SWOT analysis is often taught in the most foundational of business courses. Yet it is remarkable how many financial firms neglect it when building their own marketing strategy.
Regardless of where you are in the business cycle – from startup to fully-mature – numerous barriers and challenges will confront your business as it grows. To the best of your ability, how can you anticipate those problems so that they are mitigated or even removed, later? Which issues should you focus on first as a higher priority?
The great advantage of SWOT is that it gives you a conceptual foundation on which to construct your business and marketing plan for the years ahead. Without it, you risk running into costly problems that catch you off-guard, and which could even lead to business failure ina worst-case scenario.
In this post, our team at MarketingAdviser offers this short guide on SWOT for financial firms. We hope you find this content helpful. If you’d like to discuss your own project, campaign or strategy with us then we invite you to book a free consultation with us.
Defining SWOT for financial firms
Financial firms face many of the same strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and strengths (SWOT) founds in other sectors and industries. Yet your own SWOT profile will be unique to your particular company, and will be influenced by structural aspects to your financial services niche.
SWOT can be especially useful in your financial marketing. In particular, it can help you make a more objective judgement about your branding, such as its appeal to potential clients and its effectiveness in engaging them. SWOT can also help you evaluate your market positioning – i.e. how customers perceive you, especially in relation to your competitors.
Why SWOT matters for financial planners & advisers
It can be tempting to dismiss SWOT – especially if you’ve been in business a long time, and things seem to be going well. Yet periodic reviews are important even for the most seasoned players. Here’s why:
- It keeps you and the team accountable. If everyone can see a written list of the company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and strengths, then everyone is on the same page and can voice concerns if things start to go off-track.
- Updated SWOTs show a more accurate picture. There’s a reason that the UK government runs a new national census every ten years or so. It’s because the population might have changed significantly, and outdated data will not enable prudent policymaking. A similar principle applies for financial firms who believe they “know their market” well, but may not have checked on their particular market landscape in some time. Taking fresh stock of where your business stands in the midst of this gives you a clearer picture of your surroundings, allowing you to make more informed strategic decisions.
- It opens up space to fantasise and fear. How often do you take the time to wonder: “Could we be taking our business in a fresh, different direction?” Running a SWOT analysis presents a great chance to do this. Moreover, it also allows decision-makers to voice legitimate concerns about the business strategy, which can be good for team morale and helpful for refining your plan.
- It fosters a culture of critical thinking. One of the biggest mistakes any financial firm can make is to fall into complacency. Prolonged, bling trust in any plan is a recipe for disaster. Like the captain of a ship, you need to regularly take stock of your course if you are to avoid drifting. Doing a SWOT anlysis every year or so is a powerful way to create a business culture which values critical thinking and challenges assumptions.
How do I write a SWOT for my financial firm?
Creating a SWOT for a financial firm does not need to be a complicated exercise. One simple idea is to hold a team meeting one morning/afternoon, set up a whiteboard and divide it into four quadrants – representing each aspect of SWOT. From there, you can open a discussion to start creating a list within each quadrant.
Once the exercise is completed, you can review the ideas and condense them – removing less relevant ones, merging those which are similar and prioritising the most important. After this refinement, you can create an attractive, easy-to-read PDF for easy reference amongst the team.
Although this sounds relatively straightforward, it’s crucial to remember some key principles throughout this exercise:
- Be clear about the goal(s) of the SWOT. Without clearly defining the purpose and reasons for the SWOT exercise, you risk confusing and alienating the team – harming morale more than building it up. In particular, be specific about which aspect of your business you are analysing. Is it a particular part of your marketing strategy, for instance, or is it the business positioning?
- Create a safe environment for discussion. Your team will be less likely to share honest ideas about the good/bad aspects of the company if they believe they will not be heard, or shouted down. Here, you can encourage open dialogue by stating at the outset that every idea will be listened to and received with attentive ears by management.
- Have a SWOT communication strategy. Once the exercise is over, how will you communicate the results to the team? Which channels will be open to anyone who has further thoughts or questions? When will you inform them about the next SWOT meeting, and how this will build on the one just conducted? In short, it’s important to not run a team SWOT analysis and then allow it to fade into the past. For it to be meaningful, there needs to be clear team communication.