At Cross-Purposes


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.

The Search


As Seen in CFO Studio Magazine Q3 2015 Issue


If you’re in the middle of a job transition, there is always the desire to find that perfect role as quickly as possible, to make an informed decision as quickly as possible, and to cross this “to do” (find a job) off of your list so you can move on with your life. You are often in uncharted territory; there is a lot riding on finding your next situation, and you just want to get it done.

As someone who had been “out of a job” for 17 years, in the sense that I’m always looking for jobs on behalf of other people, I can share firsthand that in order to keep your mind and emotions balanced while you’re in the middle of a search, you have to be consistent with your job search activity.

There is a tendency, however, when an opportunity looks promising, to sell yourself on the hope that the opportunity will work out, to the exclusion of continuing to perform the activities that got you to that point in the first place.

What are these activities?

Whether you are between situations or not, every day is essentially a day of branding, marketing, and selling, and these are the essential components for networking yourself into your next opportunity.

Your Personal Job

I know it sounds very sales-like to a finance executive, but, outside of performing your core skills on the job, you are always branding, marketing, and selling. You brand yourself when you become involved in peer groups within your industry. You market yourself when you communicate your value proposition by your words and actions to the colleagues with whom you interact. You sell yourself when you pick up the phone and speak to a new referral or extend your hand to someone new at a conference. These are the actions that eventually get you to new opportunities, often at times when you really need them.

The challenge when you are working is to find time to do the “selling” of yourself. The challenge if you are between situations is that you’ll find yourself doing more “selling” than you’ve had to do before, and this can be difficult once you run out of new contacts. At that point you start to look for more creative ways to get in touch with people. It’s a process, and a process you need to continue. There are no shortcuts.

So, if you find yourself selling yourself on the hope that an opportunity will work out, remember that the operative words in any search are “work out.” Nothing is done until it’s done. You need to let the process work itself out by focusing on branding, marketing, and selling yourself. Resist stopping your activity. If you find that a particular opportunity has stalled but you have enough other opportunities in the hopper, it will be easy to say “next” and “next” and “next” until you find yourself in a position of saying: “I accept your offer.”

Premier Customer Care as a Competitive Edge


As Seen in CFO Studio Magazine Q3 2015 Issue

CFOs have an important role in improving the customer experience

Improving customer experience can add more than $1 billion in revenues for large businesses, according to data from Forrester Research. Happy customers make follow-on purchases, recommend your product or service to others, and limit churn. No wonder more and more CFOs are taking a closer look at customer satisfaction scores (measuring if an organization is reaching its own customer satisfaction goals); net promoter scores (measuring customer loyalty and customers’ likelihood of recommending a product or service), and customer effort scores (measuring the customer’s difficulty getting desired results from the company).

Customer care was the discussion topic at a recent CFO Studio Executive Dinner for CFOs of World-Class Companies. An intimate group of finance executives from some of the region’s largest, most successful, and highest-performing organizations gathered for dinner, wine, and conversation at the Blue Morel Restaurant and Wine Bar in Morristown, NJ. The evening was sponsored by Yorktel, a communications technology provider, and hosted by CFO Studio and Real Estate Strategies Corporation.

Harald Henn, vice president and CFO of Mercedes-Benz USA, served as the dinner discussion moderator. “People often think in terms of product, rather than service, or they think process instead of culture. But all of these things have to coexist to be successful,” said Mr. Henn.

“The CFO’s job is to create growth, and you can’t do that without customers,” said Richard Veldran, CFO of Dun & Bradstreet. “Regardless of your industry, customer service is essential.”

“No matter what your role is, we all have to focus on the customer experience every day,” said Ronald Gaboury, CEO of Yorktel. “All the executives are, in effect, partners in serving customers.”

“The level of customer care a company provides is a distinct competitive advantage or disadvantage,” said Andrew Zezas, publisher of CFO Studio magazine and CEO of Real Estate Strategies Corporation. “With today’s CFOs becoming more and more strategic, they are becoming more focused on how they can help support their companies in delivering the highest level of customer care.”

Gunther Mertens, vice president and CFO of Agfa Corporation, said he believes that C-level executives, regardless of the business function for which they have primary responsibility, have to be concerned with providing high-quality customer service to ensure that their company is serving the customers end-to-end. “Customer service is more than recruiting and managing order-takers,” said Mr. Mertens. “It is about managing the process from the sale to delivery to support. If you hire the right people throughout that process, your business becomes a trusted partner.”

“To really support business, I have to be in the know about the customers, said Burkhard Zoller, CFO of Evonik Corporation. Mr. Zoller is in the specialty chemicals industry and pointed out that while the Internet allows some consumer companies, such as Mercedes and Avis, to have access to immediate customer feedback, business-to-business organizations have to actively seek out feedback on the customer experience.

Maximo Nougues, CFO of Maquet Medical Systems USA, agreed. “Today, in the medical engineering industry, the customer experience has become much more important than it has ever been.”

Mr. Nougues went on to explain that sales is just the first step in winning and retaining business. “The moment you earn a customer’s business, you are at a disadvantage because now you have to earn their business every day. The competition then has the advantage of being unknown.”

“Even if customer service isn’t your direct responsibility, it is your responsibility as a leader in your company to demonstrate to the other employees that you are focused on customer service,” said David Wyshner, senior executive vice president and CFO of Avis Budget Group, Inc. Mr. Wyshner also said that among the typical numbers and descriptions contained in an annual report, Avis dedicates a few pages to the “voice of the customer,” because that sheds light on corporate performance.

Mr. Henn shared the fact that Mercedes benchmarks customer service not just against companies within the auto industry, but against outside industries as well — from hospitality to e-commerce — to find customer care best practices.

Robert Costantini, executive vice president and CFO of ORBCOMM, Inc., summarized: “Nothing [in business] happens unless you have customers, so you better have happy customers. A CFO will always deal with customer service at some point. Proactive CFOs get on it on the front end.”

Copyright 2017