Clients Are Questioning Their Business Models, and Agencies Can Help

An Outside View Will Sharpen the Tough Process of Self-Evaluation

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Marketing, dogged by the old adage, "I know half of my advertising works, I just don't know which half," has long been viewed as Uncertainty's handmaiden. It's one of the main reasons that marketers have rushed headlong into all things digital. "Now we measure everything," the thinking goes -- as we should.

Yet much to the industry's dismay, Uncertainty lingers. That's explained by another wise old adage: "The best form of advertising is word of mouth." Word of mouth doesn't occur unless you do a lot of things right. Really right. Experientially right. Advertising can't gloss over anything.

We're finding that many of our clients and prospects -- from destinations to outdoor brands to banks -- are taking a hard look at their business models. They're asking big questions: Who are we? Who really are our customers? What do they think of us? How can we change to get better?

Whether driven by the continuing economic malaise, or the real-time feedback loop that social media provides to brands, this questioning is a good thing. Agencies can aid in the effort. The hard work of self-discovery needs an outside view. The agencies most likely to succeed in this era will help clients better understand their customers and themselves and create strategies to connect the two.

Uncertainty doesn't appear ready to give up its hold any time soon. So we need to try to help clients with the one thing they can control -- themselves.

Jeff Welch is president of MERCURYcsc in Bozeman, Mont.
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