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What is Market Intelligence?

People often read my LinkedIn profile and then comment to me that they don’t really understand what I do for a living. Furthermore, I often approach people in corporate marketing, strategy, and sales leadership roles to speak to them about market intelligence and competitive intelligence (what I do for a living), and discover that they are not always familiar with these terms, even though their organizations may be informally conducting these processes.


So for the record, here are my definitions of these business terms.


Competitive Intelligence is the process of collecting information about a company’s competitors and turning it into actionable insights. It is often referred to as CI. It is a subset of Market Intelligence.

Market Intelligence is the process of collecting information about a company’s overall external operating environment and turning it into actionable insights. It includes intelligence about competitors, suppliers, customers, regulations, market drivers, macroeconomic indicators, opportunities, risks, and threats, etc. It is often referred to as MI.


Market Intelligence and Competitive Intelligence are often confused with Business Intelligence. But these terms are not synonymous. Business Intelligence is a completely separate corporate function: the collection and analysis of a company’s internal transactional data. It is often referred to as BI.

Some people think that all of this is Market Research. True Market Intelligence draws the line at traditional consumer market research; meaning that Market Intelligence does not include consumer surveys, focus groups, and Nielsen data.


Market Intelligence can be B2B or B2C. It is about collecting little nuggets of insights from various sources within the value chain, which when combined and triangulated, can tell a story which helps analysts and executives understand the direction of a market, and makes strategic decisions more informed and better grounded.


In my experience, the services involved in conducting outsourced Market Intelligence include continuous market monitoring, strategic analysis projects, and best practices consulting. Continuous market monitoring means looking at what a company’s competitors, suppliers, customers and markets are doing on a daily basis, and making the output digestible and actionable. Strategic analysis projects usually take the form of competitive landscape analysis, market attractiveness analysis, market sizing, and company profiling, amongst other topics. Best practices consulting means helping companies learn how to do it better themselves, through training, facilitating workshops, benchmarking, and organizing events where intelligence practitioners can network and share their experiences with each other.


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