8 Trends To Keep Your Eyes On In 2018

1. Instagram Stories Drive Upcoming Instagram Trends

Instagram Stories is a big deal and they’re not going away. Daily viewers of Instagram Stories surpassed daily SnapChat viewers just one year after launch, and the growth isn’t stopping.

Instagram Stories was likely the biggest single change in the Instagram UX, and its marketing implications are huge.

A huge deal with Instagram Stories is this: accounts with over 10,000 followers can now add a link within the feature. Considering the fact that the only other place you can put a link on Instagram is just the one buried on your profile page, this is a huge deal, as it multiplies buying or inquiry opportunities by orders of magnitude.

Instagram Stories in particular will be relevant from a marketing perspective because, compared to other transitory video platforms, Instagram metrics are eminently trackable.

A final note on Instagram Stories: Their foundation is social media engagement gold. Video drastically outperforms all other forms of content on every test.

2. Influencer Marketing Makes Major Contributions to Social Media Engagement

Influencer marketing is big business — a billion dollar industry by some counts. There is an exhaustive list of micro-celebrities who earn six figure incomes. And this isn’t a fluke. Influencer marketing is uniquely keyed to exploit certain facts about a growing number of buyers.
As Millennials advance their careers, and Generation Z starts theirs, an enormous population’s purchasing power is increasing swiftly. These two groups — who, combined, literally comprise most of the world’s population — are uniquely influenced by this marketing method.

3. Generation Z to Decide Social Media Trends

We’ve mentioned Generation Z in both of the previous topics for good reason.

RetailDive had this to say about Generation Z and their associated social media trends:

“Gen Z is two- to three times more likely to be influenced by social media than by sales or discounts — the only generation to value social media over price when it comes to making purchase decisions…”

Furthermore, 81% report watching at least one hour of online video per day, or more, according to a study by Fluent, covered by AdWeek. Combine these facts and realize that droves of Generation Z will graduate college and/or start careers next year, and you start to see the powder keg.

4. Messaging Platforms Make Companies Accessible


What do you know about WeChat? They’re a wee little Chinese messaging company . . . errr, one that’s looking to cross 1 billion users this quarter. WeChat and WhatsApp are absolutely ubiquitous across either ocean, reaching across many different functions to dominate social media, direct messaging, and even purchasing and commerce.

Every year more and more buyers are Millennials and Gen Z, and fewer and fewer are older. In case you’re not aware of these people’s overwhelming preferences when it comes to talking to a company, we’ll illustrate in their native language:

top-social-media-trends-20185. Live Streaming Explodes

Live streaming isn’t about live streaming. At least not in the way we’re going to be talking about it. You’re going to see a lot more of it in 2018, and the people who do it well will be fully with the times and accelerating. Its prevalence will increase because it works.

But there’s something more at work here.

It’s actually about technology. We get better phones every year. Does that mean that we’re running the same apps better? Sometimes. But once the technological baseline of the average user has clearly moved up a notch, it becomes about making more robust apps that do more and fully take advantage of that new technology.

The smartphones of today are better than what we used to have by orders of magnitude. Furthermore, our data speeds are better, and are poised to make yet another insane leap in the next few years when 5G becomes the standard.

Live streaming is a medium or implementation of social technology that’s uniquely positioned to take advantage of hardware improvements for the next several years. The resolution of an image the size of a phone screen can only get so good before you have to zoom in to see a difference.

But better video processing across the board means all devices involved can handle more streaming at a better quality across more channels at the same time. This is such a huge change that it’s possibly unclear that anyone is even capable of fully understanding the ramifications.

6. Twitter is Going to Change

And they themselves might not even know how just yet.

Twitter has been slowly circling the drain, in some respects, for a long time now. 2017 pulled no punches with the social network, either. Twitter needs to make some big changes to stay relevant, as its growth is the slowest of all the major social media platforms.

