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The Product team’s guide to market
and competitive intelligence.

3. Analyzing and evaluating the current state of your business and market.

A SWOT analysis is using focused, accurate, fact-based data to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to your business or product.

SWOT analysis is one of the potent ways to analyse and evaluate your business and its’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. In this chapter, we will go over:

    1. What is a SWOT analysis
    2. When should you do a SWOT analysis
    3. Conducting a SWOT analysis
    4. Applying SWOT analysis to business or product strategy
The next chapter will dive into how to illustrate the competitive landscape.

What is a SWOT analysis?

A SWOT analysis is using focused, accurate, fact-based data to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to your business or product. This analysis (one of many frameworks) is a powerful exercise because it is not based on guesses, but instead on what you already experience each day. It is also one of the most used.

Let’s think about it quickly; a SWOT analysis is visualised as a grid of the four focus areas – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Within each of those four areas, you fill out the qualities, components, or deficiencies that fall into that area.

Strengths

These are areas that put you ahead of the average rival. For some companies, this may be their reputation, pricing, brand, product expertise, etc. If you are doing a SWOT analysis of your business, think about how you win vs. your competitors. It may be as simple as the above. If you are doing a SWOT analysis of your product, examples are a breadth of integrations, price point, customer support, ability to answer specific needs, etc. I find it helpful to craft the SWOT analysis as if you were a consultant looking in. “Their ______ is a strength they have.” This ensures that egos are left behind if you may realise that you do not have many strengths, and to prevent bullsh*t strengths from getting added to the board that are not strengths.

Weaknesses

These are areas where you are weaker than your rivals. These may include supporting clients that no longer match your product, lack of capital, outdated processes, missing parts of your products, or even skill sets that are missing from the organisation. If you are working as a group, it can be tough to call out areas missing in the business. Performing the SWOT as if you were a group of consultants looking in is a powerful strategy to stay realistic.

Opportunities

What could you take advantage of RIGHT NOW that would put you ahead of your Rivals? Maybe you could take advantage of technology, jump into a space left by a calendar, reposition around regulation in your industry, etc. Opportunities, unlike strengths and weaknesses, are external to the organisation.

Threats

Here is where you put the external and internal risks to your organisation. A new privacy regulation could terminate your ad algorithms; an employee could share a trade secret, a rival could fake their way into a demo. Many of these threats are items that already keep you up at night. Get them out, share your nightmares, and put them into writing.

“I find it helpful to craft the SWOT analysis as if you were a consultant looking in. “Their ______ is a strength of theirs.” This ensures that egos are left behind if you may realize that you do not have many strengths, and to prevent bullsh*t strengths from getting added to the board that are not strengths.”

When should you do a SWOT analysis.

Sadly, many companies only do SWOT analysis when they feel that they are losing track of what is occurring in the market and their industries. I am a huge proponent of not becoming blind to your rivals, customers, and demand; and recommend not to let your SWOT go out of date. Book a strategic session to do this as soon as possible, and continuously review it as new situations happen that impact any of these (new regulation, big rival release, losing deals that you used to keep). You can use Rival’s “Report” tab to house your SWOT analysis and tie new market changes directly to your SWOT to keep it up to date.

  • Do a competitive SWOT analysis of rivals to understand their strength and weaknesses, and see how your product stacks up.
  • Do a strategic SWOT analysis of your business to understand your edge in your market or decide whether or not it will be feasible to enter a new market.
  • Do a product-focused SWOT analysis to inform your roadmap, determine whether or not developing a new product makes strategic sense.

Conducting and leading a SWOT analysis.

In doing a SWOT analysis, you need to ensure you have a roomful of strategic thinkers. Think about who is kept up at night worrying about the future of the organization or product; those people are the ones you need to have in your first SWOT session. As I mentioned before, try to do it as if you were outside looking in, and use Post-its or a whiteboard for the first session. Focus on the areas in the order above and ask what those points are for each area. This is a great time to ask “why” to ensure everyone in the room understands the reality behind the item. Some organizations have silos between different departments that keep weaknesses to remain unseen. This is most common with regulations, competitive intelligence, and market intelligence.

After you have gone through all four areas, digitize it so that everyone can digest and think about the results. After the session, book a meeting for a few days later (with the same individuals) where you talk about strategic changes based on the analysis.

Simple rules for doing any SWOT analysis:

  • Be realistic; this is not the time to get aspirational around what your business may be doing in the upcoming months or years. This is about today.
  • If you are doing a competitive analysis, think about your strengths and weaknesses relative to the market. Is this a strength against company X, but not against company Y?
  • Do it from a 3rd person view to ensure you keep a realistic focus.

Applying the strategies from your SWOT analysis.

Applying the analysis is the most important step of the whole process. This level of strategy is not yet about market differentiation (Chapter 5), but rather on strengthening the current state of the business. These are all applicable whether you SWOT is strategic, competitive, or product focused.

To start, you review each of the categories and evaluate the following:

  • What actions can be taken to close the gap? Prioritize these actions by how they remedy the weaknesses in your organization or resolve any threats to your organization. What are the tangible steps to doing those actions? If you say that you are going to “better understand X competitor”, “do a deeper evaluation of Z opportunity” or “re-evaluate Y business threat”, make a list of the actions to do that. This is also a great time to set goals and metrics for that area, and delegate the oversight of those tasks to key people on the team.
  • Of the strengths that are listed. Ensure that there are KPIs in place to measure the success of that strength. You do not want those strengths to fade away to just being “average”. Your rivals are possibly doing the very same exercise in a meeting room just like you. What you consider a strength may be something that they are tackling as you read this.
  • Get Rival to automate your competitive intelligence.

Now that you can map out and come to a full understanding of your own business and its capabilities let’s look at the competitive market in the next chapter. 

These two levels of analysis will allow you to dive into strategising the market fit with ease.

To help you get started, we have put together free templates.

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