- IMD Business School

SWOT analysis: how to do it + 4 examples

Ever stood at the crossroads of business decisions, the winds of uncertainty howling around you? Illuminate your path with the beacon of SWOT analysis. This revered compass, trusted by entrepreneurs and seasoned executives alike, unveils the landscape of opportunities and hurdles that lie ahead, waiting to be conquered. 

A SWOT analysis is a powerful tool used by business leaders and executives to assess strengths and potential challenges within their operations. 

Think of it as a roadmap for strategic planning processes and smart decision-making. Whether you’re a startup finding your feet or an established company looking to refine your strategies, a good SWOT analysis can guide you toward success. 

In this article, we’ll walk you through the ins and outs of conducting a SWOT analysis, when to use this technique, and provide real-world examples to illustrate its effectiveness.

  1. What is a SWOT analysis?
  2. 4 SWOT analysis examples
  3. When to use a SWOT analysis
  4. Learn how to build a strong business strategy with IMD

What is a SWOT analysis?

The SWOT analysis is an audit framework used by businesses of all sizes. It helps dissect your organization’s present and future outlook. 

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. These are the lenses through which we examine internal factors (the things we’re good at and not-so-good at, under our control) and external factors (circumstances we can’t control).

This analysis is commonly structured into a visual representation made up of four quadrants, each devoted to a category, termed the SWOT matrix.

Analyze internal factors

When it comes to internal factors, these are things that are specific to your organization and under your team’s control and encompass both strengths and weaknesses. 

Consider various metrics like turnover rates, operational efficiency, financial performance, and customer satisfaction for your analysis. 

These metrics provide insights into the health of your organization, helping you discover what you’re doing well and areas that need improvement.

The human resources team is crucial for managing these aspects. They oversee talent processes, boost an organization’s strengths, and tackle weaknesses like turnover, skill gaps, and conflicts to improve an organization.


To identify your company’s strengths, a good starting point is to brainstorm things that make your company stand out from the competition or highlight areas where you consistently excel.  

Consider the following questions: What areas of our business consistently receive positive feedback from customers, partners, or stakeholders? What assets do we have that competitors lack? How do we uniquely address customer needs?

For example, Amazon recognized its strong infrastructure and customer demand. The company continued to improve its e-commerce operations by investing heavily in its logistics and cloud computer capabilities, as well as expanding into new markets to consistently grow its profitability.


Uncovering your company’s weaknesses involves taking a closer look at areas that might be holding you back. Start by asking: Where do we often run into hurdles or inefficiencies? Are there certain issues that customers frequently raise concerns about? 

You’ll also want to consider whether skill gaps, resource constraints, or internal disagreements affect the performance of your team members. 

For example, Tesla had implemented an overly complex automation strategy in their manufacturing processes, which led to inefficiencies and production bottlenecks, delaying deliveries to customers. 

To address this issue, they focused on identifying specific areas where human labor was more effective and efficient than automation, and they reconfigured their production lines accordingly. 

Explore external factors

External factors can create both opportunities and threats for your business. Addressing these head-on prepares your team for growth and risk management.

Take a look at market trends, demographics, and tech advancements to grasp uncontrollable variables like consumer shifts, demographic changes, tech breakthroughs, and economic fluctuations.

You can monitor these variables through online platforms, industry reports, conferences, following tech blogs, and sending out customer surveys. 

By understanding how the external environment can influence your business, you can adapt strategies and stay competitive in a dynamic market.


When exploring external opportunities, it’s about spotting those areas where the market or industry is offering great conditions for growth.

Think about this: Are there up-and-coming market segments that match our strengths? Could we use new technologies to connect with a broader audience? Is there a gap in the market that we can fill uniquely? 

A prime example of a company capitalizing on external opportunities is Airbnb. In their early days, Airbnb identified a growing desire for unique, affordable accommodations. 

They used technology to connect homeowners with travelers seeking unique lodging experiences. This allowed Airbnb to tap into an emerging market while leveraging its strengths in technology and user-friendly platforms.


Finding external threats means looking for potential challenges that could put a dent in your business. 

Think about it: How might the actions of competitors affect our market share? Are economic signs hinting at downturns? Could changes in rules mess up our operations? Are there any weak spots in our supply chain? 