7. Online Hangouts Become the Norm

Online hangouts go hand-in-hand with the live streaming trend, and with Generation Z. Consider Houseparty — an app for multiple friends to essentially FaceTime with each other in a group setting.

Houseparty made quite a wave in 2017 with rapid growth, and hit its stride well enough to inspire copycats, including perhaps an effort on the way coming from (no surprise here) Facebook.

The online hangouts trend is also going to intersect with VR. Sure, everyone promised everything this year with VR and AR, and all that ultimately came of it was two weeks of Pokemon GO.

But this year actually has the potential to be different. Many promising programs have another year of beta testing still left under their belts, but the technologies are improving in exciting ways. Once again, Facebook is at the epicentre, with Facebook Spaces.

8. Social Platforms See More Hardcore Moderation

The last year or so has forced the hand of several tech and social media titans to intervene and play a more active role in content moderation. Those manoeuvres, in retrospect, felt more like damage control than any sort of final solution.

We’re likely going to see companies revisit this in a more significant or longer-lasting way, and definitely more proactive than reactive.

As leveraging social media outlets for marketing first took flight, some were dubious of their staying power. The years since have changed sceptic’s into believers, and what’s on the forefront will clearly and easily amplify the channels’ relevance even further.

2018 is here… but were you prepared?

2018 social media trends predict that time on social media platforms will increase. This means you will need to improve your online presence in the year to come.


By Richard Holland – MSc Digital Marketing Student


Contact –

Linkedin- Richard Holland

Instagram – Ricardo J

Brand –

Instagram – Ricco London

Twitter – Ricco London

Facebook – Ricco London

E-mail marketing or Messenger marketing?

What Email Marketers are saying

When it comes to email marketing software, marketers are spoilt for choice. But how do they feel about the emails they send?

It turns out that relevance is a huge concern for them. DMA reports that 42% of marketers say only some of the emails they send are relevant, and a whopping 10% say their emails aren’t relevant at all. That’s an issue, with consumers trashing irrelevant email.

Another issue people wonder about is the ROI of email marketing. In other words, is it really worth it? Various comparison’s of email marketing vs social media shows that email outperforms social by miles. And Chief Marketer says the ROI of email marketing is 28.5% better than for direct mail.

So what does Messenger do better?

Well, the big problem with email marketing is that you’re talking at your users and potential customers, not with them.

It’s kind of like being on the receiving end of a sales pitch, one where you have no say until the salesman is finished leaving you with only one response, yes or no.

Messenger though, creates a conversation.

It’s the only channel that solicits real time feedback from your users, the only channel where they have a say and shape the conversation which builds interest and engagement.

Check out the below example from 1800-flowers.

What Does the Future Hold?

Email is a mature channel, one which has been extensively developed and includes various advanced features to help you better market to your customers.

Messenger on the other hand is the new kid on the block.

It’s showing great promise and is getting far higher engagement in the areas where they’re going head to head, but it’s not yet at the level of sophistication email has developed.

Messenger is quickly gaining ground on email in terms of features and is already outpacing the platform in the areas where there’s overlap.

So what should a smart store owner like you do?

Well, what you shouldn’t do is abandon email marketing in favour of Messenger. Right now Messenger simply doesn’t have the advanced functionality and tracking of email.

However, if you already haven’t you should be looking at implementing Messenger on your site ASAP.

Right now, Messenger is the perfect complement to your email marketing. And if the last year is any indication, in the near future Messenger will continue to outperform email in other key marketing and communication areas for ecommerce as the platform progresses.

Right now, if I had to advise some specific campaigns your store needs to be running I’d recommend focusing on:

Messenger isn’t just a nice thing to have on your store or a new fad that will die out. The success rate of stores across the globe and the growing user base points to a new channel that might one day overtake email as the chief ROI channel.

In conclusion:

Email marketing and social media are like parallel universes that communicate with each other.

We suggest using email marketing when you’re looking more for reach, traffic and direct conversions. Social media, on the other hand, is a great tool that can help you engage your audience and assist you with making more sales.

