Marketing SWOT Analysis

Assessing Ourselves.

With the launch of our new web site, I’m following up on the promise that I previously made to publish our unedited marketing SWOT analysis. I got myself into this commitment to publish our unvarnished strengths and weaknesses in a blog post I wrote outlining my opinion on the point of content marketing.

Content marketing is about providing the information buyers need to make their own decision.

The essence of that short post was that content marketing is meant to educate prospects about the suitability of them doing business with you. The best way to close to the deal is by building trust. Trust is built on honesty.

Marketing SWOT analysis

With honesty in mind, I ended that post stating we would publish our own Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis, unedited. Why would I do such a thing? Wouldn’t publishing our weaknesses and threats turn off some potential clients? Yes, I’m pretty sure it will.

But the Advertising Agency market was worth about $44 billion dollars in the US market alone. Particularly given that in any particular year, at least 25-50% of our revenue comes from foreign firms growing their North American presence, I figured that we still had room to grow even if we alienated up to 99.9999% of our potential market.

So, without further ado, here’s glassCanopy’s SWOT* analysis of ourselves.

Strengths– what we’re good at:

  • Funny sport nerd with fake muscle drawn on the chalkboardUnderstanding niche, technical, and obscure markets very quickly and deeply.
  • Finding and impacting small groups of decision makers and consumers.
  • Building scalable and repeatable lead generation processes.
  • Building client capacity to do stuff on their own.
  • Strategic marketing planning like go-to-market planning, positioning/messaging, and idea generation.
  • Writing & asset creation: especially web, blogs, eBooks, and social.
  • Getting to 80% quickly: we don’t let perfect become the enemy of good.
  • The intangibles. People like us. They really like us.

Weaknesses– what we’re bad at:

  • Mass marketing: We have no idea how to reach “male consumers aged 12-18” or how much a TV ad costs. If you want to reach hundreds of millions of people, we are not the agency for you. We have no plans to ever address this.
  • Automated reporting: We haven’t figured out how to do consistent accurate automated reporting of leads-to-revenue yet. This seems like a no-brainer and a potential deal-kill but our relatively small audiences mean that even a little bad data can throw off reliability. As a result, we generally manually look at each sale to see how we impacted (or didn’t) each new customer. It turns out this is more efficient than if we tried to throw everything into Tableau or another dashboard system and just chart live data. But it would be great if we could automatically scrub the data for each client based on the metrics that really matter. We’re constantly looking at this and when we can implement accurate insightful dashboards that show revenue and revenue-impacting data, not just raw traffic or leads, we will.
  • Rote process: Our company culture (and people) comes from a place where high-level thought is prized over pure consistency. As a result, we’re not as efficient at rinse-and-repeat type stuff as some agencies. We definitely see this as a problem and are actively trying to address this in 2016 as we grow.
  • The intangibles. Some people don’t like us. This seems mysterious to us but occasionally we feel the same way about other people. If it isn’t a fit; it isn’t a fit. Life is too short to work with people you don’t jive with.

Opportunities– why we believe we will be in business 5 years from now:

  • We continue to embrace change. After fifteen years in business, glassCanopy hasn’t stopped learning yet.
  • People’s increasing ability to filter out unwanted advertising means content marketing will become even more valuable.
  • Most agencies/people seem to struggle understanding or explaining the things that our clients do.
  • Marketing technology is getting increasingly sophisticated. This enables us to better prove both ROI and how smart we are.
  • Our home in San Francisco gives us unique insight. Although we have employees, contractors, and clients spread across the world… our headquarters and spiritual home are right here in San Francisco. And we think San Francisco will continue to be the hub of innovation for a long time to come.
  • We have been through two bubbles before. This too shall burst and the remaining players will be smart, nimble, and not in it just for the money. Like us. So there might be less customers and less budget overall, but we believe that in a downturn the number of like-minded prospects will remain roughly the same.

Threats– what keeps us up at night: (other than our kids)

  • Content can be ignored and people are getting better at this.
  • There is a glut of content out there so we need to continually evolve our content into the formats people most want.
  • Our customers are prominent enough that we compete with MUCH larger agencies. In some cases the scale and efficiencies of a 50-100 person agency might outweigh the nimble/customized/deeply knowledgeable approach we take. While we want to grow, we never want to be that big, so we need to continue to avoid the elephants’ footprints and focus on what we can deliver more efficiently than our larger brethren.
  • Just because people want a customer’s content doesn’t always mean they want their product. We can provide some guidance based on market reactions to our messaging but we can’t fix product/market fit with just marketing.
  • The tech bubble could burst at any time. That’s probably a net plus for us (and our clients) long-term– but Black Friday type events can make life pretty tough short-term for everyone.
  • It’s hard to be a boutique agency in San Francisco right now because the talent war is especially fierce and costs are relatively high. We happen to think the benefits outweigh the costs both for ourselves and our clients, and besides, this is our home. However, we continue to embrace an ever-greater share of remote employees and contractors who aren’t willing to pay San Francisco prices. This keeps our costs down and expertise up while still remaining in the technology center of the world. But we have to constantly adapt our methods and culture to keep this working.

We think we’re beautiful exactly as we are.

We believe that we are a “Goldilocks” agency in terms of what we do, our size, and our location. You may want bigger, smaller, or a different skill set and that’s fine. For our ideal clients, we are a perfect fit.

We’re all about marketing hard-to-describe products for hard-to-find audiences – and that means we aren’t the right fit for every company.

Does this sound like the agency you’re looking for?

Like we said, no hard feelings if it doesn’t. But if it does describe the agency you’ve always dreamed of, then surely we should talk, right?

Got some hard-to-describe product you’re itching to sell to a hard-to-find audience? Need inquiries that lead to sales? Are you reading this and thinking “I might want to work at that glassCanopy place” ?

Yes? Then please call us at 415.963.4185 or contact us using this handy-dandy form.

*That’s our Marketing SWOT Analysis. Think there are better/more complex analysis tools out there? Don’t worry we often use other ones, depending on the situation, but SWOT is ubiquitous and easy to understand. Our typical messaging grid for clients is customized and includes both external and internal messaging, proof points, and sound-bites. Maybe we’ll tackle additional messaging and analysis tools in a future post.

Rich Quarles
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