The Insight

June 12, 2020

Fighting the Fight: CMOs vs CFOs

By iresearch
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CMOs vs CFOs

We don’t need to beat about the bush here. When it comes to the relationship that exists between most CMOs and CFOs, it is almost one of tolerance.

These are two professionals that have been tasked with the job of moving the company forward in their own ways. Even though they have such a common goal, it is surprising to see that they are still usually at loggerheads with one another.

If you are concerned about the current state of the CMO-CFO relationship, it would interest you to know that things have improved. However, they have not improved enough.

Why Do CMOs And CFOs Hate Each Other So Much?

Believing the above headline is one of the biggest problems in the never-ending battle between these two offices. It is almost like both offices are paranoid enough to think that the other one hates it – but each one of them will blatantly deny hating the other one.

Such a situation can make it difficult to see where the problem is coming from. If both parties can agree to not having anything against the other, why is there so much friction? The answers lie in the ideology that has been used to create the different offices and departments.

In other words, this is a world of sixes and nines where the CFOs see one thing and their CMO counterparts see the other.

Starting with, the CFO’s office is one that does all the math when it comes to money. They are not only tasked with doing the taxes of the business but also making sure that they spend less than they gain. While spending, they also have to be sure that these expenses are targeted so that it brings in even more money or opens up diverse revenue streams for the future.

CMOs, on the other hand, need money to get their processes going too. If they will do as much as they want, these CMOs need all the financial support that they can get. However, they make the mistake of believing their CFO should understand the situation and just sign the money over.

More often than not, this is not the case – and that is one of the reasons why we are here today.

What CMOs do not know is that finance is a risk-averse department. If finance can stall the spending of certain amounts because they think it does not make any strategic impacts in the company, best believe that they would.

The case of CMOs is not even helped by the fact that their marketing has now come to be seen as more of a service rather than a strategic position within the company. Furthermore, CMOs might not have learned to walk in the shoes of the average CFO before they assume that they are hated.

As a CMO, your duty is first to the client/ customers. The CFO is in a more precarious situation, having their first duty to the shareholders. These shareholders want to know that their money is growing and that they have the right person handling it. If the CFO cannot justify how your marketing spends are bettering the chances of these shareholders getting even more returns, best believe that they will save their heads and leave the CMOs out to hang.

That, and we have not mentioned the lack of communication between these departments.

Remember the paranoia we mentioned above? That has driven many CMOs to talk to the CEO first before they approach the CFO with any plans at all. This is a quick way to show their hands as not trusting the CFO – and they get what’s coming to them when the CFO fails to back up their plans too.

This communication also extends into the kind of language that they use with one another when they do discuss. While CFOs are looking for something actionable and concrete which they can put on their books, CMOs might not be offering anything more than impressions and clicks.

These stats are great, but what do they mean for the company? Are they going to bring something to the table soon, or are they just gimmicks designed to take some more money out of the purse?

In short, CMOs and CFOs do not hate each other. At least, not in the serious sense of the word.

This is a case of dysfunctional arrangement between these two offices when they could be leveraging each other to achieve certain goals and milestones for the company.

How much do CMOs need CFOs?

CFOs are more important to CMOs than just putting a stamp on their advertising budget. We even believe that to be one of the least reasons why you need to get the CFO on your side.

Important, no doubt, but not with as long-lasting effects as other reasons below.

1. High-Level Support

The CFO is not just responsible for checking the cash flow into the marketing department (and how much they generate) but every other department in the company too. Thus, they have a solid overview of where things are going and can give actionable advice on financial standings at different times.

These CFOs are also the ones that the shareholders and board of directors want to hear from in meetings to know what financial direction the company is tending towards.

With the CFO on the side of marketing, they can always put in a good word for the CMO. That will help top management see the importance of that office and also allow CMOs to operate with more flexibility and resources than before.

Besides, the CMO also gets to showcase what they can do in an enabling environment, further pushing up the importance of their office.

2. Advanced Analytics

Marketing is fast becoming a science on its own. Many analytics and estimation are now here to aid the work of the CMO, but that is not enough.

While it is one thing to have all that data at your disposal, it is yet another thing to know which data makes sense. This is where most CMOs struggle as they tend to only report the old way, generating KPIs that will not simulate the company into backing them more.

The office of the CFO, on the other hand, is equipped with analysts that have been working with complex financial models for long. They know how to look at a piece of data and generate what they want from it. They also know how to sift the good from the bad, what to keep for later and what to discard altogether.

When there is CMO-CFO cooperation, the skills from the CFO’s side can be brought into the CMO’s department. That will help reduce the skill gap in the marketing department while also helping to show the company what it wants to see.

