Marketing Intelligence vs Marketing Research, Explained

Marketing intelligence is a big field with a growing foothold in digital marketing. As such, there are many marketing intelligence definitions flying about.

While such granularity can be helpful in practicing competitive marketing intelligence, it can also make the process more confusing. 

So, for this article, we’ve narrowed down marketing intelligence to one definition:

Marketing intelligence is the process of collecting and managing the data you use in your marketing strategy. 

Now that the hard part is out of the way, let’s take a deeper look at the nuances of marketing intelligence. 

What is Marketing Intelligence?

Marketing intelligence, in essence, is the modern iteration of marketing research. But it’s important to note that they’re not exactly the same. 

Specifically, marketing intelligence goes beyond the good ole days of using questionnaires to gather insights. Instead, this strategy relies on piles of online and offline data to draw conclusions. 

So, before we look any further, let’s make sure we understand the difference between three critical terms. 

1. Marketing Intelligence 

Marketing intelligence is the process of gathering and managing data. The insights that emerge from such analysis are useful in drawing conclusions and making marketing decisions. 

In this process, marketers can:

  • Learn about the existing marketing, customers, and problems
  • Examine the competition
  • Analyze your growth potential
  • Rely on data from a wide number of internal and external sources

2. Marketing Research 

Unlike intelligence, marketing research focuses on the efforts of your company. The goal is to understand the effect of your marketing campaign on consumers, and vice versa. This means using polls, surveys, and data mining to examine consumer buying habits. 

In the market research process, you:

  • Analyze why consumers make the purchases they do
  • Look at consumer research habits
  • Focus on internal factors and insights
  • Often exclude competitor analysis

3. Business Intelligence

Business intelligence is unlike both marketing intelligence and research. This has less to do with your customers and more to do with the internal workings of your company. In business intelligence, you gather data at all levels and across departments. Then, you use this information to optimize efficiency from bottom to top. 

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s dive into the data side of marketing intelligence. 

Data, Data, Everywhere

Keeping up to date with your data management is essential in modern times. After all, each scrap of information tells us how consumer trends and behaviors are evolving. 

Thus, intelligent data collection is key to your success. This involves gathering both qualitative (valuable) and quantitative (numerical) data on existing and future customers. 

By including all possible data points, you can examine your customers in 3-D, rather than as numbers on a spreadsheet. 

This deeper look at consumers what marketing intelligence has to offer.

But while gathering the data is essential to analyzing your marketing, it’s only as useful as what you do with it. After all, without the insights, there’s no point in collecting the information at all. 

Thus, it’s crucial to have a plan for the influx of demographic and behavioral data inherent in marketing intelligence. Whether you want to personalize your ads, predict and adapt to new trends, or build the most effective campaigns possible, the goal is the key – not the data itself. 

However, that doesn’t mean that the core information is not also essential (and useful). 

Market Research

In terms of information, marketing intelligence serves as a catch-all term for many types of data. These may include:

  • Consumer insights and psychology – the why 
  • Sales data – the what
  • Demographic data – the who, when, and where

When you think about all the information these categories cover, you may begin to despair. That’s a lot of data to gather – and even more to analyze! But there are plenty of tools and strategies to help you get started. 

While you can look to third-party contractors to get the job done, you should never underestimate the power of in-house market research and analysis platforms. 

Furthermore, consumer outreach such as focus groups, polls, and A/B testing are all valid ways to pull in the numbers. 

And, of course, don’t forget about competitor tracking analysis programs. 

Why Marketing Intelligence?

Marketing intelligence takes time, money, and manpower to pull off. This is especially true at first when you’re learning the ins and outs of insightful data mining. 

And, for a small-time digital marketer, the effort may not seem worth the payout – at least at first. 

But, if you’re serious about your digital marketing efforts, marketing intelligence is evolving into an essential component of success.  

Typically, you can divide marketers into three types:

  • Intuitive marketers fly by the cut of their jib to get the job done. Or, in layman’s English, they rely on their gut to make most of their decisions. 
  • Insightful marketers collect plenty of data, but they don’t always know how to use it. Often times, this is due to a lack of digital integrations and training, rather than ability.
  • Intelligent marketers use marketing intelligence, research, and integrated systems to tie the data to their goals. This is the group most likely to succeed in marketing intelligence. 

Of these groups, intelligent marketers are most likely to use marketing intelligence. While the specific mode of operation varies, there are dozens of reasons – and ways – they take advantage of this process.  

For instance, the flood of data alone can help you increase your targeting accuracy. (Not to mention, you can capitalize on lucrative opportunities.) This makes for a more efficient strategy to help stay ahead of the competition. 

Furthermore, by knowing more about your market and business, you reduce the risk of future investments. Plus, the ability to make up-to-date marketing decisions can help you maintain your brand identity while evolving with the times. 

4 Pillars of Marketing Intelligence

As we mentioned above, marketing intelligence is valuable when properly leveraged. And as we’ve seen, there are tons of benefits for marketers who know what they’re doing in the field.

