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2020 Update: My Number 1 Fav Marketing Model and How to Use It

Updated: Jun 23, 2023

A birthday cake with a one on top of it

Back in 2018, I blogged about my 3 favourite Marketing Models. Being the top Marketing Geek I am I thought I should update this, as I’ve changed my mind. Kinda.

2 years ago these were my fav Marketing tools;

1 – SOSTAC® Strategic Marketing Framework (PR Smith).

2 – (P)RACE Digital Marketing Planning Framework (Chaffey, 2012).

3 – The 7 P’s Marketing Mix Principal (McCarthy, 1960).

And if you want to learn a little bit more about any of these check out the old blog – My 3 Fav Marketing Models and How to Use Them there is still a lot of value in looking back over these three as they are solid, reliable frameworks that can still add value to your Marketing planning.

But let’s not do too much looking back, especially in anger, I heard someone say. Only to mention that to knock any of these off their lofty perches would need to be something monumental and that updating these three models doesn’t mean I’ve fallen out with any of them over 2 years, it's just always good to have a refresh.

The model I want to add to this list and therefore make it a foursome is the all-encompassing SWOT/TOWS.


A Brief History of the SWOT and of Course TOWS

Although we cannot say for certain where the origins of SWOT came from (some give credit to Albert Humphrey (1960-70s) and his research into the Fortune 500) in order for groups of executives to manage change, whereas others state it was simply Harvard academics that created this concept around the same time.

It is, however, more commonly thought that Heinz Weihrich (1982) was the curator for developing this model into how we view it now – SWOT/TOWS. A little later Wheelan and Hunger (1998) used SWOT to analyse gaps and synergies between internal factors and the external environment, which is pretty much where we stand today.

Regardless of this history, the SWOT/TOWS model is fundamental within your Marketing planning, which is why (for me at the moment at least) it edges all other models – let me explain its beautiful details to you.

If you’re more of a watcher, check out this video, where I explain the TOWS Model. This is actually part of the Marketing Planning Course I’ve created (so see this as a sneak peek as this is usually behind a paywall):



So what is it?

If you’ve ever read any academic Marketing or Business book, pretty much ever, you should fully understand what a SWOT analysis is (you’re forgiven for not understanding what the TOWS part to all this is however).


The SWOT analysis is broken down into four parts which make up the acronym:

Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

The idea behind the SWOT analysis is to provide a detailed listing of both internal factors that may have an effect on how a business moves forward. These are factors that the business has some degree of control over.

We can call these the Internal Factors or Strengths and Weaknesses.

We need to look inside the business, doing our research across all departments and divisions and compile a comprehensive list of these Strengths and Weaknesses, remembering that we are only looking internally here and not making any judgements on how to improve our weaknesses or focusing on our strengths – this comes later.

Opportunities and Threats

are the factors that can influence a business's decision-making, but as these are seen as external factors, the business has little or no control over them. They are simply environmental factors that could contribute to a business's success or failure in a given market.

But where do we get this information from?

Although in some circumstances this can be tricky – it is better to base our findings on facts rather than fiction or individual opinion. It is advisable to gather facts and discuss each element in-depth to make sure you have made legitimate findings.Areas to consider are;

  • Corporate and commercial info.

  • Surveys, focus groups and interviews.

  • Test marketing.

  • Mystrery shopping and observational studies.

In some instances, it may not be possible to quantify your findings, but base your answers on the consensus of others. Although not ideal, when the statement is undeniably true it is perfectly acceptable to draw conclusions this way.

For example, if you were developing a new soda / fizzy drink, it would be acceptable to see a Threat as Coca-Cola and Pepsi’s dominance and a Weakness being less brand awareness or marketing budget (as these are just statements of fact)!



This is the part that makes this whole process worthwhile. The gold dust in the whole process, so concentrate.

What you have initially discovered is that your SWOT gives you a list of all the positives and negative both inside and outside your business (but it’s just a list). You can tackle these one by one, focussing on what is good and looking to eradicate the bad, but what would be more beneficial is to understand where these elements can be utilised/combined to increase or produce a competitive advantage (a strategic direction).

This is how it’s done;

You take an internal strength or weakness and match it with an external opportunity or threat, allowing you to create a number of different strategic directions. So you may take a strength and an opportunity as they complement each other (i.e. the strength will help maximise the opportunity). You can do this for all the elements as can be seen below;

・Strengths / Opportunities

・Strengths / Threats

・Weaknesses / Opportunities

・Weaknesses / Threats

Let’s take a quick look at what you are looking to achieve in each category for clarity;

Strength / Opportunity (Attacking Strategy)

In this category, we look to take one of the strengths that can help to maximise an opportunity we have discovered.

Here’s an example:

Strength: Website user experience is the best in the industry

Opportunity: Some geographic locations yet to be developed

Strategy: Targeted digital communication strategy within these uncharted areas

Strength / Threat (Defensive Strategy)

In this category, we look to take a strength so that an identified threat (that may cause issues for the business going forward) can be minimised and become less of a threat.

Here’s an example:

Strength: Loyal customer base

Threat: Increase in negative product reviews

Strategy: Develop a customer recover and retention plan

Weakness / Opportunity (Development to Attacking Strategy)

In this category, we look to utilise an opportunity we have identified in order to diminish a weakness that is causing problems internally. Focussing on the opportunity rather than dwelling on the weakness.

Here’s an example:

Weakness: Increasing fixed-costs

Opportunity: Gap in the market for a high price high quality product

Strategy: Introduce a Premium product range by improving the quality of the current products

Weakness / Threat (Development to Defensive Strategy)

In this category, we look to reduce the impact a weakness is having on the business from an internal perspective so that a threat that has been uncovered can be avoided.

Here’s an example:

Weakness: Slow to innovate and bring new products to market

Threat: Reduction in market share in a critical market

Strategy: Develop an NPD plan to launch 2 new products in 12 months


One Step Beyond

There is one final step. One vital, defining step.

A strategy will only have a positive impact if it can be focussed upon and by now you probably have eight, nine, ten or even more possible strategies that make sense for your business to use from your TOWS analysis.


You need to focus on the few, in detail and this cannot be done if you are spread too thin, with too many strategies. It’s time to narrow the field.

The final stage is to choose, out of the strategies that you have developed, one or two (perhaps three if your company can handle this) to really focus on.

You will find that the majority of strategies are not developed for the short term. They are usually developed within a one, three or five-year plan. Make sure that this is understood within your business and that what you have created has been developed for long-term growth, not short-term gain.


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