There is no reason why you shouldn’t use both. Just be sure to allocate your resources the right way. Thank you for reading this blog and please leave your comments below.


By Richard Holland – MSc Digital Marketing Student


Contact –

Linkedin- Richard Holland

Instagram – Ricardo J

Brand –

Instagram – Ricco London

Twitter – Ricco London

Facebook – Ricco London

New book co-authored by Prof Iraj Hashi – Spanish Sociedades Laborales—Activating the Unemployed

Spanish Sociedades Laborales—Activating the Unemployed- A Potential New EU Active Labour Market Policy Instrument by Jens Lowitzsch, Sophie Dunsch,  Iraj Hashi


This book investigates the potential of the Spanish Sociedades Laborales (SLs) as an instrument of active labour market policy for re-turning the unemployed to the labour market. SLs are  mostly small and micro enterprises and a qualified form of the conventional corporation, majority-owned by their permanent employees. Unemployed persons can capitalise their unemployment benefits as a lump sum to start a new SL or to recapitalise an existing SL by joining it. This makes SLs similar to start-up subsidies for the unemployed, an established instrument of active labour market policy across the EU. This book examines the function and success of existing SLs and explores the transferability of the scheme to other EU Member States.

It tackles two widely discussed policy issues at both the EU level as well as the national level: firstly, the reactivation of the unemployed into work, and secondly the encouragement of employee co-ownership in the context of the economic reform agenda, in particular with regard to corporate governance, regional economic stimuli and distributive justice.


Social Media And Our Communication Skills

Social media opens vast possibilities for finding connections and interactions. It also is a very powerful tool to communicate ideas. The uprisings that we have observed during last years in various parts of the world were all organised by people getting together in social media platforms. Once the message is out, it can spread to millions within seconds. The latest #metoo movement on social media was so effective that it has been selected to be the 2017 Times Magazine person of the year.

However, this popularity comes with a cost. More connection does not imply more interaction. Having grown up with social media, the new generation prefers to communicate through an online platform than to have a face-to-face conversation. Real-life interactions, however, teach us aspects of non-verbal communication: being able to read and respond to facial expressions, eye-to-eye contact or changes in tone of voice. These abilities could easily be lost in digital communication. Besides, experts relate the rising occurrence of depression, anxiety and isolation among youngsters with their excessive exposure to social media.

While communicating through social media, we often do not feel the need to form grammatically correct complete sentences. This is particularly common for youngsters and teenagers who heavily rely on emoji, acronym or short expressions. However, over time, this convenience is likely to weaken their ability to write and to communicate in formal environments. In a world becoming increasingly competitive, these skills will be the essential assets for success.

So, while we are enjoying the benefits of social media, we need to remember that the real-life friendships and face-to-face interactions are equally valuable. A balanced use of digital and face-to-face interactions can immensely expand our communication capabilities and help us to utilise our full potential.

Mehtap Hisarciklilar-Riegler, Associate Professor, Staffordshire Business School

Why do women still earn less than men?

In the nearly fifty years since the passing of the Equal Pay Act the gender pay gap in the UK has proved to be stubbornly resilient. What has changed is the way economists try to explain its existence and persistence. Fifty years ago economists used to explain differences in wages predominantly in terms of differences in experience, education and training, what collectively they termed ‘human capital’. Whilst they recognised that luck, nepotism and discrimination may be important, differences in human capital were thought to be the dominant determinant of wage differentials. It was, however, recognised that female workers were typically crowded into a narrower range of occupations and industries than males. Moreover, whilst glass-ceilings constrained many female employees’ ability to move up the job-ladder, it was also evident that employers tended to place a low premium on caring skills, which traditionally have been more associated with female workers.

