We asked three CFOs how marketers can earn their confidence – here’s what they said
In this edition of our Brain Trust, three CFOs from very different industries give their advice to marketers on how to work effectively with finance people in response to the question:
“As a CFO, what’s a sure-fire way for a marketer to win your trust? And, conversely, what can make you doubt a marketer’s commercial acumen?”
The first lens I put across every request or interaction with anyone is, ‘Are we making a good commercial decision with what is being proposed?’ I am looking for them to support their proposal with good evidence and data and explain concisely the problem they are trying to solve. If marketers can clearly articulate why they are taking an approach and how it will drive increased conversion and a better customer experience, nine times out of 10, I will back them.
Unfortunately, from time to time we get proposed the next bright shiny idea, which doesn’t clearly illustrate how we are going to move the consumer through the consideration cycle to purchase. If the proposal is not tied to solving a particular issue or maximising a new opportunity, it will generally not get my support.
In a time where businesses are aiming to maximise opportunities in the fast moving digital age, getting investment decisions right, being agile and, if necessary, failing fast is critical. Hence the onus is on marketers to justify their priorities. Never has a marketer had access to more data and has measurement been so transparent.
What I would encourage marketers to do is work with their CFOs to establish the best measures to ensure better customer experiences and hence improve conversion. Once you have a common language to evaluate and measure, the interactions are much simpler and you are more likely to be aligned.
In a lot of ways digital is driving marketers to think a bit more like the CFO and the CFO to be more in tune with the marketers. In this context I recommend to make the CFO your friend, as being joined up is extremely beneficial to both of you.
There are many things that a CFO needs to consider. Ensuring value for investors and maintaining integrity within the market are key components of the role that allow us to go beyond the bottom line at the end of each month or reporting period.
It is essential that any significant spending is justified on a time value for money basis. The marketing team and the CFO need to work together to achieve the end goal. As in all business relationships, changing your delivery to suit the purpose will aid in digestion of the message and is more likely to lead to the desired outcome.
For a marketer to win the CFO’s trust, they need to make a compelling case with evidence that the investment being presented will not just deliver a single return, but result in an ongoing benefit to the company.
A simple spreadsheet showing a spend on events comes across more as a list of demands than an investment, whereas if each spend is aligned to the business goals and a projection of the ROI over a set period of time, then the approval is justified.
CFOs need every part of the business to comprehend the impact their actions have on profitability. While it’s understandable that team members won’t know all the cause and effects of a project, a marketing team that works together with the CFO will be better equipped in understanding the metrics needed to make the best decision.
On the flipside, a CFO will immediately see red flags on a proposal with fancy pictures and buzzwords. A CFO should easily be able to identify the best and worst case outcome of the investment with sound financial data to back it up. The marketing team working together with the finance team can easily achieve this and present a well-rounded proposal that can then be approved easily.
I’ve worked in many businesses over the years and one of the things I’ve learned is that financial people really do think differently to creative people! It’s no good saying how clever the campaign is, how great it looks or how many awards it has won. Instead I’m interested in the evidence and analysis of what it has delivered.
In TV we have a profusion of ratings, audience and brand tracking data, but because every show and brand is different it is very hard to work out how well a program would have rated with less marketing and which mediums delivered the results.
In the short-term, the key is for the marketer to openly take me through a strategy of how and why they decided to do a campaign rather than just tell me to trust their judgement. Even better – tell me why you didn’t do things too. Trust inevitably takes time to build and in the long run there is no better way to demonstrate success than to see TV shows and brands grow. Financial people like to see the hard evidence!
There are some obvious things that can torpedo a CFO’s trust. First, if a marketing team seem to be enjoying how great the event will be far more than what it will achieve. Also, if it seems that they are more interested in spending money with an agency for the prestige and the Christmas lunch rather than for sound strategic reasons.
Finally, and most alarmingly, when a discussion ends in an emotional rant about how finance hates marketing and doesn’t understand it and this just has to be done because the world will end otherwise. I may succumb to emotional blackmail, but it doesn’t help build trust.
At the end of the day, finance and marketing have different skills and perspectives and blending both is important in coming to a balanced commercial decision.
Let us know your experiences of cross-discipline collaboration in the comments.