Marketing intelligence can mean a lot of things and with so many platforms, data, and technologies available these days, the term is thrown around fairly loosely. To help marketers distill down what it really means and why it's important, we've put together a comprehensive guide to help marketers get a better picture of marketing intelligence as a whole. 

What is Marketing Intelligence?

Marketing intelligence is everyday data that is relevant to the marketing efforts of an organization. Once collected, this data can be analyzed and used to make informed decisions regarding competitor behaviors, products, consumer trends, and market opportunities.

Understanding Marketing Intelligence

One of the most important aspects impacting an organization’s ability to stay ahead of the market is the ability to have  a comprehensive understanding of its competitors, the state of its industry, and the changing consumer landscape as a whole. With this information, often known as marketing intelligence, marketers can evaluate their tactics and optimize future campaigns based on their own insights as well as those from across the entire industry.

Let’s take a deeper look at what exactly marketing intelligence is and why marketers can’t afford to let it fall through the cracks:

Marketers Can't Ignore Data Quality Report


Why is Marketing Intelligence Important?

Marketing intelligence should act as the guiding light for your teams’ decisions. By collecting and analyzing contextual data about customer and industry trends and behaviors, marketers can gain a holistic understanding of what is and isn't working. This can give businesses an important advantage over competitors, educate them about their target audience, and evaluate insights into their various products.

Marketing intelligence can also be applied to future goal setting. Setting clear goals beforehand can go a long way toward boosting the efficiency and scope of your marketing intelligence efforts. Moreover, clearly defining the role you want this information to play makes it easier to identify the right data to pull across the media mix.

Consider determining the KPIs of your marketing intelligence to help illustrate whether or not your efforts are progressing toward your defined goals:

Quantitative KPIs

These KPIs are the easiest to determine, as they can be directly measured. They analyze items such as total revenue from your competitors or the number of products sold.

Qualitative KPIs

Although these are more difficult to measure, qualitative KPIs provide teams with a more cohesive view of marketing and business strategies. Here, marketers can leverage indicators like customer surveys, quizzes, assessments and comment forums.

Types of Marketing Intelligence

There are many different methodologies that marketers can use to derive actionable marketing intelligence. Let’s explore some of the most common ways that teams can gain a better understanding of the market they’re attempting to sell to:

Focus groups

Focus groups involve hand-selecting a group of people in an effort to create a sample size of their target market. A moderator asks participants a series of predetermined questions in order to encourage further discussion among the group. This allows marketers to gain insight into the deeper opinions of their audience, allowing them to make more informed, nuanced decisions about future campaigns.


Polls differ from questionnaires and surveys in that they typically focus efforts on a single question. As opposed to open-ended questions that may be included in other methodologies, polls can be answered quickly and easily, leading to a higher response rate.

Field Trials

Field trials are an opportunity for businesses to test different variables around their product or branding by allowing marketing teams to experiment with new initiatives while minimizing waste in advertising. For example, new products may be tested in select stores, or new messaging may be applied to a specific geographic region. Based on how these initiatives perform on a smaller scale, they may be rolled out to a larger audience.


A questionnaire is another way for marketers to reach a large audience size. It can help marketers determine both qualitative and quantitative insights about their customers, and can be conducted both online and offline.


Forms are a way for marketers to learn more about their target audience's specific information, often related to demographics. These are usually conducted by a researcher, and the goal is to gain more insights into objective data versus a customer's opinion or general feedback.

Mail Surveys

Mail surveys are a cost-effective way to reach a large audience. While there has been a shift in recent years toward technology resources, this method can still be fruitful for organizations conducting outreach in locations where access to technology may be more scarce.

What is the Difference Between Marketing Intelligence and Marketing Research?

While marketing intelligence efforts can lead to better campaigns and increased marketing ROI, the actual term is often confused with two different processes: business intelligence and marketing research.

While both terms help organizations make informed, data-driven decisions about campaigns, the difference lies in the overall goal of each. Marketing research focuses solely on the efforts of the specific organization, helping to gain clarity into certain aspects of campaigns without providing insights into any external factors. Alternatively, business intelligence focuses on gathering data across business functions and processes in order to optimize the efficiency of all organizations’ departments and locations.

What Does Marketing Intelligence Include?

Marketing intelligence provides organizations with several distinct opportunities to accurately navigate the complexities of the marketing landscape that are unique to the organization.When done correctly, there are four sides to every marketing intelligence plan that help marketers formulate successful strategic decisions:

1. Competitive Advantage

This form of marketing intelligence involves collecting data from competitors in order to distill insights that can be used to more effectively develop business strategies. By understanding which consumers choose competitors and why, brands can better align marketing efforts to shift products and messaging toward the ideal consumers.

2. Product Intelligence

Product intelligence involves taking a deep dive into the brand’s products as well as how those products stack up within the market. Typically done by speaking to consumers, polling target audiences or engaging them with surveys, organizations can better understand the differentiators and competitive advantages of their products. From there, teams can better align products to the unique consumer interests and problems that help drive conversions.

3. Marketing Understanding

The data used for this variant of marketing intelligence revolves around examining the marketplaces populated by customers or prospects. Are there magazines, books or industry journals the marketplace reads? Or perhaps organizations they are a part of? Understanding the areas where your target audiences are most active can help you identify the right media mix, touchpoints and media channels to use and where your products can fit into those elements.

4. Consumer Understanding

Although the focus for most companies is on new sales, customer loyalty and retention is just as important. In fact, depending on the industry it costs brands an average of five times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. With this in mind, understanding your customers can help effectively target new customers for less marketing spend, while helping boost retention rates. Consider the following questions:

    • Who are your buyers?
    • Why are they buying from you?
    • Are they satisfied with the level of service?
    • Are there things that can be improved?
    • What are the challenges your team can help them with?

