The relationship between the Marketing and Sales organizations gets a lot of press, and for good reason. But there’s another department that’s almost as important for a marketer to cultivate an alliance with: Finance!
Although this relationship is often overlooked, alignment with Finance is well worth a marketer’s time.
Why marketers should care about their relationship with Finance
1. Finance holds the purse strings
Simple but true: any budget increase, major budget change, or overall investment strategy that marketers want to put forward must go through Finance.
They’re not just the ones to cut checks, either — Finance professionals also have influence on overall company strategies, too. According to Deloitte, “CFOs take a seat at the strategy planning table and help influence the future direction of the company.”
2. Marketing has to manage perceptions
Finance leaders can be powerful allies for Marketing — or not, depending on perceptions.
If the CFO sees dollars spent in marketing as a strategic lever aligned with business goals, Marketing will have more budget, power, flexibility, and a stronger voice.
However, if the CFO sees Marketing as a cost center, she’ll be more likely to advocate for marketing budget cuts than budget boosts.
3. Alignment here drives positive results
The results from our Marketing Performance Management Benchmark Survey show that companies who get this relationship right reap the benefits in top-line growth.
57% of organizations who expect significant revenue growth (25% or more) report that Marketing and Finance “often or always work well together to track investments and measurements”. Among companies who expect flat or negative growth, that number is only 20%.
So, with all these strong reasons for marketing and finance to want to work closely together, most companies should have it figured out by now, right? Unfortunately, our research shows that this simply isn’t the case.
The worrying state of Marketing/Finance alignment and what to do about it
Across the board, only 14% of Marketing organizations in our study say that in their organization, Finance is seen as a trusted strategic partner to the Marketing organization. Even more troubling, 28% either have no relationship with Finance or speak only when forced to.
So, we have a number of great reasons for Marketing and Finance to align, but in the vast majority of organizations, that just isn’t happening. The Marketing/Finance alignment problem is real!
So, what’s a marketer to do? As marketers at any level in the organization, there are steps we can take to improve our alignment with our Finance peers.
Using a marketing finance platform is a great way to improve alignment and ensure accuracy in your line items. When you know that your data is correct and that finance is drawing from the same source as marketing, you can worry less about misunderstandings and focus more on coming up with joint goals and accountability. The finance department wants to see a return on their investment in the marketing budget, so giving them real-time access to the information they need goes a long way in improving this partnership.
Get the right conversations going at the executive level
In business, (as in life) so many problems can be solved with better communication. Finance pros and marketers have different roles, backgrounds, and motivations, so they don’t always speak the same language.
Figure out what all marketers can do to make Finance pros’ jobs easier, work ore closely together, and ultimately increase trust. Believe us, Finance pros will take notice!
Gather inspiration from other marketers
If you have any marketers in your network who are part of the 14% of organizations where Finance and Marketing are strategic partners, talk to them!
One such marketer is Ken Evans, Senior Director of Marketing Operations at Fuze. We sat down with Ken to get his take on this topic…
An expert marketer’s point of view: Ken Evans of Fuze
Marketing and Finance alignment is definitely underused. Any marketing organization looking to be high achievers needs to take Finance seriously. My best practice is to have a finance partner. In my last two roles I have actively sought them out, leading to a fruitful partnership.
It’s important that you as a marketer have a view into how Finance understands and approaches the business and it’s equally important for Finance to understand what the Marketing team is doing and how marketing plans affect the bottom line.
I recommend bringing the finance partner as close as possible to marketing and the department’s strategy around investment management – almost consider them an honorary marketing team member.
The benefits from the above actions will no doubt pay you back. When your Finance partner is in your corner they will act as a proxy when you aren’t there. That can mean less trouble (questions and fire drill data digging) down the road. It also earns you confidence and trust. That means when you say you’re going to spend money or resources to get a result, it’s believed.
Overall partnering with Finance has served me very well throughout my career and I encourage all marketing organizations to do the same.