More recently economists have established the importance of non-cognitive productivity-related characteristics, such as motivation, resilience and initiative, in explaining differences in wages. In terms of explaining the gender pay gap this opens up three intriguing possibilities. It may be that females are, on average, less endowed with those productivity-augmenting characteristics. This may be the result of nature or nurture and here the findings that single-sex schooling may be related to lower gender pay gaps is of interest. An alternative hypothesis is that females may have, on average, different preferences, placing a lower relative value on the monetary benefits from working. A third possibility is that employers do not reward males and females similarly for a given non-cognitive characteristic. Behaviour which is seen by employers as positive when undertaken by males, such a providing leadership in group discussion, may be viewed as indicative of a poor team-player when evident in a female employee.

If we are serious as a society about eliminating the 18 per cent gender pay gap then it may be time to pay less attention to altering the behaviour of female workers and spend more time creating more male homemakers.

Nick Adnett, Professor in Staffordshire Business School

The Economic and Social Impact of Stoke City FC

The English Premier League is a global brand. Stories abound of travellers from Stoke-on-Trent travelling to far flung corners of the earth, getting into a cab, pub, or conversation and being asked; “Where are you from?” the traveller responds; “I am from Stoke” only to be told; “I know Stoke FC!”, a list of players is usually reeled out including Peter Crouch and co, and from then onward, the conversation takes on a new dimension of familiarity and friendliness.

Peter Crouch Goal Celebration


English Premiership Clubs have fans in all corners of the world. Jerseys are sold in Africa, Asia, the Americas, Europe and Australia. Matches are watched on all sorts of devices and football players are household names with kids dreaming of growing up to be like their heroes or even just meeting them someday.


Beyond the pitch however, there is another dimension that is closer to home. Football clubs are generating huge revenues and investing these in a variety of ways with a huge impact to their local economies. For example, Stoke FC’s revenue was £11 million in the 2007/2008 football season and then Championship promotion boosted the Club’s revenue even more from commercial, match day and broadcast streams. In the 2015/2016 Stoke FC’s total revenues rose to £119 million, making them the 9th in the Premier League. The growth in the Club’s income since joining the Premier League has enabled it to significantly increase its investment in the region and grow the profile of the Club and the city at home and abroad.  Some key regional and social impact statistics for Stoke FC for the 2015/2016 season are shown in Table 1.


Table 1: Key Regional Economic and Social Impact of Stoke City FC Statistics (2015/2016 Season)
2,391 international visits
119,000+ domestic tourists
£7 million visitor spending
301 direct Club employees (FTEs)
£1.3 million spent on local community initiatives
£29 million spent on Club supply chains (some local)


In addition to the impact highlighted in Table 1, the Club has also expanded its stadium to boost match day attendance and attract more visitors to the region, invested in players from the UK and abroad to extend the reach of its fan base to other areas of the globe, invested around £4million into its academy providing local young people with opportunities to develop their football careers at the Club, and invested in the Community Trust to work with the wider community to target individuals who want to get back into education, employment or generally improve their health or mental well-being.


Not only does success on the pitch attract visitors to the region who spend on travel, accommodation and food and drink, there is the indirect effect from the supply chain and the induced impact from increased employee spending. Analysis from Ernst & Young LLP shows that Stoke City FC generated a total Gross Value Added contribution of 132 million to the region during the 2015/2016 season. £108 million was directly contributed via the club and its tourism, a further £13 million was generated via indirect effects in local supply chains and £10 million was generated via induced effects. This activity also attracts businesses to locate their operations within the area.

Staffordshire University students and staff with Tony Scholes (CEO of Stoke FC)


Granted that a lot of the players might not live in the region, the activities of Stoke City FC resulted in an estimated £66million total liability to the Exchequer in 2015/2016. The presence of Stoke City FC also supported many FTE jobs in the regional economy during that period. 301 people were directly employed by the club, 853 people were employed by relevant supply chains, 401 people were employed via tourism to watch Stoke FC, and a further 682 were employed because of induced effects.


