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Why aren't CFOs and CMOs BFFs?

I just recently landed in a marketing department and once again find tension, barely camouflaged hostility really, between the CFO and CMO (who I work for).

What's with this perpetual Jets vs Sharks thing? Is it like this everywhere? What can be done about it or is it a necessary tension that is actually good for the organization?

Answers

Bryan Frey
Title: VP Finance/Corp Controller
Company:
(VP Finance/Corp Controller, ) |

Well, from one person's opinion working with perhaps 8 CMOs over the past two decades, a lot of it comes down to communication - Mars and Venus, although without the male/female thing, because that doesn't matter. It's that I (and my finance teams) are always looking for hard numbers, and not only do we not get that from a lot of CMOs (most in my admittedly narrow experience), they don't get it. They haven't internalized the "need to measure" that we in the office of the CFO has. Then we get angry when we get soft, unmeasurable stuff from them, and they get angry when we keep asking for certainty and hard numbers.

That's a recipe for not being BFFs!

What makes it better? I have had some success with long term education and working closely together to determine what is measurable now and what might be measurable in the future, and then trying to get any and all information squeezed out of each marketing program, email send, website hit, etc.. It's a mindset, and if they don't have it now, you have to teach it to them or they'll (usually) never get it.

Importantly, it's not about making them come up with metrics, it's working together!

Ernie Humphrey CTP
Title: CEO & COO
Company: Treasury Careers
LinkedIn Profile
(CEO & COO, Treasury Careers) |

I have had the opportunity to be a CFO and a senior marketing leader. This may seem harsh, but most marketing professionals do not truly understand the markets and customers they serve, and as Bryan noted, they are not used to being held accountable for what they do with metrics.

I think it is up to the CFO to bridge the gap. That being said, CFOs need to have work on their communication skills and need to mindful to approach CMOs in a non-confrontational way. CMOs need to embrace metrics and being held accountable for the value they ,or do not offer, an organization.

CFOs are often seen as "the office of no". CMOs need to educated as to what to do to make a CFO say "yes", and understand how to back up all of their great ideas with numbers, and a solid ROI estimate.

EMERSON GALFO
Title: CFO
Company: C-Suite Services
LinkedIn Profile
(CFO, C-Suite Services) |

Blame the CEO! It starts with the culture he wants to build for the organization, the types of personalities he hires and the working relationships he expects from his executives. Even two people with opposing views can and will work together if the CEO and the culture expects it.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

I have yet to see a marketing person create numbers that are defensible with hard empirical data supporting those decisions.

But on the other hand, we're talking about sales, where the number of variables to making said sale are nearly as many as a meteorologist has in predicting the weather (and they get it wrong more times that right).

A compromise is always needed to reach an equilibrium, and while exasperating much of the time, I have come to work closely with many a CMO.

Ernie Humphrey CTP
Title: CEO & COO
Company: Treasury Careers
LinkedIn Profile
(CEO & COO, Treasury Careers) |

Wayne, it is becoming common practice with digital marketing tools, CRM tools and related technology. You can track a sale from initial lead engagement to close and how it moves down the sales funnel. Marketing metrics may be website visits, website engagement (time on site), registrations for an event, etc., moving a prospect down the sales funnel, etc. It is not that hard in today's world. The issue is for CMOs to tie initiatives to company goals and ultimately sales.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

Believe it or not, not every sale is made via the Internet. While a quick read of articles show conflicting data percentages they all agree that brick and mortar is the major player in sales.

So yes, you can get statistics from your on-line e-commerce site (and not every company has one), but it doesn't account for the traditional sales and those statistics may or may not be transferable to the brick and mortar model.

How do you tie the on-line shoppers who then go to the brick and mortar store to purchase to the on-line statistics?

This statement may be old fashioned, but people will always like to touch, see, handle, gaze and "play with" merchandise, especially items that are new to them.

Ernie Humphrey CTP
Title: CEO & COO
Company: Treasury Careers
LinkedIn Profile
(CEO & COO, Treasury Careers) |

Point taken, but I am also talking about tracking all interactions in a CRM. That is where the CMO needs to work with sales, action A taken by marketing had X impact with prospect or customer B.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

Good point, but it is also assuming your tracking that data, which unfortunately has its own issues (cost, labor overhead, parameters of what is and isn't tracked, etc.).

Mark Matheny
Title: VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis
Company: Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly)
(VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis, Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly)) |

I think it is a natural tension that is good for the business. I think some of it comes from the personalities that are normally in the roles. CFOs tend to be more focused on the numbers tying out and deadlines. CMOs tend to be less so. Having both ends of the spectrum pulls the business to the middle. Of course, too much conflict can be unhealthy and needs to be addressed.

