Keys To Improve The Marketing & Finance Relationship

Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries were a disaster from the start – a failed marriage that never had a chance.

He, a naive, budding basketball player who followed his heart more than his mind and fell in love with Kim. She, a for-no-good-reason celeb trying to make a quick buck and keep herself in the spotlight with no emotional investment in Kris.

They went together like oil and water, like fire and ice, like a head of digital marketing and a CFO.

Ok, maybe that is a bit dramatic; but, as we start the long summer months where marketing teams begin asking for incremental testing dollars, new focus gets put on the often-strained relationship between finance and marketing.

Kim & Kris: What Can Marketers Learn From Their Failed Marriage?


Marketing leads with the heart – putting blood, sweat and tears into each new idea that is going to be amazing no matter what anyone tells them. Finance leads with the head – focusing on the money and the benefit to their spreadsheets with virtually no emotional investment whatsoever (ok, I work in marketing, so maybe I made finance seem a little worse than they actually are)

Together, marketing and finance are a failed marriage. However, those organizations that have found ways to successfully integrate finance and marketing are far more nimble, far more successful, and far happier than their dysfunctional counterparts.

There are a lot of reasons why finance and marketing don’t mix well; but as marketers, we can be better partners and do our part to improve the relationship. Five key places to begin include:

1. Communication Is Key. Marketing always goes to finance asking for more. Finance always goes to marketing to take away. But in between, neither explain their reasoning past general comments like, “we need it for testing” or “we have to cut back to make our numbers.” In reality, the more marketing and finance talk, the more each will understand the other – which leads to more collaborative and accurate budget planning, added marketing flexibility and an overall stronger organization.

2. Share Successes. True, marketing spends money; but, that is only half of the story. The other half is typically a wonderful story of successes about brand positioning, customer acquisition, and driving revenues. The problem is finance never hears this side of the story.

They see a number on the spreadsheet that is too big and needs to be reduced. But, what if alongside that number, they saw that it drove 1,000 new customers? Would they be so quick to cut it? By including finance in the results from each dollar spent, they will have a better understanding of where the money is going and the impact it is having on the business – which helps them understand exactly what they are cutting and if it is the right thing to cut.

3. Share In Cutbacks. Nobody likes the person that is only nice to you when they want something (e.g., marketers to finance when they want budget). Instead, as marketers, we can be good partners to finance by being active fiscal conservatives.

Cut back when we have to, but run a tight ship year round as well. By constantly evaluating your expenses and proactively going to finance with ways to improve efficiency, you will build a true, healthy partnership. As an added bonus, you will end up with a stronger media plan/budget that is more accurate and less open to wild swings caused by added or cut budgets.

4. Know Your Numbers. Nothing is more frustrating to finance than when you come to ask for money for a project and you haven’t clearly thought out why you need that amount of money, what you are going to do with it, or what you can expect from spending it. Or how about if you built your media plan and completely misstated your revenues for the year?

This trains finance to think you don’t know the business and that they must do their own calculations instead of accepting yours. This creates a scenario where marketing gets their numbers handed to them from finance rather than marketing guiding finance. Instead, know your numbers, your plan, your risks and your upside before you ask for anything. This makes it much easier for finance to understand the entirety of your request and the potential outcomes – plus finance begins to trust your numbers more and more over time.

5. Hold Yourself Accountable. If the numbers are good, it’s because of marketing. If the numbers are bad, it’s because of “outside forces.” No marketer wants to face the music when things go awry, and things are rarely as clear cut as falling solely on marketing’s shoulders; but, should you miss the numbers or spend too much, hold yourself accountable.

Be proactive and let finance know ahead of time that you might miss your numbers. If you have already missed them, let them know why and how you are fixing things for the future. This won’t make the conversation any easier to have, but it will build for a much better relationship down the road.

Tying The Marriage Knot

In the end, it takes two for a successful marriage, so finance has to meet marketing somewhere in the middle to tie the knot. It won’t happen overnight or even over a season or two. Heck, it might take a year or more. But in the end, a successful relationship between marketing and finance will make an organization stronger, more flexible and more successful. Plus, it is way more fun than dealing with all the drama that comes from people finding out your sham marriage had failed miserably.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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