3 Ways the CFO and Finance Can Partner with the CMO

For example:

  • A Recent Dun & Bradstreet research report shows that CFOs are shifting from being “financial stewards to growth accelerators”, capitalizing on their command of data, insight, and analytics
  • Another study by Grant Thornton confirms that CFOs now spend more than a third of their time as strategic advisors, as they move beyond their traditional role.

Of course, none of this is news to you. It’s what you do every day. Just how easy it is to achieve often depends on your relationship with other leaders in your organization, like the COO, CRO, and CMO.

Collaborating with Marketing has historically presented some unique challenges to Finance executives, the size and scope of which vary depending on your vertical and on the personalities involved. Marketing is unique because (in most cases) it represents a sizeable part of your company’s overall spend, and (also in most cases) it’s populated by people who see things differently from you and your team, for reasons we’ll explore below. Again, not news to you, but something to acknowledge.


The budgeting and planning modules of cloud-based enterprise performance management (EPM) platforms, such as Planful, do a great job of capturing all the underlying details behind departmental budgets and can provide Finance executives with full visibility into budgeting assumptions.  These systems can also support regular reporting and analysis of actual spending against budgets and plans, and they can support rolling forecasts of spending in future periods.  However, these systems were not designed to support the detailed program planning that most Marketing departments undergo.

Software platforms like Allocadia help marketers get their strategic and executional house in order. They use the platform to build marketing plans, allocate their investments, and track results. We call it marketing performance management (MPM), and investment management is a big part of that. CFOs and controllers at our customer accounts see Allocadia as a “Finance compliance tool” for marketers because it ensures that they’re using sanctioned, Finance-sourced data, and because it gives you visibility into their world that you otherwise couldn’t get.

Allocadia can work hand-in-hand with Planful, and other systems, to exchange data – such as receiving financial targets and exporting detailed Marketing budgets and spending information. Several joint customers are already doing this today.

Three Ways to Partner with the CMO

If you’re looking to build, re-build, or grow your relationship with Marketing, here are some insights into how Marketing thinks and talks, complete with suggestions on how to win them over so you can fulfill your vision of being a growth accelerator and strategic partner.

1.  Learn their language. It may sound like a cliché, but marketers do speak a different language, especially when it comes to financial management. Your GL codes and P&L reports don’t typically line up with how they look at their world. For example, when you get an invoice from a digital advertising agency, you assign that cost to an advertising GL account. But over in Marketing, that invoice may need to be split across several campaigns, products, or regions. The GL account code simply doesn’t provide the granularity Marketing needs to run its business.

Another related example: that same invoice may include a retainer for a full year of service and needs to be amortized accordingly. Your accounting team may not know this, but Marketing does, especially if they want to evaluate program ROI for the period in which the spend occurs.

Truth is it’s actually more of a different dialect than an entirely different language. It will be easy to grasp because it’s close to your own. Once you see how Marketing builds their plans and tracks their spend, you’ll have more confidence in what they’re doing and will be better equipped to help.

2.  Build dashboards that matter. In our experience, the area where Marketing and Finance typically struggle the most is in figuring out what’s been committed budget-wise and what’s left to spend for any given period. If yours is like most companies, any funds not spent in the quarter for which they were allocated are unavailable once the quarter closes. From the marketer’s perspective, there’s nothing more frustrating than finding out you’ve left money on the table.

The challenge is the way you report on revenue and expenses – via an income statement prepared for the CEO and board of directors – doesn’t translate into cash so it’s of little use to marketers. They need a real-time view into actual spend vs. plan, among other dashboard details. They also need a view into unmapped or rogue spend.

These are just some examples of the insights that a Marketing-centric management tool can provide both you and the Marketing team. You should easily be able to build whatever analytic views you need to measure the business.

3.  Delegate.  Although no one (and no system) outside Finance should be allowed anywhere near the company’s official financial records, wouldn’t it be great if you could spend less time on budget reconciliation? As with the unmapped invoice example above, imagine Marketing being in control of its vendors to the extent that it can issue purchase orders or purchase requests that fully comply with your procurement policies and procedures.

Imagine Marketing being able to handle accruals and prepayments in its own system that fully complies with your rules, without your help. Imagine marketing managers being able to transfer funds between sub-accounts on their own, and with a complete approval and audit trail. And imagine them being able to see exactly how much money they have left to spend 10 days before quarter end without having to ask. How much time and effort would that free up for you and your team?

Becoming a Strategic Partner

As a growth accelerator and strategic partner, you want to empower the rest of your organization to make smart, data-driven decisions that are fully aligned with corporate objectives and fully compliant with fiscal policy. You want to be a partner and advisor, not an overseer. To achieve that with Marketing, you need to understand how they see the world, and then you need to help them be better stewards of their financial resources. Hopefully we’ve helped you begin that process.

To learn more about Marketing Performance Management and how to collaborate better with Marketing, visit us at

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