Posted by: brandextenders | August 25, 2010

SWOT Yourself – Part 1

I love listening to books on CD (or iPods) because I’ve become bored with what passes for radio programming these days despite my 20 years “on-air” in a previous life. And, besides, they make the commute go by so much faster. I like all genres—fiction, non-fiction, suspense and business. One favorite I listen to once a year is Lead the Field by Earl Nightingale. I like it because Nightingale is a wonderful storyteller who draws his listeners in, and his deeply resonant and reassuring voice makes me really believe I can achieve anything I choose. One of my favorite stories he retells is called “Acres of Diamonds,” and I’ll do my best to paraphrase it here.

An African farmer grew wearier day after day of working his land as rumors reached him of other farmers who had made millions by finding diamond mines. He became so excited about the prospect of wealth that he sold his farm; and for the rest of his life, he traveled the width and breadth of Africa in search of diamonds. He wandered all over the continent in his search; and, eventually going broke, he threw himself into a river and drowned. Meanwhile back at the ranch, the man who bought the farmer’s property spied a shiny rock lying on the bottom of a small stream on the land. The shiny reflections caught his eye and thinking the stone was a pretty crystal, he took it home and placed it on the mantel. One day a visitor saw the beautiful stone and asked the farmer if he knew what it was. It turned out to be one of the largest diamonds ever found in Africa— and the creek bottom was full of similar stones. The first farmer had owned what turned out to be the largest diamond mine in all of Africa but sold it for pennies on the dollar to look for diamonds in other places. Earl Nightingale concludes, “The moral is clear. If the first farmer had only taken the time to study and learn what diamonds looked like in their rough state, and because he already owned a piece of the African continent, to thoroughly explore the property he had before looking elsewhere, all of his wildest dreams would have come true.” As individuals working in the promotional products industry, or any other field, we “own” a career and “territory” with immense opportunity and potential. In 24 years, I’ve seen the promotional products industry go from a trinkets-and-trash mentality to one that (although it still has a ways to go) is now viewed by most users as an effective form of advertising.

DIFFERENTIATING YOURSELF

So, the challenge is how will you differentiate yourself from all those other people selling similar products or services in your territory? One basic marketing tool used in determining how to position yourself is called a SWOT analysis. If you aren’t familiar with this term, SWOT isn’t what you do to those pesky mosquitoes bothering you in summer, but rather an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. In business, without knowing what your strengths and weaknesses are, you’ll never be able to tackle the opportunities and threats you face every day.

In this blog we’ll look at the first two letters in SWOT; Strengths and Weaknesses, and the types of questions you might consider asking yourself in each of these categories.

  • Strengths: As you begin analyzing your strengths, be honest with yourself since you never have to show your analysis to anyone else. Ask yourself what are you really good at (hopefully, you’ll list more than one thing)? For those in sales, do you like to cold call on the phone or in person? Do you like making presentations in front of clients? Do you like calling on large corporations or do you prefer spending time with smaller companies? Are you good at research or putting together Power Point presentations? Are you creative? Are you good at follow-up? Do you like to close the sale? If you’re not in sales, what strengths make you an expert in your field?
  • Weaknesses: This is one of the toughest exercises you’ll ever do, but it is one of the most important, as well. Remember, weaknesses can become strengths if you discover what they are and work to improve them. As salespeople, what do you not like to do or could do better? Follow-up? Marketing to your clients? Prospecting? Writing up orders? Finding products in which clients are interested? Keeping ahead of trends? Closing effectively? Relating to and empathizing with your clients? Being honest and ethical? Look at yourself from your client’s point-of-view and try to determine what causes you to lose sales. Do you understand how to price your offerings to make a profit and yet help your customers feel they are paying a fair price? For those not in sales, determine where you could use more knowledge and what you can do to make your skills even more valuable to current and potential employers.

In my next blog I’ll discuss Opportunities and Threats and give you a few links to websites I’ve found useful in this process. No matter what kind of work you do, a SWOT analysis can give you a 30,000 foot perspective on your business.

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