CMO/CFO Synergy: Creativity vs. The Bottom Line

At first glance, marketing and finance seem worlds apart. One is about creating elaborate, creative campaigns to entice consumers. The other is about reining in costs and allocating capital. But in today's brand-conscious, streamlined economic environment, the two actually are tightly intertwined. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Advances in technology have resulted in an explosion of ways to attract customers. No longer limited to traditional broadcast and print, today audiences are fractured by the Internet, social media, cable television, and mobile devices, among others. With so many options for attracting customers, marketers are on the hook more than ever to demonstrate ROI for all of their spending. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> So how can two people&#x2014;one trained to keep a strict eye on the bottom line and one prone to unrestrictive creative output&#x2014;work in harmony? Here are a few ways:<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>Get educated about each other.</b> It goes without saying that each of you knows your job inside and out, but how well do you really know what the other person does? Certainly, you can speculate, especially in a moment of frustration, about the tasks involved in each person's day. However, to build true synergy, it is best to walk in the other person’s shoes, and here are three ways to accomplish this:<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> 1. Take courses in each other's area of expertise. The CMO doesn't have to go for his or her MBA at night, but to take a course in corporate finance at a local college might help him or her develop a better appreciation for the sharp eye a CFO needs to keep on the bottom line. By the same token, a CFO enrolling in a marketing class could help him or her understand the importance of creativity and marketing strategy in attracting customers that ultimately drive sales.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> 2. Conduct a seminar with a trainer or arbitrator. If you do not have time to take a semester-long course, bring in a trainer or arbitrator to lead a one-day seminar where you get to do role playing. It is important to find a trainer who has a good understanding of both positions and as an objective third party, can explain to the other the responsibilities and nuances each contends with daily. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> 3. Include the CFO in marketing brainstorms. This allows the CFO not only to see how the "big ideas" are formulated, but more importantly, the strategy behind a campaign, and how that strategy is going to deliver ROI. Marketing people also might be surprised by what some CFOs can contribute to marketing strategies, since ultimately, they are also consumers. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>Establish mutual trust and respect.</b> It may seem like a no-brainer, but often these attributes are non-existent in the CMO/CFO relationship because the fundamental personality types are so different. The stereotype of the CFO is someone buttoned up and conservative while the CMO tends to be more outgoing and impulsive. While in most cases, these stereotypes do play out, it does not mean that the two cannot also develop trust and respect. To do so, each needs to listen to and respect what the other is saying.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Part of the CFO's job to ask the tough questions, such as "What's the spend or what is the possible success of the campaign?" The CMO has to be open and honest in answering the questions. He or she cannot get defensive in his or her responses by replying, "This is my job." "I know what I'm doing." "This is based on previous stuff." Then, the CFO sometimes needs to roll the dice and just take a leap of faith. If the underlying trust and respect have been established, usually the results are favorable. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>Involve IT.</b> The way the market has expanded with the Internet has made marketing more efficient. In our company, for example, the chief technology officer has broad direct marketing background. He has built our systems to allow us to have access to data in real time so we can make faster and more cost-effective business decisions. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> No matter what business you are in, gaining access to data requires updated technology, so it's important to evaluate the systems you have in place to make sure you have easy access to information and the data is as close to real time as possible. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <i>Marty Isaac is senior vice president of Marketing for Prior to joining the company in 1999, he occupied a variety of direct marketing/product management positions at CUC International. Prior to his tenure at CUC, Marty worked at General Electric in Corporate Marketing and at GE Plastics in Sales.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Isaac can be reached at <a href=""></a>.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Bart Catalane joined in 2008 as CFO. Previously, he served as CFO of LIN Television Corporation, one of the largest television station groups in the country. Prior to LIN, he was President and COO of Ziff-Davis Media. Cetalane also occupied prior senior management and CFO positions with Monster Worldwide and Capital Cities/ABC's Television and Radio Broadcast Divisions. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> He can be reached at <a href=""></a>.</i>