A framework to help guide marketing strategies now, and in the future

Taylor Jenkins / May 2020

We’re in unprecedented times and nobody can predict how the pandemic will play out long-term. However, we can still make sound business decisions now by using the insights we have available and considering multiple time horizons to plan for the future.

Our Google Canada marketing teams turn to the Now, Next, Later framework, a planning tool used across industries, to assess and adapt our strategies. It allows us to break down what steps we need to take now, what we need to focus on over the next several months, and where to focus our attention in the long run.

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Adapt what’s in your control now

You’re likely already doing this for your business, but this is something you’ll need to continue to do as we navigate this situation. Ensure your plans continue to adapt completely to the new realities we are living in.

Analyze your website, online platforms and marketing campaigns. Make sure they are sensitive, relevant and working. Does it make sense to market in this category at this time? Is your copy updated to reflect the current situation? Are your campaigns in channels where customers are today and might be in the near future?

On Chromebooks, we’ve shifted our media plan to focus on digital. This allows us to continue to reach our users, and gives us meaningful data and insights on their changing needs. Along with this channel shift, we have tweaked our campaigns and messaging to reflect current realities. For example, we’ve removed social settings from our creative and halted production of campaigns where the messaging no longer makes sense.

When you feel comfortable with the current situation your team and strategies are in (and this takes time), consider how to prioritize your time and tasks so you can listen, learn and plan what is next.

Use insights to identify what could impact your business next

We’re all feeling the situation at a personal and professional level. This is not the time to put pressure on yourself or team to be the best marketers — but rather the best humans — you can be. Tune into the world around you, and let that guide your marketing decisions.

Use the tools and insights that are available now, such as Google Trends and Google Analytics. Follow trusted sources and marketing thought leaders, and reflect on how the current situation is impacting you as a consumer, or your friends and family. What personal habits have you changed, and what new habits have you formed?

Continue to revisit the insights you’ve gathered and consider both short- and long-term changes to consumer behaviour.

Continue to revisit the insights you’ve gathered and consider both short- and long-term changes to consumer behaviour. According to Ipsos research, 48% of Canadian consumers tried a new shopping service, such as curbside pick-up, a shopping app or a new delivery service for the first time in March.1 Will that behaviour hold as the current circumstances change? How could that impact what you communicate in the near- and long-term?

Plan for a range of scenarios that may affect your business later

Think of various scenarios that might play out in the back half of 2020 and beyond. Build “what if” statements around those. What will your new customer look like? Have their needs changed? What can you do to fulfill these changes? Answering these questions to the best of your ability now can help inform your long-term plans and position you to quickly adapt.

Create contingency plans for each scenario. Think about how you would adapt your campaigns, messaging, product or audience to meet shifts in the market. Establish a cadence of regular check-ins on these “what if” statements and check if they are still accurate or if any are becoming a reality. By thinking ahead, your team will have the plans in place to begin taking action quickly when the time comes to react.

None of us can predict what will happen next, but we can plan for different scenarios. By using data and empathy, we can prepare ourselves for whatever the future may hold.

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