5 Tips for Collecting and Improving Marketing Intelligence

To ensure marketing intelligence can be successfully derived from data across the marketing landscape, there are several steps organizations can take to ensure that they’re gathering the right intelligence data, reaching informed conclusions and leveraging the insights generated to the fullest potential:

1. Enlist the Sales Team

Sales teams for both B2B and B2C audiences are in a unique position to help assist marketing intelligence efforts. Considering that sales teams speak directly with customers and prospects, they often have an inside look at industry trends, competitor strengths and weaknesses, and what clients are looking for in a solution, making them an invaluable asset when gathering marketing intelligence data.

2. Set Up a Customer Advisory Board

Considering the importance of direct communication with consumers, marketing intelligence efforts can be bolstered by setting up an advisory board for direct contact with consumers. In doing so, organizations will be able to understand prospect interests, challenges and needs, which helps create more impactful messaging.

3. Focus on Quality Data

Through agreements with external partners or third-party services that leverage such agreements, organizations can access a wide variety of online and offline data across the marketing mix. Take some of the following quality data sources for example:

    • Subscriber lists that indicate geographic location
    • Television and cable box subscriptions that indicate ad reach and air time
    • Radio broadcast range and zip code data
    • Attribution data that indicates engagements across third-party touchpoints and channels
    • Brand authority measurements conducted via third-party studies and resources

4. Utilize an Appropriate Marketing Analytics Platform

Using a marketing analytics tool that goes beyond media mix modeling and marketing attribution can give you more insight into what is resonating with your customers. For example, doo they respond better to advertising on TV or social? Is there a specific form of ad creative that your audience responds to?

Marketers should look for a flexible marketing performance tool that can make these correlations as well as adapt to changes in the market. This will ensure that teams are making informed decisions about media planning moving forward.

5. Collect Customer Feedback

Reaching out to current customers allows for a clearer understanding of perception around campaign efforts, customer experience, brand authority, product satisfaction, etc. With this information, marketing strategies can be better focused on areas of strength. Consider leveraging tools like polls, surveys and feedback prompts for insights into customer perception and brand equity.

What are Some Examples of Marketing Intelligence?

Marketing intelligence plays a critical role in decision-making for the entire business. An example of this involves the book and music retailer, Borders, As consumer preference for convenience and simplicity motivated the move to online shopping, Borders continued to focus efforts on their brick-and-mortar locations. Rather than outsourcing to online retailers and capitalizing on the digital revolution’s shift to online shopping, Borders unknowingly handed its customer base over to Amazon.

Consumers enjoyed the online experience, leaving Borders unable to compete as the market, target audiences and competitors evolved. Ultimately, the organization’s inability to apply relevant retail marketing intelligence played a large part in the store’s closure in 2011.

Marketing intelligence can also be used to leverage insights into competitor tactics. Imagine someone who works for an automotive manufacturer notices that a competitor has recently lowered the price of a particular car model. By applying relevant marketing intelligence, they may find that the competitor is planning to release a new product, thus explaining their desire to quickly sell the old model. This insight can help your team make more informed decisions based on all of the potential impacting elements.

What is a Marketing Intelligence Strategy?

A solid marketing intelligence strategy is critical to not only keeping up with, but surpassing, the competition, no matter what industry you might be in. Creating a marketing intelligence strategy allows a company to be proactive, not reactive, to changes in the economy, customers’ buying patterns, new developments in technology, and other factors which might be outside the company’s control. 

What is a Marketing Intelligence Strategy Used For? 

A good marketing intelligence strategy can help a company do a myriad of things, from capitalizing on new trends to influence product offerings to warning of potential shifts in consumer sentiment towards an industry to giving notice when about situations in which competitors might be about to edge them out of a particular marker, or even out of business altogether. 

In the Borders example above, if Borders executives had had a stronger marketing intelligence strategy, they might have been able to foresee or even prevent their gradual demise at the hands of online book retailers like Amazon.

How is a Marketing Intelligence Strategy Developed? 

    1. Define the end goal. What do you want your company to get from your marketing intelligence strategy? What do you want to create, and what do you want to prevent?
    2. Decide on metrics. How will you measure the success of your marketing intelligence strategy? Through revenue? Customer Satisfaction? Something else? Define how to measure your progress towards your goal. 
    3. Create a research approach. Determine where you’ll look for the data you need to inform your marketing intelligence strategy and how you’ll get it. 
    4. Gather and analyze your data. Take all the data you’ve gleaned from your research and turn it into insights you can take action on. 
    5. Turn knowledge into action. Using the results of your analysis, execute the steps you need to take to reach your goal and take your business to the next level. 

Examples of Marketing Intelligence Strategies

There are many situations in which a business could need a marketing intelligence strategy, and not all of them involve a complete business overhaul or a major shift in strategy. Many businesses use marketing intelligence strategies to do routine or repeatable things such as designing products, segmenting markets to ensure their marketing is properly targeted, analyzing and increasing customer lifetime value, and optimizing marketing campaigns for maximum ROI.

Determining if Investing in Marketing Intelligence is Right for Your Organization

Like any investment, organizations need to weigh the pros and cons of a proposed initiative with its potential to positively impact the bottom line. On one side, accurate marketing intelligence requires a substantial amount of data across online, offline and external areas of the marketing landscape. On the flipside, however, basing marketing direction on strategies that lack accurate intelligence puts brands at a disconnect with competitors and target audiences.

While the associated upfront costs could deter businesses from marketing intelligence initiatives, ignoring market trends across the four points mentioned above can pose a serious risk to an organization’s bottom line.

The Future of Marketing Intelligence in Retail

Additional Tips and Resources