3. Trust

We don’t need to tell the CMOs in the house that with marketing, things could get rocky.

An example close to home is that of Brexit. If you have been doing business in the UK/ EU area, chances are that you know how that has affected you already. We even did an extensive piece on that where we covered how Brexit alone could cause fluctuation to marketing spends, shake up the marketing team personnel list and more.

At such times, the goals that have been set by the marketing department might not be met.

Likewise, marketing takes a lot of tests to know what works right so that the best model can be stuck to. Thus, something started fine does not mean it would continue that way.

If the CFO is not on your side, there is a lesser chance that they will understand these changes. Even if they do, you have just given them one more arrow in their quiver against you.

Making the CMO-CFO Marriage Happen

It is a worthy reminder at this point that you have to seek out the CFO to make things work.

A CMO is not only responsible for their department but is also a driver of growth across the entire company. Likewise, many CMOs are believed to be in line for the CEO role. This gives you more reason to start leading from now on.

It won’t happen in a day, but you can get the CFO to be a team player when you do these:

1. Go on Dates

We mean this literally.

We are not sure how your office is set up, but we bet it could be one of those where the marketing department is many walls away from the finance team. This can make it such that you never see the CFO until the time for budget allocations come.

To remedy this, seek to cultivate personal relationships.

Take advantage of general staff areas (the cafeteria, anyone) to meet up and have early morning coffee. Network at that work dinner you have on your calendar. Create the time to find out personal interests and, maybe, grab a game together.

Note that your synergy is not just for your benefit, but for the good of the company too.

2. Language Is Key

For general discourse, you speak the same language with your CFO. When it comes to the business side of things, that might not be enough.

Know what the CFOs are expecting in your marketing reports. Know what they want to focus on, and work towards incorporating such metrics into your marketing campaigns from the start. This helps you track these stats better and report such to the appropriate departments to get the CFO on board.

More often than not, this is not the time to burden your CFO with brand awareness, reach of your content, engagement and the likes. You can still collect such data for internal usage, but that is not what will get them emotionally and logically convinced to be on your side.

Seek to feed them with investment estimates, trade-offs to the investment in marketing and net present values, among other things. See if that does not show them how hard you are trying to speak their language and not waste the money they are about to sign over to you.

3. Broaden the Goal Scope

CFOs are under pressure to perform.

Like we mentioned above, they are under direct pressure from the top management, even more than the CMOs. This can sometimes lead them to want the small wins that they can report in the short term so that they keep their relevance within the company.

Truth be told, small wins and short-term goals are great. They give you the boost needed to complete even more goals in the long run. If that is all that the CFO is focusing on, though, they won’t be patient enough to see the marketing journey to the end of the funnel.

A workable solution is to allow them chances to have small wins in line with your marketing goals while also ensuring they know that the bigger payoff comes later.

4. Eliminate Opinions

A problem with not only CMOs and CFOs are opinions. In a battle of opinions, that of the ranking officer – as regards what’s on ground – will be the only one that matters. This is why you don’t want to be in the battle of opinions with your CFO when the time comes.

Before the meeting, agree on the dashboard, metrics, KPIs, data to be reported and such other important stuff. Know what you both expect to have as instant results and what can wait for long to manifest.

With opinions out of the way, it becomes possible for both parties to agree better and faster without feeling cheated or with a bitter taste of compromise in the mouth.

5. Understanding Risks

We can tell you that no one obsesses over risks more than CFOs.

They are constantly in the weighing game to know if the risks justify the financial commitments that they are about to make. You can use this knowledge to get them on your side even better.

CFOs have some of the most advanced risk management and analysis tools on their hands. They will be willing to share these with you if you ask and the results will be there for all to see.

Here, estimate the risk of the marketing plans that you have proposed. Furthermore, also engage in risks analysis for not acting on your marketing plan at all. That should be the gamechanger for you.

Once they see how the competition can gain an unfair advantage over you just because they fail to sign over the budget, they start seeing your department as strategic too. When they start seeing you as strategic, you instantly become one of the growth drivers that they run to – and are ready to support to keep the company going forward.

In short, it brings them into your camp.

Making the Right Move Today

There is no other time to get started on bonding with your CFO than now.

The workplace is evolving, marketing is evolving, and so should you. As a CMO, your voice should be heard as much as your actions are felt. If you want that to happen, it is time to get into good books with your CFO.

The best thing is that they don’t hate you, and you don’t hate them either. Why not quit sitting on the fence and make that partnership happen?

Do any of these trends jump out?
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