By getting a grip on these threats and planning for them, you can cook up strategies to stay on course when the going gets tough.

Unfortunately, a notable example of a company addressing external threats is Blockbuster. The emergence of online streaming and competitors like Netflix posed a significant threat to Blockbuster’s traditional video rental business model. 

Blockbuster failed to adapt and plan for these threats effectively, ultimately leading to its downfall, underscoring the need for proactive strategic planning in the face of challenges.

4 SWOT analysis examples

Here are four real-world examples of SWOT analysis of companies to showcase the different perspectives this versatile tool can provide across various sectors.


Peloton is a technology-driven fitness company that offers a range of exercise equipment and interactive workout classes, enabling users to engage in virtual fitness experiences from the comfort of their homes.


  • Strong brand recognition in the home fitness industry
  • Has both hardware and software systems


  • High initial costs of equipment might put off some customers
  • Dependent on continued consumer interest in home fitness


  • Expanding into global markets 
  • New product offerings to reach a broader customer base


  • Potential market saturation and reduced demand for home fitness
  • Economic downturns affecting consumer spending on non-essential items

To address the high initial equipment costs, Peloton introduced financing options, making their products more accessible. They also expanded into global markets, seizing the opportunity for broader customer reach. 

Although they faced the threat of market saturation, Peloton continues to expand its product line and focus on software improvements, such as virtual fitness subscriptions.


Target is a retail corporation known for its wide range of products, including clothing, electronics, and groceries, with a blend of physical stores and e-commerce platforms.


  • Established presence in the retail sector
  • Wide product range catering to various customer needs


  • Competition from both online and brick-and-mortar retailers
  • Limited international presence compared to some competitors


  • Expanding global manufacturing and sales
  • Leveraging customer data for improved customer experience


  • Rapidly changing consumer preferences and shopping habits
  • Economic uncertainty impacting consumer spending

Target effectively addressed the threat of competition by diversifying its offerings. They incorporated food and beverage items and popular makeup brands into their stores to create “mini malls,” broadening their appeal and convenience. Additionally, they introduced curbside pickup, adapting to evolving shopping habits. 

To mitigate the impact of economic uncertainties, Target diversified its revenue streams by establishing a media company. These strategic moves have allowed Target to thrive in a highly competitive retail landscape. 


Salesforce is a leading customer relationship management (CRM) software provider that offers cloud-based solutions to help businesses manage customer interactions, sales, marketing, and service operations.


  • Strong focus on continuous product development
  • Extensive network of partners and integrations


  • High subscription costs for enterprise-level solutions
  • Dependence on third-party platforms for some functionalities


  • Using artificial intelligence and data analytics for better customer insights
  • Global market expansion to reach untapped regions


  • Data privacy regulations impacting customer data management
  • Increasing competition from established tech giants entering the CRM space

To address high subscription costs, Salesforce introduced flexible pricing models for customers. They have also honed opportunities to increase profitability by expanding their Salesforce Towers in Dublin, Chicago, Sydney, and Tokyo. 

In response to competition from other tech companies, Salesforce maintains a strong core team by offering team-building sessions and focusing on a flexible, employee-centric work environment to boost morale and foster innovation.


Starbucks is a globally recognized coffeehouse chain that not only provides a wide array of coffee beverages but also offers a range of food options and branded merchandise across its vast network of stores.


  • Strong global brand recognition and customer loyalty
  • Diverse product lines beyond coffee


  • High prices compared to competitors
  • Sensitivity to fluctuations in coffee bean prices


  • Launching more plant-based and healthier food options
  • Implementing more digital initiatives to improve ordering and loyalty programs


  • Competition from both local coffee shops and larger chains
  • Changing consumer preferences toward healthier or more sustainable options

To address price competitiveness, Starbucks focused on enhancing customer experiences through loyalty programs and continued expansion. They catered to consumer preferences by introducing plant-based and healthier food options. 

In response to threats from local coffee shops and larger chains, Starbucks expanded globally and prioritized sustainability. Their customer-centric approach and global expansion strategies have allowed them to remain a dominant force in the competitive coffee industry.

When to use a SWOT analysis

A SWOT analysis is not just a one-size-fits-all tool — you can use it in different situations to get the upper hand in decision-making and developing smart strategies. 

