In the first post of this series, we visualized your ideal customer and defined one or two niches that will be the focus of your firm.
Step two is to assess the things your firm excels at and what your firm needs to improve (strengths and weaknesses), as well as promising opportunities and the biggest threats to your firm’s success. In this post, you will learn how to perform a SWOT analysis (otherwise known as SWOT matrix) to identify the internal and external factors of your firm that most affect your marketing.
What is a SWOT Analysis?
In a SWOT analysis, you identify your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. This step requires objectivity, having a clear picture of what you can do well, and knowing your limitations.
When considering your strengths, it may help to step out of yourself and view your firm from your clients’ perspective. What would clients say is your biggest weakness? One way to determine your strengths and weaknesses is to send clients a brief survey at the end of each case. It may also help to ask your employees, colleagues, and even your competition what they see as your strengths.
Most people who complete a SWOT analysis find that they are better at identifying either their strengths or their weaknesses. This probably correlates with whether you are a glass-half-full or a glass-half-empty type person. Asking for outside help is most important for the areas you have a hard time seeing clearly.
Gather Your Supplies and Set an Appointment with Yourself
Get out a nice clean sheet of paper, or open your favorite word processing program and schedule out some time to stick to this exercise. Many professionals tend to skip over the actual writing of a SWOT analysis, assuming they can just think about their SWOTs when they have free time. However, these assessments are much more efficient when written out and when you allow plenty of time for honest reflection.
Start by drawing a SWOT matrix, which is just a page split into four boxes. Give each box a heading:
This setup allows you to separate the most important factors that will drive your marketing plan into four distinct, prioritized lists. Across the top, you can easily see internal factors while the bottom boxes reveal external factors. The boxes on the left side reveal positive factors while the boxes on the right reveal negative factors. Fill in the boxes with as many details as you can.
The following questions will help you to focus on each aspect of the analysis:
Strengths (Internal Factor)
- What does your firm do better than anyone else?
- What aspects of your company do several clients praise?
- What makes your firm, or even your individual cases, successful?
- What are the reasons people choose you as their representation?
Weaknesses (Internal Factor)
- In which areas do you wish you had more knowledge or experience?
- In the past, what has caused you to lose business to your competition?
- Which aspects of your firm are you least likely to brag about?
- What holds back you firm from being what it could be?
Opportunities (External Factor)
- What are some things you wish your firm had time to do?
- What upcoming events or trends could result in more business for your firm?
- What impending changes in the law could affect your business?
- What technological advances could change the way you do business?
- Does any of your noted strengths reveal opportunities for business?
Threats (External Factor)
- What are some of your biggest obstacles to increased revenue?
- Who is your competition and what are they doing differently?
- Will any impending policy or law changes affect your firm or clients in a negative way?
- Do you have bad debt or cash-flow problems?
Tips for the most useful SWOT Analysis
- Be specific. A vague sense of something possibly being a threat in the future is not as useful as a well-researched threat. That doesn’t mean you should leave vague threats off your list. However, you should find out more about them so you truly understand how they could hurt you.
- Prioritize. It’s not necessary to do everything in order and not everything on your analysis carries equal weight. Put each list of your SWOT analysis — Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats — in order of importance, so you can emphasize your biggest strength and address your biggest weakness first.
- Listen and learn. Check out what others are listing on their SWOTs. A quick Google search of SWOT analysis will bring up a lot of examples of completed SWOTs that could help spur thinking about your firm.
- Ask for help. Bring in reinforcements. Ask everyone in your office for feedback as you complete the analysis. A receptionist might be aware of something your clients see as a strength that you overlooked.
- Be objective. Do not respond to every weakness with a “but …” statement. Problems can only be fixed when you admit they are problems.
Why is a SWOT Analysis so Important?
Everyone knows they have strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats, but sitting down to identify them and assess their priority helps with the future steps of your marketing plan. Although SWOT factors may always lurk in the back of your mind, writing them down and prioritizing them will help you to feel less overwhelmed and in control. When a potential client asks why they should hire you, the answer will roll right off your tongue.
Next month’s post will focus on identifying your firm’s competitive advantage, including your unique selling proposition so that you can emphasize what makes you stand out from all of your competition.
Featured image: “SWOT Analysis” from Shutterstock.
Read the next post in this series: "5-Step Legal Marketing Plan, Step 3: Competitive Advantage."