But on the other hand, marketing intelligence requires a lot of time, dedication, and energy to pull off. 

This may leave you wondering, well…what’s the point?

Put simply, marketing intelligence gives you a unique way to stand out in a busy landscape. If you want to understand how you can best the best in this consumer-driven world, marketing intelligence is the key that unlocks your opportunities.

And thus, we come to the four crucial pillars of marketing intelligence. 

The Competitive Advantage

It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, and the only way to stay relevant is to be competitive. By collecting competitor data, you can curate insights to develop new strategies. 

Plus, if you know why consumers choose your competitors, you can adjust your marketing and production efforts. And you never know – if you give customers what they want, you may steal a few along the way. 

Understanding Your Customers

As most digital marketers are aware, it costs more to reel in new customers than it does to keep old ones. Thus, customer retention is the foundation of any successful business. 

Marketing intelligence expounds on marketing research to learn more about your buyers. This includes who they are, what they want, and what more you could do for them. 

Plus, you may discover extra services that will enhance the buyer experience at little cost to you. Those marketers who are able to offer some services for free will have a leg up in the game. 

After all, who doesn’t love free advice and services? Cha-ching! 

Product Intelligence

Product intelligences involves taking a look at your products to learn why they do – or don’t – fare well. This process is one of the most time-intensive in marketing intelligence. Often times, you’ll need to use polls, surveys, and in-person communication to get answers. 

But, if you understand where you succeed, you can correct the areas in which you fail. And you’ll better align your products with customer needs and interests along the way. 

Plus, you’ll be able to avoid the potential pitfalls of your product that may later turn a conversion into a refund. 

Understanding Your Market

Perhaps one of the most underrated activities a marketer can perform is to learn their market beyond the business. 

What do your customers like to do in their spare time? Are there any magazines, books, or organizations that hold their attention? Do they frequent certain social media sites or forums?

While the data may not be relevant to your product, knowing what your audience likes can help you market to them. In turn, this may inform your media mix, touchpoints, and communication. And in the mix, you may be able to find a place where your products fit into the lives. 

But, above all, the purpose of marketing intelligence is to capture better results for your marketing dollars. 

The Role of Artificial Intelligence in Marketing

Modern marketing research often has a digital focus. This is partly a result of advancing technologies, but also the fact that the youngest generation of consumers is growing up in an increasingly online reality. 

For marketers, this has meant a fast-paced shift to online platforms and strategies. Those who can’t keep up are left in the cold – and those who can earn the big bucks. 

Thankfully, there are plenty of new tools that make the process easier. The great technological gap between generations is closing fast as marketers realize the advantages that an online world brings, such as:

  • Precise movement tracking of consumers
  • Detailed competitor insights
  • The ability to market to anyone, anytime, and anywhere
  • Digital globalization 

Of course, with these benefits comes a new challenge – how to gather, analyze, and deduce from so many data points. 

That’s where artificial intelligence marketing comes into play. 

What is Artificial Intelligence Marketing? 

Artificial intelligence is using digital-based “brainpower” to accomplish tasks in a neural network. While still in its infancy, AI-based tools have already proved helpful in the marketing world, from powering chatbots to scooping up every available megabyte of information. 

Artificial intelligence marketing is one of the newest forms of collecting and using said data. These programs speed up the flow of information, can integrate digital resources, and open new opportunities. 

This is done via a variety of techniques, such as web mining, search data collection, and transaction tracking. 

In this way, big data – for our purposes, all the data points in a consumer’s journey – and machine learning make it easier to collect and analyze information both in-depth and en masse. 

Plus, as software with no need for sleep, AI can do this much faster than a team of humans. (Of course, you still need humans to implement the data). 

Why Artificial Intelligence Marketing?

The use of AI in marketing has soared as marketers have discovered all the unique advantages. For instance, using AI in your data gathering and analysis processes can help you:

  • Mine data faster than ever
  • Learn more about the specifics of your intended – and potential – markets
  • Better describe and utilize actionable patterns in research
  • Devise appropriate market segments and product augmentation
  • Automate advertisements to increase consumer engagement

And once the numbers are in hand (or more likely, in cloud), AI becomes that much more useful. 

For instance, AI can help find the trends that the human eye may not find innate. This leads to a more thorough understanding of how touchpoints relate to consumer activity and spending trends. 

Plus, using artificial intelligence can help you capitalize on your personalization potential. From building more accurate buyer profiles to curating relevant content, getting to know your customers on a more personal level is what modern digital marketing is all about. 

But it’s important to note that AI can’t do everything for you. While a neural network may be able to collect, segment, and analyze numbers, humans are still needed to make sense of it all. 

After all, nobody is marketing to computers (yet). 

(You may want to check out my post on marketing attribution and models)


  • Vlad Falin

    Vlad Falin is a founder and blogger at, an affiliate marketer, and a digital marketing expert. Prior to starting this blog, Vlad accumulated over 7 years of experience in digital marketing, working on his own affiliate marketing projects, and providing consulting services. In this blog, Vlad writes to thousands of readers about starting a business online and reviews SaaS tools.

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