Here’s How the Finance Department Can Help Marketing Make More Money for the Business

As a marketing leader, you’re expected to have a really good sense of your own department. Luckily, there’s more technology than ever to track your team’s performance, your insights, and your data. But marketing leaders shouldn’t take a myopic, marketing-only view of that data. Instead, it’s increasingly important to build a better relationship with Finance so that every marketing move contributes to the overall financial goals of the company. 

I’ve been a marketing leader in both high-growth startups and multi-billion dollar organizations, and I’ve seen firsthand the explosion of marketing software over the past fifteen years. With an ocean of information available, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle with marketing objectives and key results. But there’s one critical question that Marketing always needs to answer: How much sales pipeline are we creating for every dollar we spend?

The answer to that question lies in a department that historically might have been typecast as the polar opposite of Marketing. In this day and age, in fact, it’s the Finance department that can make Marketing’s life easier, clearer, and more productive.  

Going Beyond the Budget 

At the basic level, Marketing’s conversations with Finance are centered around calibrating spending. Marketing typically interacts with Finance when they need to know how much they’re able to invest in a particular campaign, or figure out whether they need to hire someone in-house, outsource to a contractor/freelancer, or use an agency/outside vendor. Simple budgeting questions.

But beyond these “table stakes” conversations, Finance can help Marketing operate more holistically because Finance plans for every part of the business. That complete financial picture of the company can help Marketing understand the cost of acquiring customers, the lifetime customer value, and how much money is really coming in from different marketing and sales activities. When I talk with Finance, I get deep in the sales funnel, I learn about hiring plans, I really get a sense of how interconnected all of the company’s initiatives are.

Here’s a perfect example: say the company is looking to hire a sales rep in a new territory. Not only would I know to start investing marketing dollars and effort in that region before the rep is hired, but Finance can show me data such as pipeline per rep for that territory. Then I know exactly how to deploy resources to that territory given the expected pipeline return. By the time that sales rep joins, there’s a marketing campaign already in place to help bring them qualified leads. With a robust pipeline, that new rep’s time-to-yield is much faster, putting everyone from the salesperson to the marketing department to the business as a whole in a position to succeed. 

Increasing Marketing’s Financial IQ 

After considering the example above, how would you rate the financial IQ of your marketing team? If you’re unfamiliar, financial IQ is your organization’s ability to leverage accurate, relevant data to make financially smart decisions. You could be the world’s greatest marketer, but if your decisions aren’t contributing to the company’s overall financial health, that’s bad. A higher financial IQ helps you make the best decisions based on the company’s financial goals. 

When Marketing elevates its financial IQ, the first order effect is seen in how the marketing budget is managed. The cycle times between marketing, sales and finances become heavily compressed and allow for agile deployment of resources, along with deeper exploration of performance through audience segmentation, for example customers in the healthcare industry result in higher profitability versus those in the manufacturing industry. Knowing that simple fact might push you to move budget so that you’re running more Healthcare programs, or programs that may cost more but that have higher ROI. 

That’s an obvious example, but the second order effect comes when Marketing widens its lens across the organization, taking into account ripple effects as the business moves in harmony. For example, knowing that a collection of customers that have smaller IT organizations requires more hands-on customer support than a larger customer could affect how you craft your marketing message and where you choose to target potential opportunities.

We owe a big part of our financial IQ to having a Continuous Planning platform. Instead of relying on slow, disconnected spreadsheets, we have the information we need to give us clear visibility into how our decisions impact financial health across the company.  Seeing the details in context, such as hiring plans and sales funnels, helps us make those decisions based on more than just leads generated or funnel filled. It gives us that “bigger picture” view that everyone strives to attain.

With Continuous Planning, instead of having to wait to get this information from Finance, Marketing is always armed with that knowledge and with those cross-organizational questions already thought out. Finance, in turn, prepares strategic insights to help advise Marketing, and both sides leave meetings feeling like we’re all making smarter plans and better decisions. 
Continuous Planning does require the right tools and processes. But once you’re working with Finance, you can really unlock Marketing’s potential.The result is more impact, both out in the market and here in the business.  Hear Planful customers share how they achieve tighter alignment across the company, and connect all corners of the business, with Continuous Planning.

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