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Market Intelligence Vs Market Research – The Elusive Difference

Article by Malay Mehrotra 9 min read

Introduction

Market intelligence and market research (also known as marketing intelligence and marketing research), are terms you'll often see being used in marketing circles. While the terms are often used interchangeably when developing marketing strategies, they are, however, not the same things. It is easy to see why someone would make that mistake though, as the concepts are somewhat similar and belong to the same sphere. Market intelligence and market research follow a subtly different process, and the data that is obtained using them - while sometimes similar - serves different purposes. In this article, let us have a look at the elusive difference between marketing intelligence vs marketing research, in terms of definition, types, and importance. Let's begin.

Market research definition

Market research (or marketing research) is the process of evaluating the feasibility of a new product or service, through research conducted on the company’s markets, competitors and customers. It is undertaken to learn about your audience’s wants and needs, and the consumer buying trends in your industry. It is central to any decisions made regarding product development, and/or branding. Market research helps in drawing meaningful conclusions when an organization or business wishes to know the purchase behavior of consumers or the likelihood of consumers paying a certain cost for a product.

Market intelligence definition

Market intelligence (MI) or marketing intelligence, is information or external data collected by a company about their target market or industry, that helps them make business decisions, and guide organizational as well as competitive strategies. Market intelligence lets an organization gain a comprehensive understanding of its competitors, the state of its industry, market conditions, and the changing consumer landscape as a whole, thus granting them a competitive advantage in the market. As Harvard Business Review puts it, marketing intelligence helps in "identifying risks and opportunities early enough to allow the company to adapt its strategy or in extreme cases, change it."

Market intelligence Vs Market research - Key differences

Although market intelligence and market research play a highly important role in market strategy, it is market research that focuses more on it. Market intelligence tends to dive deeper than just consumers and the product/service. However, a company that conducts both market research and market intelligence will find that the data uncovered will often overlap. This is because market research is, in fact, a subset of market intelligence. Let us look at other key differences between market intelligence and market research:

1. Focus

The focus of market research is to help your organization make decisions about your specific products and services. The focus areas are consumer preferences, consumer behavior, customer perception, customer base, customer retention, trends, product features, styles, flavors, etc. Market research is thus generally company-specific, and usually has more to do about your products/services and your customers.

Market intelligence on the other hand is market-specific. It is concerned with the broader implications of the market, including things like investments in the industry, competitors, market understanding, market analysis, market trends, customer spending, and suppliers.

2. Duration

Market research focuses on answering specific questions, such as "what kind of product or service are customers looking for?", "why do customers like a particular brand?" or "what can be done to improve our existing product or service?" It is a finite process that ends once such questions are answered.

Market intelligence, however, is an ongoing process that never ends. Markets are dynamic and ever-evolving, your competitors don't stop with their operations, and customers’ sentiment and preference changes with time. Market intelligence is thus a never-ending process.

3. Source

Market research is carried out through deploying surveys, interacting with a group of people also known as a sample, conducting interviews, and other similar processes such as questionnaires.

Market intelligence is gathered through external sources such as news, press releases, company websites, blogs, forums, social media, regulatory portals, review sites, job portals, information databases, etc.

4. Skills required

Analysis of market research requires that analysts ideally have a background or experience in behavioral sciences, as well as mathematics.

Analysis of market intelligence requires a broad range of analytical skills, and thus, is performed by analysts with a background in business analysis, financial management as well as product management.

Although there are differences between market research and market intelligence, both of them are required for a 360° view of your markets. One cannot replace the other.

Types of market intelligence and market research

To further understand the difference between these two concepts, it is important to have a look at their different types, or ways that they are conducted. Let's go.

When it comes to market research, there are broadly four types. These include:

1. Primary research:
As the name suggests, primary marketing research involves first-hand information, i.e. which is collected by the organization itself. This is the information gathered using methods such as focus groups, interviews, polls, and surveys. It is considered the most valuable type of market research as it gathers information directly from your customer base.

2. Secondary research:
This type of market research is quite similar to market intelligence, but limited in its scope. It is research done by other organizations or businesses which is available publicly. You can collect secondary market research from sources such as articles, journals, e-books, infographics, videos, white papers, etc. Secondary research is important as it gives you a view of the market from a perspective other than your own, which can be helpful while developing marketing and product strategies.