Lyle Newkirk
Title: CFO
Company: Corrigo Incorporated
(CFO, Corrigo Incorporated) |

The very best marketing people I have ever met were highly analytical and were constantly seeking out financial data. There was no adversarial relationship with those people and they were interesting to work with. But often you are dealing with people who have creative talent but weak quantitative skills and with those people you often find issues notably around allocation of financial resources.

Randall Bolten
Title: CEO
Company: Lucidity
LinkedIn Profile
(CEO, Lucidity) |

My experience is mostly limited to technology companies, but I’m inclined to agree with Ernie & Bryan – the marketing/finance relationship is tense because finance people typically don’t see any evidence that the marketing effort is worth what it costs, and marketing people see finance as picky, and numbers- and money-obsessed. And it’s probably up to finance to bridge the gap.

In a company with engineering, marketing, sales, and finance functions, in my experience any of the pair relationships may be rocky, but there are typically two main relationship axes that MUST work: engineering/marketing and sales/finance. Marketing’s role is, after all, not just to generate leads for sales (product marketing) but to help determine the company’s technical direction (product management); and marketing is also there to insulate engineering from the short-term pressures sales can impose on everyone. At the same time, sales and finance depend heavily on each other: sales has to bring in revenues that finance can count, at a price that’s profitable for the company, and finance in turn makes sure that sales is properly compensated for that effort.

David Rau
Title: CFO
Company: Cornerstoner Building Alliance Lumber SW
(CFO, Cornerstoner Building Alliance Lumber SW) |

Bryan Frey and Ernie Humphrey expressed the situation very well. As the CAO of a Fortune 500 company, the CEO required all numbers to come through/blessed by the CFO area. It helped ensure, at least for the CEO and the Board, the numbers were supportable.

Steve Bennet
Title: Start-up CFO, Angel Investor and Profess..
Company: Bodega Partners
(Start-up CFO, Angel Investor and Professor, Bodega Partners) |

When I first gave a quick read to this question, I thought you were asking it as the CFO, and seemed like a bizarre situation where CFO reports to CMO. With a second read, I see that you are working in the marketing department and are making an observation. You don't say what your role is (not that it matters a lot for this question) but since you are on a finance forum I'm going to assume you are in a finance role supporting marketing. First challenge is providing value to the CMO so she sees you as a business partner rather than a budget monitor.

I haven't personally observed the dynamic you discuss with CMO. Having been CFO of over 25 years, I typically have very working relationships with VP marketings. It is with the VP Sales where it can be most confrontational, perhaps due to both CFO and VP Sales generally both being strong type A's. Perhaps, there is some misunderstanding by CMOs of the CFO being a glorified accountant, but I haven't seen that. More likely, the CMO may not want to have all of marketing programs approved by CFO and being held accountable for ROI on that spend. Also could be some jealousy in that the CFO is a close confidant of the CEO and has a lot of exposure to the board of directors.

Pete Hayes
Title: Principal, CMO
Company: Chief Outsiders, LLC
(Principal, CMO, Chief Outsiders, LLC) |

Our firm has 40 CMOs...now management consultants...who work alongside CEOs and their CFOs. We see this often, but the answer is quite simple. The Venus and Mars is actually quite appropriate - most often CMOs and CFOs have fundamentally different orientations. The trick of course if to understand the other's POV, respect it, and deliver appropriately.

There's a study from University Texas that relates to this. Here's a direct link:
http://cdn2.hubspot.net/hub/50878/file-14407787-pdf/docs/mid-market_ceo_perspectives_v7.pdf

Ern Miller
Title: Co-CEO
Company: Miller Small Business Solutions
(Co-CEO, Miller Small Business Solutions) |

One person's(mine) opinion:
The CFO is constantly telling the CMO to make due with less. The CMO is in charge of making the company profitable. He needs money to do that, and the CFO is constantly telling him that he cannot have the money he needs.

The CMO's job performance is at the mercy of the CFO's benevolence.

The CMO needs to make a serious effort to become friends with the CFO before he can get what he needs to do his job, unless the CFO refuses to call a truce, at which point, the CMO needs to go over his head.

Ernie Humphrey CTP
Title: CEO & COO
Company: Treasury Careers
LinkedIn Profile
(CEO & COO, Treasury Careers) |

I do not know many companies where the CMO is in charge of making the company profitable (maybe some start-ups). That is the job of the CFO. If a CMO can demonstrate ROI for initiatives, then they will get money. Any CMO that goes over the CFOs head is also asking for trouble, and should not last long, as often the CFO is the key advisor to the CEO.

Ern Miller
Title: Co-CEO
Company: Miller Small Business Solutions
(Co-CEO, Miller Small Business Solutions) |

Many companies I have contracted with have a CMO in charge of the sales force. The CMO heads the group that keeps money coming in. Without money coming in, there is no profit, no matter how well a CFO handles the books.

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