How To Analyze the Organization’s Strengths and Limitations
In Part 1, we stated that building on your strengths is key to effective marketing strategy. What are your strengths? From a marketing strategy perspective, your strengths have several dimensions:
(1) Your natural, genetic strengths. Each of us was born with a certain personality type and certain talents or gifts. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is the most widely used personality profiling assessment tool in the world and one we recommend highly to help you and all your employees or team members understand their natural strengths and preferences. You and your people may also have natural talents for selling, research, planning, writing, designing, strategy or other dimensions of marketing and business just as surely as some people have natural talent for playing the piano or throwing footballs. You know you have a talent because it is something you do better than most other people, naturally. That is something you can build on for competitive advantage, especially if it is relevant. (A musical talent might not be relevant if your product is battery chargers.)
(2) Your knowledge. This is not something you were born with, but what you have learned throughout your life. Many people end up in business without any education or training in business. So you’ll be smart to read all you can about running a successful business or managing your job function. This article is a good example of the kind of learning you need to be doing constantly. In the 21st Century, knowledge is power – or as others have noted, the application of knowledge is power. “Do what you love and the profits will follow” is not a reliable prescription for business success, although a few individuals are fortunate enough to have their love and profit from it too. You cannot just do what you like and succeed in business unless you are very lucky. You need to learn all about business and how to be successful. We offer an ebook written to provide that kind of broad introduction, “The Top 5 Success Factors of Business,” which you can find online at www.totalsuccesscenter.com.
(3) Your passion. Here we are not talking about erotic passion but strong feeling, something that lights your fire. For example I am writing this article because I have a passion for marketing strategy. I was born with a natural gift for strategy, and I have acquired extensive knowledge about marketing. The combination – marketing strategy – fires me up. I get excited about its tremendous power to turn ideas and interests into cash flow. Maybe your passion is antique furniture, managing money, investments, helping people with problems, art, operations, making things with your hands – the list is almost unlimited. If you can combine your natural strengths with your knowledge and your passion, you will have really great strengths for succeeding in the marketplace, both with strategy and execution. Ideally the other staff members share your passion for your business focus while bringing different strengths and knowledge backgrounds that complement yours.
(4) Organization strengths. Beyond personal strength, an organization usually has something that it is good at through a combination of everyone’s individual strengths, what the organization does best as a team. If you’re just starting a business, those group strengths won’t be very well developed yet. But if you’ve been in business for a while, there’s most likely one or more things that your group does better than the competition. Often it is some type or combination of quality, price or service. There’s an old saying, “Quality, price, service – pick two.” That’s because there are always trade-offs. For example it is very difficult to provide the highest quality at the lowest price, and sometimes customers won’t even believe you provide the highest quality if your price is the lowest. So realistically your business or group strengths are a combination of what you in the organization think are your strengths, and what people in the marketplace – customers and prospects – think and believe. We discuss that more in point 6.
(5) Resource advantages. Having a powerful piece of equipment, an ideal physical location, a patented technology, or extensive capital can all be important business advantages. We list them in separately from people strengths because these resources are not human-personality-dependent like the organization strengths above. Resources can usually be acquired if you have enough money. And today’s cutting edge equipment can be obsolete in no time, so some resource advantages are short lived. Still they should all be considered and evaluated when identifying your strengths.
(6) Market reputation. If you’ve been in business for a few years or more, your company has a reputation that has real value. When valuing a business, this is sometimes called “goodwill.” When viewing it from a branding perspective, it’s called brand equity or brand awareness. From the standpoint of marketplace perceptions and competitive rankings, it’s called positioning. If people already know your business, and turn to it to provide certain products or services on a regular basis, that is very valuable, a strength to build on. But you cannot accurately know what your market reputation, brand equity or positioning really is unless you do market research, which we will discuss below. Guessing what other people think is rarely accurate.
A key point in relation to market reputation is, it’s always relative to how other providers and competitors are perceived, as well as to customer needs. For example, if I need a new toilet and your business is very good at installing wooden blinds, that isn’t going to do me much good, and I probably would not hire you for plumbing work. Or if you operate a printing business, you have to offer something that is superior to what other printers offer in some way – better quality, lower price, better service, more convenient location, faster turnaround. Otherwise you are not going to be able to attract your competitors’ customers or others who require competitive quotes.
6) Other strengths – Don’t let this list of typical strength categories limit your thinking. Work with your leadership team to explore, “What are our strengths?” and let the answers flow. You can cluster them into logical categories later.
In summary, this important step of determining your strengths needs to be a multi-part, interactive process. First you and your management team or group need to decide what you think your strengths are. Then you need to do some objective market research (as described later) to determine what the marketplace thinks, then come back and adjust your strength definitions as needed.
b. Assess Your Limitations
No one can do all things equally well. Personally I do not like the term “weaknesses” as the opposite of strengths because it tends to suggest things which cannot be improved or a sort of wimpy attitude. Whether you call them limitations, problems, negatives or challenges, it is important and realistic to consider the flip side of strengths. You can use the same categories above to assess your limitations, or boil it down to individual, organizational, resource and marketplace limitations.
Since the essence of marketing strategy is to build on your strengths and capitalize on competitor weaknesses, keep in mind that your competitors may be looking at you with the same intent. Your strategy needs to leverage your strengths for competitive advantage, while defending yourself in areas where you lack strengths that competitors have. Otherwise you can be easily beaten or blindsided.
No person or organization can be strong in all areas and weak in none. However your organizational strategy as well as your marketing strategy might include specific actions to overcome known limitations or weaknesses so your vulnerability is minimal, especially in dimensions or areas that matter most to customers.
So now we have defined what we inside the organization want in terms of our purposes, and what we think are our competitive strengths and advantages. Before we conduct any market research to determine what customers, prospects and others think and want, we need to complete our initial internally-driven analysis of who the key players in the marketplace are, and the various dynamics or forces at work. Stay tuned for our next post on marketing strategy.