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Fixing the SWOT model to work for proposals

The traditional SWOT model doesn't work for proposals. But it can be fixed.

The traditional Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis doesn’t work well for proposals. It was invented to support corporate planning in the 1960s at the Stanford Research Institute by a management consultant named Albert Humphrey. The traditional SWOT model looks like this:


When a SWOT analysis is used on proposals, it’s usually a part of a fishing expedition that starts without any knowledge of the customer, competitive environment, or offering design. Every time I’ve seen it used on a proposal, it was a complete and utter waste of time. It rarely collects anything of value and never really addresses the details that you need to win a proposal.

But it can be fixed.

It needs to be reformatted and have some things added that impact proposal writing, like differentiators and customer benefits.

For proposals, try this version:

Add/Delete/or Change the items below: What should we offer? How is it differentiated? How does the customer benefit?

If you like it, you could try doing one for each major proposal section (Technical, Management, Experience/Past Performance, Staffing, etc.). Or you could add a column for the proposal section.

Under each SWOT heading, add your features and issues. But then you need to address what matters about them in a way that will impact the proposal writing. That’s what the new columns are for.

Instead of a data collection tool, you might just use the table to guide the discussion. For each thing that you think is a strength, what exactly are you offering (doing about it), how does that impact your competitive positioning (differentiation), and what does the customer get out of it (how do they benefit)?

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