As someone who teaches marketing I am always surprised that most of the participants at my courses and seminars are very familiar with a SWOT analysis (which stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.) For those who are not familiar with the SWOT analysis – it helps organizations identify strengths and weaknesses predominantly based on internal factors. Opportunities and threats usually arise from an external environment.
However, very rarely do I find participants who are familiar with SWOT employ the SWOT/TOWS Matrix or as it is better known the TOWS matrix which is SWOT spelled backwards. Though there is a difference between the two, together they perform a marvelous dance.
Now think about it… what did you do the last time you completed a SWOT analysis for your organization? Did you address any of the weaknesses the threats? Probably not.
A TOWS analysis involves the same basic process of listing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats as a SWOT analysis, but with a TOWS analysis, threats and opportunities are examined first and weaknesses and strengths are examined last. After creating a list of threats, opportunities, weaknesses and strengths, managers examine ways the organization can take advantage of opportunities and minimize threats by exploiting strengths and overcoming weaknesses.
The TOWS analysis helps you get a better understanding of the strategic choices that you face. (Remember that “strategy” is the art of determining how you’ll “win” in your marketing endeavours) It helps you ask, and answer, the following questions:
How do you:
- Make the most of your strengths?
- Circumvent your weaknesses?
- Capitalize on your opportunities?
- Manage your threats?
A next step of analysis, usually associated with the externally-focused TOWS Matrix, helps you think about the options that you could pursue. To do this you match external opportunities and threats with your internal strengths and weaknesses. This helps you identify strategic alternatives that address the following additional questions:
- Strengths and Opportunities (SO) – How can you use your strengths to take advantage of the opportunities?
- Strengths and Threats (ST) – How can you take advantage of your strengths to avoid real and potential threats?
- Weaknesses and Opportunities (WO) – How can you use your opportunities to overcome the weaknesses you are experiencing?
- Weaknesses and Threats (WT) – How can you minimize your weaknesses and avoid threats?
The TOWS Matrix is a relatively simple tool for generating strategic options. By using it, you can look intelligently at how you can best take advantage of the opportunities open to you, at the same time that you minimize the impact of weaknesses and protect yourself against threats.
SWOT and TOWS analysis involve the same basic steps and likely produce similar results. The order in which managers think about strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities may, however, have an impact on the direction of the analysis. Michael Watkins of the “Harvard Business Review” says that focusing on threats and opportunities first helps lead to productive discussions about what is going on in the external environment rather than getting bogged down in abstract discussions about what an organization is good at or bad at.
Once you have completed a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats), the TOWS matrix puts the results of SWOT analysis into an action plan. SWOT systematically sorts out information and sets priorities. TOWS rearranges this information, provides a framework to identify possible strategic options to pursue, and creates inputs for strategic planning.
Used after detailed analysis of your threats, opportunities, strengths and weaknesses, it helps you consider how to use the external environment to your strategic advantage, and to identify some of the strategic options available to you.
When you have many factors to consider, it may be helpful to construct a matrix to match individual strengths and weaknesses to the individual opportunities and threats you’ve identified.
So next time you develop a marketing strategy give some thought to working with the SWOT/TOWS Matrix. SWOT analysis helps to sort out the important information systematically and to set out priorities. Strengths and weaknesses tell us where we are now, whereas opportunities and threats tell us where we want or do not want to be. Then the question, ‘What should we do to get there?’ arises and the TOWS analysis helps to find out the answer.
Marketing Workshops Spring 2017
March 29, 2017
343 Preston Street, Ottawa, ON,
This workshop will provide participants with an overview of public sector and non-profit marketing. The workshop will teach participants how to develop a marketing strategy and plan as well as how to transform a government/nonprofit organizations from using the traditional communications approach to an integrated, strategic marketing approach.
The workshop will focus on:
- An overview of marketing;
- Systematic processes and strategic elements for developing and implementing an action-oriented strategic marketing plan;
- How to set realistic, practical marketing objectives and goals;
- How to evaluate marketing efforts with practical ideas on how to improve execution;
- How to develop a client-based mindset in a public sector or non-profit organization;
- How to use market research to support a decision-making framework;
- How to develop a system for measuring progress and monitoring performance.
March 9, 2017
343 Preston Street, Ottawa, ON,
Awareness. Are you getting tired of hearing that word? If you want to move your marketing and communications efforts beyond merely public education and awareness campaigns and into the realm of action-oriented attitude and behaviour change then this workshop is for you
The workshop will focus on:
- How to use a step-by-step structured approach to prepare a social marketing plan that is actionable, has maximum impact, and leads to successful implementation;
- How to present and “sell” your social marketing strategy to management;
- How to implement a social marketing program on a very tight budget;
- How to monitor and evaluate your inputs/outputs, outcomes and impacts;
- How social marketing gives you a single approach: for mobilizing communities; influencing the media; activating key stakeholders; and building strategic alliances with business.