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Why marketing leaders should find common ground with their CFOs

5 April 23

No matter what state the market is in, there’s always a strong case to be made for marketing leaders to forge strong relationships with their CFOs. After all, both parties are essentially working towards the same goal – and when you blend the creative-thinking of a marketer with the efficiency of a CFO, it’s always a recipe for success. 

But in the face of economic uncertainty, the success of this alignment could be make-or-break for a company. Efficiency is the word du jour, with many finance teams tasked with examining budget requests with a fine-tooth comb to ensure the company is investing in resources that deliver results.

Marketing teams don’t need infinite funds to achieve fantastic things. At the same time, they shouldn’t have to cut corners to the extent that it dilutes the power of their work. Now’s the time for marketing leaders to establish a stronger bond with their CFOs and communicate openly about what they need to drive results and achieve their common goal. 

Why keep marketing and finance apart?

Despite the many overlapping goals between marketing and finance, there’s often a misconception that they’re two separate parts of the company. In particular, marketing leaders and CFOs are seen as having very different objectives and specialties, and many companies are still reluctant to encourage collaboration between them.  

In some organizations, the work of a marketer can be pigeon-holed as solely creative and somewhat “fluffy”, while the success of certain projects is often seen as highly subjective and difficult to measure, such as brand awareness initiatives. Meanwhile, CFOs are often thought to be focused solely on numbers and the bottom line. 

The truth is that the modern-day marketer is more focused on building relationships than simply selling a product. Data has become an essential part of their toolkit, with 87% of marketers declaring that data is their company’s “most under-utilized asset”. Marketers are becoming increasingly comfortable with navigating data in order to build customer personas, monitor engagement, and map out new strategies. 

Conversely, CFOs aren’t as devoted to data as you might think. While they’ll always have an eye on the company’s financial activity, they’ll usually have another on the success of their competitors and the eye-catching campaigns that are driving it. They understand that brand momentum comes from taking risks and pushing creativity – they just need to see tangible metrics and projected ROI as part of a marketer's pitch before they can get on board. 

With so many shared interests and opportunities for collaboration, it’s no surprise that 79% of the world’s fastest-growing companies report that they have clear C-suite alignment on marketing performance metrics.

4 ways to find common ground with your CFO

Ready to forge a stronger partnership between marketing and finance? Here are four simple steps you can take to hit the ground running. 

Get face time in the calendar

If your company doesn’t encourage communication between departments, be proactive by initiating one-on-one conversations with your CFO. You could even book a recurring appointment in their calendar. 

Whether they’re virtual or in person, these meetings are your chance to outline the challenges you and your team are facing. You might find you have a lot more in common than you originally thought.

Prepare an agenda and a business case 

While your conversation should feel natural, you will need some kind of structure in place in order to get the most out of it. Bring a list of the queries you would like to discuss with your CFO, from budgets to new strategy and campaign ideas. These meetings are also a good chance to update them on the marketing team’s recent successes.

Be ready to discuss every aspect of your pitch, including cost, strategy, success metrics, quantitative and qualitative benefits, cost of inaction, and risks and opportunities. In addition, you’ll need to demonstrate how your proposal aligns with and supports the organization’s wider goals.  

Treat every conversation as a collaboration

It’s tempting to enter a meeting with a laser focus on expressing your own goals. But remember that communication is a two-way street. Set the tone for an open and productive conversation with your CFO by asking about their own goals, ambitions, and challenges. 

Listen carefully to what they have to say, even if it doesn’t fully align with your ideal scenario. Be prepared to consider their needs and adapt your approach if necessary. 

Match the CFO’s communication style

Everyone has different ways of communicating with colleagues. Is your CFO a chatterbox, or are they more direct and straight to the point? If you haven’t interacted with them very much before, you might need to be flexible and adjust accordingly during your first meeting. No matter what, keep your conversation friendly and transparent.

Read our new guide, “Partners in growth: How marketing leaders can build stronger relationships with CFOs”, for more insights into this unique relationship plus tips for  initiating more honest and productive conversations.

Robert Gould

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