Strengthening CFO-Marketer Relationships for Business Wins


The Gist

  • Financial fluency. Speak the CFO’s language by emphasizing marketing plans’ impact on financial metrics like ROI, revenue growth and profit margins.
  • Data-driven support. Provide data-driven evidence to show expected ROI and alignment with company financial goals when presenting marketing proposals.
  • Risk Management. Demonstrate CEO-level thinking by understanding, formulating and communicating de-risking contingencies in marketing plans to strengthen relationships with CFOs.

Getting buy-in from a CFO is crucial for marketers. Chief financial officers (CFOs) influence budget allocations and discretionary spending, but they are navigating business priorities and long-term resiliency plans. They also have a unique cross-section of valuable perspectives on the business and board priorities.

Working with nearly a dozen CFOs from late ‘22 through Q1 ‘23, I learned they face an unusual set of intersecting challenges and priorities. According to KPMG, over 80% of the total priorities included digital, workforce, resilience, restructuring and macroeconomic issues.  

With an expanded scope and more overlapping priorities, modern marketing leaders have an opportunity to build a strong rapport with CFOs. Let’s detail some of the more common relationship areas to develop synergies between CFO and Marketing:

Speak the CFO’s Language

CFOs are concerned with financial metrics like ROI, revenue growth and profit margins. While customer acquisition cost (CAC) and customer lifetime value (CLV) are valued metrics, growth and margins impact budgets. When pitching a marketing plan, emphasize how it will impact these metrics. Be transparent about investment and return timelines. Marketers may defer allocations. Being openly on the same page guides leadership and boards.

Also, listen carefully to how the CFO describes the priorities for the company. Adjust your narrative to resonate with these business and financial priorities. As a bonus, consider learning some accounting and finance.

Related Article: In Turbulent Economic Times, 4 Ways CMOs Can Work Better With CFOs

Provide Data-Driven Evidence

Perhaps overstating my case, CFOs want to see “move the business needle” data to support marketing proposals. Still, too often, CMOs are unaware or unwilling to dive into meaningful metrics to grow or retain business.

Use analytics and data to show the expected return on investment and demonstrate how the proposed plan aligns with the company’s financial goals. Most successful marketing executives have built integrated teams with a marketing finance function.

Related Article: Lighting the Way: Rethinking CX Leadership

Show the Competitive Advantage

Market share is one of the best metrics for an increase in competitive advantage. This means marketing executives must have available industry benchmarks, perceived value and the competitive landscape (direct, indirect and replacement). Use partners, analysts and cross-platform industry insiders to gain more perspectives. 


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