Beyond these, the Club supports a variety of initiatives to improve the lives of individuals and communities, working with a number of stakeholders including schools, local government and wider supporting organisations (e.g. the premier league). Community activities are delivered by Stoke City FC’s Community Trust (SCCT) which was founded in 1989 and became a registered charity in 2004. Ernst & Young LLP estimate that around 10,900 people have participated in community and charitable programmes in 2015/2016. 119,600 day trips were organised and 304 people have gained at least one qualification as a result of the Clubs initiatives. During the period under review, 10,246 hours of volunteering community work was done with the result of £8.7 million savings for the local community on physical wellbeing and £2.9 million savings on mental well being from increased physical activity.


With these key statistics, it is not hard to cheer for our local team. The sporting and commercial success of the Club in recent years, which includes breaking their transfer record twice in the 2015/2016 season, has allowed Stoke FC to further embed itself as a key member of our local economy. We at Staffordshire University will continue to cheer for the club. You should do the same too 😊😊😊!!!


The Importance of Employability Skills – Get Ready for Employability Challenge!

Without a doubt, one of the main challenges for students today is that different employers look for different sets of employability skills. However, it can be difficult for students to think about their employability skills whilst at university given busy schedules and pressure to meet assignment deadlines.

At Staffordshire University we take employability promise seriously. We want all of our students to graduate with the right employability skills and experience to enable them to follow their chosen career path. We promise our students to equip them with relevant employment skills and we deliver on our promise. We are proud about the fact that 97% of our graduates are in employment after graduating. When it comes to employability of our graduates, we are proud to be No. 1* in England for graduate employability. To achieve this, we work in partnership with many industry-leading organisations to help them tap into our home-grown graduate talent as well as helping students develop their employability skills through various initiatives and practices such as mentoring and work-shadowing. Global Entrepreneurial Week (GEW) event held at Staffordshire University every year plays the key role in equipping graduates with relevant work-related skills.

At Staffordshire University, we are committed to helping students maximise their employability and ultimately finding their dream graduate job, by offering a range of career-related events. In particular, GEW is an annual event at Staffordshire University that brings together a range of industry leading employers on campus during which students can meet and network with employers to find out about employment opportunities. Organised specifically for students, GEW and FutureFest event is designed to inform students about the future world-of-work. The Staffordshire University is committed to helping students maximise their employability, therefore the program is centred on topics that can help students succeed in every step of their career development process.

However, whilst we are committed to bringing leading business experts to share their expertise with students, there is also an expectation from students to actively participate in this event in order to get the most out of this unique opportunity for their career development. How to make the most out of this event? Network, network, network. Forward thinking students always have their CVs on hand to give out to potential employers. If you have never written a CV, you could get a professional help from the Career Office, who would assist you in writing a professionally looking CV, highlighting your transferable skills, and any work experience you have to date.

GEW and FutureFest event will provide students with an excellent opportunity to meet employers, discuss job opportunities, better understand career opportunities across various industries, get industry insights from recruiters, network with Industry leaders or simply get inspired. So, if you’re looking for your dream job or just looking to further enhance your employability skills, come along to GEW and FutureFest event held at Staffordshire University on November 13. We look forward to active participation of students in GEW and FutureFest 2017!

Dr Katerina Thomas, Senior Lecturer at Staffordshire Business School



*Joint with Bishop Grosseteste University, excluding specialist institutions. Source: DLHE 2017

What Next After Graduation?

Now you have completed an important journey of your life! It is truly a milestone and whether you have done it for yourself or for parents’/partner’s sake, the dedication, commitments and challenges have been great and will live with you for a very long time to come. From now on, anything that you wish to set as a target or challenge is within your reach! Some of you will be looking for jobs and others will make a decision whether to set another educational goal. A master’s degree perhaps, a PGCE or professional qualifications? Any and all are within your sight and sky is the limit for you! Whatever you would like to do, you are now the expert to confirm to yourself, yes, I can and I will do it…

