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What is Marketing Intelligence? Types, Examples and Tools

By: Chad M. Crabtree — November 01, 2021

To create a comprehensive marketing strategy that achieves your goals, you need to understand your company and the marketing landscape. This is why marketing intelligence efforts are so important.

Marketing intelligence refers to the relevant data that informs each aspect of your marketing strategy. Gathering information on your competitors, your customers, and your industry landscape lets you develop marketing campaigns and other activities built on realistic insights. This is key to creating a comprehensive marketing strategy that ensures your business succeeds.

Read on to learn more about marketing intelligence, the wide variety of intelligence types, and examples of how it’s used for business growth.

Woman standing in front of a board leading a business meeting

What is Marketing Intelligence? 

Marketing intelligence includes any piece of information you need to make accurate decisions regarding your marketing strategy. It can also mean the process of gathering this information and distilling it into useful insights.

How You Can Benefit From Marketing Intelligence

Marketing intelligence allows you to create and execute every part of your strategy from an informed perspective. Use the data you collect to make focused decisions and develop goals that are backed up by realistic data. It informs various marketing goals including competitive analysis, product development, marketing channels and messaging, and more.

Marketing intelligence gives you:

  • Insight into your target audience and growth potential
  • An idea of how you currently stack up against your competitors
  • Information you can use to prepare for market shifts and develop new business strategies
  • Understanding of your target customers and how you can best meet their needs
  • A means to make informed business decisions to overcome current and future challenges

Objectives of Marketing Intelligence

Each company will have different objectives for marketing intelligence.

Common goals for marketing intelligence include:

  • Growing in your existing market
  • Strengthening your brand
  • Improving your brand awareness
  • Determining potential new markets to enter
  • Marketing existing products to new target audiences
  • Developing new product lines
  • Understanding changing industry landscapes
  • Adapting to new secondary competitors

These are some common objectives of marketing intelligence, but you can use data gathered through this process to inform all of your marketing goals. Marketing intelligence can come in handy in any situation where you need a clear picture of your business and its performance within the landscape.

Marketing Intelligence Sources

There are different types of marketing intelligence you can gather. Use a variety of qualitative and quantitative sources to collect the data needed to inform your marketing goals.

Common marketing intelligence tools include:

Sales Team

Your sales team interacts with customers and often speaks to them to determine their needs. Talk to your sales personnel and account managers to gain insights about your customers. They can help you identify regions in which your product is selling well, product features your customers love, features they want to change, and common needs stated by existing clients.

You can use this information to:

  • Identify new markets.
  • Tailor marketing messaging to better communicate your product features.
  • Enhance your marketing in areas where your product isn’t selling as well.

Customer Surveys

You can gain useful insights through customer surveys. Regularly conducting these surveys is one powerful marketing intelligence tool where you gain customer understanding and discover what’s important to them.

If you have existing customer lists, use them to examine your current customers’ experiences. Use in-person or online surveys to understand things such as customer retention rates. Find out what keeps them returning or why they may be leaving.

Look through comments to identify repeated statements and see what the general customer experience tends to be. For specific marketing objectives, send out a new customer survey with questions that address your goals and how you may be able to reach them.

For example, if you want to develop a complementary line for one of your best-selling products, add questions about how people use it and what they like about it. Ask them to state additional features they would like to see and any new ways to use your product. Their answers can help you round out your product line by filling in the missing pieces.

Focus Groups

A key component of marketing research, focus groups consist of a panel of potential customers. You sit with them for an hour and interview them using questions derived from your marketing goals. Focus groups are often used to evaluate potential ad campaigns and to test new products when they are in the final stage of development.

You can also use focus groups to gain insights into buyer behavior. Ask questions about where these customers shop and why they choose certain products or brands over others. To gather high-quality data, plan and prepare for your focus group. You should try to interview a variety of people who likely represent your target customer. This will help you get the most accurate, useful information that you can use to achieve your goals.

Competitive Analysis

Conducting competitive analysis gives you a look at how your company stacks up in the market. If you know who your top competitors are, check out everything you can find on them, from their online presence to their customer reviews. Look at their social media interactions and search for trends that can give you clues on what their customers like about them.

There is software available that uses AI and other technology to gather this data for you. If competitive intelligence is a key aspect of your marketing goals, consider investing in software like PiDiametrics, BuiltWith, WooRank, or SimilarWeb, among others. These tools can analyze your website traffic, market share, and other analytics and benchmark them against your competitors.

Industry Outlook

An industry outlook or state of the industry report helps you identify changes and shifts in your industry that might impact your marketing strategies. Changing economic conditions and consumer confidence levels are some of the more common factors impacting your marketing strategy.

Knowing when your industry is experiencing a labor shortage or disruptions in your supply chain can help you prepare your customers for potential interruptions in service or product delivery. A crashing economy with high unemployment can impact product demand, so you may need to shift your marketing practices or look into new markets to weather the storm.

Marketing Intelligence Steps 

Now that you’re familiar with the resources you can use to collect marketing intelligence, here are steps you can take to create yours and discover a new market opportunity.

