Skip to content

94 | How marketers can build stronger relationships with CFOs and CEOs

24 min listen

How can CMOs go beyond demand generation and help drive business strategy?

What do they need to understand about, and share with, their CFOs? And how on earth can they quantify the returns on their brand investments? 

Listen to this episode to hear from marketing leaders at Oracle, SMART Technologies, Wunderman Thompson, and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. 

Ready to discover more? Tune in to the rest of the Masters of B2B Marketing here!



View the full transcript here

94 | How marketers can build stronger relationships with CFOs and CEOs

Jon Busby: Hello and welcome to the very first spinoff from the Tech Marketing Podcast. In collaboration with the Association of National Advertisers, we are thrilled to bring you the masters of B2B marketing. Get ready now as we spin through some fantastic episodes covering the latest and B2B thinking.

From AI to advertising analytics to attribution alignment, and so much more. How can CMOs go beyond demand generation and help drive business strategy? What do they need to understand and share with their CFOs? How on earth can they quantify their returns to their brand investments? Listen to this episode to hear from four marketing leaders at Oracle Smart Technologies, Wunderman Thompson and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Peter Fader: I'm Pete Fader, professor of marketing at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Jon Busby: Wow, that's awesome. You. The panel was, of course, the metrics that CFO and CEOs care about. What should marketers be doing to build stronger relationships with their CFO?

Peter Fader: One obvious step is that marketers should be, Thinking like the CFO, anticipating what they're gonna want, how they're gonna react.

Just understanding the KPIs that the CFO, CEO and other C-level executives are gonna be focusing on. Put yourself in their shoes. Easier said than done. It would be nice to be able to also live up to it. It would be nice to drive your own part of the business in a way that, that they'll understand.

They'll appreciate to make sure that the metrics that you're using are gonna align with the ones that they're using. That's been a big part of my academic research is trying to find those metrics that can be appealing and relevant to, to multiple parties.

Jon Busby: That comes onto my next question, which is what are those metrics that you should be providing to the CFO and how have they changed?

Peter Fader: So for me, it's all about customer metrics. So in the old days it was all about product metrics. So how many units of the product did we sell? And there we'd run it to some tension because the CFO was gonna want to sell as much as they could as quickly as possible. Whereas the CMO wanted to. Build relationships.

So by focusing on customer metrics, you can give us the best of all worlds that we can look at the revenue that we're getting right now from the customers, but we can also look at the health, the longevity of the relationships, so we can find ways to unify the metrics and unify the actions that we take and really create excellent, short and long-term outcomes.

Jon Busby: That's perfect. And so what's the, what was the most, obviously just done this wonderful panel. What was the most interesting question you the panel got? In your opinion? What was the most surprising question you, you received?

Peter Fader: So many of the questions are, uh, as you said, I. What are the kinds of things that marketers should be doing in order to be more appealing to CFOs and other C-Suite folks?

But one of the panelists that turned it around and said, what is it that we should expect from the CFOs about us? Yeah. So how can we make ourselves look better as they start asking skeptical questions and pushing their own agendas and metrics on us? It's not enough just for us to anticipate and role play, but we should expect that the same thing is being done to us.

We have to be ready for that.

Jon Busby: In five words or less, what advice would you give a CMO for future success?

Peter Fader: I'm gonna go with three words. Go for it. Customer base audit. Which is the name of my new book, but it goes back to this idea of alignment and accountability, that if we can do a formal audit about our customer base as we do a formal financial audit for the company as a whole, it's gonna bring all kinds of insight.

It's gonna bring all kinds of, just not only actions to take, but ways to evaluate. The actions that we're taking in a way that would be hopefully pleasing, but at least relevant to the, the marketers, the finance people, the CEO as a whole. So customer base audit, I really believe is the way to get everyone on the same level using the same language, and doing things in repeated, predictable, standardized manner instead of making up new things all the time.

Jon Busby: So I just wanna dive into that for a second. For a couple of different reasons. When you say customer base, so you are auditing your existing customers to understand what are you trying to understand?

Peter Fader: I wanna know how many of them are there, how many of them will continue rep repeat purchasing from us.

Uh, where's the bottleneck as revenue plateaus? Is it because we haven't acquired enough customers or they're not staying as long? They're not buying as often? They're not spending as much. So getting below the surface mm-hmm. Of just say revenue and using. Different customer base lenses to, to better understand the health of the customer base, therefore the health of the company, and therefore the actions that we should be taking to, to ensure it's ongoing health.

Jon Busby: Perfect. Thank you so much, Peter. My pleasure. I, I, the side question I've got on that one is, how many books have you written? That was book number three. How have you found writing? Because it's one of, it's one of my passions. I would love to write book.

Peter Fader: How about that? It's really interesting you ask because I'm a professor, so I'm living in the publisher parish world, so I have no problem writing academic articles with lots of Greek letters and very formal, um, but books.

It, it, it feels to me it's like going from the a mile jog around the block to a sprint across the Sahara Desert. It's, boy, that's a lot of words. And boy, you gotta really make sure that it all fits together. Yeah. So writing academic articles, those are the short sprints. Wow. But writing a book and trying to make sure that it stays coherent and making sure that these books are consistent with each other is daunting.

