Looking Inside: Strengths & Limitations

Conduct Your Internal Review as part of a Strategic Marketing Plan

man sitting with notebook in forest
man sitting with notebook in forest
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Looking Inside

We have had a look at the big picture, and our market situation. We’ve looked at our competition. Now we have to look at ourselves.

This section consists of a Marketing Audit if we are already operating and then we take a cold, hard look at our Resources and Capabilities. Thirdly, we can complete our SWOT. But we don't leave it there. The real power of SWOT is actually TOWS. TOWS shows us out strategic options.

I’ll explain what that means soon.

Marketing Audit

If we are already running a business, the first thing we should do at this point is to conduct a Marketing Activities and Materials Audit. In the Audit, we need to examine what we are currently doing and whether it is working.

These questions will help guide you through the process.

printed matter, pens and stationery on a table
printed matter, pens and stationery on a table
Photo by Gautam Lakum on Unsplash

Summary Marketing Audit Questions

  1. Do you already have a professional logo, style guide, tagline?

2. Do your current marketing materials have a consistent look and feel?

3. Is the tagline and business name the same? Is the value proposition clear?

4. Do your corporate communications (e.g. website, brochures) explain what’s in it for your customer? Or is it all about your company?

5. What activities do you do to market your business? (e.g. advertising, a website, blog, SEM, SEO)

6. In your estimation, are you doing too many different promotional things or not enough?

7. Rate each of the activities on a scale of 1 to 10 based on effectiveness?

8. How do you get new business?

9. How satisfied are clients with the business? Do you have systems in place to collect fresh testimonials and reviews? (Or are testimonials and reviews not good enough to ask for)?

10. Do you conduct regular customer research?

11. Do you perform regular market research (of emerging services, solutions, competitors and the industry at large)?

Resources and Capabilities

This short way of looking at things can be great fr self-employed or startup businesses. It helps those of us on a shoestring budget to see what we can and can’t do.

Here we consider what resources you have available in terms of four things: TIME, SKILLS, OTHER PEOPLE and MONEY.

person looking up at waterfall and contemplating next move
person looking up at waterfall and contemplating next move
Photo by Caleb ralston on Unsplash

TIME: How much time do you really have available to work ON your business (rather than in it)?


SKILLS: What are your core professional skills? Aside from your core professional skills, what supplementary skills do you have that could help?


PEOPLE: Do you have any people (such as family or partner, parent or friend) whose opinion you trust or could add value in other ways? Who and what could they do?


MONEY: What is the budget you have available?


Next we get into the heady world of strategy formulation.


Strengths and Weaknesses (limitations) are INTERNAL.


Using insights gleaned from the last two exercises, as well as your own understanding of your company, to complete the Strengths and Weaknesses squares.

Of course, there are no right or wrong answers as to which you select, but you know yourself best so it’s in your hands. Be discerning and make a judgement.

Having more than five doesn’t really give us extra value. We need to be clear and simple. That means we need to focus on those strengths that are, in our best assessment, key.

B. Weaknesses

Consider your resources and capabilities (time, people, money). Where are you limited?

Consider your professional skills. Is there a gap? Are you fast or slow to get new services to market? Are there any roadblocks?

Opportunities and Threats are EXTERNAL.

C. Opportunities

Now we move from looking inwardly to looking outwardly. Here we need to think in terms of external opportunities available in our industry and competitive arena.

Thinking about our PEST trends and implications, what opportunities are available in the Industry?

Consider your Competitor Review and Perceptual Map. What opportunities can you see there?

D. Threats

Again, we are considering factors that are EXTERNAL to us and our business.

1) Looking at our PEST, what broader Industry factors could threaten our business?

2) Looking at our competitors, think about what some of the activities you can expect or imagine coming from the competition in the near future

Grab the template and use the information below to help you fill in the SWOT squares.

Example SWOT

Here is an example from Michael our Physiotherapist.

Image for post
Image for post

TOWS — The Power of SWOT

The true power of a SWOT analysis only comes when we take it a step further. It is where we use the power of our Strengths. This is where we decide on the crux of our strategy, especially when we are talking about strengths-based leadership.

The TOWS section is where the magic happens. I am indebted to Heinz Weirich for devising this.

These extra squares simply ask:


How can we use our Strengths to take advantage of Opportunities?

What is happening from our market research that is an emerging opportunity or market?


How can we use our Strengths to minimize Threats?

How can we make a barrier to stop a new entrant or existing player? For example: Can we add more value early? Can we be a great Guide and explain the landscape to build trust?


How can we reduce our Weaknesses so we can take advantage of Opportunities?

As an aside, Donald Miller of StoryBrand suggests you should “staff your limitations.” In other words, can we outsource or hire people to do what you’re not strong at doing?

As a visionary leader, Miller says he is not good at details. He hires an executions manager whose job is to make sure his ideas get implemented.

Staff your limitations.


How can we reduce our Weaknesses so we can mitigate Threats?

If the weakness is something the company as a whole is not good at, you would be better to focus on what it is good at instead of trying to compete on that. Carving out your territory is what will make you different.

Can you upskill? Can you hire in? Can you cut off the weak part?

You could also set up a referral system whereby forming relationships with ‘competitors’. This way you send customers who need the thing you’re not good at (but they are) to them and vice versa. It makes sense.

TOWS Matrix

This is what the new template looks like. The order of the matrix shifts.

TOWS Matrix
TOWS Matrix

Example TOWS — Michael, Physiotherapist

Image for post
Image for post
Strengths and Weaknesses are Internal. Opportunities and Threats are external and discoverable through market research and market scanning.
Toddler at bottom of staircase
Toddler at bottom of staircase
Photo by Jukan Tateisi on Unsplash

Defining the Strategy

Congratulations! You have come a very long way.

In a master’s degree in Strategy, students are instructed to devise three different strategic options based on TOWS. Some opportunities may be more attractive than others. It’s up to you to select which one to go for.

The game is always changing, so this is an exercise worth repeating every now and then. Best wishes to you.

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Writes about strategy, storytelling, messaging, and communication…Prone to bouts of fiction.

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