You’re invited to take the SWOT analysis challenge—see if you can complete all five steps in five days or fewer! Then invite your network to do it too. Share this article on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter and use the #SWOT hashtag.
If you’re looking for the rest of the steps in the SWOT analysis series, find them here:
A good entrepreneur is always on the hunt for new opportunities. One of the best ways to identify opportunities within your business is to complete a SWOT analysis. The acronym SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
In step one, you identified business strengths. In step two, you evaluated your weaknesses, and now you’re ready to consider your opportunities. Think of opportunities as things that are external to your company. Strengths, on the other hand, are internal, or existing aspects of your business.
The best time to conduct a SWOT analysis
Before we walk through today’s SWOT brainstorming exercise, we thought we’d take a second and talk about when you should do an opportunities analysis.
In some ways, opportunities analysis might seem like the easiest element of a SWOT matrix to complete, especially if you’re the type that enjoys entertaining the possibilities. But you’re missing out if you only ever look at your strengths and opportunities. Assessing your weaknesses and threats at the same time is guaranteed to give you some interesting and valuable insight.
A business professor will tell you it’s always a good time to conduct a SWOT analysis. Any time you can take to critically look at your business and see how it’s performing is a good thing. However, there are strategic times when a SWOT analysis is most beneficial.
Ideal times to conduct a SWOT analysis:
- At the beginning of the year: As a new year begins, it’s a natural time to review the past year’s business strategy and look ahead. By conducting an analysis at the beginning of a new year, you’ll be ready to make decisions in the coming months.
- Annually: Just like you should visit the doctor annually, your SWOT analysis should get a check-up at least once a year too. You’ll be amazed how much can change within a year.
- When a shift occurs: If something big is changing in your business, it’s time to fill out a new SWOT matrix. Maybe you just took on a big client and plan to increase your revenue, or maybe the political support that you once had is shifting. Maybe you’ve been comparing your sales forecast to your actuals, and you’re not sure exactly what to adjust—but you know you need to do something. When a noticeable change like this happens, it’s always a good idea to re-evaluate where your business stands.
- If you haven’t launched yet: If you’re planning to start a business, conducting a SWOT report is a great way to check the viability of your idea and your proposed strategic plan.
How to define your company’s opportunities
Ok, it’s time to pull out your SWOT template. You can download our template if you need it. Let’s talk about opportunities.
Here are a few categories to consider when looking for business opportunities:
- Economic trends: Look at the economy in your area.
- Market trends: Your target market could be driving new trends that could open doors for your business.
- Funding or cash flow changes: Think about that new big fish customer, or maybe you’ve received a business loan or some outside investment.
- Political support: Consider changes in political ties.
- Government regulations: Think of regulations that are changing that might afford you new opportunities.
- Changing relationships: Consider shifting relationships with vendors, partners, or suppliers.
- Target audience shift: Your target market might be expanding, aging, or shifting.
Questions to ask to find opportunities
To help you brainstorm possibly opportunities, we’ve created a list of questions to help. The questions are broken up by the categories that we just went over. If a question doesn’t apply to your business, simply move on to the next.
- Is the economy in your area looking up?
- Will the economy enable your audience to make more purchases?
- Are economic shifts happening that impact your target audience?
- Is the price of sourcing materials going down?
- How is your market changing?
- What new trends could your company take advantage of?
- What kind of timeframe surrounds these new trends? Could it be a long-term opportunity?
- Do you expect an increase in grant funding or donations this year (if you’re a nonprofit)?
- Did you land a new contract (assured new income)?
- Did you secure a loan or investment funding?
- How will funding changes help your business?
- Do you anticipate a shift in political support this year?
- What opportunities could be created with new political partnerships?
- Are any regulations shifting that could lead to a positive change?
- Are there positive changes happening within any of your outside business relationships?
- Are vendors changing or expanding?
- Has your partner decided to move on, creating an opportunity to work with someone new?
Target audience shift:
- How is your demographic shifting?
- What opportunities can you think of that can move with these changing demographics?
- Is your audience expanding? If so, how can you capitalize on this increase?
- Is there a related product or service that you could launch that allows you to gain a new market share?
Tips to list your opportunities
- Do your research. Finding answers to some of these questions might require some digging. Don’t be afraid to make some calls, set up meetings, and do some market research to gauge upcoming changes.
- Be creative. To find an opportunity where your competitors cannot will take skill and creativity. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box when you’re listing possible opportunities.
- Keep your list of opportunities handy. We’ll revisit all the sections of your SWOT matrix so you can develop actionable strategies in step 5. For now, go ahead and get started on step 4: Threats.
What opportunities did you come up with for your business? Share your insights with us on Twitter @Bplans.