3. Qualitative research:
This type of marketing research can be primary or secondary, but focuses on how customers feel about your product or service. Its goal is not to gather statistical data, but to understand what and how your customers think. Qualitative research involves questions to customers like - "Why you choose to use a particular product or service?", "What features would you like in an ideal product or service?", "How do you think our product compares to others?", and other similar questions. It helps the organization what they're doing right and what they are not.

4. Quantitative research:
Quantitative research on the other hand is all about numbers. It can be primary or secondary research, but unlike qualitative research, there are no questions and answers open to interpretation. There are facts and stats that can act as a benchmark for your marketing efforts. Metrics measured in quantitative research often include things like no. of consumers, subscribers or users, social media followers and engagement, page views, geography, product or service sold, etc.

Conversely, market intelligence has three types, which include:

1. Market understanding:
This type of marketing intelligence involves understanding your target market, the size of the market, the market share of your company, and the trends in the market. Gaining market understanding can help organizations penetrate their target markets faster, and increase their revenue and market share.

2. Competitor or Competitive Intelligence:
Perhaps the most popular type of market intelligence, competitor intelligence, also known as competitive intelligence, is the aggregation of data about your competitors from online sources, social media, public records, government databases, news, and the like. Competitor intelligence lets an organization keep track of their competitors' every move, and thus, build strategies that outmaneuver them.

3. Product Intelligence:
There are a number of products and services in the market that might be directly or indirectly competing with your product or service. Product intelligence is information gathered on such products and services, which can help you understand how your product can be improved to sell more and increase your market share. Product intelligence can also help formulate a product strategy, help determine the timing of product launches, and even determine pricing.

Importance of market intelligence and market research

As mentioned before, both marketing intelligence and marketing research have roles in helping an organization build strategies for growth and success. However, each has its own importance in doing so. Let's have a look how.

Marketing research is a one-time activity that seeks to answer specific questions, unlike marketing intelligence, which is a continuous process. However, its importance shouldn't be understated, as it helps organizations accomplish the following:

- Spot business opportunities by helping define the target audience.

- Lowers business risks by identifying problem areas in your market strategy.

- Formulate your go-to-market strategy.

- Create relevant marketing content.

- Determine the appropriate advertising and marketing channels

- Uncover underserved customer segments

- Identify customer needs

- Outsell competitors by targeting dissatisfied customers

Marketing intelligence is an essential activity in modern times. It provides organizations with comprehensive information that allows them to make decisions based on actionable information rather than instinct and guesswork. Here's why it is extremely important to gather market intelligence:

- It informs businesses of their target audience, growth potential, and market opportunity.

- Helps in performing competitor analysis.

- Helps strategize to achieve future goals.

- Guides your business’s decision-making by cutting through the noise out there in the market.

- Provides a steady stream of information around the competitive landscape, the target market, customer trends, and specific buyer personas.

- Improves your company’s position by helping invest in the right projects and avoiding losses.

Contify's market intelligence solutions

With more and more organizations using market intelligence globally to gain a competitive advantage in their markets, organizations without a market intelligence process are like a person who comes unarmed to a shootout. Even organizations that use traditional market intelligence methods are at a loss, as market intelligence has evolved to a much efficient, effective, and faster discipline thanks to digital technologies like AI. Using a market intelligence software or tool is, thus, a necessity for organizations that wish to not only survive, but grow.

Contify is an AI-powered market intelligence platform that helps organizations track competitors, prospects, target accounts, and industries. It gathers key insights from news, company websites, regulatory portals, and social networks, among other online sources. You can know more about the Contify platform here.

Conclusion

After considering the key differences as well as the importance of both marketing research and marketing intelligence, it is quite clear that both these processes are quite significant in building various organizational strategies. When used in an effective combination, marketing research and marketing intelligence help form a comprehensive or holistic picture of your company, its strengths, its weaknesses, its customers, its competition, and its current position in the market. They also help set concrete goals, and provide insights on how to accomplish them. Together, these concepts inform every aspect of a business, which fuels business innovation. Understanding the differences between them will hopefully help you utilize them efficiently without any confusion.

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