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Pimp Your SWOT: 2 Steps To A Customer-Focused Strategy

On a consultancy assignment in Denmark last year my team gave the company’s directors a shock; a good shock. Our findings helped form a great strategy for the company and drive it to further success. Here’s the team.

ESSAM G14 Consulting Team (L-R: S. Yeo, P. Hatcher, W. Ellis, I. Christiansen, J. Burrows)

SWOT’s are pretty misaligned, they’re seen as a chore, most of them are done badly and most people mistakenly think they’re easy. However, they can be very usefuI; here’s an example and a top tip, which will make you look good and give you a much-improved strategy.

Completed your SWOT? Now check with your customers.

On your next strategy review, once you’ve completed your SWOT, ring a few of the firm’s customers, it’ll only take a few minutes and see if they agree with your findings. If they don’t; review and improve it.

On the Danish consultancy project, having spent many hours with our client thrashing out a SWOT, we decided to call the firm’s customers. This was a truly eye-opening moment. Astonishingly, the customers had a markedly different view of the firm’s strengths, weaknesses opportunities and threats. For instance, the customers were unaware that the firm offered consultancy and project management of R&D projects, with a distinctive competency in the pure bio energy context. This was a unique competitive advantage of the company and yet their customers were unaware of it.

The 2 Steps To A Customer-Focused Strategy

Companies need a customer-focused SWOT

The customer’s responses helped us create a much improved business plan and identify new revenue streams. In addition, the customers were delighted to hear from the company and valued the interaction. Once again this goes to show that companies need to be customer centric. As the management guru Drucker wrote “[…] it is the customer who determines what a business is, what it produces, and whether it will prosper” (Drucker 1954)”. Unfortunately, far too often as Jack Welch noted  “everyone has their face toward the CEO and their ass toward the customer”.


It’s pretty simple really: before taking action on your SWOT, it’s a good idea to speak to your customers.

Further Reading

Denning, S., (2011) “The Alternative To Top-Down Is Outside-In” Forbes, 2/13/2011 (Online) Available: [Accessed: 18/10/2011]

Drucker, P. (1954). “The Practice of Management”. New York, NY, HarperCollins.

Ellis, W. (2011) “9 Reasons To Harness The Power Of Testimonials” (Online) Available: [Accessed 18/10/2011]

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. I never knew SWOT is helpful when done effectively. Thanks for sharing.

    May be it’s unrelated to the topic, but, just to offer a different perspective in which a customer centric approach won’t work, take the famous quote of Henry Ford – If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have said “a faster horse”. So, the other part of such analysis should also have a good interpretation of what customer’s say. is one of the posts I liked on this subject.

    October 23, 2011
    • Hi Sundeep,

      You’re right, you make an excellent point. It’s strange actually, a friend of mine posted that Henry Ford quote on his Linkedin profile the other day. Great minds think alike!

      With regards customer feedback, I agree that in areas of new technology (which the public might not understand) then asking your customers might not be that helpful. Cauvin in my opinion appears to be making the point that you can get useful feedback in new technology if you address the question to your customers in terms of solving a problem that they have. So, according to this quote, perhaps if Ford had asked his customers “would you like to be able to get to town faster, travel more than 30 miles in a single day and with your whole family?” -the answer might have been “yes, of course -what is your solution”?

      I can’t find the reference for this, but I seem to remember reading that Apple was famous for not bothering with focus groups for determining new products. Jobs (Apple) instinctively “knew” what his (its) customers wanted. So maybe we shouldn’t talk in absolutes but in relative terms. An amended answer might be; it is usually best to ask you customers! 🙂 Or alternatively, when asking your customers about new products, what problem are you hoping to solve? I’d be interested to hear your views.

      Best regards & thanks for your feedback, William

      October 24, 2011
      • Nice points there!

        I feel you are correct here- The quote works for new areas in technology. And Jobs was one such guy who could really tell what people just wanted. Also, I agree that it is usually best to ask for feedback, and who else other than your customer is the right guy? If you think that’s a right concern, figure out what to do.

        So, as you’ve mentioned it all boils down to the context(what kind of company, what kind of product, situation, etc.). Probably this is a very wide area we are trying to generalize as listening to customers and taking actions accordingly might mean anything from changing the color of a button on your website to killing off a whole new business line(e.g.

        October 25, 2011
  2. Hi Sundeep,

    Thanks for posting that WSJ blog article, it is a fun case study and a good example of killing off a business because of customer feedback. The rationale behind having 2 websites, one to manage your account and the other to buy the product seems so obviously complicated. However, at least having received complaints the company realized its mistake and changed quickly before lasting damage was done. I wonder how many customers they lost?

    I particularly liked the customer quote, “Thanks for wising up, originally had to be the stupidest business decision I’ve heard in 20 years. Let’s quit smoking whatever you guys are smoking up there ok?”. This is such a classic comment, I laughed when I read it!

    Of course, once a company has made a poor decision or disappointed its customers it has to manage the fallout very carefully and attempt the difficult task of regaining the lost trust. I remember talking to a hedge fund manager about a company that had cancelled a large sporting event at short notice. That single incident disappointed thousands of fans and severely damaged the brand. As we all know, it isn’t easy to regain trust once it is lost, and perhaps you never can totally. He said that, in his opinion, you might get away with it once, if you’re very lucky twice, but after that you lose all credibility. Much like people and their reputations.

    Have a good day Sundeep, and thanks for your contribution.


    October 27, 2011

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