Here is the brief overview of this cumulative Session Long Project (SLP). In this research project, you would work as a marketing consultant to develop a feasible marketing plan for your client. You would conduct both secondary research in SLP1 and SLP2 to glean the necessary information for your marketing plan in SLP3 and SLP4.
It is important to conduct quality market research on your focal product/company in order to develop realistic and workable marketing plans. Generally speaking, there are two types of research. One is secondary research, which refers to data collection using existing sources, and the other is primary research, which is your own data collection for the specific study at hand. The purpose of market research is to collect usable information to make more informed decisions on the business problem, thus increasing the chance of business success in the marketplace.
Please check the outline of the marketing plan, which provides information on:
- The final format for this cumulative session long project;
- A list of topics for the whole project;
- The continuity and connections among SLPs 1-4.
In this module SLP 2, conduct SWOT analysis for your charge based on the situation analysis in SLP1. This is the second step of this cumulative research project. Be sure to revise the sections in SLP1 and include them in this paper following the marketing plan outline provided above.
A thorough situation analysis in the Module 1 SLP is the foundation for a SWOT analysis. Develop statements of the company’s internal strengths and weaknesses, and external opportunities and threats. If there is any question as to whether a fact or issue is external (these lead to opportunity and threat statements) or internal (these lead to strength and weakness statements), ask this key question, “Would this issue exist if the company did not exist?” If the answer is yes, then the issue should be classified as external.
Note: Remember that alternative marketing strategies and tactics are not opportunities. Opportunities and threats exist independently of the firm. Strategies and tactics are what the firm intends to do about its opportunities and threats relative to its own strengths and weaknesses.
The SWOT will play a critical role (along with an in-depth understanding of target market needs/preferences and competition) in the development of goals, objectives, and marketing strategies and programs. Key strengths need to be matched to opportunities and converted to capabilities that help serve customer needs better and lead to competitive advantage. Goals, strategies, and program ideas stem from an attempt to convert weaknesses into strengths and threats into opportunities. Some alternatives will also come from thinking about how to minimize the repercussions of weaknesses and threats that cannot be converted, and/or how to avoid them altogether. Follow the instructions below to identify strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats.
A. Strengths and Weaknesses (Internal)
Think about internal conditions; those things that management has some control over that are relevant to future success and effectiveness. The task is to identify internal strengths, which must be taken into consideration as management plans for the future.
Remember, a strength is any internal characteristic that improves effectiveness. Look for factors that help the company improve positioning in the marketplace, enhance financial performance, and most importantly, fight off threats and take advantage of opportunities in the external environment.
A weakness is any internal characteristic that limits effectiveness, performance, and the ability to accomplish objectives, meet threats, and take advantage of opportunities.
It is also important to point out that a particular fact about the internal environment may have a weakness and a strength dimension. For example, we might say that the company’s technical skills are of the highest quality and this is a strength, but since these skills are possessed by only a few employees, it is also a weakness in that we need more people with such skills and would be hurt if a few key people left the company.
Using the following 16 internal factors to stimulate your thinking, list all of the company strengths you can think of for each category. Then review the same list of 16 internal factors and develop a list of company weaknesses. (You may not have access to all of the information below, but try your best to identify at least five of them for your project).
The following categories of internal factors are commonly used to generate a list of specific company strengths and weaknesses. This list is to be used to stimulate your thinking about internal strengths and weaknesses.
- Management leadership/capabilities.
- Organization structure and management systems.
- Facilities, equipment, and materials.
- Technical skills and expertise.
- Dedication, morale, and motivation of employees.
- Capacity to meet demand—production capacity, including excess available for growing demand.
- Marketing effectiveness/efficiency—advertising, personal selling, public relations, products/services, prices, distribution, marketing research and planning, customer service, warranties, sales support, sales promotion, etc.
- Ability to deliver what the market wants.
- Ability to deliver in a timely manner.
- Image and reputation as perceived by customers and within the industry.
- Customer (and potential customer) perception—likes, dislikes, and perceptions of service, quality, etc.
- Financial performance—sales, market share, customer satisfaction/loyalty, and profits.
- Financial situation—availability of capital, internal funding, financial stability, etc.
- Cost of operations—high cost vs. low cost, rising costs, costs compared to competition (manufacturing, distribution, etc.)
- Geographic location(s).
