Solopreneurs and small business owners rise and fall on the marketplace perception of their brand, also known as one’s professional reputation. For that reason, the brand merits ongoing monitoring, enhancement and promotion as a component of strategies designed to support new business acquisition and encourage repeat business. The objective is to build and maintain a good client list. A useful way to review and evaluate your brand is with what many experts consider the gold standard of strategic planning, the SWOT Analysis.
SWOT is the acronym of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Every 18 – 24 months, self-employed professionals will benefit from examining the viability of their brand, to better understand what actions enhance the brand and what might weaken it. Conduct a SWOT Analysis and use what you discover as the foundation of a strategic plan for your brand.
Strengths: expertise, competitive advantages, A-list clients, referral sources, strategic partnerships, educational or professional credentials, financial resources, influential relationships. They are internally generated and within your control. Potential actions include:
- Leveraging resources to upgrade the types of clients you work with
- Increasing sales or billable hours by a certain percentage
- Developing a strategy to obtain more repeat business
- Developing a strategy that would persuade clients to hire you for more lucrative projects
Weaknesses: whatever challenges your brand. Competitors, ineffective marketing, poor customer service, weak perceived value of your products and services. These are internal and within your control. Potential actions include:
- Determining which inadequacies have the most negative impact on revenues
- Identifying gaps that can be quickly or inexpensively remedied
- Understanding how to minimize liabilities—which business practices can you modify, professional credentials you can earn, relationships you can cultivate?
Opportunities: conditions that favor the attainment of goals. These are external and beyond your control, yet you may be able to retool and benefit from their presence. Good information about business conditions in your marketplace helps business owners to evaluate and envision the potential of short-term and long-term benefits and learn how to get the pay-off. Consider the following:
- What new developments can you leverage to bring money and prestige to your venture?
- Do you see ROI in offering new products or services?
- Are there good clients you might successfully sign or lapsed clients who, with outreach, could be willing to reactivate?
- Is there a niche market you can successfully enter?