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Monday, August 2, 2010

Know Your Market by Determining Your SWOT: Guest Blog by Douglas C. Dobson, President, Competition Analysis, LLC

Business is slow. With the economy in recession and unemployment high, most businesses today are struggling to survive, much less to prosper. The time is now – more than ever – to get to “know your market.”

Start by thinking about your present customers. Why have they chosen you to be their supplier or service provider? Have your prices attracted them? How about the quality of your merchandise or service? Who are your competitors? What differentiates the product and service that you provide from that offered by your rivals? There are no easy answers to these important questions, but there is an organized way to think about them called SWOT analysis. Essentially, the exercise is to determine the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats faced by your business.

How do you proceed to determine your company’s SWOT? You might begin by conducting a survey of your current customers (and perhaps some former customers that have not bought from you recently). Understand why buyers purchase from you and what you could do better to gain/retain customers. Evaluate the threats from possible substitute products or increased foreign competition. Recognize opportunities that may be presented by possible new product applications. Assess the likelihood of new government regulation (both pro and con). Consider conditions in the labor and materials markets on which you rely. Interview your customer support reps and salesmen. Read the trade press and internet business blogs. Attend meetings and seminars. Go to trade shows and network with others in your industry (but do NOT talk about establishing prices).

Once you have a feel for the right questions to determine your company’s SWOT, you may want to consider working with a business consultant that specializes in marketing strategy and competitive effects analysis. These specialists can often provide in-depth market research and competitive positioning to help your company better know your market – its Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats – now and in the not-so-distant future. Whatever course you take, begin your SWOT analysis today for better results tomorrow.

Douglas C. Dobson is the President of Competition Analysis, LLC (