Marketing and Finance: A Match Made in Heaven!
As marketing professionals we’re often at the center of a variety of critical cross-functional initiatives, which gives us the rewarding opportunity to work with nearly every department in an organization. At a software company like Marketo, the Marketing Team works with the Product Team to help inform the future product roadmap, and of course to take all the great new products they build to market. We work with the Customer Success Team to address important objectives like customer satisfaction, product usage and cross-sell initiatives. We work with HR on organizational development issues, performance management initiatives and the occasional juicy personnel matter (“They said WHAT? To WHOM?”). We work with IT on the selection and implementation of mission-critical software platforms (think “Marketo”). And of course we work closely with the Sales Team—who relies on us day in and day out for those super hot leads—you know, the ones that are waiting by the phone to sign an order form with little to no convincing. Yeah, those ones!
Working with so many different groups in the organization, it’s only natural to have your favorites, and of course, your least favorites. While it might be entertaining to tell you about my least favorite department, today’s blog post is about one of my favorites. I’m talking about the one, the only, the incredible and all-powerful, Finance department!
I can hear you…”How dare you!!!. Finance? Really? Of all the departments!? What is wrong with you!? How could you put them on your favorites list?” And to that I reply, “Okay calm down. No need to freak out. Let me tell you why Finance is one of my all-time favorite departments.”
It all boils down to three incredibly important reasons:
#1 Finance funds you!
Finance sits at the most strategic level in an organization. They work closely with the CEO and the strategic leaders across an organization to decide exactly which initiatives make financial sense and which don’t. They determine how much money a department receives, and whether the investment will grow or shrink and at what rate.
It’s incredibly important for Finance to understand the strategic nature of the work your marketing team does. At some point in the year the CEO will definitely ask finance, “Hey, are we investing too much in marketing?” Make sure Finance understands why you need $75K to build a new online community, $500K to build your brand’s awareness in a new market segment or $30K to buy that new marketing platform. It’s vital they understand the reason you might need additional funds next year to make specific hires or invest in new marketing initiatives and generally understand the impact those investments will have on the business. If you want to get the resources you need to realize your strategy next year, you have to get tight with finance. They have incredible amount of influence on the money that flows to marketing.
#2 Finance keeps you on budget (and helps you keep your job!)
Most marketers spend their lives thinking about how to design and execute highly effective marketing campaigns. That’s what marketers enjoy and that’s where they put their energy. But marketers often have another big responsibility—they often manage a significant amount of money for the business. Outside of payroll costs, marketing program spending is often one of the largest expenses for a company.
Marketers have a responsibility to manage that money effectively. This is especially true the more senior you get in a marketing organization—nothing will stop a marketer in their (career) tracks faster than making a major financial mistake. If you have $100K to spend this quarter, you better not spend $200K or it’s “game over” for you.
Finance is your partner here. They can teach you how to track and forecast your expenses in a methodical, accurate way. They can teach you important things like the difference between “cash” and “accrual” accounting (if you don’t know the difference please ask your finance team ASAP). And they help ensure compliance with accounting best practices. Leverage your Finance team to make sure you stay on track and avoid big financial, and possibly career halting mistakes.
#3 Finance thinks like you
Well, Finance thinks like the analytical side of you—you might not go to your finance guy/gal to ask for the next creative campaign idea. Most people on our finance team wouldn’t know a creative campaign if it hit them upside the head (just kidding finance people! Sort of). But finance professionals have other super powers that you need. They think analytically. They think logically. And, they think about strategic business issues like “does this investment make financial sense?” They can help you model the analytical side of the marketing business, like growth rates in your KPIs, the balance in various investments (e.g. Lead Gen. for one segment of the business versus another). Marketers have to be analytical about their business. You can’t just say ‘Hey, let’s make a viral, social, integrated, multi-channel, broad-reaching, personalized campaign that will win me that cool advertising award and make me a super famous marketing rock star.” NO!
Good marketers have to think about what makes sense for the business—what will improve the bottom line? What will deliver the highest ROI? That’s how finance thinks—they’re analytical, and they’re logical. They actually have the same DNA that an effective marketer needs to have.
It might not have seemed obvious at first, but you have a lot more in common with the finance team than you think. And you can benefit tremendously from building and maintaining a strong relationship with them. Start simple—schedule a lunch with your finance counterpart in the next few weeks and start building a bridge with one of the most important groups in the company. Finance and marketing, it’s a match made in heaven.