SWOT: The High-Level Self Exam that Boosts Your Bottom Line

By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer

SWOT analysisHow to bring maximum benefit to your twice-yearly marketing update.

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…even better, twice 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.

Sketch the quadrants.

Create a four-part grid on a single piece of paper to provide an overview that helps visualize the relationships.

Healthcare SWOT Analysis

Identify and list the key elements in each quadrant. Get these down on paper as the first step.

Internal: Strengths & Weaknesses

The top two sections (STRENGTHS and WEAKNESSES) 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:

  • a new and/or innovative service
  • capabilities or cost advantages
  • cultural connections
  • extraordinary reputation
  • other aspects that add value
  • special expertise and/or experience
  • superior location or geographic advantage

WEAKNESSES: 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:

  • absence of marketing plan
  • damaged reputation
  • gaps in capabilities or service areas
  • lagging in technology
  • management or staff problems
  • own known vulnerability
  • poor location or geographic barriers
  • undifferentiated service lines

External: Opportunities & Threats

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:

  • a market vacated by a competitor
  • availability of new technology
  • changes in population profile or need
  • Competitor vulnerabilities
  • lack of dominant competition
  • new market segment that offer improve profit
  • new vertical, horizontal, or niche markets

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:

  • a competitor has an innovative product or service
  • a new competitor(s) in your home market
  • adverse changes in reimbursement or regulations
  • changing insurance plans and/or contracts for major area employers
  • competitors have superior access to channels of distribution
  • economic shifts
  • loss of key staff or associates
  • new or increased competition
  • seasonality
  • shifts in market demand or referral sources
Seven simple rules for successful SWOT analysis

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.
Send us your SWOT notes for a reality check.

If you’d like to know more about putting this high-value assessment tool to work in your plan, we would be pleased to provide a well-informed and objective sounding board for you. Call us today at 800-656-0907, or connect with us hereMake every marketing dollar count with a custom, strategic plan.

Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer at Healthcare Success
Stewart Gandolf, MBA, is Chief Executive Officer of Healthcare Success, one of the nation's leading healthcare and digital marketing agencies. Over the past 20 years, Stewart has marketed and consulted for over 1,000 healthcare clients, ranging from practices and hospitals to multi-billion dollar corporations. A frequent speaker, Stewart has shared his expertise at over 200 venues nationwide. As an author and expert resource, Stewart has also written for many leading industry publications, including the 21,000 subscriber Healthcare Success Insight blog. Stewart also co-authored, "Cash-Pay Healthcare: Start, Grow & Perfect Your Cash-Pay Healthcare Business." Stewart began his career with leading advertising agencies, including J. Walter Thompson, where he marketed Fortune 500 clients such as Wells Fargo and Bally's Total Fitness.



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