What B2B marketers can learn from Friends

Find out what the TV show Friends can teach B2B marketers about the benefits of taking a long-term approach to your marketing strategy.

Did you watch the Friends Reunion?

The show has a lot to answer for. I mean, it brought marketers’ favourite catchphrase into the general lexicon; “Pivot” is usually the first word to get crossed off when playing marketing bingo.  

But it can teach us more than that. 

Back in 1994, Friends launched to mixed reviews with one critic calling it a "so-so Seinfeld wannabe". Damning stuff. Despite the lukewarm response, Warner Bros. took a punt and the show ran for 10 years. The last ever episode aired to 52.5 million people in the US alone. 

“Yes, yes, yes. Friends was a behemoth”, you’re saying. But what does that have to do with B2B marketing? Quite a lot, I think.

You see, had Warner Bros. taken a short-term view then they may not have renewed the show. Their confidence in the show could be attributed to a mixture of ratings, focus groups and critical response. It was one of the many shows of the era that started out slow before becoming a beloved cultural icon - think The US Office, Breaking Bad and Parks & Recreation:

Rotten Tomatoes TOMATOMETER Score - based on critics’ reviews

rotten tomatoes - Friends

Source: Rotten Tomatoes

B2B marketers, like big studio execs, are constantly challenged with balancing short-term and long-term objectives. The pandemic has clearly exacerbated this situation by adding pressure to already challenged marketing departments. 

In our B2B Marketing. Solved report, of the 600 B2B marketers interviewed 71% are being asked to achieve more with less, 40% feel less secure in their role, and 68% are now forced to prove the ROI of their marketing. It’s, therefore, easy to understand the temptation to focus on the short term when most marketers are struggling to see their hand in front of their face.

But, reactive marketing won’t win you any awards. Yes, it will keep the lights on, but for how long? 

The best marketers think steps ahead in terms of topics and platforms they use to reach their audiences. 

Research is essential to identifying these opportunities. Consider the seismic changes that have occurred in buying habits over the past year or so. Now is the time to reassess your audience. It’s a point alan’s Head of Research Sarah Callaghan explores in her blog: Why you need to redefine your audience.

“Now is the time to go back to basics, press the reset button, banish previous assumptions, and redefine your audience,” she writes.

Seek out the topics that are new and untested and could go on to become your industry’s new normal. Discover the “innovation triggers” in your industry.

Beware of getting bogged down in assessing which formats worked for you in the past. Instead, discover new platforms which could broaden your audience even further. Sage’s #BOSSIT2021 on TikTok is a prime example of a brand breaking out of their B2B shackles.

And avoid playing catch up with your competitors. Focusing too heavily on what your competitors are doing can leave you behind the pack as opposed to leading it. 

Friends, like the other shows mentioned, took the first season to shape and hone their characters. It’s an approach B2B marketers should adopt for their campaigns. Test and learn, push the boundaries of topic and platform until you find your sweet spot. 

Like the studios, use research to form the foundations of your strategy. Doing so could result in your campaigns winning critical acclaim, just like Friends. You never know. You may discover that it’s time for you to “pivot” after all.

Interested in how alan. can help you plan and deliver your long-term marketing strategy? Call us on 020 3877 3800 or email us at contact@alan-agency.com to speak to one of our specialists.

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