I can’t overemphasize the importance of the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) matrix. The SWOT must be completed before any brochure is written or sales presentation created as the key points to be made are all based on the SWOT.

It’s usually best to create the SWOT in a collaborative environment, either in a meeting room (or its electronic equivalent) with a large quadrant diagram drawn on the whiteboard or by emailing a spreadsheet around the team. List all the strengths of your product or service in one of the four quadrants. By strengths, I mean areas where your product is good, either in absolute terms or with respect to the competition. Then do the same for the weaknesses in another quadrant. The threats and opportunities should reflect external factors that you can’t easily control but might have to respond to. An opportunity might be the potential relaxation of a government restriction and a threat might be a new tax on your product. The strengths and weaknesses should drive both the sales and product development teams while the threats and opportunities have no immediate effect on the sales team.

Once you have the strengths and weaknesses listed, it’s straightforward to create the brochures and presentations. The object is to maximize your strengths and minimize you weaknesses. If your gizmo can create 50% more widgets in an hour but it costs 25% more than the competitor’s gizmo then the pitch is that your gizmo is 17% more efficient. While this may seem self-evident after the fact, it is difficult to clearly see the final points before the SWOT is done. The other plus is that you will benefit from having a consistent message across all media. This consistency will help drive home your message resulting in better brand recognition and, therefore, better sales.

Come back next week to see how features are expressed as benefits.