SWOT or TOWS? Why We’re Advocates of TOWS

Anyone who’s anyone has heard of a SWOT analysis. There are variations on the classic SWOT, but the basics are looking at strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

We use the Tows Analysis for Digital Marketing
Giles Taylor writes for W/Brand Design Blog
Giles Taylor, July 01, 2020

I know, “tell me something I don’t know.” Well, in a digital marketing sense, a SWOT helps you form a plan. And although everyone knows what a SWOT is, it's not used enough in digital marketing strategy.

And what on earth is a TOWS?

If that thought alone has set your mind spinning, (whether you’re firmly in the SWOT analysis camp or you’ve just realised that you’re not using one for digital marketing,) we may just blow your mind with the next part. Because we see the merits of a SWOT, and we raise you a TOWS. Yes, it’s sort of the same. But, in our opinion, better in a digital marketing strategy sense. Let us explain.

The TOWS technique

If you have a head for acronyms and perhaps anagrams, you’ll have already noticed that TOWS is a rearrangement of SWOT. Essentially, that’s what the TOWS technique does. It swaps the elements of a traditional SWOT about. But it’s about more than simply shifting some letters around. It allows you to form both an internal and external picture of your brand. And it’s not exactly a new thing either. It was published way back in 1982, in a paper called The TOWS Matrix A Tool for Situational Analysis by Heinz Weirich.

Problem, meet solution

To be clear, that doesn’t exactly give you a SWOT by a different name. It’s a distinct tool in its own right. Rather than simply identifying your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, it begins to match up those strands. Such as strengths with opportunities, threats with weaknesses. It aligns problems with solutions. That gives it more of a punch as a tool than your straightforward SWOT.

In practice

When we form a digital marketing strategy for a business, we start with a SWOT and turn that into a TOWS. If we marry up each of the four elements, in turn, we start building both an internal and an external plan of action for your brand. Opportunities and threats belong to the external realm of your brand, strengths and weaknesses come from within.

We work through each segment methodically and create a strategy based on identifiable drivers, and actual KPIs. The thing to remember though is that each of those four elements is related to one another, rather than siloed in their segment of the page. It’s the relationship between them that creates the strategy.

Where this fits into digital marketing strategy

While we're big advocates for the TOWS technique, it’s worth pointing out that this isn’t the beginning, middle, and end of the strategic process. It is a great tool for forming the basis for a strategy, but it works best in combination with other tools, such as competitor research, competitor SWOT analysis and of course, keyword research. It also needs to contain accurate information to get the most from it. Just like anything strategic.
But if this has piqued your interest, contact us to find out how we work, and how we can help you to create a bespoke digital marketing strategy now.

Download a TOWS Analysis worksheet for your digital marketing plans. 

Giles Taylor writes for W/Brand Design Blog

Giles Taylor

Giles is the founder and creative director for W/Brand. A graphic designer from Reading in Berkshire, UK, he's a dad with two wonderful children who enjoys walking and playing the guitar.  

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