A SWOT Analysis of Piper Creative
I recently sat down with the co-founders of Piper Creative to create a SWOT Analysis of their company. A SWOT Analysis is a tool used by some companies that help to identify internal Strengths (S) and Weaknesses (W) of the company as well as external Opportunities (O) and Threats (T) of the outside market.
Piper Creative and the Industry
Before I get to the SWOT analysis, I need to explain exactly what it is that Piper Creative does. Piper Creative is a creative marketing agency founded by Aaron Watson (CEO) and Hannah Phillips (CCO (Chief Creative Officer)) in the beginning of 2018. They offer several specific services that they offer to the personality-centric service sector of Pittsburgh. Any business where personal branding and reputation is important would find use in Piper Creative. Their main services include Instagram account building, Podcast production, LinkedIn video creation for clients, and vlogging (video blogging) for clients (they refer to this as DaaS, or Documentary as a Service). Piper Creative’s value proposition is that “Shooting, editing, and posting content is overwhelming. We make it easy, so you can save time, build your brand, and grow faster.” Often times companies understand that they need to exploit free marketing tools like social media, but are not knowledgeable or skilled enough in order to do that. Piper Creative takes the load off of companies’ shoulders.
Piper Creative is interesting in the respect that they use their own service offerings to build their own company. Piper Creative utilizes Instagram, podcasts, and LinkedIn video to grow their brand fast. Most notably to me, is that they are exploiting DaaS to show anyone curious what a day in the life is like for Piper Creative as a Pittsburgh startup. Almost all of the day to day events are professionally filmed, edited, and posted to YouTube showing what the team did that day. While admittedly not popular videos right now, Piper is in the process of creating a powerful brand that will have their history documented forever. The idea is this. Vlogging has been a popular trend that not enough people are exploiting. From Casey Neistat (10.5 million YouTube subscribers) to Gary Vee (1.5 million YouTube subscribers), vlogging is showing results. Consumers are interested in the day to day events of people they are interested in. The same holds for companies.
What was interesting to me is that Piper Creative hadn’t officially sat down to complete a SWOT analysis for their company. In order to help both parties, I sat down with Aaron and Hannah to create a SWOT analysis, which they filmed for their vlog, and in turn, this helped me create this paper.
The biggest strengths that Piper Creative has revolves around their brand and their people. First and foremost, I think one of the biggest strengths Piper has is the team dynamic between the two co-founders Aaron and Hannah. There is a clear distinction about who is skilled in certain areas (Aaron controls more of the business and sales side whereas Hannah controls more of the creative aspects of the company). Having clear-cut roles defined for each cofounder is crucial in the creation of a company. In addition, the culture at Piper Creative is very strong. Piper Creative fosters an environment where the employees are ethical, kind, and have high. Also, the Piper Creative brand is a strength for the company. The brand stays flexible so that it can add new service offerings. For example, Aaron noticed that LinkedIn videos had high potential when he posted his own videos to LinkedIn realizing that not enough people take advantage of LinkedIn as a professional platform. Creating LinkedIn videos was not an original service offering, but because Piper Creative was not tied down to very specific services, they were easily able to add it as an additional service offering, which has done well for the company since its addition. Finally, Piper Creative has and uses nicer equipment that most other companies. This is a strength, but can also be seen as a weakness because, technically, there are companies out there that have nicer equipment.
The most obvious weakness that comes to mind for Piper Creative, as well as most startups is their low amount of capital. With this in mind, it is hard for the company to grow at the rate that it wants to or knows that it can. This leads to a lack of capacity to create content. Piper can only produce so much content at one time, especially with low capital. Additionally, because the team dynamic between the co-founders is great, there is a “key person risk” that is not stable. For example, if one of the cofounders either quit or did something to get fired, the company would crumble because no one else is able to provide the expertise that they were able to provide. The weakness is that if they had more people who had the same talent as the cofounders, this would not be as risky. Third, I have noticed that my time with the company so far has been pretty isolated from the other interns. I do the work that is required of me, and the other interns do the work that is required of them. Very rarely do our responsibilities overlap; we have siloed roles. Also, it is a weakness that it is sometimes difficult to express the value that we provide. Ideas such as podcasting and Instagram are foreign concepts to some business owners, which makes it hard to sell them our services. Though a strength for Piper is that the Piper Creative brand is flexible to other service offerings, it may also seem like a weakness because there is a lack of focus for the company. Typically, companies succeed when there is a clearly defined scope of what the company does. Finally, the cofounders, while excellent at what they do, are still mastering their craft. They are still learning how to edit videos better, know the best times to post things to social media, know the best way to sell their services, etc.
Like other startups, Piper Creative has identified several opportunities that they can exploit to succeed in the future; aren’t opportunities the reason people go into business in the first place? An easily noticeable opportunity to start with is that the Piper team can use nice equipment in the future. While they by no means have poor equipment, they technically do not have the best equipment in the industry, which is something they hope to improve upon when they generate more capital. Possibly the biggest opportunity of all is that the demand for audio and visual content is becoming greater and greater. I found a chart online that showed in 2014, there were 41 million people listening to podcasts. In 2018, there are 73 million people who listen to podcasts. By 2022, it is estimated that 132 million people will be listening to podcasts. Piper Creative is entering the market early. While their documentary as a service offering may not be popular right now, it will be in the coming years. Another opportunity that Piper has identified is that they are a transparent brand, especially because they post their day to day work life on YouTube. This is an opportunity for recruiting and business development. For recruiting, it allows potential workers to see exactly what life is like working at Piper. It is attractive for business development too because prospects can see that Piper does not hide anything. Finally, Piper has the ability to differentiate their brand because they are flexible and transparent. No other company documents their day to day work and posts it for the world to see. Piper is a very unique company that others are bound to find attractive.
Naturally, with opportunities come threats, and Piper Creative has quite a few of them. First, I previously mentioned that while they have nice equipment, there are others out there who have nicer equipment. This is a threat because other companies might be able to offer higher quality content than Piper can, ultimately stealing potential clients away. Second, there is a very low barrier to entry. Technically speaking, all a company needs in order to create their own content is a smartphone. It is able to record video, audio, and take pictures. That is all you really need in order to do what Piper does. While it obviously wouldn’t be to the same quality as Piper Creative’s work, it is still a low barrier to cross nevertheless. In addition, the market is slow to move. This might be because the brand is too early for its time. For example, documentary as a service is not very popular because companies might not see the benefit of it right now. This connects to two other threats: Piper isn’t growing at their desired rate and Piper has a lower brand reach than other agencies. The company might not be growing at their desired rate because they don’t have the capital to do so, they are too early with their service offerings, they aren’t as established as other marketing agencies, or combinations of the three. Also, Piper creative is vulnerable to how open and transparent they are. With every piece of content Piper Creative posts, they face a reputation risk. If they offend someone or do something inappropriate in a video that they post, that is online forever, which will definitely harm the Piper Creative brand. Branching off of that, everyone can see what Piper does through their vlogs. This is a threat because another company could either steal ideas or steal talent later down the line.