In the past, we have talked about a SWOT analysis and we talked about how to conduct one, but the question that keeps coming up is, “what should we do with it after we have completed it.” The process of creating the SWOT can be exhausting and particularly if you have put a significant amount of effort into listing all of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Therefore people stop right there because they are mentally exhausted and they just don’t know what to do next. Let’s talk about adding some value to the SWOT.

Remember that you can use SWOT for a variety of business areas. You can do a SWOT analysis for your whole company or for individual departments. If marketing is a major concern, you can conduct a SWOT just on your marketing efforts to determine where you need to improve. It is a versatile tool as long as you apply the following suggestions.

After we have all of our SWOT items listed, I like to go through and cross out anything that your competitors have. For example, if you list a “knowledgeable sales staff” as a strength and your competitors have one, cross it off your list because it isn’t a competitive advantage, this is just a strength that you have, but it doesn’t give you a particular advantage over your competition. However, knowledgeable sales staff is an item that you can list on your sales brochures and website, and in other promotional areas.

Do this for each of your SWOT lists. When it comes to threat’s unless you have done a very deep dive, you will most likely find that your competitors face the same external threats that you face. What you have now essentially is a list of your competitive strengths, competitive weaknesses, and competitive opportunities and threats (if you have done the deep dive then you know threats that are specific to your business or area for which you conduct the SWOT).

Take these lists, order them from highest to lowest listing your most important competitive strength, competitive weakness, and competitive opportunity and threat first, and then go down the list until you have ranked every item in each list. As an interesting exercise, I like to compare your top three items in each list and see if any pair up. Keep in mind that strengths and weaknesses are internal items and threats and opportunities are typically external categories

As you look at these lists, you want to use strengths to counteract weaknesses. Find ways to shore up your weaknesses. Do whatever it takes to overcome them. In addition, keep in mind that weaknesses and threats can counteract opportunities so you have to find ways to protect your opportunities from the negative effects of weaknesses and threats.

Most people will stop at SWOT but if you want to raise the bar and turn it into a powerful tool, consider using the TRIZ approach to analyzing your data. TRIZ is a problem solving methodology developed in Russia from the mid-1940s through 1985 that is based on logic, data, and research, not based on intuition. To develop this model scientist analyzed millions of data patterns to determine, which ones predict breakthrough problem solving solutions.

Using the TRIZ method as described by Howard Smith, chief technologies officer of CSC European Group to solve problems. You do the following:

  • Find a way to increase the effectiveness of your strengths
    • Find additional benefits from strengths
    • Find a way to obtain your opportunities without the using your strengths
    • Attempt to increase the effectiveness a particular strength toward counteracting the harmful nature of a weakness(es)
    • Try fortify your weaknesses to eliminate, or reduce, its negative effect on strengths
  • Find a way to benefit from your weaknesses
    • Find a way to decrease the ability of your weaknesses to cause threats – in essence mitigating your weaknesses
  • Find a way to increase the effectiveness of opportunities – is there a way to tie the opportunity to something else?
    • Find additional benefits from opportunities – can one opportunity lead you to another and then another? Referrals?
  • Compensate for the detrimental influence of weaknesses and threats towards your opportunities
    • Try to reduce the instability of an opportunity from the harmful influence of weaknesses and threats
  • Find a way to benefit from threats – you might find a way to capitalize on a threat and turn it into an opportunity.

As typical, we have only brushed the surface. People have written whole books on this subject. You can analyze individual problems and come up with unique solutions for your own issues. If you would like to read more on the subject of TRIZ, you can find some here and here.

My website contains links to all the marketing articles I’ve written for the HVAC-Talk Newsletter. If you are interested in purchasing a copy of my new book, Navigating the Marketing Maze, click here. If you need a branding consultation, a complete strategic marketing plan, or help with marketing services, call or send an email to discuss your needs.

Andy Fracica is president and CEO of Fracica Enterprises, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in marketing, and social media strategy. He has over 30 years of sales, marketing, and product management experience in the heating ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) industry. He concentrates on helping companies deliver their message in an ever increasingly crowded market by helping HVAC dealers more effectively market their businesses without breaking their budgets. Contact him at 260-338-4554, or visit the Fracica Enterprises, Inc. website.