And often get a lot of help from co-authors or ghost writers. That's a very different kind of skill than the short form writing that you do either as a professor or even as a blogger.

Jon Busby: Wow. Yeah, I'm, it's just. Yeah, I, it's some, it's one of those personal goals that I would like to get to. 'cause I always think we do a lot of work in the channel.

We do work a lot of work with tech and there's, it's something where I'm like, I should just write this up.

Peter Fader: You know what, it was the same thing for me. It was always an aspiration, boy, I wanna have a book. Wouldn't that be cool to have a book? But I can never write a book. And the thing is, I can teach courses, so I'll teach these courses and, and so what I did a couple years back is I found a ghost writer to say, okay, here's all the videos from my course.

Write it up. And I thought what he would do would just be more or less chronologically, almost create a transcript of my course. Mm-hmm. But he didn't, and he moved stuff around and he wove it together and he took the course. Wow. All the content, my content, and completely rearranged it in a way that just flowed beautifully.

And it was much more like a. Book. Did you, it was a chronological core course.

Jon Busby: Did you change your core structure based on that as well?

Peter Fader: I have absolutely have. Yeah. I, it's interesting how art reflects the nature or vice versa. Yeah, I, because the, the book was so good, even though they were my ideas, I'd never thought about it like that.

And so I, there were some of the things that used to be at the end that moved to the beginning and vice versa. Uh, almost it's, and in, in my mind, it's almost revisionist. It's, it's almost as if, yeah, that's, I read the book now and say, that's what I meant. Yeah, even though it was really someone else who laid it all out that way.

So yeah, it's a very different way of organizing content than teaching a course than the, the way that we usually do. And I have this tremendous appreciation for, first of all, for the ability to frame up ideas in a proper book manner, but even more so to take someone else's ideas and rearrange them and write them up and make it better than the original.

I'm standing on the shoulders of the giants.

Jon Busby: Yeah. That's fascinating. Thank you so much for that, Peter. That should be, that was, I'm definitely gonna pick your brains of that later, but happy to keep talking about it. Yeah. We, you just had a wonderful panel on the metrics that you should provide to a CFO and a CEO.

If you could just start by introducing your name, position, and company.

Audrey Melofchik: I'm Audrey Melofchik. I'm the North American CEO of Wunderman Thompson.

Jon Busby: Awesome. What should marketers be doing to build stronger relationships with their CFO?

Audrey Melofchik: I think you have to remember, it's always people. That's all we are people, and I think we get in our way when we start to think about companies and brands and.

Roles, which is people. And I think the key thing you have to do is build a relationship that is going to help you through the difficult times. And I think if you always think about that CFO as someone who very much wants to work for a successful company, very much wants to see top line growth, then.

You create a relationship where you are bringing them along and telling them about all the great marketing successes and what your plan is and why you think it'll work. And then you see CFOs to person. Mm-hmm. All of a sudden they start to say, okay, what if we did this? How about if we found some money there?

What if we cut here and they become your business partner instead of your. Homework checker.

Jon Busby: Yeah. I'm not sure CFOs would Reframing them away from a homework checker to a business partner is a great way. So what metrics should you provide to the CFO and has it changed recently?

Audrey Melofchik: I think the more data that you have, the more it changes.

Fundamentally, what you have to provide is the right data for the right situation. Mm-hmm. Meaning every single brand, every single category, every single moment you have a different goal. A different challenge. And so you have to be clear on what are the obstacles and what are the KPIs and what does success look like?

Mm-hmm. And align on those first. And then the data follows that. What we find for a lot of our B2B clients is we know that the brand element is really important, and we tend to measure that through. Brand affinity studies or NPS scores, longer term studies that look at how people, what people associate brands with what their awareness is.

And then at the same time, we're looking for shorter term. In cycle lead generation. Mm-hmm. For that, it's about what is the media we spend, how many impressions are we getting from those impressions? How many people are engaged? What's the cost per engagement, and then how many actual qualified leads?

Mm-hmm. And what's the cost per lead? And then, If we can ingest the client's Salesforce data or whatever partner they use, we are then able to give them a dashboard that looks at every dollar and what the actual ROI. Mm-hmm. And I think it's important that those two options, the brand, uh, saliency measurement and the dashboard of actual sales leads aren't seen as an.

Either or, you need both, but you, you definitely have to point them towards whatever the challenge is in that moment.

Jon Busby: I think that's really key, and I mirror the, we've had, from all the interviews we've done today, the brand piece is becoming more and more important. Of course, we're an agency as well.

We've seen that be discussed, and we tend to talk about the 56, 40 4% split, or it changes based on the exact study that you read, but. It's still surprising. You get towards the end of the quarter and that bit just gets cut and cut until it's all demand yet.

Audrey Melofchik: So, and, and you've gotta keep, and there's so many studies that indicate that that's not a smart thing over the long term.

And of course, we're all subject to both short and long term KPIs, but over the long term, you can't build a brand that way. Our research at Wunderman Thompson says that 93% of B2B market share success is due to brand perception.

