A SWOT analysis is a great way to get an idea of where you stand. It gives you a good snapshot of your current situation, but it has its limitations. For example, a SWOT analysis doesn’t tell you how you should proceed. To take things further, it’s worth investing a bit more time in and carrying out a TOWS analysis.

TOWS stands for threats, opportunities, weaknesses and strengths. A TOWS analysis turns your results from the SWOT analysis into a matrix of potential action plans by matching internal strengths and weaknesses with the external opportunities and threats.

A TOWS analysis is an exercise that requires some thinking. However, the resulting matrix can provide insightful information on the type of strategies you should pursue. This is what a TOWS analysis looks at:


The first quadrant will give you information that you can turn into actions to help you pursue opportunities that are a good fit for your strengths.

Remember the translator we used as an example in the SWOT analysis? The TOWS analysis would suggest that an excellent path for him would be to carve a niche in the market specialising in the translation of complex commercial agreements from Chinese into English.


The second quadrant will help you identify actions that can help you overcome weaknesses, so you are in a position to pursue opportunities.

In the case of our translator, her lack of confidence when it comes to selling her services can seriously get in the way of growing his business. The action that stems in this quadrant is the need to improve her sales technique, perhaps by taking some sales training or getting some external help.


This quadrant will help you identify actions that use your strengths to reduce your vulnerability to external threats.

Our translator feels that her primary vulnerability is the threat posed by machine translation. To fight against this, she may want to take the initiative to educate her clients and prospects about her work. If they understand the complexity of her work and appreciate the added value her translations bring to the table.


The last quadrant will help you identify the weaknesses that make you susceptible to external threats. Here you will find defensive actions.

The translator in our example is not great at building relationships. But we live in a world where clients can connect with thousands of translators willing to work for much less than her at the click of a mouse. She needs to take action. A defensive strategy could be to get outside of his comfort zone and start speaking to his clients beyond the project.

You should now have a better idea of the value of carrying out a SWOT/TOWS analysis. Read on to find out our tips as to how to best apply the tool to your business.


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