You’ve landed a new client, so now it’s time to set the stage with your strategic recommendations. But first, you need to better understand the company and the industry in which it operates. Your research has to go deep. How can you be sure you are covering all your bases? Where should you start?
A marketing SWOT analysis may be the answer.
What is a Marketing SWOT Analysis?
SWOT analysis is a competitive analysis framework that helps you get to know a company and the industry it operates. SWOT analysis in marketing examines the company and its industry from the promotional and marketing perspective. The four parts of a SWOT analysis — strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats — give a well-rounded view of where your client stands, relative to its customers and competitors.
Strengths and weaknesses stem from the client’s internal capabilities — things the company does well or poorly. Opportunities and threats are external factors beyond the control of the client — trends or developments in the industry at large.
To conduct a marketing SWOT analysis, you will examine each of these parts in turn. Then, with this information, you will have a solid foundation for your strategic marketing recommendations.
It’s helpful to start by auditing your client’s strengths and weaknesses.
Strengths and Weaknesses
To find your client’s strengths, look for resources that a company has or activities that it is succeeding at. Your client may be able to capitalize on these further. Examples of strengths might include an active following on Twitter, knowledgeable subject-matter experts who write for the company blog, high-quality backlinks to the company website, and relationships with leading publications in the industry.
Weaknesses are, of course, the opposite — look for gaps or deficiencies in skills or resources. These may be areas your agency can bolster for your client or that your client needs to address internally. The following would be considered weaknesses: a company website with poor usability, a lack of social media presence, poorly rated customer service, and no or low-quality blog content.
Use this checklist to find strengths and weaknesses
When conducting a marketing SWOT analysis for a client, look at the company’s skills, resources, or performances in the areas listed below. These are the most common areas where you will find strengths and weaknesses.
- Website performance
- Social media presence
- Search engine presence
- Trade-show presence
- Content to support each stage of the sales cycle
- Email list
- Sales channels
- Visibility or reputation of firm in its industry
- Customer perception/reviews
- Customer relationships
- Relationships with industry influencers
- Marketing staff expertise
- Reporting and analysis capabilities
- Support for marketing within the organization
- Marketing department budget
- Product choices and quality
- Product margins
- Geographic presence in important locales
- Other unique capabilities relating to factors that are important to customers
After thoroughly understanding your client’s strengths and weaknesses, it’s time to step back and look at the industry. The next part of your marketing SWOT analysis examines external opportunities and threats.
Opportunities and Threats
As we mentioned above, opportunities and threats are factors that are external to your client, such as trends or situations happening in the industry. It’s considered an opportunity when your client can take action to benefit from it. Threats are the opposite. They are risks. Your client must decide whether to take action to mitigate the risk.
The most powerful marketing strategies arise when you spot an opportunity that aligns with your client’s strengths. For example, let’s say that questions about the types of products your client sells are on the rise on Reddit — an opportunity. You know that your client has several employees with an established presence on the platform. Your strategy can apply the strength to the opportunity. In this example, your recommendation could be to form a task force of employee ambassadors who are willing to answer inquiries on the platform.
You will also need to look for threats that your client should defend against. Threats can include competitors with a strong or growing presence in your industry or an emerging trend toward customers using do-it-yourself solutions, for example.
Look for opportunities and threats in these areas
The opportunities and threats you unearth will vary widely by industry. However, they are likely to fall into these categories:
- Customer usage
- Competitors’ strengths and weaknesses
- Customer expectations and attitudes
- New technologies
- Advertising costs
- Distribution channels
- Marketing channels
- Market regulations
Where can you find this information? You can start with these sites for market research for general market data. Then you’ll need to pinpoint sources of market information for your client’s specific industry. Look for industry journals, which often report on emerging trends and issue state-of-the-industry data.
To find competitor data, you can use our Audience Overlap tool to first identify a set of competitors. Then you can analyze their websites and social media performance using our content and competitive analysis tools.
A Digital Marketing SWOT Analysis Example
Compiling data is the first step in a marketing SWOT analysis. You can use Alexa to find the data you will need about your client’s website and digital marketing channels. We’ll look at a SWOT example for a small-business banking service below.
How to find strengths and weaknesses
You can get an overview of the strengths and weaknesses of a site with tools like Ahrefs or Semrush, where you can gather data on the following for your website:
- Top keywords and keyword opportunities
- Metrics comparing your client’s website performance to that of competing sites
- Sources of traffic to your client’s site
We can see that our example company gets a higher percentage of its traffic from search than competing sites do (13.4% vs. 6.2%), showing strength in SEO. The data also points out a weakness: a higher bounce rate than the competitive average (18.1% vs. 11.7%). It has more sites linking in than competing sites do (50 vs. 31), too, which can be a strength.
You can drill down to see more information on backlinks for your clients and competing sites.
An SEO Audit tool will point out issues with your client’s site, showing you weaknesses that should be addressed. The Competitor Keyword Matrix (above) shows what keywords—both paid and organic—you drive traffic for that your top competitors don’t and vice versa. This can reveal topic areas that Google thinks your client is an expert on (a strength) as well as areas where competing firms have an edge (a weakness).
Check out the Content Exploration tool for insight into social media engagement for your client’s content. Our example business does not post content to social media yet. At first glance, that may appear to be a weakness. But we can see that competitors don’t post on social media either. Is this an opportunity, instead? Let’s explore that.
How to spot opportunities and threats
Looking at the popularity of “small business banking” posts on social media by other publishers, it looks like the topic resonates with readers. This may be an opportunity for our example company to surpass its competitors in a channel they are not tapping into yet.
You can use the BuzzSumo tool to see which sites are getting shared most often for topic areas that are core to your client’s business. You’ll also be able to see which articles are getting the most engagement, to help you pinpoint opportunities that align with the client’s strengths.
Examining keyword gaps and easy-to-rank keywords via Ahrefs or Semrush will help you find the white space or keywords your client doesn’t drive traffic for yet. You can use filters to see low-competition keywords. These can be powerful opportunities. The Competitor Keyword Matrix can be used to see keywords for which competitors are ranking that your clients aren’t yet, which represent threats.
Using the Audience Interests tool, we can see which other websites our client’s customers visit. Our example client’s audience also visits other sites that publish content about small-business banking, such as nerdwallet.com. This may be an opportunity for exposure via guest publishing or advertising on those sites.
The Share of Voice metric sums up a client’s online position amongst industry competitors. Looking at our example, we can see that two competitors dominate organic search rankings for this set of sites. One of those also holds 95.4% of paid keywords amongst the competitive set. So, although search engines are an important source of traffic for us, we have a very small share of voice in the industry for that channel.
Putting everything together
As you gather data during your SWOT analysis, classify it according to whether it’s a strength, a weakness, an opportunity, or a threat. Create a simple marketing SWOT analysis template that lets you organize it into a matrix.
Here’s what this matrix looks like for our example client:
What’s Next? After the Marketing SWOT Analysis
Now it’s time to interpret your analysis and create recommendations for your client. After you’ve done a marketing SWOT analysis, you will see clear areas for improvement for your client. Your next step should be to pull together a report.
Your report will provide insights and action items based on what you learned in your analysis. You’ll want to discuss which opportunities the client is best suited to exploit, based on its current strengths and which threats it might need to address. It will make sense to point out weaknesses that your agency can help address, to further reinforce your relationship. If this includes areas beyond the client’s current plan or work with you, it may even lead to expanding that relationship.
And now that you’ve gone through this process for one client, you can use the resulting data and report as a detailed SWOT analysis example that you can use time and again with each new client.