SO What? A twist on SWOT for business book writers – Birds on the Blog

SO What? A twist on SWOT for business book writers

SWOT analysis? Oh please.

Yes, I know. But stay with me and I’ll show you how it can be a business book writer’s best friend.

There’s a good reason why plotting your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats is a cliché of management consultancy: it’s an incredibly powerful tool. In case you haven’t heard of it (seriously, where have you BEEN for the last 40 years?) here it is…

SWOT analysis

Note that strengths and weaknesses are internal, to do with you and your business, and opportunities and threats are external, to do with what’s happening in the wider world.

STRENGTHS: these are your unique levers of competitive advantage, and should be taken forward into your content strategy as part of your positioning statement. Often people find it hard to identify their own strengths, so maybe ask someone you trust, or use an online strengths questionnaire such as the VIA survey.

WEAKNESSES: It’s very unfashionable these days to talk about weaknesses, but you need to recognise the areas in which you are LESS strong so you can pull together a plan to deal with them. If you’re disorganized, get a VA. If you’re technically challenged, ensure you have an IT support contract or cultivate a tecchie friend with a quid pro quo arrangement.

OPPORTUNITIES: these are effectively options for your strategic development, and you probably won’t be able to pursue them all simultaneously. So it’s not enough just to recognise them, you also need to prioritise: which is the most compelling? Each opportunity you choose needs to work from a commercial perspective, of course, but it must also be aligned with your deepest values and fit with your unique style, circumstances and personality. Most powerful of all are the opportunities that complement your strengths, and which are less reliant on areas in which you are weaker.

THREATS: these external forces tend to be less under your control than weaknesses, and it may be that rather than planning to neutralize them, the best you can do is mitigate against them. But either way, a solid strategy requires that you not only recognize them but design your business in full awareness of them, for example by diversifying your portfolio of products, expanding your customer base, or taking out insurance. Under this category you might also consider competitors, and plan how you will differentiate yourself.

See, you’d forgotten what a useful wee tool it is, hadn’t you?

SO What – son of SWOT for the business book writer

But have you ever thought of using SWOT to discover the book you should write? Allow me to introduce my patented SO What model (Strengths & Opportunities – see what I did there?). Once you’ve done the SWOT analysis you’ve got a much clearer sense of the best opportunities out there and the strengths at your disposal. So here’s the question: does the book you’re planning make the most of both? The sweet spot for you book is where those two overlap, where what you do best plays forward into a space that’s opening up.

Tim Ferriss did it with The 4-Hour Work Week, wedding his own experience with the emerging hunger for the laptop lifestyle, and then he did it again, seeing an opportunity to spin out the success of that concept into the hot topics of health and food with The 4-Hour Body and The 4-Hour Chef respectively. Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits did it with The Lean Entrepreneur, combining their practical start-up experience and training skills with the revolution in business thinking created by Eric Ries’s The Lean Startup (which itself took as its starting point Ries’s entrepreneurial experience plus the development of lean manufacturing processes).

If you’re still undecided about the book you want to write, this is a great opportunity to do some brainstorming; what COULD you write, if you were to marry together your unique strengths and the most exciting opportunities you see out there?

When you have a handful of possible titles, that’s when you need to use some prioritisation techniques. But that’s a whole new blog post…

If you’ve never done a SWOT analysis before, here’s a great tutorial from Bird on the Blog Lynn Tulip. 

And if you need permission to focus on your strengths rather than your weaknesses, here’s some wise words from Tonja Davis.

About the Author Alison Jones

Alison is a book coach and publishing partner for businesses and organizations with something to say. She hosts the Extraordinary Business Book Club podcast.

follow me on: