Boardroom superheroes: How the CMO and CFO can become a dynamic duo
By Aaron Goldman, CMO, Mediaocean
Every business leader knows that 2020 was a real test of organisational resilience. Almost overnight, enterprises were faced with the sudden reality that all of their planning – from the quarter’s priorities to long-term business goals – had flown out of the window, leaving executives being pulled in a hundred directions at once trying to pull victories from the jaws of defeat.
The truth is that we’ve all, as in a Hollywood film, faced some dark moments recently and found strength within ourselves to push forward. At a company level, the most successful organisations have been those where people are empowered to be both autonomous and collaborative. Every enterprise will have its own stories of superheroics in the C-suite in the name of their employees and customers. At crisis moments, those leaders may have had to go into battle alone in order to respond quickly enough to emerging issues. At the same time, everyone knows that superheroes can be at their most exciting when they team up and use their powers together – and the C-suite is no different.
Through the shock of the pandemic, the CMO and CFO have had to reach Wonder Woman and Superman proportions – one innovating new ways of connecting with a market of consumers who are experiencing rapid lifestyle changes and consumption habits, the other tasked with moving mountains to stabilise revenue and ensure ongoing business health. As we move into 2021, and the business context once again shifts under our feet, it’s time to apply those new skills together and solidify what’s been learned into a better direction for the business. However, superhero team-ups are rarely, if ever, without their fair share of internal tension and conflict.
Marketing and finance functions will have to work together more effectively than ever as both will be responsible for driving performance and growth, meaning that each will depend on the other to meet their targets. We can look at some classic moments in superhero team development to learn how to build effective C-suite collaboration – without having to endure a messy bust-up in the process.
1: Discover each other’s superpowers
A perilous scene, where it seems like our hero might not pull through, is suddenly resolved as a new character enters and easily dispatches the villain: superhero films teach us that everyone has a unique skillset. While discovering the skills of the people around you is often a lesson learned only through hard experience, the shortcut is effective communication. The principles of how marketing works need to be understood well beyond the marketing team, and that requires putting time and commitment into education. For the CMO, sharing a simplified model of the marketing workflow focused on the funnel is a good first step which aligns well with the CFO’s existing priorities.
At the same time, this must be a two-way street. The CMO and marketing team can’t afford not to educate themselves on the processes and pressures involved in finance if they want to upgrade their collaborative power, as without that common ground, any other communication will be fruitless.
2: Identify a shared mission goal
Every superhero is on a mission – whether justice, revenge, or self-knowledge – and it’s not always easy for them to see how their mission aligns with their team members’ missions. CMOs instinctively know that building a strong community on social media is critical but CFOs don’t care about fans or followers unless those numbers can be clearly tied to revenue. It’s the CMO’s job to demonstrate and track marketing’s impact with metrics that matter: cost per acquisition and lifetime are secret weapons in this arsenal, especially when so much focus shifts to the short-term.
Too often, marketing language doesn’t suggest a direct enterprise benefit that can be measured. The B2B Institute suggests that marketers should get used to using the language of finance, changing ‘awareness’ to ‘customer preference’, ‘marketing qualified leads’ to ‘sales pipeline’. By taking care over the language you use, you can make it intuitively clear that you share an aim with other departments, emphasising the mutual benefits of collaboration and justifying the work that collaboration can require.
3: Establish a secret base
Superhero teams may start off as scrappy and ad-hoc affairs, but eventually they always realise that they need a shared space to operate from if they’re really going to align what they’re doing. With equipment, intelligence, and organising happening in one place, they can rely on a plan, not on luck, to get it right. All CFOs are deeply aware of the power of data – it’s their stock in trade – so marketers need to have the right data and intelligence at hand to be effective. When they have a single source of truth for marketing performance, finance and marketing teams can effectively work from the same starting point.
A modern system of record for omnichannel advertising enables marketers to synthesise data from disparate systems into a central place, and intelligently interpret that data. This creates the actionable insights needed to keep pace with new demands for marketing efficiency and data governance. It’s like the foundation of a house (or of a secret base) – you may not notice it when you walk in, but you’d certainly notice if it suddenly disappeared.
Only when marketing and finance understand one another’s power, when they know that they want the same things for the business, and when they have a shared understanding of performance to operate from that their combined potential can really be unleashed. Building out the C-suite superhero team could make 2021 your business’s most exciting crossover event ever.