Just to let you know that Staffordshire Business School offers a wide range of Masters degrees, just to mention few: MSc Accounting and Finance, MSc Digital Marketing Management, MSc International Business Management, MA Human Resource Management and MA Strategic Human Resource Management. Most of which attract a student finance loan of £10,280 to pay for the fees and your living costs. Because the University wanted to make it easy for those who wish to further their study, it set the Masters fees so low! Therefore, the £10,280 student finance loan is more than enough to pay the fees and goes a long way to cover significant part of your living expenses. For example, the fees for the MSc Accounting and Finance is £6,200 (for Home and EU students). The recipients of £10,280 from student finance will be left with £4,080 after paying the fees which they can use towards their living expenses!

Remember, if you are still finding it difficult to make this strategic decision about your future, your ‘former’ personal tutor, course leader and all other staff who taught you are only too pleased to discuss this with you. Of course the Postgraduate course tutors are there too to provide further details about their particular course.

Being the Connected University, the message is simple, do not hesitate to get in touch!

Arshad Hussain, Senior Lecturer at Staffordshire Business School.


Sustainable Supply Chain

Operating ethically and operating profitably are no longer mutually exclusive concepts. Leading companies are “walking the walk,” balancing the goal of achieving profitability with gaining social and environmental advantages.

Companies stuck in a mind-set of “what’s the minimum I need to do” are missing out on opportunities to use ethical business practices as an integral part of what makes them unique.

Achieving responsible and profitable supply chains is about gaining a triple advantage creating a clear business case for organisations, as well as benefits for the environment and society. Those focused on this “triple advantage” is supply chain operations can increase competitiveness through increased revenue and brand reputation while decreasing cost and risk.

To sustain competitiveness, companies need to recalibrate their strategies towards ethical behaviour—moving from a focus on compliance to differentiation. Companies engaged in responsible supply chain efforts often refer to their “license to operate.” That implies they’ve established trust with local governments and society by complying with regulations and establishing health and safety programs that give them tacit permission to do business.

So you may think what is a supply chain?

Supply chains are present in every economic sector – they are made up of connections between suppliers of all the goods and services that go into the delivery of products to consumers.

A sustainable supply chain is one that involves the incorporation of socio-cultural, environmental and economically viable practices placed into the full lifecycle of the supply chain. The full lifecycle of the supply chain means all the steps from product design and development, to selection of appropriate materials, manufacturing, packaging, transportation, storage, supply, consumption, and recycling.

What are sustainable tourism supply chains?

In the context of the tourism sector, a sustainable supply chain includes all suppliers of goods and services;

–        either contracted straight from tour operators and associated ground handlers

–        or via suppliers including accommodation providers

A holiday is the end product most commonly purchased in a tourism supply chain.

Sustainable Supply Chain (SSC) encapsulates the trend to use purchasing policies and practices to facilitate sustainable development at the tourist destination. Most research has focused on environmental aspects of manufacturing, while other aspects of sustainability or the challenges for the service sector are largely ignored. Yet SSC is particularly important for tour operators, as the product depends on the activities of suppliers such as accommodation, transport and activities. Therefore, tour operators’ contribution to sustainable tourism will be more effective through the definition and implementation of policies that acknowledge responsibility for the impacts of suppliers.

Across tourism supply chains, research has suggested that the process of implementing sustainable practices is most challenging in the area of transport, and most straight forward in accommodation. Attempt to generate sustainability at the scale of a destination need the combined efforts of the widest partnership of stakeholders.

It is therefore important, when supporting and connecting to a local destination, for businesses to have a strong grasp of the whole holiday experience and the type of advice that will be useful for customers. Each destination has its specific setting, but a general summary of links looks like this:

© 2003 Richard Tapper, Environment Business & Development Group

The Benefits

So why might a business wish to apply a sustainable tourism supply approach – what are the principal benefits?

