I've found that most businesses I talk to haven't taken the time to do proper customer research - I think there's a gap (that is shrinking) from the days when customer research was expensive - So it was only a "must have" for thebig end of town.
But as CPC get's higher it's crucial that your message and your medium is matching your Audience.
Als, now that content marketing is so key to building trust and authority in an audience and carrying them through a longtail sales funnel - avatar excersises are more a must than ever before.
I insist that We do market research and an Avatar exercise before we take on a new client - if we get push back - I explain that it's for us to get t oknow their customer closely and will allow us to do the best job we can - Funnily enough, those companies that have said to me "We know who our customers are." are always surprised about at least 2 key realisations we get from the Avatar exercise that can make a crucial difference in getting in touch with the needs and wants of their customer.
This not so much of an indication that they didn't do a good job before, but that for many companies, the needs and the wants change or at the very least the positioning of those needs and wants need to be updated to reflect a more marketing savvy audience.