The CFO-CMO Relationship

When marketing relies on data to target campaigns, there is a point of collaboration with finance executives.

By Julie Barker

In sports, “The business is changing and marketing is changing,” says Charlie Mierswa, CFO of the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center. He and Fred Mangione, chief marketing officer until a July promotion to COO, work together so closely, “we’re in and out of each other’s offices constantly,” says Mierswa. The need for data drives a good portion of their collaborations, and the data is constantly being refreshed, in that every ticket sale helps refine the knowledge both have of the business.

Targeted marketing makes its way to previous purchasers or good potentials on their smartphones and desktop devices, replacing billboards for many types of campaigns. And targeted marketing is highly trackable, so results-oriented CFOs see the value of a spend decision. Using big data means knowing who is likely to respond to a particular message, and that results in better ROI than from a billboard ad.

“If we’re going to spend a marketing dollar,” says Mierswa, depending on the type of spend, it’s got to drive $10, $15, $20, $100 worth of sales. We do try to bring in ROI-type analysis to the equation, and when it doesn’t seem to be panning out, we pull back. But that is probably one of the hardest types of decisions we have to make.”

Compare that to the sort of branding and reputation-building put forth by the marketing department of a law firm or accounting firm, where “not every dollar invested is going to be visibly productive immediately,” says Mark Messing, chief marketing officer at Duane Morris, LLP, a law firm with about 750 attorneys in the United States, United Kingdom, Middle East, and Asia. There are times when a CFO has to look at the investment in a marketing project that builds the firm’s good name, and make a leap of faith that the expected results will occur.

A refusal to take that leap can be a source of tension between a CFO and a CMO. “Where a marketer may want to make a decision based not just on data but on his or her gut feel, or marketing trends, or ‘This is where I feel this is going,’ typically the CFO is more about numbers,” says Rhonda Maraziti, director of marketing & practice growth at WithumSmith+Brown, PC, a Top 10 accounting firm in the Northeast.

But essentially, she says, marketers want the same thing finance executives do: information. “How do you make decisions on marketing strategy if you’re not aware of data on what your big revenue drivers are?” she says.

Marketers Think Big

A lot has changed in this decade for businesses of every type. For law firms, beginning in 2008, says Messing, “Corporate America began a long-term trend of settling cases in the first year of litigation, as opposed to fighting it out over two or three years.”

With his marketing orientation, when Messing came across that particular nugget of business intelligence in an industry report, he realized that a well-designed analytic tool that would give clients the alternatives and odds of various outcomes occurring could provide a unique point of difference for Duane Morris. A collaborative effort involving the CFO, the finance group, two teams of lawyers, Messing and the marketing group resulted in a branded early case assessment tool called Dispute Navigation Analytics, or DNA™.

At the Brooklyn Nets, Mangione, sees the need for analytics too. “I challenge my staff all the time. I say the number-one goal is selling the ticket, but the second, third, fourth, and fifth question I’ll ask is, ‘Where did it come from? Who’s buying it? When are they buying it? What are they doing with it?’ Because the more data I can give the finance department of where it’s coming from, the more money I can spend to [pursue more sales]… Everything’s about return on investment, so for a company to really make its way, the two sides [marketing and finance] have to work hand-in-hand, unlike before.”

Big data is changing marketing, but so is the ability to grab information almost instantaneously. Maraziti says that a business intelligence tool that the accounting firm implemented about two years ago pulls revenue data directly from the time and billing system, almost in real time. Prior to that, using Excel spreadsheets, “I was generating these reports [on what percentage of revenue stems from what industry and industry subset] and the CEO and director of the IT department saw, ‘Hey, this information is really good to have. It’s great intel on the strength of our firm, it’s a great story to tell.’”

The marketing information that Maraziti can now obtain “at the click of a button,” she points out, drives the strategy of the firm, the growth goals, even the geographic goals.

Future Role for CFOs

In most organizations, CFOs are more involved in branding and marketing compared to in the past. But even greater collaboration is desirable. As Mangione says, at Barclays Center, “it’s the old ‘One team, one dream,’” where he and Charlie Mierswa work hand-in-hand to drive sales. He remembers that “when the Nets came to Brooklyn we did a whole campaign… Charlie sat in agency meetings with us. I can’t say every CFO does that.”

Asked about a larger role CFOs could play, both Messing and Maraziti offered suggestions. “The next great challenge for us,” says Messing, speaking for CMOs in general, but especially those in the service and professional industries, is to get more stringent measurement of ROI. CFOs could increase the effectiveness of marketing communication by bringing their analytical tools to help “build an ROI model that has more substance and predictability to it,” he says.

For her part, Maraziti points out that simply by staying alert to activity in a certain market sector, a CFO can play a more important role in marketing communications. “It’s just a matter of keeping in mind as the CFO is going through their weekly or monthly or quarterly data: What trends are you seeing?”

Copyright 2017