- Other relevant competencies/resources that translate into strengths that have not been mentioned. Also, any weaknesses we have missed related to a lack of competencies and/or resources that are needed in the future.
B. Opportunities and Threats (External)
Think about the most significant trends in the organization’s external environment that will have an impact on future success. The challenge is to identify relevant opportunities and threats outside management’s control that must be taken into consideration during the planning process. You will need to list and describe the factors/issues forming industry trends that may influence future efforts one way or the other, either as a positive force (opportunity) or as a barrier (threat).
An opportunity is the result of some trend or fact in the external environment that represents a marketplace and/or financial performance advantage. It may indicate a new direction, product or service, and/or resource requirement for the company. It represents an attractive arena for marketing action in which the company would enjoy a competitive advantage.
A threat is the result of some trend or fact in the external environment that represents an area of concern for management. It represents a challenge posed by an unfavorable trend or development that would lead, in the absence of effective marketing action, to the erosion of the company’s or industry’s position. A threat may:
- Directly or indirectly affect the business.
- Indicate an area to be avoided.
- Demand a strategic response.
- Represent an opportunity if responded to properly.
It should be pointed out that a particular trend in the external environment (for example, mergers/acquisitions, technological advancements, and/or a recent change in the way competitors operate and what they are offering the market) can imply both a threat and an opportunity. Sometimes in strategic planning we say that behind each threat (or problem) lies an opportunity. Or an optimist in strategic planning will look at threats and try to turn them into opportunities. Thus, it should be remembered that if management can adapt properly to a threat (such as mergers and acquisitions), this trend may be viewed as an opportunity as well as a threat.
Review the following 13 categories of external environmental trend factors and list the trends or issues that are relevant to the company and industry. Then translate each factor identified into a specific opportunity and/or threat statement. That is, what are the implications of each environmental trend or issue outside the company in terms of specific opportunities and/or threats? (You may not have access to all the information below, but try your best to identify at least five of them for your project).
External Environmental Trend Factors
The following categories of external environmental trend factors are commonly considered in the planning process. They are used to develop a specific list of company opportunities and threats. This list is to be used to stimulate your thinking about opportunities and threats in the external environment.
- Mergers and acquisitions—(e.g., among customers, potential customers, suppliers, competitors, and/or within the industry).
- Competitive trends—specific competitive strategies and programs, or recent changes such as lower prices or new products.
- Economic trends—forces and changes in the economy such as inflation, interest rates, recession.
- Technological trends—new technological innovations.
- Technical requirements—within the industry.
- Market/industry trends—size of firm related to industry, financial performance of the industry compared with the firm, size/growth rate of current and future potential market characteristics and trends in markets and industry.
- Customer and potential customer attitudes—preferences, expectations, problems, wants, needs, etc. What changes are anticipated?
- Legal trends—government regulations and policies.
- Societal/lifestyle trends—changes in people’s values, attitudes, and activities.
10. New products/services—on the market.
11. Supply sources.
12. Declining or increasing productivity—in the industry or economy.
13. Other industry trends not previous mentioned that are relevant to the future.
Based on the detailed discussion of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, use SWOT tables for the SWOT analysis. In other words, first state the facts based on your research, and then summarize the findings in a SWOT table. Note the examples below and follow the “best statements” to describe the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for your company and charge in SWOT table(s).
Not Useful Statement
Customer loyalty/brand image
We have a strong brand image.
We have a 42% market share and our brand is known worldwide.
Our global market share has grown from 25% to 42% over the past four years. Independent surveys show our quality and image is rated No. 1 in our industry in the U.S. and Asia and No. 2 in Europe behind XYZ.
Our distribution is the best in the industry.
Our product is available in more locations than our competitors’.
Our extensive distribution network provides product within 10 miles of the home or work location of 95% of our target market. Our competitors only achieve this level for 40%-65% of the market.
Our costs are high.
Our major competitors, ABC and XYZ, produce in China for less cost.
Our labor costs average $40/unit (in Detroit) vs. $12/unit for our competitors (in China). With product market prices of $120/unit we barely break even.
We have product problems.
Our product life is less than the competition.
Typically, our product fails after one year. Our major competitor’s product lasts 2-3 years. Customers are willing to pay 50% more for our competitors’ product.
Alternative Distribution College Campus
We can leverage new distribution channels.
Internet could be used to increase sales to college students.
Direct Sales (via campus Intranet) and on-campus kiosks would more than double our coverage of our targeted Generation Y market.
