We’ve all had an experience with those finance/accounting types who drive us crazy, requiring that any and all marketing initiatives be measured and that we justify our expenses. More times than not, we spend lots of time trying to come up with metrics that will satisfy them. But in doing so, as marketers we sometimes come up short in the mind of the finance guys and then you hear things like: “Marketing just doesn’t understand numbers,” or “when campaign results don’t stack up, admit it and then figure out how to move forward.” Alternatively, Marketing Directors, say things like: “Finance doesn’t know what good marketing can do for our brand,” “Marketing is not just about spreadsheets,” or “When was the last time they went out on a sales call?” Yup, we’ve heard these and other responses on more than one occasion.
With all due respect, I’d like to put it out there that maybe a majority of the problem doesn’t always start and end with the financial folks. How’s that? Well, sometimes, it seems as if the marketing people and the finance people are just talking two different languages. Certainly, each has a different “world view” of business. For example…
We talk a lot about strategy and forget about tactics.
Because of the sexiness associated with Strategy, we marketers like to call almost everything we do “strategic.” In fact, almost every component of marketing now seems to have its own strategy: Online strategy. Social media strategy. PR strategy. CRM strategy. And it just keeps on going. Well, for the folks in finance & accounting, there’s a critical difference between a strategy and a tactic! The word “tactics” in their minds is immediate, all about bringing in income sooner rather than later. “Strategy” to them is more about a longer-term income stream that won’t likely show up on next quarter’s P&L statement. So, if tactics and strategy play different roles in ROI, and all we do is stuff that’s “strategic,” maybe the CFO is right to wonder if what we do will ever positively affect the bottom line? And when?
More times than we should, we talk high expectations. And then deliver less than startling results.
Too often, marketers jump on the latest fad and technological ‘’silver bullet’ and declare that this is the answer we’ve all been waiting for. Some people in marketing are too quick to buy into what others are doing, even if it doesn’t actually makes sense for your industry or company. And there are some chasing the rainbow looking for the pot of gold. For example, five years ago, there were people writing books, blogs and commentaries telling everyone who would listen that because of the internet, brick and mortar businesses would decline and that we’d all be working virtually by now. How has that turned out?! Hmmm. I’m glad I don’t have to eat those words. I’m not suggesting that as marketers we sandbag the anticipated results for any marketing effort or campaign we’re launching, but we do need to watch just how rosy a picture gets painted, because the numbers people will hold us accountable.
We spend almost no time developing relationships with “those people in Finance”.
When I started in the Marketing Department of a large Fortune 100 organization, the first piece of advice I received from my boss (who had my job before being promoted) was “go and make friends with the people in Finance.” “Making friends” were the key words because that’s when things start to happen. It’s amazing when marketing and finance people begin having lunch together and start to understand how each department sees the world. When was the last time you saw marketing people explain the rationale behind their plans, develop some semblance of what the company can expect in the ways of meaningful metrics, give details and defend the realities behind the timelines, or justify the amount of work it takes to make a concept real and attractive in the marketplace? In short, by figuring how to work with one another, communicate with one another, and then look for ways to help one another, everyone can feel better with what the Marketing Department is doing.
So, do marketers need to talk the language of finance? Or do finance people need to become more fluent in marketing? Or is it somewhere in between? And how do we get there? Well, how does this sound as a starting point. When we marketers talk to our customers and prospects, we’re supposed to speak to them in a language that they understand – one that’s meaningful and beneficial to them. Maybe we should try talking to those Finance People the same way.
Rolf Gutknecht is vice president, director of account services for LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Rolf on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com. You can also connect with Rolf on LinkedIn.