Have you ever helped build a house or any large building?  I have actually helped build two different church buildings.  As with any construction project, there are preliminary steps that must be taken to ensure a successful and smooth process.

Before we started building, we scoped out the property, attained the permits required by local and state regulations, called in MISS Utility to mark underground cables and gas/water lines, and talked to the folks in the neighborhood to let them know what was going on.  We surveyed their thoughts and opinions of a church being built in the area and, or course invited them to visit us when we started holding services.

foundationThen we started digging.  In both situations, we cut down trees, tore down old buildings, brought in heavy equipment and began moving dirt. Soon we were ready to build.  I was designated as a “gopher” – you know, go for this or go for that – but I watched the mason workers do their stuff as they dug deep in the ground, poured footers, and strategically placed steel rebar vertically into the footer for added strength and stability. Then they would carefully measure, stretch out strings and start laying the cinder blocks, ensuring adequate amounts of mortar was used to set a strong and solid foundation. Without this preliminary work, the buildings would not have stood up to the shifting ground and strong winds.  The first church building we built was completed in 2001 and still stands strong today.  The second church was completed in 2014 and is twice the size of the first.  Because of the strong foundations, both buildings will be around for many years to come.

Creating a marketing plan is just like constructing a building. 

This semester, I’m teaching two Principles of Marketing classes, and Sport Marketing and Marketing Research & Strategies courses.  The students have learned about and practiced the beginning foundational steps that are so critical in creating successful marketing strategies.  These steps are very similar to building the foundations of the churches with which I helped.

One of the first steps a marketer must do is conduct a Situation Analysis.  I stressed to the students the importance of fully understanding the internal and external environments of a company/organization. We looked at the general factors of each environment so they could grasp the concept and begin looking at the specific factors involved in the organizations for their semester-long projects. To understand it even further, every student conducted a personal SWOT analysis, and we discussed their findings as a group. I covered this topic in all my classes last week, so I thought this would be a good topic for a blog post to help drive this home even more.

The Internal Environment

These factors are the elements and resources found within the company that are controllable.  Some examples of internal factors for a business to consider and analyze might include their employees, available funding, leadership capabilities, technology and corporate culture.  If factors are positive and supportive, they are considered strengths and can be used as a competitive advantage.  If the factors are detrimental to the success of the organization, they are weaknesses.

The External Environment

On the other hand, the external environment involves factors that are found outside of the organization that cannot be controlled, but can be helpful or harmful as they affect the function of the organization.  Some examples include the economy, trends, public opinion, legal regulations, and for some companies, even the physical environment.

Competitors are also part of the external environment, and is such a powerful component that it demands special attention from the marketer.  Knowing everything you can know about your competitors is paramount to success, and required in-depth and thorough research.

SWOT Analysis

Once this Situation Analysis is complete, the marketer can put together a SWOT analysis to succinctly define and list the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats of the organization. When presenting this information to management for consideration as part of a marketing plan, creating a diagram makes it easy for the busy CMO or CEO to visually and easily review and comprehend the information.  This also makes it easier for planning what the organization can do to use the strengths as competitive advantages, eliminate weaknesses, capitalize on opportunities and prepare for threats.

Just as the footer and cinder blocks form a solid foundation for a building, conducting a Situation Analysis is the solid foundation of the marketing plan.

Strategies won’t be developed or implemented successfully without knowing what the company can and cannot do, and what positive as well as negative elements they will face outside the walls of the organization.

To illustrate this all-important marketing concept, check out this possible SWOT analysis for a hypothetical ski resort….

sample-swot

What other strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats could we add to the SWOT analysis for a ski resort?

What could the ski resort do to eliminate the weaknesses and fend off the threats?? This is where marketing strategies start forming.

Class dismissed…. pc