Best Practice

Before you Begin: The Importance of Situational Analysis

By Cherise Czaban

Situational Analysis i4 BusinessOver the course of the past few months, we have discussed aspects of marketing ranging from content and social media strategies, to brand awareness and recall, and plenty in between. Used both independently and in an integrated strategy, these pieces can be incredibly effective, but at first seem overwhelming when choosing which will fit your message best. To make this process a bit less intimidating, it is necessary to rewind a bit to the groundwork that must be done before any of these strategies can be chosen, implemented or evaluated.

The most important aspect of this foundation is called a situational analysis. This is exactly what it sounds like: a careful breakdown of the internal and external factors at work regarding your company or business. This includes product or services strengths and weaknesses, audience and potential customer analysis, and business environment. With an understanding of your strengths and opportunities, as well as your weaknesses and threats, you can better navigate your marketing strategy.

Your Analysis
1) Product

Take a moment to examine what you are selling. An insider’s perspective means you know your product most intricately, from its strengths to its weaknesses. However, it is also important to get the opinions of others, from employees to customers. Here you can also examine the product in relation to the audience. What needs is the product or service designed to meet? Is it meeting those needs? What does a potential customer look like? Where are they spending their time?

2) Competitors

After an analysis of your products, you must understand its place in the current market. Make a list of your competitors and summaries of their products. Taking a careful look at how they approach their marketing, where they place their messages and who they target in their strategy can give you an idea of the current landscape. While it may be difficult to stay objective in this analysis, reading customer reviews or consulting industry experts can assist in this process.

3) Distribution

Distribution analysis means assessing how and where you are getting your product out. Are you easily accessible to your audience? Are you visible to potential customers? How can you distinguish yourself from competitors? Examine your other options for distribution and what factors, both external and internal, might affect strategy in the future.

4) External factors

Your business does not exist in a vacuum, so a look at the factors outside of your company is vital to a complete understanding of how you can better reach your goals. This includes trends in the market, new competitors, emerging technology and the state of the economy.

SWOT

After analyzing these elements, you should feel better equipped to create a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis (SWOT). Your strengths are the things that set you apart, the quality of your product or service, your experience and any other aspect of your company you are proud to showcase. Your weaknesses include aspects of your business that will require a little more nurturing or resources that you might lack. Finding opportunities will most likely be made easier after your situational analysis, as you can get a better look at gaps in the market or new chances for advertising or distribution you may not have realized before. Finally, threats include any obstacles or competitors offering something you may not be, and even the state of the market or industry at the time.

Capitalize on your strengths and make the most of your opportunities, and be prepared to work on your weaknesses and navigate the obstacles. You will find you feel more prepared than ever to craft a message that stands out from your competitors, that communicates clearly to your audience and that is accessible to them.

About the author

Cherise Czaban

Cherise Czaban

Cherise Czaban is the publisher of i4 Business magazine and the CEO of i4 Business LLC. She formerly served as vice president of business development for SCB Marketing, the previous publishers of i4 Business.

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