As Seen in CFO Studio Magazine Q3 2015 Issue
Aldonna R. Ambler CMC, CSP, The Growth Strategist
Understanding the language of “marketing-ese”
Some of the most volatile disagreements I have witnessed in my 40-plus years as a business growth strategist have involved chief marketing officers (CMOs) and chief financial officers. During one strategy-clarification assignment, I realized that the energy and anger were similar to when people of different religions argue. Maybe that’s the way to think about it. Marketing and Accounting are different religions.
Being able to discern emotional triggers and then actually craft messages that not only spark attention, but prompt action, is better than any drug for enthusiastic marketing professionals. When that magic happens, marketers know they deserve their company’s sustained support. In this world of hundreds of thousands of daily marketing messages, getting attention and prompting action is fragile. Nothing is more frustrating to marketing people than achieving what feels like a miracle—and then their own company doesn’t support them by promptly offering to finance more or pick up the speed. When marketing people have experienced that intense surprise, disappointment, discouragement, and rejection, they can sound unreasonable, distrustful, resentful, entitled, ungrateful, unrealistic, and even selfish. And they can act angry.
But cooperative interaction with a respectful CFO can prevent all of that from ever developing. Proactive CFOs recognize that at the core, CMOs and CFOs want the same things. You both want more market share, increased net profit, a more nimble organization, and more cash.
Inadvertent and Destructive
The perceived difference between CMOs and CFOs often lies within the areas of control (budgets) and metrics (measurement). Too often, CEOs and CFOs inadvertently hold CMOs accountable for increased revenue when that is the purview of the chief sales officer. As a reminder, the sales department is the primary client of the marketing department. By sparking interest and prompting action (e.g. inquiries), marketing delivers warm leads and qualified prospects to sales, which then does its magic to turn qualified prospects into buyers.
Over the past six or seven years, many corporations have made great progress because their CFOs and CMOs have regularly scheduled focused working sessions to establish or update the value of each warm lead and each qualified prospect. That effort is worth its weight in gold. As you know, that effort also requires patience and a willingness to translate marketing-ese and accountant-ese so you understand and appreciate one another.
Today, there is a much shorter window of opportunity to step up marketing to produce more warm leads and qualified prospects and/or keep them warm—and less time for sales to turn those leads/prospects into buyers. A value must also be assigned to pacing.
It is exciting when a corporation’s CFO and CMO can agree upon metrics that will trigger immediate increased investment when or if the marketing department achieves magic and delivers enough warm leads and qualified prospects. The benefits go beyond increased net profit. The effort also pays off in increased job satisfaction and appreciation for one another as professional colleagues.