Strategic planning demands realistic and objective assessment. At least twice each year, use the SWOT analysis to discover key internal and external issues and refresh the strategies and tactics of your marketing plan. Understanding where you are today is fundamental to achieving your future goals.
The well-known SWOT analysis appears disarmingly simple. But avoid the temptation do it quickly or casually. Taking this valuable analysis for granted would be downright unfortunate.
Thoughtfully listing the STRENGTHS, WEAKNESSES, OPPORTUNITIES and THREATS of your situation should be done at least once a year. It's a "big picture" exercise that challenges you to compile, analyze and evaluate the significant influences that work for or against your strategic objectives.
A SWOT analysis is useful for hospitals, medical groups, and individuals in private practice—it helps focus your marketing in areas that harbor the strongest benefits. Here are a few ideas to maximize the value and generate effective strategies from this exercise.
Create a four-part grid on a single piece of paper to provide an overview that helps visualize the relationships.
Identify and list the key elements in each quadrant. Get these down on paper as the first step.
The top two sections (STRENGTHS and WEAKENESSES) both originate internally. These are things that you can control. Strengths are helpful; Weaknesses are harmful.
STRENGTHS: List of your capabilities and resources that can be the basis of a distinct competitive advantage. Ask: What are the most important strengths? How can we best use them and capitalize on each strength? Strengths could include:
WEAKENSSES: What areas need improvement (or should be avoided)? Ask: What would remove or overcome this weakness? Weaknesses can sometimes be the absence of certain strengths, and in some cases, a weakness may be the reverse side of one of your strengths. Weaknesses might include:
The lower two sections (OPPORTUNITIES and THREATS) both originate externally. These are things that you cannot control. Opportunities are helpful; Threats are harmful.
OPPORTUNITIES: In addition to new or significant trends, what other external opportunities exist and how can we best exploit or benefit from each? Examples might include:
THREATS: Can include anything that stands in the way of your success. No practice is immune to threats, but too many people miss, ignore or minimize these threats, often at great cost. Ask: What can be done to mitigate each threat? Can a threat become an opportunity? Threats could include:
1. Be Specific: Avoid gray areas, vague descriptions or fuzzy definitions.
2. Be Objective: Ask for input from a well-informed but objective third party; compare it with your own notes.
3. Be Realistic: Use a down-to-earth perspective, especially as you evaluate strengths and weaknesses. Be practical in judging both sections.
4. Apply Context: Distinguish between where the organization actually is today, and where it could be in the future.
5. Contrast and Compare: Analyze (realistically) in relation to your competition i.e. better than or worse than your competition.
6. Short and Simple: Avoid needless complexity and over-analysis.
7. Update your marketing plan and goals: Once the key issues have been identified, define the action steps to achieve change.
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