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SWOT analysis
10 min read

How to conduct a SWOT analysis

SWOT analysis is a bit like The Crystal Maze (bear with us). Remember when a team would look through the small windows of a challenge, and advise their teammate where the opportunities and threats were, and – quite literally – what their next step should be? Having someone offer a bird’s eye view of your status when you’re in the thick of it can – quite literally be – game changing.

Whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur conducting business planning, a new business owner looking to evaluate your market position, or an established business owner wanting to stabilise or develop your offering – knowing your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats – is crucial.

This article will help you swot up on SWOT analysis: What it is, an overview of each stage, how to conduct one, as well as some examples.

What is a SWOT analysis?

A SWOT analysis is a strategic planning technique used by businesses to assess their internal Strengths and Weaknesses, as well as external Opportunities and Threats. Historically credited to Albert Humphrey at the Stanford Research Institute in the 1960s, SWOT analysis has stood the test of time as it remains essential in helping businesses identify competitive advantages, reduce risks and capitalise on opportunities.

Key components include evaluating internal factors such as resources and capabilities, as well as external factors like market trends and competitor actions. For instance, a small business might conduct a SWOT analysis to identify its strengths in customer service, weaknesses in outdated technology, opportunities in a growing market niche, and threats from new competitors. This analysis informs strategic decisions and helps businesses navigate challenges effectively.

Strengths in a SWOT analysis

Strengths refer to internal attributes or resources that provide a competitive advantage to your business. These can include factors such as strong brand reputation, skilled workforce, unique products or services, efficient processes and a loyal customer base.

Unlike opportunities, strengths are inherent to a business and are within its control to leverage. However, there is a connection between the two, as strengths not only represent current advantages but also serve as foundations for future opportunities. For example, a strong brand reputation can lead to increased customer loyalty and market differentiation, presenting opportunities for market expansion or new product development.

Weaknesses in a SWOT analysis

Weaknesses are internal factors that hinder business performance or its competitiveness. These may include elements such as limited resources, outdated technology, inadequate infrastructure, inexperienced staff or poor financial management.

Just like strengths, weaknesses are inherent to a business and require internal action for improvement and again, they are closely linked to another phase of SWOT analysis: threats. Why? Because a business’s weaknesses can make it vulnerable to external threats. For example, a weak online presence may expose it to the threat of losing market share to competitors with robust digital platforms. It’s important to highlight and address internal deficiencies to reduce external risks.

Opportunities in a SWOT analysis

Now it’s time to look outside the business. Opportunities assess the external factors or trends that a business could potentially exploit to its advantage. Market growth, emerging trends, technological advancements, changes in consumer preferences, regulatory changes – there are opportunities aplenty, you just need to work out which ones best fit your business and its goals.

Opportunities can complement business strengths by acting as avenues for growth. For example, a company with strong research and development capabilities may capitalise on emerging technologies to launch innovative products, leveraging both its internal strengths and external opportunities to gain a competitive edge in the market.

Threats in a SWOT analysis

This final part is all about the external factors or challenges that could potentially harm business performance or its competitiveness. Intense competition, economic downturns, changes in consumer behaviour, technological disruptions, or regulatory changes can all qualify as a business ‘threat’.

Threats arise from external circumstances beyond your business’s control, but are closely tied with internal weaknesses as they can make your business more vulnerable to these threats. For example, if your company has a weak financial position it may be more susceptible to the threat of economic downturns or increased competition. Threats will shine a spotlight on the importance of addressing internal weaknesses in order to effectively reduce any risks to the business.

Step-by-step: Conducting a SWOT analysis

No matter what industry your business resides in, the SWOT analysis steps below are universal and can be used to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities for businesses of all sizes.

  • 1. Identify your objective

    Clarify the purpose and scope of your SWOT analysis. Determine what aspects of your business or situation you want to evaluate and what insights you aim to gain.

  • 2. Gather information

    Collect relevant data and information from internal and external sources. This may include financial reports, market research, customer feedback, competitor analysis and industry trends.

  • 3. Identify strengths

    Evaluate internal attributes and resources that provide a competitive advantage. Consider factors such as brand reputation, engaged social community, unique products or services, talented workforce and efficient processes.

