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The following post is courtesy of Diane Harrison who is principal and owner of Panegyric Marketing, a strategic marketing communications firm founded in 2002 specializing in alternative assets.

It’s a new year, with a new opportunity to achieve your business goals. One of the best ways to set realistic and attainable goals is to take a clear look at where you are now, and define where you can go, by taking inventory of the current standing. A SWOT analysis can help you organize this evaluation and separate your internal perception from the external one. 


SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. The first two categories are typically defined by your own perceptions of where you believe you stand versus your competition, while the second two are more generally ascertained through external factors and perceptions about you. Because of this, getting good reliable feedback regarding the entire analysis helps to create a more unified and actual vision of your standing in the business community. 

One of the best ways to accomplish this feedback gathering is to survey your clients and prospects about these categories and complete a SWOT analysis table such as this to give you an unbiased view of your standing.

SWOT chart.png

Asking others to define these factors requires a large enough pool of participants to gain a comprehensive picture, but also needs to include those who know you or know of you, well enough to provide realistic data. Generally speaking, if you survey 100 of your clients/prospects, you’ll likely receive a 10-30% response rate, with 50% being considered an excellent effort. At 100 responses, your margin of error will be about 10%, so a 90% accuracy view is a great indicator of actual external perception of your business.


SurveyMonkey and Google Survey are two such automated, web-based survey resource tools that allow you to build your own customized questionnaire, gather the results, and perform a range of analysis on the responses to help you interpret and create action plans for your business. A caveat on sending out surveys though: most people hate them, and most won’t want to bother completing them. 

In order to give yourself the best chance to get the reply pool you desire, keep your survey format as brief as you can, and consider offering some small reward to those who complete it and send in their responses by an early deadline. You’d be surprised how receiving a simple gift—baseball hat, coffee mug, tote bag—can get move some people to action.

Use of multiple word choices by ticking a box are generally a good way to elicit feedback, as people are more likely to choose the best answer than write a short paragraph in response. However, you’ll want to mix in some open-ended questions to gain insight into what clients and prospects really feel about your business. Some typical survey questions that you might consider using when you build your customized form could include:

  1. On a scale of 1-10, 10 being strongest, how well have we met your expectations for customer service this year?
  2. How can we improve on your client experience with us?
  3. If we could change one thing about us, what would that be?
  4. Do we provide the right type of information and the appropriate frequency of communication about your investment?
  5. What would you say to someone who asked about our business?


The short answer is yes. Who better to tell you about your business than the people who interact with it? If you are brave enough to ask the critical questions that generate honest replies, you can uncover what they like, don’t like, and where they want to see improvement. The website states: ‘Surveys are now a prevalent and valuable tool to help you gauge how successful your business is according to the people who interact with it. It allows you to take a step back and see a different perspective from the consumer standpoint. This can help you understand what’s working for your company and what needs to be changed.’

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