Fifth in a series.
In this series, we are discussing the importance of creating a photography marketing plan  and the steps in that process. In this installment, we cover the SWOT analysis — an exercise in which you assess your business’s Strengths, Weaknesses, and Opportunities, as well as the Threats you face in the marketplace.
If you’ve ever taken a business course, you’ve probably heard of a SWOT analysis. While they are more often associated with business plans than marketing plans, they are critical to developing your marketing strategy.
The SWOT Components
Let’s take a look at each of the four parts of SWOT:
- Strengths. These are the things that make you stand out. What are the tools/weapons in your arsenal? Was your training exceptional? Is your equipment top of the line? Do you have years of experience? Has your life outside of photography added something to your work?
A wedding photographer might write: “I have shot weddings of all sizes at every major event venue in the Boston area, so when a couple chooses me, they know what they’re getting — and that unwanted surprises will be kept to a minimum. My experience means my clients have one less thing to worry about.”
- Weaknesses. The worst move you can make as a business owner is to ignore your weaknesses. Instead, you should admit them, embrace them — and then conquer them. I like to call weaknesses “growing edges,” because they are the places your organization has the most room to improve.
An advertising photographer might describe her weaknesses this way: “I enjoy shooting for ads but I sometimes have difficulty taking direction from art directors, and this has cost me agency relationships in the past. I also tend to become uncomfortable in crowds, which makes it a challenge for me to network for new business.”
- Opportunities. These are the areas where your company has the most potential for growth. Is there an untapped market that you have a unique opportunity to serve? Are you the only one offering a particular product or service? Do you do something better than anyone else?
An editorial photographer might write: “More and more media outlets are looking to integrate video into their Web sites. Since I have video training, enjoy shooting video, and own a Canon 5D Mark II, I can deliver high-quality stills and video at a competitive price, offering added value for clients.”
- Threats. These are the competitors, trends, and other factors that are working against your organization. As with your weaknesses, it is important to be honest with yourself. Threats are not necessarily bad things; they simply have to be addressed. In my business, for example, I feel threatened by “Shoot & Scoot” photographers — but it doesn’t stop me from keeping my prices high and offering a premium product.
A corporate photographer might describe his biggest threat this way: “More and more of my clients are slashing their annual report budgets or even dispensing with annual reports altogether, both because of the poor economy and the trend toward online communication. Assuming this continues, I’ll need to find a way to replace this portion of my income.”
Market with Self-Knowledge
A SWOT analysis can be performed in a couple of intense hours — particularly if you involve your friends and associates in the process. Once you have performed your analysis, start using what you’ve learned on your Web site and in your marketing materials.
Make a big deal of your strengths. Compensate for your weaknesses. Exploit your opportunities. Overcome your threats. This kind of self-knowledge is the key to successful marketing.
Next: determining target markets