All supply chains can be optimised using sustainable practices. Sustainability in the supply chain encapsulates a number of different priorities:

  • Environmental stewardship
  • Conservation of resources
  • Reduction of carbon footprint
  • Financial savings and viability
  • Social responsibility

Managing supply chains in a sustainable manner can help businesses in not only reducing their total carbon footprint, but also in optimising their end-to-end operations to achieve:

  • Improved credibility, visibility and brand reputation
  • Improved access to markets
  • Greater operational effectiveness leading to cost savings and profitability

We have created a free online tool to help you develop. Our training tool was developed by and with the tourism industry. This free online training covers 11 modules to complete with short quizzes at the end of each module. This tool helps you to design your own strategy in relation to your individual business needs.  All you need is an internet connection.

Click here to register and start your free online training today:  http://smartour.dcnet.eu/

Marzena Reszka, Staffordshire Business School


Accenture Consulting (2017). Walking the Walk Driving Competitiveness Through Ethical Supply Chains. [Online] Available from: www.accenture.com

Useful links



The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

Do not waste your time with useless SWOT analysis

How to conduct a SWOT analysis perfectly to boost your business!

SWOT is a simple and popular tool for businesses – everyone knows it. Therefore you can find it in a lot of books, blogs or trainings – business students learn about it everywhere. Most entrepreneurs conduct at least one before launching their business, most of which are far from perfect. Most of which are far from perfect.

The secret of the perfect SWOT is the analysis. Which means that you have to invest time and effort. It is not an idea-generation tool. SWOT is a strategy development tool – therefore it is not enough to collect some ideas for each area. SWOT may be simple – but not easy.

Why does your business need a SWOT analysis?

SWOT analysis is a strategy development method – it is indispensable for any new business. Specification of the objectives of the enterprise, identification of external and internal factors that have an impact on the success and positioning yourself in the market – these cannot be achieved without SWOT analysis. Even if you do not write down you have (sort of) a SWOT in your mind. With identification of the strengths and weaknesses it determines every marketing decision.

SWOT analysis is a strategic planning tool, therefore it is a must before starting your business planning. It is not just for new businesses, it is a vital part of any marketing plan. The environment, the customers, the competition are constantly changing, therefore you should update your SWOT regularly. SWOT analysis is a perfect tool to assess the effectiveness and determine the future of the organisation.

When you diversify your business or enter new markets – you need a marketing plan for that. One market – one strategy. B2C/B2B, different countries, digital – the markets are different. SWOT is a tool for strategy development, therefore any new market means a new SWOT.

It is also a good feedback for your team (and for you), it can function as a starting point for team discussions about the future in a specific business situation. Though the factors are mostly factual, their evaluation may be subjective.

You may not always conduct SWOT, but when you do, do it right.

Steps of the SWOT
Identification of the factors. Or data collection. Every SWOT analysis begins with the examination of the company and exploration of its environment: you have to identify the strengths and weaknesses and spot the threats and opportunities outside. Most of the students stop here, but this is a mistake. Because there is one more step.

Scrutiny of the factors (aka analysis). You should evaluate and classify your findings. Are you able to answer these questions:
– Why is this factor relevant? What is the impact of this?
– How can we use this factor in our strategy?

Identification of the factors – sources of information for SWOT
1. Customer data and feedback. The number of prospects, contacts, leads, clients and repurchasing clients. The structure and the activity of your customers. Customer value (Do you know it?) as the most important one. The feedback from customers in any channels: from social media to formal complaints.
2. Performance indicators and team feedback. Production rates, growth, market share, RoI. Campaign indicators: reach, activity (e.g. shares), cost per lead, website data (unique visitors, bounce rate, time spent, shopping cart abandonment), mail/advertising response rates. Personal indicators of your team.
3. Your financial performance – sales results, income, value of the company, investment, or any other information about the financial background and resources.
4. Market research – collect customer information (primary/secondary, qualitative/quantitative). Check forums, blogs, social media. Conduct a questionnaire survey. You can also research the supply chain or any other stakeholder group.
5. Information from the competitors. Public information: price lists, homepages, social media sites, stores and web shops, advertisements, publications, financial reports. Request proposals, use their services.
6. Your mission, objectives, marketing and financial plans, previous analyses.

