CFOs should invite marketing teams in for a chat so they can provide a more valuable service than merely ‘colouring in’, urges Jason Ball
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This article was first published in the July/August 2019 International edition of Accounting and Business magazine.
Here’s a scary fact: in a global study by Fournaise Marketing Group, 80% of CEOs were either unimpressed or simply did not trust their chief marketing officers (CMOs), compared with just 10% who felt the same about their CFOs and chief information officers. The reason is clear: 78% of CEOs believe marketers have lost sight of what they are in the business to do.
Meanwhile, marketers feel demoralised from trying to convince the CFO to release budget for new tools and campaigns even though, in reality, most budget holders are happy to do so if it can be shown the business will make money, save money or achieve its objectives.
So where did it all go wrong? Part of the problem is that the concept of ‘marketing’ varies between companies: CMOs may be solely strategic thinkers in one company and purely executional tacticians in another. Meanwhile, CEOs often have no marketing experience to make the distinction themselves. And then there are problems with communication: marketers just aren’t speaking the same language as CFOs and CEOs.
Research by the Harvard Business Review splits CMOs into three main types: 31% focus primarily on growth strategy (positioning, new product development, customer insight); 46% focus on commercialisation (marketing communications, demand generation, sales support); and 23% span both, with an enterprise-wide remit. The commercially-focused types are more common in companies where marketing is not seen as crucial to business success (a typical situation in many B2B organisations, which are often either sales or engineer-led).
But these silos limit the possibility for marketing to encompass a wider range of value-creating activities, including end-to-end demand generation, pricing, distribution, customer experience, innovation, talent acquisition, investor relations, customer insight, vision and values, culture development and more.
That opportunity is lost if marketers are not having the right conversations with the CEO, CFO, head of sales and head of human resources – conversations that allow them to view business strategy from different vantage points, to identify what success looks like and whether everyone is aligned.
A CFO has a uniquely granular view of what drives business success and will be able to model and map out the trajectory of different products and solutions. With that insight, marketers will get a valuable perspective. Without it, they may be forever characterised as the ‘colouring-in’ department – the people you go to for brochures, events, that web stuff. What a waste.
This conversation is now more important than ever, as the increasingly widespread adoption of zero-based budgeting is a game-changer. This begins each year with a marketing budget of zero. From there, the CMO must justify why they need investment and how it will support the business’s key objectives. This is entirely a good thing, as it aligns marketing with overall business strategy while helping CMOs defend against pointless reactive requests.
If finance and marketing can get around the table, the results will benefit everyone.
Jason Ball is founder of Considered Content, a B2B marketing specialist that has worked with Grant Thornton, EY and Bain & Company.
CPD technical article
"The CMO must justify how it will support the business's key objectives"