When examining the communication face of the market intelligence pyramid, the most important difference between market intelligence and marketing research is that good market intelligence involves a dialogue between the market intelligence analyst and the client/decision maker. Conversely, marketing research provides an assessment of a specific issue or measures a specific market dynamic. While it clearly involves communication with the client/decision maker, it typically consists of limited interaction versus the full dialogue of market intelligence.
The third and final face of the pyramid deals with people and processes. This can be the most defining difference between marketing research and market intelligence. By its very nature market intelligence is a process. One which constantly captures information from many difference sources, assesses it, and then uses the information during the ongoing business decision-making process.
Marketing research is typically focused on answering specific questions or tracking specific issues. While it can benefit from good processes, it is a finite "task" (or series of tasks). Market intelligence is a process, an ongoing interactive process.
This process should be a closed-loop system with a feedback cycle from the executives to the market intelligence team. The executive’s feedback will guide the market intelligence team in future data analysis by providing insight into the key issues the executives are facing. At the same time, the market intelligence teams are constantly capturing, monitoring, and synthesizing information that will ensure that the executive team is not surprised by market developments or competitive actions.