Below are some instances where a SWOT analysis can be particularly beneficial. 


Once you’ve determined the areas your organization could improve on, you can use this information to drive decision-making processes in your company. 

Imagine your business is in the retail sector and you conduct a SWOT analysis that reveals a potential weakness in your supply chain efficiency. 

You might choose to prioritize initiatives aimed at streamlining your supply chain operations, such as implementing advanced inventory management systems.

As you create a comprehensive action plan around these initiatives, you’re essentially harnessing the power of SWOT analysis to guide your strategic decisions.

Business strategy

SWOT analysis gives us an in-depth look at what our organization could be doing to position ourselves in a better standing against our competitors. 

When we identify external threats and internal weaknesses and leverage our strengths and opportunities, we can develop business plans so the company can thrive financially and increase customer satisfaction. 

For example, a SWOT analysis helps tailor marketing strategies by highlighting strengths (like unique features) and addressing weaknesses (such as outdated technology).

It can also help us to form partnerships to amplify market presence and use social media to enhance brand visibility and engagement with target audiences.

Start-ups and small businesses

Start-ups and small businesses typically experience a great amount of trial and error when it comes to business strategies, operations, and customer approaches. 

Conducting a preliminary SWOT analysis can identify competitive strategies and help build a strong business model. 

For example, opportunities that have been identified, such as new markets or emerging trends, might guide their expansion efforts.

In addition, they can address weaknesses like limited resources or a lack of brand recognition early on by devising strategies to overcome these challenges.

SWOT for enterprises

Enterprises operating at scale can find SWOT analysis particularly beneficial in strategic decision-making. Assessing internal strengths and weaknesses empowers leaders to fine-tune their operations, leveraging resources and technology effectively. 

Companies can identify opportunities and threats to inform expansion into new markets and customer retention initiatives. For example, recognizing a market shift toward sustainable practices, an enterprise can reposition its product line to align with this trend.


Entrepreneurs, especially in the early stages of their ventures, can harness SWOT analysis to steer their businesses toward success. Identifying personal strengths and weaknesses helps in skill development and resource allocation. 

By spotting opportunities and threats in the market, entrepreneurs can tailor their business models to tap into emerging trends and mitigate challenges proactively. For instance, recognizing a growing demand for eco-friendly products, an entrepreneur can pivot their offerings to meet this need.

Nonprofit organizations

Nonprofit organizations can utilize SWOT analysis to achieve their missions effectively. Identifying internal strengths, like dedicated volunteers, helps in maximizing their impact. Addressing weaknesses, such as limited funding, can lead to improved resource management. 

By recognizing external opportunities, such as partnerships with local businesses, nonprofits can expand their reach. Moreover, understanding potential threats, like changing donor behavior, allows nonprofits to adapt fundraising strategies to sustain their essential work.

Personal SWOT analysis

Completing your own SWOT analysis empowers you to leverage your internal strengths while recognizing weaknesses and opportunities, helping you with career growth and goal setting.

For instance, if you identify a weakness like lacking proficiency in a critical software, you might proactively take online courses or workshops to enhance your skills. 

Similarly, if you recognize a threat such as automation affecting your industry, you could mitigate it by staying updated with industry trends or diversifying your skill set. 

The insights from your SWOT analysis serve as a tool to guide your career decisions and ensure a strategic path toward success.

Learn how to build a strong business strategy with IMD

A SWOT analysis lays the groundwork for your business, ensuring everyone knows where you are and where you want to go. It’s like creating a roadmap to guide your actions. 

If you’re eager to delve deeper into mastering business strategy, consider exploring IMD’s comprehensive learning journeys. Our strategy programs are tailored to provide comprehensive insights into various aspects of strategic management, helping business professionals like you excel in their roles.

These programs offer a rich understanding of competitive advantage, market trends, effective decision-making, and leadership skills. 

By exploring strategy programs that suit your needs, you’ll gain a deep understanding of how to leverage strengths, address weaknesses, seize opportunities, and prepare for challenges — just like a SWOT analysis for your career. Discover the program that fits you best and receive personalized feedback from one of our advisors to guide you on your professional journey.

It’s a chance to improve your business acumen and lead your organization with confidence.

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