  • 4. Identify weaknesses

    Assess internal limitations or deficiencies that hinder performance. These might include outdated technology, poor financial management, lack of resources or ineffective marketing strategies.

  • 5. Identify opportunities

    Analyse external factors or trends that your business could benefit from e.g. market growth, emerging technologies, changes in consumer behaviour and gaps in the market.

  • 6. Identify threats

    Intense competition, economic downturns, regulatory changes, technological disruptions… Get to grips with the biggest threats that are specific to your business offering and goals.

  • 7. Prioritise and analyse

    Prioritise these identified strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats based on their significance and potential impact. Analyse the interrelationships between them and their implications for your business.

  • 8. Develop strategies

    Based on your analysis, develop strategies to capitalise on strengths, address weaknesses, exploit opportunities and reduce threats. (Having it all written down is a great way to get ideas flowing!) Make sure to define actionable initiatives and allocate resources accordingly.

  • 9. Review and update

    Regularly review and update your SWOT analysis to reflect changes in your business environment, market dynamics and/or internal capabilities. Continuously monitor performance metrics and adjust your strategies accordingly to maintain your competitiveness and achieve your strategic objectives.

Interpreting a SWOT analysis

Understand the results

Start by focusing on what’s within your control. What strengths can you leverage to capitalise on opportunities? How can you address weaknesses to reduce external threats? Armed with your analysis, formulate strategic plans that prioritise actions based on impact and feasibility. Consider long-term implications and adaptability as part of your planning.

Don’t forget that your SWOT results aren’t static. Regularly revisit and update your analysis to reflect changing circumstances and ensure alignment with your business goals. Use the frequent insights to continually improve and inform your decision-making.

Analysing the effectiveness of your SWOT analysis

It’s important to assess how well your SWOT analysis informs your decision-making, drives strategic initiatives and impacts outcomes. Here’s how to evaluate its effectiveness:

  • Decision-making impact: Evaluate whether the SWOT analysis influenced your strategic decisions. Assess if the identified strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats were considered in key decision-making processes, such as market expansion, product development or resource allocation.
  • Actionable insights: Determine if the SWOT analysis provided actionable insights that led to tangible initiatives or changes within your business. Look for evidence of strategies developed or implemented based on the analysis findings and assess their alignment with the identified factors.
  • Measurable outcomes: Measure the outcomes or results of the strategies implemented as a result of the SWOT analysis. Analyse key performance indicators (KPIs) related to areas such as revenue growth, market share, customer satisfaction or operational efficiency to determine the impact of the strategies on business outcomes.
  • Feedback and reflection: Gather feedback from key stakeholders involved in the SWOT analysis process, including management, employees and external consultants if applicable. Assess their perceptions of the effectiveness of the analysis in guiding decision-making and driving positive change within the business.
  • Continuous improvement: Reflect on lessons learned from the SWOT analysis process and identify areas for improvement. Consider whether the analysis adequately captured all relevant internal and external factors, and if there are opportunities to enhance the depth or scope of future analyses.

By evaluating these factors, you can assess the effectiveness of your SWOT analysis and identify opportunities to optimise future strategic planning processes.

SWOT analysis in different industries

It’s important to note that this type of analysis is invaluable across various industries. For example, in retail it can be interpreted to help identify unique selling points and anticipate market trends. In hospitality, it can assist in optimising customer experiences and managing seasonality. For tech startups, it can guide innovation and navigate competitive landscapes.

SWOT analysis example 1: Glow Vitality

SWOT analysis is an extremely valuable process – one which doesn’t tend to be shared publicly to the masses, but protected internally for its value and strategic steer. As such, the below case studies are fictitious, but give you a clear idea of exactly how a SWOT analysis could work in helping your business improve and grow. 



GlowVitality (GV), a small beauty brand specialising in skin care products, aimed to expand its market presence and increase sales. To achieve this, the company conducted a SWOT analysis.


