SWOT Analysis 101: Research Tips to Uncovering Valuable Business Intelligence on Your Competitors, Markets and Industry
17 March 2023 14:00
How well do you know your individual competitors and the competitive landscape in which you operate? When it comes to putting together useful business intelligence, SWOT analysis is an important piece of the puzzle.
SWOT Analysis is a common way for businesses across all industries to assess how they stand up to their competitors. By assessing each element of SWOT--strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats--you can see how you measure up against other businesses in your industry, and you can determine next steps to take your business forward. If you're diving into this analysis for the first time, it can be difficult to know where to start.
As with many things in finance, good SWOT analysis starts with good business intelligence research. That's why the experts at LexisNexis have put together this SWOT 101 guide. We'll break down how to look at your strengths, weaknesses, market opportunities and threats to your success--and we'll show you how research with Nexis can help jumpstart your analysis.
The four elements of SWOT
Financial services organizations can—and should—conduct SWOT analyses on both their own organization and their competitors’ companies. Without this foundation, you won't have a good understanding of the place you maintain in the market and areas in which you can grow, and potential risks you may be facing.
SWOT analysis groups the information gathered through research into four categories. The first two are considered internal factors, while the last two are considered external factors.
Internal factors, strengths and weaknesses, are inherent to your organization. What is your customer base like? How is your team setup? How do you form your messaging? These are all questions that you can answer internally and can set you apart from--or keep you behind--your competitors.
Conversely, external factors, opportunities and threats, are things that impact your organization positively or negatively that you have less control over. These are things like market condition, rising cost of materials, or a pandemic (yes, we had to include that).
Let's go a little bit deeper into each category.
Your strengths are advantages you have over your competitors.
In this category, you want to answer questions like:
- What unique services and products are in play?
- What sets your company (or your competitors’) apart from the rest?
- How strong is your brand?
- What's your customer base like?
- Are your company finances in a good position?
These answers will give you an idea of where you excel and how to leverage those strengths into a business plan. It's also smart to think about your competitors strengths to give you an idea of where you have room to grow.
Your weaknesses are your disadvantages or things that keep your company from reaching its full potential. In this category, you want to answer questions like:
- How can your branding be stronger?
- How is your customer outreach?
- Do you have a high turnover rate or internal employee dissatisfaction?
- Are you struggling with capital?
Having an understanding of your weaknesses will give you an opportunity to see how you can improve. This is also a good opportunity to compare yourself to your competitors. Where do they excel in areas that you struggle? How can you learn from them? Answering these questions can help you create your road map moving forward.
The opportunities are external trends that can work to your advantage. In this category, you want to answer questions like:
- What niches could you occupy and dominate?
- What trends can you pivot to address?
- Are there external market factors that can cause an increase for your business?
If you are on top of the market opportunities, you can use unexpected events to grow your business and set yourself apart from your competitors--especially if they have not done the same prep work.
Threats are the external trends that could negatively impact your company. In this category, you want to answer questions like:
- What trends could have a negative impact on your business?
- What current or emerging competitors could win business away from you?
- How are your prepared for emergencies?
By thinking about threats, you can create a game plan should an event happen that would be an existential threat to your company. This research allows you to mitigate any potential risk and position yourself for success--even in the hardest of times.
How to conduct SWOT analysis research
Now that you know what you're looking for in a SWOT analysis, you can start to do your research. Here's how to start:
Determine your business goal
Once you set your business goal, you can shape your SWOT analysis to meet that objective. This will allow you to focus your research instead of starting to broad. A focused area of research will let you determine specific steps, and guide you to the right business plan for optimal success.
Put together your resources
Where are you pulling your data from? You might have internal data you are using, or you could be licensing an API set to measure your company against your competitors. Gather all of the data you need to address the business goal you determined in step one.
Additionally, you'll want to assemble a team who can offer a complete perspective for your analysis. For example, if your goal is to introduce a new product, make sure that the decision-makers from product development, marketing, and business development all have a seat at the table.
Conduct your analysis
Using a SWOT table, answer questions in each category. This could be done in a brainstorming session and encourage all members of the team to participate. At this stage, you're looking for ideas, so your team should be encouraged to share. You'll later refine these ideas into your business plan, but this stage is all about the ideation.
Streamline your findings
Once you have done your initial brainstorm, whittle your ideas down into useable themes. Again, you don't want your focus to be too broad because it's unlikely you can attack every angle. Focus on the one or two findings that best meet your initial objective.
Develop your strategy
Now that you have your insights, you can create a strategy to meet your original goals. A good strategic plan will make use of all members of the team to prepare for any potential challenges as you put your plan into action. This is particularly important to mitigate outside threats and be ready to take advantage of opportunities that come your way.
Diving into SWOT analysis research for financial professionals
Conducting a SWOT analysis for your company is a great starting point, but doing competitive intelligence research on a competitor’s value proposition, competitive positioning, and product differentiators will take your preparation to the next level.
This type of information typically can be found by reviewing a competitor’s website, particularly the about page, product pages, and blog. But when it comes to having a complete picture, you also need to conduct additional research to provide more context within each of the categories. With Nexis® for Finance, you'll have easy access to the tools that can help you uncover valuable business intelligence for your SWOT analyses.
- Current and archival news—With more than 40,000 news and business sources and an archive going back decades, Nexis for Finance allows you to track mentions of your brands or your competitors’ over time—providing insights related all four areas of the SWOT analysis. In addition to print, broadcast and web news sources, Nexis covers press releases which can provide insight into competitor strategies, such as announcements about new products or expansion plans. Industry and thought leader blogs are also available, offering a glimpse into current and emerging trends, like the rise of FinTech, as well as other issues impacting the financial services industry.
- Company and executive information—In addition to providing fast access to company financials and details on key executives and board members. Nexis for Finance also features corporate hierarchies, which can be used to understand how companies are related, even when company names are different. You can also follow mergers and acquisitions activity in your industry, so you can see where a consolidating of “power” may pose a threat in the future.
- Regulatory data—Nexis for Finance aggregates information from governments and enforcement agencies, ideal for organizations in the highly-regulated financial services industry. This allows you to identify potential compliance threats based on newly introduced regulations or follow enforcement actions to understand regulators’ expectations.
- Customizable reports—With Nexis for Finance, you can quickly generate company profiles in a click. These reports include a snapshot view of a company, news about the target company, corporate hierarchy, financial, competitive, and stock information, as well as analyst reports, related legal information, and patents, trademarks and copyrights.
And because Nexis for Finance brings together all this critical information in one place, you can accomplish research more efficiently with the confidence that comes from knowing you’ve tapped into high-quality, reputable sources of information.
Conducting a SWOT analysis helps you understand all the factors to be considered when developing strategic plans, as well as enabling agile decision making over time. By understanding where your organization stands at any given moment, you’re able to adapt and make the most of opportunities while mitigating risk. Do you have the tools you need to conduct research with confidence?
Sign up for a free trial of Nexis today to see how you can search smarter.
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