A Joint Business Planning meeting (JBP) is exactly what it sounds like: a meeting between stakeholders or business counterparts to take stock of results to date and make a plan for the most important upcoming activities that will make the business grow and benefit both parties. This article uses the example of a brand and e-retailer to provide some tips and guidelines for a successful Joint Business Planning meeting. What makes the meeting successful? How do you ensure that both parties leave with a clear idea of what has worked well, or not worked as hoped, and what they need to do next to help the business grow? Read on for a step-by-step guide to preparing for your next JBP.
1. Evaluate and align the previous period’s performance
An unspoken rule of important strategic meetings like JBPs is that most of the work happens before the meeting. Account managers on both sides have the weeks ahead of the meeting to pull all the necessary data, analyze it and align on what they plan to present to the executives who will attend. There should be no surprises on the day of the meeting, and the story from each party needs to be coherent. In other words, having an accurate picture of performance is instrumental. So how can you ensure both parties have the same picture of performance?
Be clear on the time period
Are you reviewing the last fiscal year? Calendar year to date? A common problem in joint business meetings is making sure the data on both sides match. Time periods are often to blame for mismatches so make sure everyone is on the same page with the time period assessed well in advance of your meeting, so you come to the table with the same data.
Use the same metrics
Brands and e-retailers usually measure sales in terms of units sold and gross merchandise value (GMV) or another revenue metric. Additionally, your growth percentage from one period to the next helps you to clearly see the change in popularity of the brand or products on that retailer’s website. Other helpful metrics to look at in a brand/e-retailer context include out of stock/views – a great datapoint to understand how often customers were looking for an item only to find it out of stock; and for any campaigns you ran over the period of interest you will gain important insights from the campaign’s views and conversion rate. Whichever metric you find helpful to determine the health and potential of your business, make sure you explain to your audience both how it is defined, what can be learnt from it and what are your actionable takeaways.
Tips: Account managers on each side commonly have different sources to pull their data from. This can create data inconsistencies, causing confusion and unnecessary time spent reconciling numbers. Having a common tool with automated dashboards for sales and campaign data can greatly facilitate data accuracy and alignment.
Analyze your drivers & drainers
Once you are clear on your results, now comes the time to dig into the “why”. Having a good understanding of the reasons your business performed the way it did is crucial to planning your next steps.
- What went as planned, creating a lift in sales? Planned drivers could be a new product launch, marketing campaigns, activations during key seasonal moments, or site placements causing increased product awareness. This category comprises anything you had planned to help business grow which succeeded.
- What did not go as planned, for better or worse? Anything can happen that impacts business. You could have planned a great campaign that flopped. A non-sponsored influencer could have fallen in love with and raved about the brand. A product could unexpectedly have been featured in the newest must-see Netflix show. A competitor could gain market share with a similar product at a lower price point. Market behavior, competitor behavior and simply wrong assumptions can all cause unexpected positive or negative results.
2. Learn from successes, but also from failures
Anyone who has had success with a marketing campaign or new product launch will want to recreate the success. But some of the most important performance lessons will come from the planned actions that failed: What did you think would boost business but instead ended up flopping? Was there a change in the market that you could not have foreseen (and if the change is here to stay, how can you adapt)? Or did you test a campaign based on an assumption that just wasn’t right? How do the learnings about your previous assumptions inform your next campaign?
3. e-Retailer: Be clear on your overall retail category strategy
If you are a marketplace e-retailer, be clear on what you plan for the category the brand plays in. What customer are you going after? What needs are you looking to solve for them? What data are you basing that strategy on and what are you doing on your website to push the strategy?
Be clear on separate e-retailer/brand goals – besides revenue, what is important to each party? How can brands help the e-retailer and vice versa?
3. Brand: Be clear on how you fit the retail strategy
Does the current offering meet the expressed needs of the e-retailer? Are there other products, sizes, price-points that would be a better fit to sell to the e-retailer? The moment in the meeting when everyone sees clearly how well the brand offering and e-retailer strategy complement each other is always an encouraging one that creates a sense of alignment.
4. Make your joint next period plan
Knowing what you know about the previous period’s performance, what drove the good results, what didn’t work as well as you thought it would, and what affected the business in unexpected ways, you are ready to make commitments for the upcoming period.
1. Align on your common goals
Set a stretch but achievable revenue target and a growth target.
2. Agree on your building blocks to get to the target
This is your action plan for the next period and the better you plan together now, the easier your collaboration will be after you leave the meeting. Your JBP is when you have all the decision-makers in the room, with their minds focused on just this business relationship, so this is the time to get any issues ironed out and get the best ideas out on the table. Furthermore, checking in on commitments made is always easier than trying to propose a new idea in the middle of the season! So don’t rush when you put your action plan proposal together. This is what will set you up for success in the coming period.
With your revenue goal in mind, put down on paper all the activities you jointly plan to take to reach the target.
Example commitments – e-Retailer:
- Clean up category pages
- Clean up navigation
- Optimize product pages – with the inputs from Brand
- Optimize the SEO score
- Include the brand in marketing campaigns
- Feature the brand in prominent spots on the website/activations in store
- Offer prominent real estate during seasonal moments
- Run special discounts (usually brand-funded)
- Run a special strategic initiative in collaboration with the brand
Example commitments – Brand:
- Help the e-retailer clean up PDPs (i.e. provide clean and accurate titles, descriptions etc.)
- Provide best in class content: high resolution images from all necessary angles, relevant videos, comparison charts, anything that makes it easier for the end customer to understand your product
- Provide sufficient stock of successful products with consistency. It makes no difference if your product pages look perfect and your customers want to buy if the product is unavailable.
- Consider new product launches
- Offer the end-customer e-retailer exclusives to push customers to that specific e-retailer
- Fund meaningful discounts and marketing campaigns
- Run a special strategic initiative in collaboration with the e-retailer
Tips: While you set up your list of commitments, estimate the monetary effect of each action to make sure your plan achieves your common revenue goal. Add further actions if needed.
5. Finally, agree on timing for accountability
Commitments are great, but without a deadline they can easily be forgotten. Set approximate timing for each commitment and keep each other informed when the action has been taken and share early outcomes. When the time rolls around for the next JBP, there should be no surprises – both parties will know how the action steps of the joint plan turned out, and the discussion can be spent on the learnings and ways forward.
Having reliable and accurate data, carefully analyzing your planned and unplanned drivers and drainers, and coming to your JBP ready with a mutually prepared target and plan of action are the key ingredients of a successful meeting.
Don’t know where to start yet? Talk to us