1. Define Your Goals

Collecting and analyzing data for marketing intelligence is more productive when you have specific goals in mind. Since marketing intelligence can be used to inform every piece of your strategy from defining your target market to determining where to advertise your product, you will collect a wide range of data.

However, classifying your objectives can help you focus your data mining efforts. Look through your marketing plan to establish your most pressing goals and use them to develop your data collection tools.

2. Select Your Competitors

Collecting competitor intelligence is a time-consuming, but necessary means of gaining a competitive advantage. Before doing a competitive analysis, create a list of various rivals who attract customers in each area of your business.

Gain product intelligence within your industry. Learn what your competitors are selling and how your products compare in the market

3. Determine Which Metrics You Want to Analyze

Your goals will help you assess the metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) you need to extract as part of your marketing intelligence. You might be more interested in stats that highlight your brand awareness and brand identity. In this case, focus on information from your customer surveys and sales team.

Perhaps you’re more interested in website visits and sales. In this case, look at more qualitative statistics like conversion rates and quality lead generation stats. Or you could be interested in a mix of customer insights and performance-based statistics to get a more well-rounded picture.

4. Gather Your Data

Once you’ve established your goals, listed your competitors, and identified your desired metrics for analysis, start collecting data to gain market understanding. Use a combination of the research tools discussed earlier to gather feedback and gain valuable insights.

Additionally, monitor your past performance. Evaluate past KPIs related to successful and not-so-successful marketing campaigns. This data also gives you a benchmark from which to measure future data-driven marketing efforts. It also lets you see what is working and what isn’t so you can use your marketing intelligence to improve on less successful strategies.

5. Analyze Your Data

Collect your data and start sifting through the information to extract useful statistics. Gain consumer insights and understand market trends. Use these stats to back up your insights and develop action steps you can take to meet your goals.

Curate your insights into an action plan and compile it into a report you can share with everyone on your marketing team.

6. Distribute Your Information

Data means nothing if it’s not propelling an action. When you’ve completed your report and created an action plan with measurable steps, distribute it to your marketing team. Have them weigh in on the results before compiling your report if you want other insights before creating your action plan and marketing strategies.

Examples of Marketing Intelligence

Companies of all sizes have used marketing intelligence to successfully grow and expand their brands, while others ignored key data that eventually impacted their business. Here are some real-world marketing intelligence systems in action.

Borders

When Amazon began to permeate the online book market in the late 90s and early 2000s, brick-and-mortar bookstore chains in the industry took note. Barnes and Noble responded by increasing online sales and pushing out its e-reader the Nook, but others — like Borders — failed to accurately anticipate the threat.

Borders continued focusing on physical locations, opening new stores, and failing to offer e-books. When the store entered online sales, it outsourced to Amazon. By 2011, Borders had shuttered all of its physical locations, going out of business.

Borders show how a limited competitive focus can hinder your marketing intelligence. The company likely didn’t consider Amazon to be a threat in its early days because the website appealed to people who wanted to buy books online. Rather than seeing this as a potential industry trend, Borders ignored the growing internet shopping market — one key factor that put the company out of business.

Red Bull

Red Bull effectively uses market intelligence to drive content and other marketing opportunities. While the company’s primary competitors appear to be other energy drinks, Red Bull has built its marketing strategy on content and sponsorship. The company sponsors various sporting events including cliff diving, e-sports, mountain biking, and even tennis.

Along with other beverage companies, Red Bull competes with content creators operating in adventure sports or other niches that would appeal to the company’s core audience. Knowing how to compete in this space with expertly produced content has helped Red Bull uniquely build brand awareness. The company now hosts events and makes independent shows and films that are available on the website.

Hello Fresh

This meal kit delivery service is known for taking the guesswork out of cooking. Customers choose from select menus and receive meal kits they can use to prep and cook quality dinners at home. But these menus are not random.

Hello Fresh uses analytical tools like Google’s Keyword Planner to see what is trending in certain areas and then tailor menus to people in those different locations. The company uses data visualization to highlight its insights for product development personnel and the marketing team because it’s easier to compare and contrast data to refine menus.

Getting Started With Marketing Intelligence

Use your marketing plan as a starting point. If you’re a new company, pull some preliminary information out of your business plan, including your market analysis and customer profile. If you’ve been around awhile, use your existing marketing plan and identify your most pressing goals.

When you have completed the steps above, you should come away with beneficial insights that will help you refine your marketing strategy. Use your data to create action items and performance indicators you can use to measure how well you achieved each goal.

Using data to drive your marketing allows you to personalize your messaging so it appeals to your target audience. It also helps you align your marketing strategy to your goals. You can use these insights to keep your messaging consistent across marketing channels, from digital ads to print content.

The whole process might seem daunting, but investing some time and money into marketing intelligence helps your business in the long run. By having a better understanding of your place in the market, your customers, and your industry as a whole, you can make strategic decisions to guide your business in an ever-changing landscape.


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