The SWOT (Strengths / Weaknesses / Opportunities / Threats) Analysis is an important tool in the strategic marketing planning process and is taught in every graduate and undergraduate business course in academia. My view is that this should be an annual event, to spend the time thoroughly during the planning process to ask your key people the select critical questions in each quadrant because it starts us to gather the most viable internal and external information to plan and run a successful business. How you gather, manage, and use information will determine whether you win or lose (Bill Gates). Well, in my travels in the lighting world, I offer a short cut with five (5) questions, yes – just 5 judicious questions that could help us maneuver thru the intelligent lighting combat zone and be on the winning side. Your answers could pave the wave to a workable strategic plan but it’s only a start:
1. What are your core competencies? SUSTAINABLE COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGES, not easily duplicated by your competitors, is driven by your core competencies. Those unique strengths, embedded deep within your business that allow you to differentiate your offerings so profoundly that they create higher value for your customers than anyone else. Can you identify them? More importantly, can you communicate them effectively to your customers, employees and interested stakeholders?
2. What are the key technologies shaping your industry? Let me repeat what I have been saying: every lighting source out there will be replaced over the next 5 to 10 years. Everything! That means every Taco Bell, every Home Depot, every Olive Garden, every Walmart, every home, office, hotel, hospital, streetlight, supermarket, et al will be upgraded to Intelligent Lighting and to all the advanced technologies that connect everything we do. Where do you want to dominate? Not just a leadership position but a dominant leadership position….A SUSTAINABLE BRAND OF CHOICE!
3. What’s motivating your customers to buy from you and how are they adapting to change? The focus of all your marketing activities is the customer. That’s the first multiple choice question I have on every exam I give and I will not let a student leave my class until they answer that question correctly. So, what are your customers asking of you? Do they know about Smart Lighting? About Intelligent Lighting? What are you telling them? When they understand the advantages and benefits of the new technologies, and there will be many, will they buy them from you? Why not? Just remember when they do ask, we are not just selling light anymore.
4. Who are the new entrants in the industry and are they a threat or opportunity? Incumbents do not like change, so if you are one, I feel your pain. Chris Brown calls the new entrants the gorillas that will be driving the bus. He may be right. Lighting has never seen the likes of Cisco, Apple, Qualcomm, Verizon / Sensity, Gooee, Opple, MLS, et al… What are they doing in the lighting industry? Get out, you say! Well, lighting has the potential to be the core connector to every device you own. They are here and the only question is will they be a threat to your survival or will it be cooperative innovation, as it has forever been? The lighting industry has always been an intradependent industry. Lamp companies working with ballast companies working with luminaire companies, all working with the supply chain: agents, distributors, contractors, designers, the spec community, all working together to serve everyone’s lighting needs. Time will tell but it is clear, we are on a pathway to connected information using light! The real game changer: Big Lighting vs. Big Networking. New entrant IT companies see a real opportunity to reshape the lighting industry and they want a piece. Maybe even dominate……don’t look back, they may be gaining on you.
5. What are your existing competitors doing that’s working against you? What are you doing to them that’s working for you? Let’s get local…we all know that all sales are local. Whether you are a manufacturer, distributor, contractor, agent, whatever, you compete in the lighting industry now and you know who your existing competitors are and it’s personal, new entrants notwithstanding. Your first responsibility is the day-to-day operations of your business to win in a very competitive market. Are you winning? You must! This is the only way it allows you to invest in tomorrow’s technologies and opportunities. Times, they are a changin and the future is moving at the speed of light (sorry about that). Are you keeping up? I leave you with a quote from Jack Welch: If the rate of change on the outside is greater than the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.