Customer Centric SWOT: Align Strategies to Customer Priorities


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Start with your customer in mind whenever you use a management technique. Strategies that start with the customer set the stage for daily behaviors that are customer-centric.

The customer is left out of most templates you find in consultants’ toolboxes or business classes. This causes self-centered or competitor-centered, or Wall Street-centered thinking, rather than customer-centered thinking. If customers are paying your way, why would you dare center your thinking on anyone else?

SWOT (Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats) is an often misunderstood tool. The goal of SWOT is to align your strengths with market opportunities within the context of what matters to your target customers.

1) First, know your customers’ priorities and  challenges and trends. If you don’t have a clear understanding of your customers’ perspectives, none of your management tools will be customer-focused! (This is main the step that is often overlooked.)

2) Assess your external environment for opportunities and threats as they relate to serving your target customers.

3) Is it possible to transform any threats to opportunities? (This is the art of “finding the silver lining in the clouds” or “turning lemons into lemonade”.)

4) Assess your internal weaknesses and strengths in the context of the external opportunities and threats, again, as they relate to serving your customers.

5) Is it possible to transform any weaknesses to strengths? (Don’t stop here … another key step is essential to achieve the goal of the SWOT tool.)

6) Analyze your strengths-to-be and opportunities-to-be. What else can be done to leverage internal strengths to accommodate external opportunities? (This is the second most overlooked step in getting full ROI out of the SWOT tool.)

It’s never okay to lose sight of your customers’ priorities in any step. It’s crazy that we’ve allowed ourselves to forget them in the first place. Think about any personal relationship you have … things always go much better when you remember the other party’s priorities as you make plans and put them into action!

Lynn Hunsaker

Lynn Hunsaker is 1 of 5 CustomerThink Hall of Fame authors. She built CX maturity via customer experience, strategic planning, quality, and marketing roles at Applied Materials and Sonoco. She was a CXPA board member and SVAMA president, taught 25 college courses, and authored 6 CXM studies and many CXM handbooks and courses. Her specialties are B2B, silos, customer-centric business and marketing, engaging C-Suite and non-customer-facing groups in CX, leading indicators, ROI, maturity. CX leaders in 50+ countries benefit from her self-paced e-consulting: Masterminds, Value Exchange, and more.


  1. Like your articles, Lynn, but on this one, I wonder what consultants and strategic planning folks you hang out with. I’ve been teaching planning going back 20 years, and the customer has always been part of the scanning required to do proper planning.

    We don’t have to have the term customer-centric to do this properly — it’s the only logical, sensible way to think about the future.

    Wonder if, somehow, your experiences and contacts might be skewed by contact with people who simply are not very good at the process.

  2. Hi Robert,

    I’m sure there are some organizations that really use voice-of-the-customer more than others do. But all too often we tend to use our assumptions about customers rather than actual customer input. Or we tend to figure out what we want our customers to think, and then attempt to educate customers accordingly. Or we find that our own competitive aspirations or short-term pressures from industry analysts and investors overtake the customers’ voice.

    Here are some examples:
    Start With Your Customers for Success in Every Strategy
    Fall in Love With Your Customers for Best Customer Experience
    Customer Experience Management is Uncommon Sense

    Although it may not seem new, I assure you that there’s plenty of room for improvement, whether people are using certain terminology or not. Take a look at how SWOT is demonstrated in sample marketing plans in college textbooks, and you’ll find that these seemingly simple steps are indeed not followed, and not always customer-focused. I taught a Marketing Plan course this past fall, and was definitely non-plussed by the SWOT examples in multiple marketing textbooks.

    In actual practice, take a look at any study that asks customers how customer centric their product/service providers are, and you’ll find that customers truly think there’s a great deal of room for improvement.

    My hope is that more managers will enjoy better business results by conscientiously using actual customer input more often for strategic thinking and day-to-day decisions.

    Lynn Hunsaker helps companies improve customer data ROI, customer-centricity and customer experience innovation. She is author of 3 handbooks. See,,


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