We all know that exporting requires many qualities such as perseverance, patience or pragmatism. However, in my opinion, the most important of all are humbleness and honesty. They are essential in building up strong foundations for your export development.
Before taking any exciting actions, before planing ahead and looking at the horizon, one must start with a deep and sincere introspection.
This is the « W » focus on the SWOT analysis, the most unpleasant part.
The SWOT is a structured method to evaluate a company’s position at the moment of the analysis. It is strategic as it assesses the business’ Strengths and Weaknesses, and the external Opportunities and Treats. This analysis is very useful to make strategic decisions for a successful export development. Here is below a SWOT template which can be used as guideline in your study :
This introspection must point out all signs of vulnerability. Some weaknesses might appear minor now, but can become highly problematic during the export development process. One must be aware that these fragilities will soon be the target of competitors’ attacks on the export field.
This is why no weakness should be ignored.
This does not mean that every aspect of an organization must be optimal for a successful export development (if so, no company would be exporting). This means that every aspect of an organization must be understood and processed.
One must know exactly what his/her business’ weaknesses are and be prepared to deal with the difficulties that will arise because of them.
Weaknesses mostly lie in two areas :
-Organization : How do I deal with orders, production, supplies? Do I have sufficient cash flow? Is my process optimized? Do I have the right knowledge and connexions to overcome new administrative and documentation requirements?..
-Product : is my product/brand export-ready? Is there a shelf-life or any other specifications (logistic requirements, packaging…) which would make exports to some areas more difficult? Is there any misleading message in the image of my product? Is my brand or product portfolio attractive?
The SWOT analysis is a great tool to identify these weak points, which makes it easier to work on them -either to improve, or, if no improvement is possible, to be prepared to competitors’ attacks.
The ultimate goal of the SWOT, and this is by far my favorite part, is to find ways to turn those weaknesses into strengths. Marketing being a lot about understating, and communication, once all aspects of a weakness are perfectly handled, and thanks to good communication shifts, it is often possible to find out benefits into a fragility.
After all, it is all about perspective!