Ecommerce brands fall prey to the classic problem of the right hand not knowing what the left is doing.
In the case of ecommerce, the right hand is marketing, and the left hand is operations. These two departments must be in lockstep with each other.
Communication failure between marketing and operations results in:
- Lower margins
- Wasted ad spend
- Poor customer service
- Slower product evolution
- Inevitable build-up of resentment between departments
We’ve created a meeting guide to help marketing and operations departments at high-performing ecommerce brands communicate more effectively.
Table of Contents
- Marketing vs. operations: responsibilities, goals, and opportunities
- The case for a marketing and operations meeting
- How to run an effective meeting
- Get our meeting template
Marketing vs. operations: responsibilities, goals, and opportunities
This might seem obvious to some, but a lack of understanding of each department’s goals is the root of an unbalanced and ineffective relationship between the two.
Here’s a quick rundown of the responsibilities and goals of each department and how they come together to achieve the business’s goals.
The marketing team
In ecommerce, marketing’s goal is primarily to drive new business:
- Paid / organic media
- Content / creative
- Channel management and merchandising
- Discounts and other offers
While the responsibilities from brand to brand are similar, the teams within the brands who manage and execute look very different from brand to brand. Some brands work with a collage of outsourced agencies and freelancers. Some brands are fixed on in-house marketing talent.
Some of our clients have dedicated CMOs and some default to the agency owner who manages the most ad platform spend.
Regardless of how the team is structured, the marketing department relies heavily on operations.
The operations team
From our experience, the operations team has a few mandates:
- Don’t stock out on key SKUs
- Get the product where it needs to go as cheaply as possible
- Manage customer service
- Manage fulfillment and supply chain relationships
This includes order and inventory counts, warehouse management, production schedules, and more.
Unlike marketing, we rarely see operations leadership being outsourced. We usually see a COO, Supply Chain Manager or Operations Manager leading the department.
The case for a marketing & operations meeting
The two departments must collaborate to align strategies and systems in the business and ensure the company delivers on the owner’s vision.
That vision is usually pretty simple…profitable growth…launch products, test new markets, manage ad spend, cut underperforming SKUs, etc.
The faster and more aggressive the growth goal, the more in lock step the two departments must be.
This isn’t big news. And if the two departments weren’t already communicating some, you would be putting out giant fires and not read this article.
Use this guide as a framework and checklist. Then, you will make the best decision on how to integrate into your business: how often, where communication happens, attendees, etc.
How to run an effective meeting
These meetings are not meant to be a town hall or show & tell. Aside from overall company goals, operations and marketing have department-specific objectives that largely depend on each other.
For example, the operation department’s objective is not to stock out key SKUs. Marketing’s objective is to achieve 5x ROAS.
A recurring meeting between marketing and operations usually drives (at least) 5 key actions:
- Finalize stock orders (purchase order quantities)
- Update marketing plan/forecast
- Update website / marketplace(s)
- Identify obstacles requiring senior leadership to remove
- Update the company’s overall forecast
- Senior leadership (usually the owner)
- Operations lead
- Marketing lead
- Finance/accounting lead
Optional / Ideal
- Key agency partners
- Product owner/representative
It’s essential to ensure someone is responsible for kicking off the meeting and keeping it on track. If not, it can lead to mayhem and time wasted. You can assign whomever you’d like as the facilitator, however, we generally recommend the Chief Operations Officer (COO) or most senior operations person facilitate. Why?
- Operations people, by nature, will typically move things along without the extra fluff
- Operations need specific answers on how much inventory to order
- This meeting can be held monthly, weekly, daily, or sometimes hourly (in the case of major launches or sale periods). It can be 4 hours or 4 minutes, but the agenda is the same.
- This meeting doesn’t have to be a meeting. If done well, you can manage it asynchronously.
Agenda (% of meeting time)
- Senior leadership general update (<10%)
- What do the teams need to know?
- Marketing update (30%)
- What does operations need to know to accomplish their objectives?
- What does marketing need from operations to accomplish marketing’s objectives?
- Operations update (30%)
- What does Marketing need to know from operations to accomplish marketing’s objectives?
- What does operations need from marketing to accomplish their objectives?
- Issues (senior leadership to solve) (20%)
- What issues does the team need help solving?
- Action items
- As you go through the meeting, list the action items here with the assignee tagged
*10% built-in slack
This chart outlines some agenda items our clients find helpful in their meetings.
Current stock levels
Alerts marketing and senior leadership of any low or overstock items
Product receiving schedule (future stock)
Alerts marketing when low stock will be replenished
Inventory turnover alerts
Marketing should be generally aware of any slow-moving inventory
Alerts marketing and senior leadership, as this may trigger a flash sale
Technical: naming, bundling, etc
Any issues with SKU naming add unnecessary complexity
Cover 3PL issues if any
Key customer service issues
SKUs with high returns? Most common return reasons?
Marketplace issues (Amazon, Walmart, etc.)
Holding inventory? Scraping product? Slow to receive?
Are there any issues or big communications from major suppliers? Lead time updates?
General forecast update
How has the forecast changed since the last meeting? What’s the most important for Operations to know?
Any actual or contemplated changes
Any actual or contemplated changes
Expected PR or other news
Founder on a podcast? Article in a prominent publication?
Completely new SKUs? Bundling of existing SKUs?
General marketing strategy updates
Reducing spend? Doubling spend? Focusing on organic? Focusing on wholesale? Testing direct mail?
Get our meeting template
With that, you’re all set to get your marketing and operations departments in sync and on track. Make a copy of our meeting template and use it for your new meeting setup.