It's AOP Season: An Agency Survival Guide

It’s the most hectic time of the year for CPG companies: Time to develop the Annual Operating Plan (AOP), also known as Joint Business Planning (JBP). And agencies play a big role. 

This period centers around CPG companies developing programs for different retailers — think Walmart, Target, Kroger, etc.

Ideas are then presented to the retailers and sold, which in turn mirrors their sales goals for the following fiscal year. No pressure: dollars will either be increased or decreased.

CPG companies handle the bulk of AOP season with the onus falling heavily upon agencies to help them meet projections, make the sell to the retailer and guarantee that volume is met.

Agencies bring ideas to life that will be introduced to a retailer that will be picked up and appear in-store. 

Adding to the challenge, retailers are now asking brands to not only invest dollars in-store but also on their digital properties (.com, social media, mobile, apps) vs. buying media from other companies.  For the retailers, it has become an additional revenue stream. This positions them to sell propriety information (both on and off their platform) on their shoppers’ behavior and purchases.



With the right strategic partner, here are some tips to survive. 

Start listening: Instead of telling companies what they need, listen to what they need and how to solve their problems. The old days of approaching retailers with just sales figures and big brand programs are gone. Today, retailers want CPG companies to help solve their problems with new products, services, innovations, and customized solutions. 

Be quicker to market: Launch new products and innovations in a quarterly vs. yearly manner. This could mean changing deadlines and altering previous plans. 

Be nimble: Once you know what the company needs, be prepared to quickly change course or build upon their vision. There is an opportunity for an agency to drive better collaboration between all partners during the AOP process. Remember that agencies are often the connective tissue between AOP sessions as marketers move in and out of role/rotations on annual basis. 

Be a partner by being supportive: Clients could get more out of their agencies if they trusted their agency’s intuition with salient insights to inform direction of planning. Embrace the creative process. 

AOP is an overwhelming period that can be lightened with a little help from the right agency. Lean on them.


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