace | Objective: New products and services| * Develop a blog * Assign responsibilities for social media accounts: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook * Ask current customers to refer business * Expand business nationally| * Develop and offer dashboards for customers to manage marketing initiatives * Provide services to start-ups who need a strong marketing initiative * Provide social media services and support| Next steps
The company’s next steps were to take the projects they decided to accomplish toward achieving their goals and:
* Assign responsibility for that project
* Develop a project plan including a timeframe and budget needs
* Prioritize the projects further
* Begin work!
A survey done of all participants after the SWOT session showed that they were excited about the process and the path they had developed to help meet company goals. By getting all employees involved, the leadership team showed that they valued all employees and wanted their contributions to help make the company a success. Once a month the leadership team would meet with each project lead to check on project status. It was decided that on an annual basis employees would participate in SWOT sessions to work on strategy for the upcoming year. As the company grew, employees would have the opportunity to participate on a rotating basis.
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