As the terms suggest, marketing intelligence refers to general information about the marketing conditions in a given business sector. It may be collected by governments, companies, trade associations, consumers, or other interested parties, and it is generally in the public domain. Marketing research, by contrast, is normally done by or on behalf of a specific company. It is intended to enhance that company's performance, and the results are usually confidential. Some large companies conduct extensive marketing research in-house, and others employ agencies to do it for them.
The specificity of marketing research means that it is more useful than general marketing intelligence to the company that commissions or conducts the research. Since marketing research is often expensive and time consuming, it makes sense for companies that conduct it to begin by gleaning as much information they can from freely available marketing intelligence. They will then use this to identify the specific questions or areas relevant to them which are not addressed by marketing intelligence and require more extensive and focused information.
These questions and areas drive the marketing research agenda. Many smaller businesses, particularly at the startup stage, do not have the resources to conduct focused marketing research, and, for them, the free availability of market intelligence is of vital importance.