Turn Marketing Failures Into Successes With SWOT

2021 is off to a wild start! The news cycle for the last few weeks has been pure chaos. But you can buck the trend in your business and get your marketing initiatives for 2021 rolling in the right direction. Just answer this question: Are you ready to learn from 2020’s successes and failures? If your answer is yes (and it should be), we have an invaluable strategy for making decisions and planning your next steps. Business leaders call it a SWOT analysis.


SWOT is all about understanding your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. You can conduct a SWOT analysis any time, but some moments are more strategic than others. The best time to employ SWOT is right before you put a new initiative in place — which is why we recommend testing it in January. But you can also use SWOT to refocus initiatives you’ve already rolled out.

In short, if you’re making a decision that will impact your business — whether it’s marketing-related or not — it’s time for a SWOT analysis. But what does that process actually look like?

Assemble Your SWOT Team 

strengthImagine you’re using SWOT for a 2021 marketing initiative, like a direct mail advertising campaign or content marketing refresh. First, you need to get your team together in front of a large whiteboard. Divide the board into four quadrants: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

Then, go through each of the SWOT quadrants and list your company’s attributes and experiences. Be as thorough as possible. The more data you can compile, the better. Pull in specifics from 2020 and beyond. Every extra word on the board is an additional piece of information you can use to pivot or establish your next initiative.

If you’re struggling to fill up your board, think about the quadrants this way.


What Were Your Strengths Last Year? 

Where did you see the most response? Which project produced the highest referral rate? What brought the most conversions? Pinpoint exactly where (and why) your marketing shone.

What Were Your Weaknesses?

chessWhere did you see the least response or no response at all? Which social media posts or pieces of direct mail had the least engagement? What problems did you note? Where was the disconnect?

Tip: As you work through your SWOT analysis, remember that strengths and weaknesses represent things you have direct control over. These include resources like money, equipment, products, services, space, and manpower. Your internal systems and processes also fall into these two categories.


Where Do You See Potential (aka Opportunities)? 

Is there a group or demographic you should be targeting that you’ve left untapped? Can you pick up the slack where your competitors aren’t fulfilling a need? Think about the customer feedback you’ve received and strategize ways you can adapt.

What Are Your Greatest Threats? 

Are your competitors doing something better than you? What economic factors are influencing your sales or strength in the marketplace? Are there areas of your business you don’t fully understand?

Tip: In contrast to your strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats are external factors — things you have little or no direct control over. Politics, the economy, and market trends should go into these SWOT quadrants, along with demographic changes, laws, and regulations that impact your industry.

If you’re struggling to answer the questions above, grab a piece of paper right now and write down “better tracking” as one of your 2021 marketing goals. You should always track as many details as you can when you roll out a new marketing campaign. That way, when you bring it to a close, you’ll have the hard data you need to answer these SWOT questions more accurately next year. (Not sure how to track your newsletter? Start here.)

What Are You Waiting For? 

Conducting a SWOT analysis provides a solid foundation to work from when setting your big-picture marketing goals for the next year. You can dive even deeper than we did here. If you use this method (and track your initiatives!), you’ll never have to start from scratch again. Even better, when you understand the four elements of SWOT — your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats — you can fine-tune your future marketing efforts. 2021 just might be your most effective, productive, and profitable year yet.

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