Like every small business, your company does some things really well and occasionally falls short in other areas. For example, you may excel at distribution, but continuously grapple with responding to customer complaints in real time. Or you may have a powerful marketing message, but little to no social media presence. Whatever the situation, every business should thoroughly grasp the full spectrum of its strengths and weaknesses—or risk falling victim to unrealized opportunities or being outsmarted by the competition.
How should you go about identifying these strengths and weaknesses?
Start with a SWOT analysis.
A SWOT analysis studies internal and external factors that are helpful or harmful to your business and the way it’s run. This approach focuses on identifying factors in the following 4 categories:
· Strengths - The strongest parts of your business model and your most effective selling points. The core competencies of your team and your investments.
· Weaknesses - The weakest parts of your business model and weak spots in the sales funnel. What’s lacking in your team and missing from your investments.
· Opportunities - Potential leads, investors, events, and even new target markets.
· Threats - Potential competitors, reasons investors would cut funding, or negative market developments.
“A weakness isn’t necessarily a weakness if all the competitors in a market suffer from it,” Forbes notes. When assessing both weaknesses and strengths, it’s best to “zoom out and evaluate SWOT components from the entire market’s perspective.” This helps you gain insights into how things look from the perspective of your intended customer base.
Consult with others.
Of course, you’re the expert on your business. But potentially valuable information is possible if you take time to consult with different stakeholders, including customers, suppliers, and employees.
Through formal or informal methods, seek their input into the company’s perceived strengths and weaknesses. There’s a strong likelihood you’ll garner insights into everything from pricing strategy to customer service that you may not otherwise have considered. All of that data can be factored into a comprehensive look at what your company does best, and where its efforts might be improved.
Closely monitor customer complaints.
Evaluating your company’s strengths is likely easier than taking a hard look at its flaws. One helpful source of information is customer complaints. If you’re not already monitoring the frequency and substance of these complaints, this is a good time to start.
“The information you receive will help you identify weaknesses, because you will see patterns of complaints,” notes PriceManager. This can be particularly helpful “when a complaint is consistently being made about a specific policy, product, or service.
Match your business against the competition.
There’s a lot you can learn about your own company by viewing it through the lens of the competition. Just as you strive to examine your business objectively, take an equally dispassionate look at what your competitors do well and where there are gaps in their market performance:
- Is their website more impressive than your own, or is it difficult for prospective customers to navigate?
- Do competitors place sufficient emphasis on high-quality customer service or does that message get lost in their other marketing themes?
- What aspects of their business appear more or less efficient and cost-effective than your own?
Looking closely at their promotional/advertising materials—as well as checking out their social media platforms—might offer a valuable perspective on your own operations and processes.
Join a peer advisory board.
Perhaps the best way to get an up-close, impartial look at your business is by joining a peer advisory board like TAB. In a confidential setting, CEOs and business owners share ideas and insights, take turns discussing their challenges and receiving advice (and accountability), and learn from the experience of their executive-level peers.
Find out more about how membership in TAB can help you refine your company’s growth strategies and turn weaknesses into strengths.