In most traditional MBA programs, a SWOT or “Strengths – Weakness – Opportunities – Threats” analysis is taught as a quick way to get an accurate snapshot of a product, service or company. Individual SWOT analysis prepared for each competitor can provide a very accurate picture of your unique positioning, and how you should react to the market and competitive landscape.

A SWOT is traditionally one page divided into a grid, with four boxes – one for each aspect of the analysis. SWOT analysis is an excellent addition to business or marketing plans, as they allow your readers or management to understand the landscape at a glance.

Here is how to fill in each box of the grid:

Strengths:

Review your product or offering. Do you have a highly efficient distribution chain in America? List this as a strength. List all features of the product and its ability to serve end customers such as excellent documentation, etc. Don’t worry about whether or not an attribute is unique. Often, your positioning will be determined by a unique combination of attributes. List each attribute as a bullet point in the top-left grid.

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Weaknesses:

Weaknesses can be anything from a product’s lack of a popular feature, to a weakness in the sales force in one part of the world. Be brutally honest in filling out this box, as this is another key factor in your positioning. Reviewing this against competitive SWOTs will help you understand which weaknesses you need to address, and which ones won’t buy you much.

Opportunities:

Take more time in filling out this box than with the first two, as here is where you can maximize your revenue. Opportunities can be anything from increased demand in China to a key competitor having a product recall or exiting the business. List everything here you can think of, even opportunities that don’t exist unless you make a fundamental product change. Just be sure to list the required change in parentheses next to the bulleted item.

Threats:

Threats are the opposite of opportunities and can be anything from rumors of a competitor coming out with a better product to rumors of increased protectionism in a key market area. Filling this section out completely helps you formulate “what if?” or contingency plans in case the threat becomes reality.

Examining your completed SWOT analysis against those of key competitors will help you see where you are positioned competitively, so you can design a messaging plan to take advantage of where you shine, and a future plan to address the areas where you don’t shine!