In the SWOT you summarise your findings by grouping them into four areas: strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities. Threats and opportunities are mostly external factors and trends, while strengths and weaknesses focuses on the business itself. The result is something like this:

Click here to download a SWOT template!

Do not stop here. Your SWOT is not ready yet. The SWOT is an analysis, you still have work to do: the analysis itself.

Scrutiny of the strengths and weaknesses
To evaluate them, first you have to answer three questions:
– Is it a competitive advantage?
– Are you really good at this?
– What is the perception of the customers?

High quality products can be a real strength of the company, but if the competitors (or some of them) are producing the same high-quality goods then quality does not differentiate your business. Should you even classify this as a strength? Yes. It is important to understand if you are good at something. Your team also need feedback (Your sales have a 90% closing rate, your customer satisfaction is close to 100% – can you tell your team that they are not a strength for the company?).
However only competitive advantages can give you the upper hand against your rivals. When anyone can achieve this, it becomes a necessity for the market.

Even if you are the best you still can improve. It is essential to understand that you are better than the competitors, but if your customers are not satisfied, you should improve. Can a 40% repurchase rate be a strength? A 4% sales funnel conversion rate? An 85% cart abandonment rate?
You can classify it as a strength – you can be the best with them – at this specific situation. Temporarily. But the decisions should be different in the case of a real strength of the company compared to a competitive-only strength.

It is also vital to examine the perception of customers. An unknown, but existing strength requires different actions than an alleged but non-existent one. Customers can draw conclusions without knowing the facts, for example perceived quality of a product is highly related to its price, country of origin or the retailer. Perceived value (→ satisfaction) of a product is based on customers’ expectations. Cognitive dissonance distorts our perception, customers are not rational.

When you are ready with this, take a look at the whole picture.
Which are the most important strengths of the company? Which are unique? Where to improve, what to communicate? Can the business save money on some strengths?
Can you deal with all the weaknesses at the same time? Is it vital to improve any of them for the survival of the company? Can something compensate the weaknesses?
You can use ABC (Pareto) analysis to classify your factors.

Draw your conclusions for strategy – you can start thinking about the implications here. What are the consequences of these factors to the strategic level of 4Ps? Branding, pricing strategy, communication strategy, product portfolio, partnerships – most of them are determined by the strengths and weaknesses.

Do not forget to communicate / discuss this with your team. It can be important feedback for them, a recognition of their results. You can also set targets with them.

Scrutiny of the threats and the opportunities
As for the opportunities, the most important question is the prerequisites. What should you do to capitalise on them? How can you make full use of all the opportunities? Can you start working on them now? Do you need money, knowledge, licence – or any other resource before you can act? What steps lead the opportunity to become reality?

Threats are more difficult. You should know:
– the odds of their occurrence
– the consequences (potential impact of occurrence)
– ways of prevention / protection

Rank them by importance (multiple the odds and impact): those with high impact or high probability need immediate action (prevention or preparation). The identification of the most vulnerable points will influence your marketing. Focus the company’s resources to the critical factors, and do the easy and obvious only for the rest.
It is also important to examine what you can do. Some threats can be avoided, others certainly become reality sooner or later. The objective of the analysis is to be ready. To understand the options and start acting. Sometimes it is just monitoring the environment and setting up triggers (reacting behaviour) – sometimes it is leading the changes (proactive behaviour).

Do you really need to conduct a quality SWOT analysis?
The real question is this: do you need any marketing for your success? Sometimes business works without marketing or DIY.

But whenever you work with a marketing expert, a consultant or an agency, you have to make sure that they understand your business and goals. SWOT – a quality one – is a good starting point for cooperation.

Andras Kenez, Lecturer in Marketing

Any questions? Email Andras.Kenez@staffs.ac.uk