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Coming to an Agency Near You!

Posted on : 23-09-2013 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Social Media, Technology

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This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on September 23, 2013.  To see the original post click here.

I am often pondering what is next in the world in which we live, especially how that factors into this social media filled world and business. Things around us are changing everyday and sometimes it is difficult to keep up. A few years ago the hot topics were “social media, “digital” and “mobile”, but in many ways we are seeing the hot topics shift to “sharing economy” and context. The business world is constantly evolving and it seems very difficult for any business to keep pace with the changes before us. Partially this is due to our own resistance but it is also because the future is often difficult to predict until it is right before your eyes. Yet we are starting to see the shift within marketing and PR agencies to help businesses lead the way.

I have seen agencies reduce the number of social media roles, but that is due to multiple factors. For some it is due to the talent moving directly to the business, but for others it is because the skill set is now available in multiple layers in the agency. It no longer required as a separate position. This seems to fit the same cycle we have seen in the past, and I expect we will see into the future. There seems to be a cycle that happens with each change impacting these agencies. The cycle starts with new firms being created usually by people from larger firms who see an opportunity that they can fulfill. This stage is followed by larger firms starting to hire for the skill, then businesses bringing the skill in house with the final stage including consolidation of the smaller firms. Over the past several months I have been watching shifts in the marketing and public relations space that go beyond the big merger talk. I have seen smaller agencies establish themselves in the data analytics speciality. I have also seen some firms restructure to provide greater emphasis on data. In my view data is going to continue to grow, with further challenges from a regulatory and Consumer view. This shift to the world of context will require very specific skills and we are starting to see the agency space recognize the potential opportunity.

I doubt any of you are surprised to see data coming front and center because it has been an interesting conversation point for years. We now have the ability to know the Customer for what they want the world to know, and if we effectively utilize this information we can better assist them in finding the products and services they need at the specific moment they need them. This will of course have challenges along the way. FIrst will be properly parsing the information to better understand the intent. Then it will be a question of delivery. If a brand is off in any of the data points they can take a strong message and destroy it. Over the past few week Acxiom launched AbouttheData.com which allows Consumers to view the data the company has on them. You can read more about this from the NY Times. This effort is a brilliant effort. First it heads off regulatory pressure by sharing with Consumers the information they have collected. But more importantly it allows Consumers to actually change inaccurate data so Acxiom as the opportunity to improve how well they know the potential Customer. I do wonder if there may be any negative backlash from firms that hire the company because they too can easily see the information that they believed to be accurate, may not be. For me much of my information was way off and I did not change it. It does explain some of the goofy marketing materials I receive. Anyway the use of data is going to change this business in many ways and we are just at the beginning stages of this shift. Some will not realize the impact until it is too late but many have already fully embraced it.

I am surprised that another shift did not happen sooner, but we are starting to see the beginning stages. Over the years I have heard marketers say that service should report to marketing. I would always quip back that maybe marketing should report to service since it was such a small part of the overall Customer experience. Needless to say this would stir the pot a little. The fact is in most organization service sits way too low on the food chain and has been disrespected by other business units or viewed as a cost center. It is so sad when companies view their Customer as a cost and not an asset. In my book @YourService I talk about these challenges and the fact that we are shifting to more a word of mouth or relationship driven era and our mindset must change. I do not blame business units for looking down on service, although I do view it as short-sighted. I blame the service industry for not doing a good enough job in managing upward the importance of Customer Service. Well this lack of leadership and the changes to how Consumers view the brand, marketing and communications leaders are starting to get more involved in fixing what is broken. This is also being noticed by agencies and they too see the opportunity to better advise their clients. We are starting to watch new firms evolve from the marketing and communications space into leading the Customer Experience. I expect this trend will grow because it is difficult for your marketing to win if it does not correlate to the experience a brand creates.

We are in changing times, and agencies are always quick to change with them. These are my expectations of changes, but I am sure there will be many others. What is your view?