7 Reasons CMO’s Get on the CFO’s Bad Side

A lot of discussion this week in the CMO Network on LinkedIn around conflict between CMOs and CFOs. One article entitled “Why Will CFO’s Never Understand Marketing“, I am not sure I agree with.  Another article lists “5 Ways CMOs  Can Get CFOs On Their Side” lists some interesting ideas.   My opinion is that B2B CMOs (being very specific to B2B since that is my realm)  who get on the CFO’s bad side generally have no one but themselves to blame.  Many B2B CMOs are way too adverse to driving a deeply numerical approach to the job. What makes the CMO job so enjoyable for me, is the combination of both left and right brain activity.  It is creative, but there is also a lot of numbers and analysis that has to be part of a B2B CMO’s operating DNA.  So here are my seven reasons why CMOs get in trouble with CFOs.

  1. Company is missing revenue targets – In this case it doesn’t matter whether it is sales, marketing or products “fault”, everyone will be under scrutiny. If marketing is not making lead goals (quantity and quality), then expect even more scrutiny from the CFO. If you haven’t established objective scoring around what is considered a lead with sales,  expect even more scrutiny.
  2. We believe we can track closed business to specific programs – B2B deals are complex, multi-touch operations.  We can track program effectiveness and generally feel comfortable that our marketing spend is getting an ROI, but to try to assign one program as “the one” is not useful. Worse, when we let the rest of the management team and especially the CFO believe this is possible, we go down a rat hole of data that never quite makes sense and it blows our numerical credibility with the numbers guy. B2B marketing measurements are more complex than trying to show that a trade show generated $10M of pipeline.
  3. We Get Excited about “Likes” without Context – There are all kinds of reasons to get excited about LIKES, FOLLOWS, TWEETS and other indicators of marketing success.  But when we talk about these items outside of marketing without following up our statements with a qualifier or a way to connect this action with leads/revenue, eyes roll and we look like, well, marketers, instead of executives driving revenue. Example –  “We just passed 1,000 followers on LinkedIn” may not mean much to a CFO.  So follow this statement up with “which means we get more and more traffic to our website on each posting, which means we get more leads.”
  4. We Focus on Program Spend Way Too Much – Volumes have been written about how you can’t spend your way to success with marketing programs. Inbound, content driven, endorsement oriented marketing wins. That doesn’t mean funded programs for lead generation don’t matter, it is just not as important as it used to be. Yet, we haven’t educated the rest of the management team on this, so when the CFO and CEO want to talk to us, even the VP of Sales, it is always about campaigns and campaign spending.  The focus needs to shift to a more balanced approach of how money is spent.
  5. We Don’t Generate Consistent, Believable Weekly Metrics – B2B marketing is a real time operation. Unless we are looking at daily, weekly metrics that are believable and credible, the “numbers guy” will do this for us.  CEOs need numbers.  If we  won’t provide them in a credible, weekly, format, he will ask the CFO to do this for us.  You don’t want to the CFO trying to measure marketing effectiveness.
  6. We Create a Lot of Work for CFOs – The sheer volume of financial transactions required to run a B2B marketing team is high. There are lots of vendors, lots of moving parts, lots of SAAS systems, and lots of people all spending this money to make the system work. To a CFO, this looks like chaos.  CMOs need to take a very active role in the spending process to make sure it is controlled, traceable and puts the smallest demands on finance as possible. Keeping a second set of marketing books to cut the data from a marketing view is not a bad idea.  You will rarely get this data out of the CFO’s systems yet a CFO will and should expect you to tell them where all the money is going and the results.
  7. We Think as Creative Types, We Don’t Need Show Numbers – This was my reaction when I read “Why Will CFO’s Never Understand Marketing“.  I get that part of B2B marketing is creative and tough to measure. But this should be the minority. A small minority.  We have to create an organization of numbers driven marketers. The systems to run a B2B marketing operation are too complex to not create a numbers driven culture.  We can all celebrate our creative side, the cool video, the awesome advertising, the beautiful website.  But we need to keep that among us marketers. The rest of the company wants numbers!

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