How Being A SWOT Can Help You Grow Your Business

This article first appeared in Professional Adviser

If you’ve been through the British education system and have been called a swot, the chances are it wasn’t meant in a nice way.

Dating back to the 1860s, the word swot is a derogatory term used to describe people who would rather bury their heads in a maths textbook rather than attend the school disco.

Recently, Supreme Court Judge Lady Hale was criticised for calling herself a ‘girly swot’, an apparent dig at Boris Johnson for referring to former Prime Minister David Cameron in such a way.

But for forward-thinking financial advisers wanting to grow their business, being a SWOT is not such a bad thing.

Fundamentally, SWOT analysis is a business and marketing tool designed to help an organisation identify its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, which are then used to inform corporate strategy.

Usually undertaken using a ‘four-box template’, a typical example for an IFA firm might look something like this:

Strengths Weaknesses
Independent/whole of market service

Highly qualified advisers/planners

Well-known, established name


Company branding

Old website

Complacency (“we’ve always done what we’ve always done”)

No specific strategy for winning new business


Opportunities Threats
Unhappy clients in the market

Increasing need for financial advice

Increased awareness of pensions

Qualifications and permissions in specific markets (e.g. DB transfers)


Regulatory changes

New business opened in local market

Increasing operating costs (e.g. PI insurance)

Economic climate


Putting it into practice

When pinpointing strengths, think about what you do well and where your business’ unique selling points lie. Look at any internal resource that may set you apart from your competitors too. For example, do you have a colleague specialising in a niche area that’s increasing in demand?

On the contrary, weaknesses can be found by reviewing client feedback and working with the wider team to identify areas for improvement, as well as any other factors that might detract from your ability to maintain a competitive edge.

Keep an eye on market trends and how these compliment your strengths, as that may help inform where your areas of focus should lie.  For example, as demand increases, is pension transfer advice an area you specialise in? But be mindful of how your areas of focus will make people perceive your firm.

Look to competition and any particular areas where they appear to be standing out in terms of potential threats. Think about external factors that could put your business at risk too, such as upcoming regulatory developments or a changing economic environment for example.

Furthermore, a strong SWOT analysis will factor in the ‘7 Ps of marketing’. Throughout the process, consider:

  • Product/service – What does the current offering look like and how might this be developed?
  • Pricing – How do your fees compare with the wider market? Can the pricing model be improved?
  • Placing – What distribution options are there to help customers benefit from your service? Could online or mobile be being used better to improve accessibility and engagement?
  • Promotion – How could the business be better promoted through paid, owned or earned media?
  • Physical evidence – How might material factors, such as offices or website, be enhanced to reassure clients and prospects?
  • People – Are the right people filling each role? To what extent are skills gaps being filled?
  • Process – How well are current methods performing in terms of website user experience, communication, delivery time and delivery methods and service?

From SWOT to strategy

Once you have completed your SWOT analysis, you can begin developing business strategies.

The aim is to work how strengths can be used to maximise opportunity and mitigate threats, so think about how the ‘SWOTs’ can overlap with each other. For example, if there is a noticeable demand for your particular specialisms in the wider market, bring this to the fore in marketing activity via case studies and testimonials.

When developing strategies, involve everyone in the business. Print the SWOT matrix on a large piece of paper so that employees can add sticky notes to highlight any points they feel directors may have missed. Holding inter-office discussions to bring in different views is a key way of driving progress, and even more an important if complacency and a “we’ve always done it this way” syndrome has been identified as a weakness.

Review, review, review

A SWOT analysis is never the end result, but rather the first step in ensuring strategies are continually aligned with your business’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Implementing measures to monitor progress is most important of all, which is why you must make sure to schedule regular review meetings, where you review results to date and why outcomes of strategies may differ from what was originally planned. They often will be, and this is perfectly normal – but understanding this and building on learnings is the only way you will strengthen strategies to keep your business moving forward.