If you asked the average person how closely the fields of marketing and finance are related, they'd probably answer that they aren't. In truth, the two fields are inextricably linked within businesses everywhere, for reasons that may not be apparent at first glance. On closer inspection, however, the reasons become clear.
First, a business's accountants and finance departments hold the power of the purse and therefore control what marketing spend gets approved and what doesn't. They also play a key role in making sense of many of the bottom-line business performance metrics that prove the relative value of the marketing spend that does happen.
Marketing, for its part, works to make sure that the company is able to develop new business, keep sales strong, and to generate more interest in whatever product or service the company provides. Without finance, marketing would fail, and without marketing, finance would have nothing to manage.
Despite this reality, marketers often struggle to make their case to finance when requesting funding for campaigns, which often leads to friction that makes everyone's job harder. It doesn't have to be that way, though. Here's a rundown of three basic things marketers can do to turn finance into an ally, rather than an enemy.
The first thing that marketers can do to help their cause with finance is to use analytics to make their case clear. That's because financial professionals, unlike creative types, think in terms of cost versus benefit. For that reason, they care far more about hard data than they do about the specifics of a marketing plan. That means it is incumbent on marketers to have a firm grasp of things like ROI calculations and have the kind of data collection infrastructure in place to make a data-focused pitch. Doing this one thing alone can make a world of difference, as studies have shown that marketing departments that can prove their ROI increase their odds of getting budget increases because of it.
Modern marketers spend quite a bit of their time talking about things like brand image, social signals, and lead generation. To outsiders, it's a bit like hearing a dialect of a familiar language - understandable enough to almost make sense, but not enough to be of any real value. The same holds true for finance professionals, who talk about things like cash flow, net contributions, and payback. For marketers to connect with finance professionals, it's important for them to speak the same language. This is best accomplished by taking a basic accounting or finance course online, to master the fundamentals of the trade. While it's not necessary to become an expert in the particulars of business finance, having a common base of knowledge will enhance communications, which will benefit both sides.
The last thing that marketers should get comfortable doing to get finance on their side is to learn how to frame their strategies as fully-developed business cases. Unlike a marketing plan, a business case presents a far more detailed look at the what and the why of a marketing strategy. It's a format that business decision-makers, including those in finance, are used to seeing attached to every project that crosses their desks. At the very least, marketers making a pitch to finance should be able to answer the following questions:
● What market the plan targets
● Why that's valuable to the company
● What is the potential for profit
● How long is it expected to take to reach that potential
● What are the associated risks
● What will be lost if the plan is rejected
By presenting marketing efforts in a business case format, the decision becomes less about the money involved and more about the value proposition of the plan. That makes it easier for the non-marketers evaluating it to see the inherent value involved and give it the green light.
Marketers that put these tips into practice will almost always find that finance becomes a willing collaborator rather than a reluctant partner. It's simply a matter of understanding the needs and concerns of those on the financial side of the equation, and being able to demonstrate how marketing is working to drive real value for the company. It's a sure-fire way to create and nurture a relationship that leads to better results for everyone involved - which is the goal everyone should be working for already.