Export Growth via Strategic Alliances
Export markets can help us grow.
Europe and Asia provide good opportunities to grow by partnering.
Strategic alliances with ABC in Europe and XYZ in Asia would allow us to double international sales in two years.
Substitutes are a threat.
ABC’s new sugar-free sweetener may hurt us.
In six months, ABC’s sugar-free sweetener has achieved 20% market share. Its share is expected to grow to 40% by next year.
Competitor mergers could hurt us.
Competitor XYZ is expected to acquire ABC.
If XYZ acquires ABC, it will dominate the distribution network and limit our access.
Check the following link for some exercises to better understand SWOT elements.
SWOT Analysis Exercises (2010). Retrieved from http://www.cengage.com/marketing/book_content/1439039429_lamb/interactive_exercises/exercise03.html
SLP Assignment Expectations
Use the following outline to organize your paper. Note that the letters “a, b, c…” and the numbers “i, ii, iii, iv…” below are used to show the major issues you need to include in your paper, but should not be used to format your paper.
III. SWOT Analysis (3-6 pages)
- Strengths and Weaknesses (Internal)
- Opportunities and Threats (External)
- SWOT Table
Note: Use double-spaced, black Verdana or Times Roman font in 12 pt. type size. Include a title page and references. Revise your Module 1 SLP based on the feedback from your professor and your additional research, and include the Module 1 SLP in the Module 2 SLP.
Explain clearly and logically the facts about your company and charge, and use the required reading to support your positions on the issues. Do not repeat or quote definitions. Your use of the required reading to support your opinions (that is, contentions or positions) should demonstrate that you understand the concepts presented.
Paraphrase the facts using your own words and ideas, employing quotes sparingly. Quotes, if absolutely necessary, should rarely exceed five words.
Academic papers at the master’s level should include citations and references. Look at different sources, especially credible and reputable resources such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Businessweek, and The Economist, to find the information for your paper. Also use Trident University’s online library databases such as ProQuest and EBSCO to find the information for your project. Your discussion on each topic should be a synthesis of the different sources. Taking shortcuts on the number and quality of your sources will result in a poor-quality marketing plan that will be of no use to your client.
Also, it is important that you reference your sources throughout the text of your marketing plan. Take the following paragraph as an example:
“As a result, telephone interviewers often do not even get a chance to explain that they are conducting a survey (Council for Marketing and Opinion Research, 2003), and response rates have steadily declined (Keeter et al., 2000) to reported lows of 7% (Council for Marketing and Opinion Research, 2003). This decrease presents a problem because not only does it increase the cost of conducting telephone surveys, but it also leads to questions concerning the generalizability of the results (Struebbe, Kernan & Grogan, 1986; Tuckel & O’Neill, 2002).”
There are different citation and reference formats such as APA, MLA, or Chicago. No matter which format you adopt for your marketing plan, make it consistent throughout the plan.
Also note: The marketing plan should use third person business writing. Avoid “we,” “our,” and “you.” Do not use contractions in business writing.
Here are some guidelines on how to conduct information search and build critical thinking skills.
Emerald Group Publishing. (n.d.). Searching for information. Retrieved from http://www.emeraldinsight.com/learning/study_skills/skills/searching.htm
Emerald Group Publishing. (n.d.). Developing critical thinking. Retrieved from http://www.emeraldinsight.com/learning/study_skills/skills/critical_thinking.htm
Guidelines for handling quoted and paraphrased material are found at:
Purdue Online Writing Lab. (n.d.). Academic writing. Retrieved from https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/section/1/2/
Purdue Online Writing Lab. (n.d.). Quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing. Retrieved from https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/563/1/
Purdue Online Writing Lab. (n.d.). Is it plagiarism yet? Retrieved from https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/589/02/
Your paper consists of arguments in favor of your opinions or positions on the issues addressed by the guidelines; therefore, avoid the following logical fallacies:
Purdue Online Writing Lab. (n.d.). Logic in argumentative writing. Retrieved from https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/659/01/
Your SLP should not simply be a list of facts. Take the facts you find about the company, the charge, and the environments that the company faces, and explain how you think those facts will affect the financial future of the product or brand in your charge. The emphasis in grading your paper will be on the breadth and depth of your discussion of each topic, critical thinking, the clarity of your discussion, and the proper organization of the paper.