Aligning Your Marketing Efforts with Finance

Posted by Patrick Kilgore on 9/14/16 1:09 PM

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Marketers are creative- we want to do the kind of work that people admire, are entertained by, and that they remember. One of the great attractions of marketing is that it’s a creative profession that actually pays.

But it pays because marketing exists to help businesses make money. Your creativity is a part of the equation, but keeping in mind that the bottom line is what your marketing budget and, by extension, your salary, depend on each year.

For that reason, you always have to take finance into consideration.

Finance controls the budget. Every year, they make the decision about how much your work is worth to the company, which in turn determines what you’re able to accomplish. Developing a positive relationship with them is always a good idea.

Understand What Finance Cares About

To start, it’s time to put your empathy skills to use. As a marketer, you should already be experienced at trying to understand different audiences and figure out how to appeal to what they care about. Simply turn those tried and true skills toward your finance team.

As you would with consumers, look to the data. Protiviti’s 2016 Finance Priorities Survey reveals some of the main concerns and priorities CFOs have:

  • At the top is earnings performance, with 82% rating it as having a significant priority.
  • Second on the list is cybersecurity concerns (which marketing probably can’t do much about) at 81%.
  • Strategic planning makes the list with 79% of CFO’s ranking it as important.
  • Budgeting and periodic forecasting tie with 75% of CFOs saying they have a significant impact.

Finance wants to create value for the company in tangible, monetary terms. They want to improve efficiency, make a meaningful difference to the bottom line, and help ensure their decisions continue to pay off for the company in the months and years to come.

The steps you take to bridge the gap between marketing and finance should take all of these goals into consideration.

Ways to Appeal to Finance

Here are five things you can do to help finance see the value marketing brings to the table.

Deliver valuable metrics.

Often the analytics the marketing team focuses on day-to-day don’t mean much to the finance team. Your immediate goals aren’t the same as theirs. But your high-level goals are, and you should be working to collect the necessary data to track how your marketing efforts contribute to revenue.

Those marketing analytics are the ones your finance team needs to see. And if you’re thinking, “no problem, we’ll just send over a spreadsheet of data” – stop. You need to get the most relevant analytics to them in a marketing dashboard that clearly shows them what they need to know.

Your finance team is busy just like you are, expecting them to spend the time parsing and analyzing data in spreadsheets won’t earn you any fans. A marketing dashboard that provides a clear visual picture of how marketing is helping the company make money most likely will though.

Prove ROI.

Just like with your CEO, ROI is the language your finance team speaks fluently. Showing ROI for marketing activities is tough, and always has been. If you invest in the right technology and choose the best revenue attribution model for your situation, you can to start draw a clear line between your budget spend, your marketing activities, and the money they help bring in.

When you can show finance the revenue impact your efforts have, in a clear format, they can measure the impact marketing is having on their goals. You help them out, and the chance that they’ll help you out with a bigger budget next year increases.

Share results of marketing forecasting.

Cash forecasting made the list of top finance priorities in the survey referenced above. Nobody can tell the future, but marketing forecasting can help you predict future marketing performance based on past data with a good degree of accuracy.

Implementing the technology for marketing forecasting helps marketing by enabling you to predict which marketing campaigns and activities will pay off, and in turn helps finance by showing them a picture of how much revenue to expect in the coming year. When your data and technology can answer one of their biggest questions, it gives you one more means to gain their trust and appreciation.

Demonstrate an ability to get more out of your budget.

Getting more sales is a big part of ROI, but so is increasing efficiency to make the budget you have go further. Data-driven marketing planning has helped businesses get up to 27% of their marketing budget back by showing them where they can cut to increase efficiency.

Traditionally, it’s often been finance’s job to focus on efficiency, while other departments treat it as an afterthought. By taking the initiative to improve your group’s efficiency yourself, it shows finance you’re willing to be proactive in solving problems they’re concerned about – and you end up with more money to spend.

Keep in contact.

Everything on this list takes time and requires an ongoing effort. Why not make that effort collaborative? Don’t just hope to make minimal contact with finance and trust that will be enough, proactively stay in touch. Share metrics that you know are meaningful to them before they ask. Check in to see make sure changes you make to your marketing plan are aligned with their goals.

Working together benefits everyone involved. A lot of the tips on this list that are good for your relationship with finance are good for your marketing team also. Improving your results and getting more of your budget back are outcomes that any marketing professional can appreciate.

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