  • High quality, cruelty-free skincare formulations
  • Strong brand identity and loyal customer base
  • Effective social media marketing strategies


  • Limited distribution channels and retail partnerships
  • Reliance on a single product line
  • Inadequate investment in research and development


  • Growing demand for natural and sustainable beauty products
  • Expansion into international markets through e-commerce platforms
  • Potential collaborations with influencers and beauty bloggers


  • Competition from established beauty brands with larger marketing budgets
  • Regulatory changes affecting product ingredients and labelling
  • Economic downturn impacting consumer spending on luxury goods

Strategic initiatives:

Based on the SWOT analysis findings, GV developed several strategic initiatives:

  • Retail expansion: The company focused on expanding its distribution channels by securing partnerships with local boutiques, beauty salons and online retailers to reach a wider audience.
  • Product diversification: To address the weakness of reliance on a single product line, GV introduced new skincare products, including serums, masks and cleansers, to cater to different skincare needs and preferences.
  • Investment in R&D: Recognising the importance of innovation, the company allocated resources to research and development efforts to formulate new skincare formulations using sustainable and eco-friendly ingredients.
  • Influencer partnerships: GV leveraged its strong social media presence by collaborating with beauty influencers and bloggers to promote its products and reach a larger audience of potential customers.


The strategic initiatives implemented as a result of the SWOT analysis led to significant improvements in GV’s performance:

  • Market expansion: The company successfully expanded its retail presence, securing partnerships with several boutique stores and online retailers, resulting in increased product visibility and sales.
  • Product innovation: The introduction of new skincare products received positive feedback from customers and contributed to revenue growth, diversifying the company’s product portfolio and attracting new customers.
  • Brand recognition: Collaborations with influencers and beauty bloggers helped enhance GV’s brand awareness and credibility within the beauty community, leading to a surge in social media followers and customer engagement.


Through the strategic application of SWOT analysis findings, GlowVitality was able to champion its strengths, work on its weaknesses, explore opportunities and lessen threats to achieve sustainable growth and success in the competitive beauty industry.

SWOT analysis example 2: BrightSide Fitness Centre


BrightSide Fitness Centre (BSFC), a small gym located in a residential area, aimed to enhance its competitive position and attract more members. To achieve this, the management team conducted a SWOT analysis.


  • Dedicated and experienced fitness trainers
  • Convenient location with ample parking
  • Variety of fitness classes and equipment


  • Limited marketing budget and online presence
  • Outdated gym equipment
  • Inconsistent customer service


  • Growing health and wellness trend in the community
  • Potential for partnerships with local businesses (e.g., nutritionists, physical therapists)
  • Expansion of services to include virtual fitness classes


  • Competition from larger fitness chains opening nearby
  • Economic downturn impacting disposable income
  • Changing consumer preferences towards boutique fitness studios

Strategic initiatives:

Based on these findings, BSFC developed several strategic initiatives:

  • Marketing overhaul: The gym allocated a portion of its budget to revamp its marketing efforts, including updating its website, launching social media campaigns and offering referral incentives to existing members.
  • Equipment upgrade: To address the weakness of outdated gym equipment, the business invested in new cardio machines, strength training equipment and interactive fitness technology to enhance the member experience.
  • Customer service training: Recognising the importance of consistent customer service, the gym implemented training programmes for staff to improve interactions with members and enhance overall satisfaction.
  • Partnership development: BSFC explored partnerships with local businesses, such as healthy meal prep services and physical therapy clinics, to offer additional value-added services to its members.


SWOT analysis led to significant improvements in business performance:

  • Membership growth: The gym experienced a notable increase in membership sign-ups, attributed to the enhanced marketing efforts and improved member experience.
  • Revenue increase: With the introduction of new services and equipment upgrades, BSFC saw a rise in revenue from both membership fees and additional service offerings.
  • Competitive resilience: Despite the emergence of new fitness facilities in the area, the business maintained its competitive edge by focusing on its unique strengths and catering to the evolving needs of its target market.


By conducting a SWOT analysis, BrightSide Fitness Centre was able to make well-informed business decisions, which led to achieving sustainable growth and success within a competitive market.

SWOT analysis: final thoughts

Like The Crystal Maze, there’s a variety of challenges to face in the world of business that require different observations and actions (and sometimes, these are also under a great deal of time pressure). SWOT analysis not only measures business challenges, but helps tackle them with the same vigour as Jane from Mansfield in the Aztec Zone with one minute to go.

No more hesitant shuffles. Just crystal-clear insight that helps you make confident strides towards success.

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