We nurses, we know acronyms. And abbreviations. And initialisms. For instance, I can boast having two of them following my name: BSN, RN.
Other abbreviations, acronyms, and initialisms we nurses use on a regular basis include:
You get the idea.
Let’s talk about a marketing acronym you should get familiar with, because it can take your business to the next level. That abbreviation is SWOT, and it stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats.
Today I’d like to lead you through performing a SWOT analysis and explain why this simple exercise can boost your business.
What is a SWOT Analysis?
This is a basic marketing exercise that all business plans should include. A SWOT analysis simply analyzes (duh) the major internal and external factors that may affect your prospects for success in the future. You should perform a SWOT analysis when you first set up your writing business, and then review it periodically – at year-end or whenever your business conditions change substantially.
Performing a SWOT analysis requires you to frankly and critically analyze your operations and the business climate in which you’re operating. You then can use the results of the SWOT analysis to help you make savvy business and marketing decisions that provide the greatest return-on-investment (ROI).
Here’s how to do it.
Elements of a SWOT Analysis
You don’t even need a template to perform this exercise. Simply take a blank piece of paper and divide it into four quadrants.
Each quadrant holds one of the four elements of the analysis:
Strengths (write this label in the upper-left quadrant)
Weaknesses (upper-right quadrant)
Opportunities (lower-left quadrant)
Threats (lower-right quadrant)
Strengths and Weaknesses refer to characteristics inside your business operations. These are factors you can control.
Opportunities and Threats refer to characteristics outside your business operations. These are factors over which you hold no control.
Next, Fill Out the Grid
Within each quadrant, you’re going to list three to five bullet points that encapsulate the most major applicable factors. Let’s work our way through an example for a freelance nurse-writer, though, of course, your SWOT analysis will contain unique factors based on your own operation.
Let’s use a hypothetical Nancy Nurse-Writer (NNW) for this exercise. Nancy is just setting up shop, working part-time as a healthcare content marketing writer on the side while she continues to work at the hospital on a three-12s schedule in NICU.
As I said, this box should include factors within your business operations that you can control. To produce this list, you’ll need to think long and hard about what makes you, as a writer, or your business, as a service provider, different from most other freelance healthcare or nurse writers out there.
For NNW, the list of strengths might include:
1. She is an RN
2. She focuses on writing in the parent/child niche
3. She worked with the hospital marketing department to produce brochures on prematurity
4. Did a stint as a home health nurse working with vent-assisted children
For a more experienced writer, the list might include factors not related to her personal or professional background, such as:
1. Won a reporting award
2. Spoke at a content marketing conference
3. Has worked with major brands
4. Runs a full-time operation (which is important to some clients)
5. Lives in a region with lots of major healthcare organizations
The main point here is that your strengths should be the major points that make your business different from your competitors’. Being a nurse should always be listed as a strength because the vast majority of other healthcare content writers are not clinicians, and being a nurse gives you a distinct advantage in this respect.
This box should include your major business weaknesses. To put it another way, this list can reflect the areas in which your competitors are stronger than you are. Keep in mind, again, we’re talking about internal factors you can control. Be brutally honest with yourself here. Identifying and listing your weaknesses gives you the opportunity strengthen them.
For NNW, this list might include:
1. Not an APRN
2. No clips (work samples) yet
3. Limited hours to serve clients
4. No website
5. Almost no marketing budget
For a more experienced nurse-writer, this list might include:
1. Poor caliber clips
2. No major brands on client list
3. No dedicated office space at home
As you can see, ‘weaknesses’ can run the gamut from personal attributes (not an APRN) to functional factors like a lack of office space that allows you to focus for writing and serve clients well. Just list the three weaknesses you believe have the biggest negative impact on your ability to succeed.
Filling out the Opportunities and Threats sections becomes a little trickier, in my opinion. I find it’s easy for me to look at my internal operations and identify strengths and weaknesses, but it’s harder to look at the general business climate to identify opportunities and threats.
In general, just remember that these two sections include external factors outside your control. The exercise becomes easier if you keep that yardstick in mind.
The Opportunities section can include factors like the legislative climate, size of the market, and things like that. The list likely would not be terribly different between NNW and a more experienced nurse-writer, because, generally speaking, external opportunities (and threats) that affect one of us affect all of us within the industry.
So, perhaps NNW’s Opportunities list might include:
1. Surge in demand for healthcare content
2. Few nurses entering the writing field
3. Legislation lowering the gross receipts tax rate
It’s easier for me to conceptualize what a Threat is, in the context of a SWOT analysis, because we’ve all been rocked recently by the legislation cropping in up in California, New York, and New Jersey that poses a direct threat to freelance writers being able to maintain their independent business status. This is the type of external, outside-your-control factor that should be included on your Threats list.
For NNW (or anyone else), the list might include:
1. Legislation like California’s AB5
2. State or local business regulations that impose a financial burden
3. Growth of platforms like Upwork
Again, just list three to five factors outside your control that could negatively affect your business success.
OK, Did All That! Now What?
Incorporate the SWOT analysis into your business or marketing plan. Use the data points within your SWOT analysis to help you plot your business course over the coming year.
For example, Nancy Nurse-Writer identified “no website” as a key weakness. She should ask herself how she can rectify that. She should do some research into the options available to her, then figure out which choice makes sense within her budget and her marketing objectives. And then she should incorporate a SMART goal into her business plan to get a website up.
The more experienced writer listed “won a reporting award” as a strength. She should ask herself how she might leverage this to get free publicity or to make herself look irresistible in her LOI.
You can use the SWOT analysis to formulate goals that should be written in your business and marketing plans, and you also can use the data to inform decision-making on the fly. For instance, if NNW discovers she can buy ads on Facebook to promote her business, she can refer to her SWOT analysis to see if spending on Facebook ads would augment any of her strengths or address a weakness. In her case, I would say probably not. In fact, she listed “no website” and “almost no marketing budget” as key weaknesses to be addressed in 2020, and buying Facebook ads wouldn’t address either of those things. Neither would buying Facebook ads in any way contribute to her list of strengths.
On the flip side, if our experienced writer were presented with another opportunity to speak at an industry conference, that would create another “strength” to add to her list, since she believes these experiences help differentiate her from her competitors.
I hope you see how the simple act of performing a SWOT analysis can pay real dividends. Have you ever done one before? What do you think is the biggest threat that should be on every nurse writer’s list? Tell me directly by leaving a comment!