Using SWOT to Find Your Niche

In every market, you have top competitors that claim a particular area of interest as their own. In those markets, they are practically invincible. How do you compete with them? What do you have to do to dethrone them? Is there another way to dominate an area of your market?

Niche is such an overused word. As an HVAC contractor, you already have a niche, or area of focus. Merriam-Webster defines niche as a place, employment, status, or activity for which a person or thing is best fitted, or a specialized market. In the HVAC field, there are many specialized markets, so how do you identify yours?

In every market, you have top competitors that claim a particular area of interest as their own. In those markets, they are practically invincible. How do you compete with them? What do you have to do to dethrone them? Is there another way to dominate an area of your market?

One thing to do is take stock of your capabilities by conducting a SWOT analysis. A SWOT analysis helps you examine your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. This is a good exercise to conduct with your top management team and key employees. It’s harder than it seems.

Start by listing your competitive strengths and areas of business where your company excels. You can also use customer surveys for this as well. Think about the skill levels of your technicians and your staff. Discuss what you bring to the table that’s better than the competition. Try to develop five to ten different points and then rank them in order from highest to lowest. You will want to capitalize on your strengths to make the most of them.

Then examine your weaknesses or you can think of these as areas of potential opportunities. In what areas can you improve? In what areas do your employees need additional training? This part is never fun, but it is essential to understand this area of your business as well because you can potentially turn these weaknesses into opportunities if you handle them properly. Ultimately, with weaknesses you want to look for ways to shore them up or fortify them. Rank your list in order from greatest to smallest weakness.

Strengths and weaknesses are internal factors. These are things about your business that you can control to a certain degree. When you look at these areas, you want to think about capabilities, resources, and internal processes that you have in place that could be either a strength or a weakness.

After weaknesses, you want to look at your opportunities and potential opportunities. Examine the competitors and look for things they miss or don’t offer. What do you do better? What can you add? What is missing in your market? How can you invest in these opportunities? Is there a niche here that you’ve overlooked? As before, rank these opportunities in order from greatest to least.

Lastly, you’ll want to identify threats to your business. Examine government regulations, as these will more than like constitute the majority of threats that your business will face. In addition, examine things like the likelihood of competitors stealing your best employees, or consider what to do if you lose a key employee to illness or death. Have you developed contingency plans? After you’ve developed a list of five to ten potential threats, rank them in order from greatest to lowest.

Opportunities and threats are external factors and you should examine external data sources. Look at environmental data – interest rates, tax rates, etc. Also, collect data about your industry, including competitor information. In addition, collect any information that you can gather from customers, or supplier salespeople that helps you become aware about changes in your environment or emerging trends. This is important information to consider at this stage.

The most critical thing that you must do after taking the time to do a SWOT analysis is to do something with it. Therefore, after you’ve finished with your analysis, generate a list of ideas that point toward potential niche markets that you can invest in. Then create a list of goals that will help you implement those ideas. If you go through this exercise and still haven’t developed a definite niche, don’t worry about it too much. Implement the other good things that you’ve discovered about your company and it will help improve your bottom line.

My website contains links to all the marketing articles I’ve written for the HVAC-Talk Newsletter. If you are interested in purchasing a copy of my new book, Navigating the Marketing Maze, click here. If you need a branding consultation, a complete strategic marketing plan, or help with marketing services, call or send an email to discuss your needs.

Andy Fracica is president and CEO of Fracica Enterprises, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in marketing, and social media strategy. He has over 30 years of sales, marketing, and product management experience in the heating ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) industry. He concentrates on helping companies deliver their message in an ever increasingly crowded market by helping HVAC dealers more effectively market their businesses without breaking their budgets. Contact him at 260-338-4554, [email protected] or visit the Fracica Enterprises, Inc. website.

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