When was the last time you, or at least someone in your organization, spent the necessary time analyzing your business? Meaning everything. Where is your market going? What about the different categories you compete in? How do you stack up on key features and benefits vs your competition? What about products, services, pricing, costs, people, Marketing, Sales, Operations, Finance, IT, Purchasing etc.? If it wasn’t within the last 12-18 months you need to at least do it again to confirm those conclusions vs today’s reality. If it was years ago, start afresh. Things keep changing ever faster.
Obviously, having data is the best way to conduct analysis. Internally, you have a lot. Then you need data on the Big 3 - your customers, the consumer (if applicable) and the competition:
You can often get some Customer data depending upon the category from the customer directly, 3rd parties like brokers, or sometimes industry surveys, roundups etc.
For Consumer driven companies at the very least there is both qualitative (e.g., focus groups) and quantitative research potential. Focus groups alone, if done properly, can provide a great first pass of insight.
It’s often harder to get data on the Competition. But you still can look at their go-to-market approach, their website, sometimes get copies of their sales materials and have a good idea. Then check references, former clients, employees etc. Where there’s a will…
As obvious as it seems, it’s important to not just stop at the “findings” (this went up, this down, this is bigger than that etc.) but draw “conclusions” so you can set direction for a plan of action starting with Objectives.
Whether you have data or not, one of the best exercises (ideally with a knowledgeable team) is conducting a S.W.O.T. Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) to ferret out a company’s issues or opportunities. Data certainly would help strengthen the S.W.O.T. upfront, but just by analyzing the situation via a S.W.O.T. Analysis with an experienced team can often highlight the areas that need to be addressed.
Additionally, a S.W.O.T. Analysis has many uses beyond broad company direction. It’s very helpful for analyzing any facet of a business or company - a product, service, team, department, project, etc. It’s also great for inclusion and team building. Importantly, getting members from other teams or disciplines leads to different perspectives.
Finally, two things:
PRIORITIZE each so you can set the proper direction. The S.W.O.T. is a tool to identify things. You must then select the direction based upon experienced judgment as to what is most important.
DO NOT SUGAR COAT IT. While many have heard of and perhaps have participated in a S.W.O.T Analysis, they are not always done properly. They lack the rigor to delve deep into all aspects of the business or a situation. Get input from different audiences, so you and your team have a clear understanding of your perspective free of bias. Just make sure you are sensitive to different audiences about how to position things that may not be working. Otherwise, you may end up making enemies you need as supporters on your side. Even CEO’s are better off with supporters.
Leave no stone unturned–then have a look in the mirror. Are you being honest with yourself or are you reading your own press releases?
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