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How to make your CFO fall in love with marketing

How to make your CFO fall in love with marketing

By Damien Bennett, Global Director of Product, Strategy and Growth, Incubeta

Do you want to know a secret? I’ve been telling the finance department one thing, and the marketing department something else. Both think I’m on their side, both think I’m doing them a favor, and both think I’m helping explain their world to the other.

In the modern world of business, no two departments are closer, and yet further apart, than marketing and finance. Both are ultimately working towards the same goal, which is growing their business, yet neither fully trusts the other to achieve this. Marketing thinks that finance doesn’t understand the complexities of what they do, whilst finance thinks marketing is wasting money by not putting enough pressure on ROI.

I might be generalizing, and I’m sure this isn’t always the case, but I also feel like many of the readers of this article who work in finance or marketing will recognize this sentiment to be familiar. 

As with many arguments, neither side is right or wrong. It is true that finance teams can be guilty of taking reported numbers as truth, rather than indicators of truth, and in their haste to support new campaigns, marketers can be guilty of not putting enough pressure on understanding why something worked, or why it didn’t.

But the two departments need to find a way to work together as friends, rather than foes. Marketing teams can provide a huge amount of insight to finance that supports reporting, budgeting, and forecasting, whilst finance teams can help marketers to better understand the impact their campaigns have on business performance. 

Collaboration is easier than you think

Never has this been more true than it is today. Marketing teams have more tools to align their campaigns to business drivers than ever before. For example, at Incubeta we can run campaigns that account for the profit margin of a product, whether an item is in or out of stock, and automatically respond to price competitiveness.

Yet finance teams don’t know we can do all these smart things. They don’t understand how deep we can go with regard to understanding performance, or how we can use advanced algorithms, machine learning, and automation to make intelligent, data-led decisions about where marketing investment is spent. And we can’t blame them for not knowing, because we haven’t told them.

I have found, in my personal experiences, that as soon as you explain the science behind digital marketing to finance teams their ears prick up. They are genuinely blown away by how much effort goes into ensuring that every dollar of the budget is spent as effectively as possible, and they are usually keen to learn more.

The opportunities for these meetings can’t exist, however, unless we double down on our efforts to collaborate. One of my first requests for any new client is that we hold a session that brings stakeholders from a variety of our client’s departments together in the same room. In that session, we explain what we’re trying to achieve, the challenges that we’re looking to overcome, the specifics of what we are doing when we’re doing them, and the impact we expect them to have. This means there is no ambiguity or misalignment – everyone is on the same page.

Communication is vital

As digital marketing becomes increasingly sophisticated, amid the prevalence of data and the shifting sands brought about by increased regulation, it’s crucial to ensure all business departments are kept up-to-date and aware of what’s changing, and what it will mean for their business. How an organization reports performance from marketing channels is a critical component of this. Most businesses started reporting performance by accrediting the value of a sale to the final touchpoint a customer had with marketing before they buy. Nowadays, we know there are much more accurate ways of measuring performance, using models that ensure we consider all touchpoints, the customer type that was buying, and how they made their purchase.

Yet even though we know there are better ways of measuring performance, many organizations still struggle to move away from the less accurate models of the past. This often brings them to a disappointing acceptance that things can’t change. However, if marketing teams were to guide finance teams through this process, we can leave the models of the past behind us. Consider implementing a solution that allows finance to update their internal reports and include the new measurement model side-by-side with the old. This will stop the business from losing visibility year-on-year before the old model is phased out for the new.

A strong, healthy partnership

Running regular workshops with both the marketing team and the finance team present has been a great victory for us as an organization. We use these workshops to discuss challenges, explain industry developments and outline new initiatives that we are looking to launch. Ironically, the outcome of these meetings is that the finance team will often thank us for helping the marketing team to be more focused on business performance, whilst the marketing team will thank us for helping the finance team to see how smart they are in their planning and activation. Some might say I have become something of an expert in playing along with both sides.

At the end of the day though, what’s most important is the results. When marketing and finance are aligned, they make an indisputably formidable team – one that is clear on what they are looking to achieve, what they can do to get there, and how they understand what is working and what isn’t. 

If getting there means playing both sides, then I’m happy to do so.


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