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How to Use SMD (See, Mean, Do) Analysis for Competitive Intelligence

You don’t have to pay a professional analyst to transform information into valuable competitive intelligence. Your intel team can tackle the job by following a three-step analysis process known as see-mean-do (SMD) analysis, which can also be described as do-it-yourself (DIY) analysis.

See: What do you see?

Look at the information you gathered and describe it in your own words without reading anything into it; for example, “ACME is planning to acquire three smaller competitors in the next quarter.” Be objective. Let the information speak to you.

Avoid bias. Don’t try to interpret the data. Just describe it. In the next step, you start to think about what it means.

Mean: What does it mean?

Ask questions to uncover the relevance and significance of the information. The most common question to ask when trying to find out what something means is “Why?” You may ask, “Why is ACME planning to acquire these three smaller competitors in the next quarter?”

You may need to collect additional information to answer that question. Perhaps ACME is looking for additional production capabilities or customers or distribution channels that these competitors have to offer. Perhaps ACME has targeted the other companies because of their creative assets. Whatever the reason, you need to interpret the information to reveal the underlying why.

As you interpret what the information means, also assess its significance. Ask yourself the question, “So what?” If your answer to that question seems ho-hum, you’re probably looking at something that’s relatively insignificant. If your response to the answer is more along the lines of “Eureka!” or “Ah-ha!,” then you probably have some pretty powerful intelligence.

For example, you may discover that ACME is planning to target a new sector that the three smaller competitors have had some success in serving. That maneuver may pose a threat to your own expansion plans.

Do: What should we do about it?

After you figure out what’s going on and what it means, the next step is to decide what you’re going to do about it, if anything. You usually have five options:

  • Do nothing. Sometimes, doing nothing is the best approach. Your competitors may act impulsively in response to certain changes in the industry, giving you a competitive advantage.

  • Monitor the issue. Set up a CI monitoring program for factors that are questionable after they have been initially analyzed. Sometimes later developments clarify the importance of an issue.

  • Stop what you had planned to do. Intelligence can often help you avoid pitfalls that result from miscalculations. For example, suppose you’re pursuing an acquisition of a company and discover that the creative assets you’re planning to acquire have suddenly left the company to form their own consulting business.

  • Take action. When intelligence exposes a potential threat or opportunity, you need to decide what to do to avoid that threat or capitalize on the opportunity. Additional CI may be required to determine which course of action would be most effective.

  • Move more aggressively. You may use intelligence to confirm what you were already thinking and planning, in which case you may decide to move faster and more aggressively to maximize the impact of a planned change.

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