Marketing Intelligence vs Marketing Research: What’s The Difference?


More than two-thirds of marketing executives “strongly agree” that data-driven marketing is crucial. 


And it’s no wonder. Companies that adopt a data-driven approach to marketing are six times more likely to be profitable year after year.

But the data marketers use comes from a wide range of sources. If you’re embarking on your own foray into data-driven marketing, you’d be forgiven for being confused at the terminology that’s thrown around.


By way of an example, marketing intelligence is often mistaken for being a small component of market research or even the same thing.


Without clarity, how are you supposed to allocate your time, energy and budget efficiently? Without understanding the benefits of each form of data, how can you make informed choices about what you need?

In this article, we’ll examine in-depth the topic of marketing intelligence vs market research. We’ll provide a clear definition for both, clarify their differences and how to decide which one to use.

marketing intelligence vs marketing research

What Is Market Research?

Market research refers to the process of gathering insights about your target market’s preferences, opinions or sentiments towards you and your products and services. 


In some cases, it can also refer to insights about your competitors and their products and services. It can also involve both quantitative and qualitative research.


Market research typically produces data that didn’t exist beforehand. The research is commissioned with a specific focus and to find answers to specific questions. Example questions could be: What do 18-30 year olds think of our product? What features do they like about other products in the market?

The resulting data is used to inform decision-making around new and existing products and services. Unlike marketing intelligence, market research spans many functions and departments across the organisation.

What Is Marketing Intelligence 

Marketing intelligence refers to the information gathered about your market or industry that is specifically useful for marketing decision-makers. 


It often focuses on competitor activity — such as company news and hires, promotions and campaigns, social content and more. Other topics include product and service benchmarking, pricing comparisons, regulatory changes and consumer sentiment.


The term ‘marketing intelligence’ can refer to a single piece of information or, more likely, an ongoing collection of data that provides a real-time understanding of the market and your competitors. 


The key differences from market research are that the data exists prior to it being tracked and it is typically used to aid marketing decisions.

How Are Marketing Intelligence & Market Research Collected?

A) Market research methods

Market research involves a typically manual approach using a range of different methods. This can include:


Surveys and questionnaires that are distributed to sample populations. They can be carried out in person, over the phone, via email or by using other online platforms. 

Interviews that focus on one-to-one or small-group conversations where interviewers can gain qualitative information from the participants.

Focus groups that bring together a small group of individuals who represent your target audience. They are typically hosted by a moderator and allow in-depth discussions.

Observational research where consumer behaviour is recorded in a real-world or manufactured setting, enabling researchers to see how people interact with products and services.

Secondary research that involves gathering existing data from various sources, such as industry reports, market studies, government publications, academic journals and more. 

B) Marketing intelligence methods

Marketing intelligence, on the other hand, focuses on what’s happening in real-time without the involvement of a staged activity. Traditionally, marketing intelligence was also gathered using manual processes, typically involving a member of the marketing team visiting competitor websites, setting up Google alerts or managing RSS feeds.


More recently, there has been an explosion of competitor intelligence platforms that looks set to continue. This software has automated the entire process, making it easier, faster and more practical to track competitor activity and the market in real time.


Your account is configured to track the sources and types of intelligence that are most relevant to your goals. Data then flows into your dashboard and, through alerts, your department as it happens. Some competitor intelligence platforms use market analysts to set up and manage your account, analyse and collate the data and produce reports that can be shared across the business.

Why Do You Need Market Research & Marketing Intelligence?

Market research and marketing intelligence both provide value to organisations of all sizes. But what are the specific reasons for each? Let’s delve deeper into the marketing intelligence vs market research debate.


The value of marketing research 

The success or failure of a product or service can make or cost a business huge sums of money and have far-reaching consequences for teams and individuals. Failure is not an option, so having quality research to inform and reinforce key decisions is critical.


Whether you’re attempting to understand why a product or service — yours or your competitor’s — is performing the way it is, gearing up for a new launch or making changes to an existing product or service, market research can often provide you with the confidence to press ahead.


Likewise, research can be a powerful ally in gaining the confidence and trust of more senior decision-makers who need to give approval to product and service launches or changes.  

The value of marketing intelligence

Every move your competitors and customers make has the potential to impact your revenue and growth. Without a clear and up-to-date picture of what’s happening in your market, your decisions are at a greater risk of failure — which could quickly impact your performance and profits.


Marketing intelligence gives you the clarity to identify opportunities to launch new campaigns and promotions, get your price point right or plan for what’s coming in the future. Once analysed it can help you to stay ahead of the competition and grow market share.


Plus, real-time marketing intelligence will give you the earliest possible indication of competitor activity that could threaten your revenue, allowing you to adapt your marketing strategies and respond quickly.

Marketing Intelligence Vs Marketing Research – 5 Key Differences

1) Purpose — Market research gathers information to inform strategic decisions about products and services. Marketing intelligence gathers information to help you adapt your marketing strategies quickly.


2) Sources — Market research surveys a sample of your audience to gain a clearer understanding of their perceptions, opinions and buying choices. Marketing intelligence tracks a vast range of online sources in real-time to build up a picture of what’s happening in the market for marketing purposes..


3) Commission — Market research is commissioned as a one-off or repeatable exercise with a definitive conclusion. Marketing intelligence is the end result of an ongoing process leading to regular insights.


4) Results — Market research is usually presented as a report with data and analysis. Marketing intelligence is typically captured in an online dashboard with the ability to export and share key insights with relevant audiences within the organisation.

5) Price — Commissioning a one-off piece of market research tends to be expensive, requiring a team of people to facilitate and analyse the data. Marketing intelligence is often more affordable due to automated software solutions that track and analyse information in real-time.

How To Decide Which One To Use?

The short answer is that you don’t have to. Market research and marketing intelligence both have an important role to play. Which one you need depends on what you’re trying to achieve. 


Market research gives you insights into the way consumers think and feel about you and your products and services and that of your competitors. It helps you to better understand the problems you solve for them and the changes you need to make to your proposition.


Marketing intelligence gives you real-time insights that make you a smarter, faster-acting and more innovative marketing department. It helps you to minimise the impact of competitor decisions, prepare for upcoming change and capitalise on new opportunities. 

Marketing Intelligence Vs Marketing Research FAQs


Why do I need marketing intelligence? 

Every move your competitors and customers make has the potential to impact your revenue and growth. Without a clear and up-to-date picture of what’s happening in your market, your decisions are at a greater risk of failure — which could quickly impact your performance and profits.

Is marketing intelligence expensive? 

It doesn’t have to be. Unlike market research where a lot of the cost is built around people’s time, marketing intelligence is typically captured by automated software and analysed by industry experts who are working across a number of industries at any one time — therefore spreading the cost.


How is marketing intelligence data presented?

With WMC, data is presented in a dashboard with easy ways to filter, search and organise what you’re looking at. You can compare almost any industry metric against your competitor’s data or drill down to specific competitors to better understand their strategies.

The data can be exported for a full research report or shared in isolation as required via a number of third-party integrations.


How do you get the most out of marketing intelligence? 

Data is only as valuable as the decisions you make about what to track and the processes that are in place to use what you learn. You can mobilise your department and organisation by sharing information in a way that fits with existing communication methods and cultural norms.

This may include integrating with existing systems like Slack and Power BI. Teams then need clear lines of responsibility and processes for how to act upon marketing intelligence.