Jon Busby: We, there was a great quote from, and she, I think she's talking just now, Therese Parkes at Google.

She said, every dollar that you try and save on brand will cost you a dollar 85 later to get back. Oh, I'm gonna remember that. Yeah. It's a great, I know I'm gonna quote that to every, that's great. Every client now, so she definitely try and find the source for it. But that's what she told us earlier was every dollar you try and save.

It'll cost you a dollar 85 to get back, which is crazy. Second to last question, what's the most interesting or surprising question you had on the panel?

Audrey Melofchik: I think that there's a question around, I think the whole panel is around the relationship between the CFO and CMO, and I think for me, I've never, that I can remember in a long time now had a relationship with a CFO that was.

That had animosity in it or that felt like a homework checker. So I think when they, I think the premise of some of the questions around tension mm-hmm. Between CFOs and CMOs just don't ring true to me. Certainly we're in a macroeconomic environment that's really difficult. Mm-hmm. And as part of that, everyone is trying to figure out how to squeeze and be more efficient and be more thoughtful.

And that does make everybody. A bit more tense, but I don't ever feel that the CFO / CMO relationship is one where everybody doesn't have the same goal. And I actually think that CMOs, the more that they have, Data that they have to show, the more proud they feel of what they've done. So in its own way, the requirement for CMOs to be more data centric and be able to justify and support the dollars that they've spent have really benefited them more than anybody has is we all square our shoulders a little bit more.

Now we're like, I did that. And so I guess the question that surprises me is when. There is a suggestion that there's a lot of acrimony or a broken relationship between the two. It's not my experience.

Jon Busby: Yeah, I think that's really fascinating. So this is a question we're asking everyone in the interviews.

In five words or less, five words or less, what advice would you give a CMO for future success?

Audrey Melofchik: Don't be afraid of failure.

Jon Busby: Love that. Awesome. Thank you so much.

Jeff Lowe: My name is Jeff Lowe. I'm the Chief Commercial Officer at Smart Technologies.

Jon Busby: Awesome. So you've just done a panel on which metrics CEOs and CFOs care about.

What should marketers be doing to build stronger relationships with their CFO?

Jeff Lowe: I think the first thing is they should be, they need to find a common context, a shared frame of reference in terms of a plan that they're both a part of. So I. If it's a case of I worry about the financials and you worry about sales and marketing and let's try to partner, I don't think that's enough.

I think we're both members of the executive team. What is the strategy and plan for the company? I. Of course we all have our different accountabilities, but how do we see how each other's accountabilities are germane to the same plan?

Jon Busby: Mm-hmm. I think that's really important and we've heard a a lot about that at this conference.

Actually. Make sure you're clear on the outcomes. I love that. Not just your numbers and I'm pictures. Yeah. Uh, so talking, continuing that theme for the CFO, what metrics do you think are most important to them? Like what metrics are metrics do they care about and have they changed?

Jeff Lowe: I don't think they've changed.

I think the metrics that are most important are profitability and ebitda, and I think it's very important for all sales and marketing professionals to be comfortable with those sorts of metrics, contribution margin. So I'm not saying sales, I'm not saying brand equity, but it's not that those things aren't important, but how do they contribute or what is the after effect of.

Metrics like that. Commercial metrics on things that CFOs truly care about and which is really company profitability, future value, customer company valuation. Yep. Those are the things that our CFO cares the most about. And as an executive of the company that I do as well, and I know that I. The more revenue that I drive and the stronger our brand is perceived by our customers, the more those metrics are gonna be an outcome of,

Jon Busby: I think that really we're gonna talk about this in the next session.

I think that really shows where you guys have moved, matured in that model compared to many other organizations. It's really fascinating answer there, Jeff. So final question. Obviously just being on a panel with four other peers, what was the most interesting or surprising question you had from the audience?

Jeff Lowe: I think the most interesting one was how do you measure brand? Get getting to that brand is such a misunderstood word and it's not with CFOs or it's across the board yet inherently most marketers just feel so importantly about it, myself included. Mm-hmm. So how do you measure brand? So one of the things that, that we were talking about on the panel was what if you stop calling it brand?

And start calling it out of market demand Gen versus in market demand gen, because there is a great piece of research that was shown at the conference here that says 95% of your audience is not in market for your goods or services at any given time. So are you really gonna ignore 95% of the audience in your go to market efforts?

That would seem like a very strange thing to do. So, There's also data that suggests that when the customer is ready to go into market for your category of products and services, if you're not in the top three consideration set in their memory, you have virtually no chance of winning the deal. So what are you doing to be top three in memory and affinity in customers who are out of market?

Personally at Smart Technologies, we stopped talking about brand. I call it the B word. Uh, we talk in hush tones about it with the former marketing team, but really we do. It's true. We talk about outta market demand gen and in-market demand gen. And if you talk not just to a CFO, but to a sales executive, they'll automatically say, oh, that's incredibly important.

We have to get to that 95%. What are we doing to get to that 95%? Perhaps we should change our spending envelope. And so what you've just done is increased your brand budget.

Jon Busby: Fascinating answer.

Nancy Casey: I'm Nancy Casey, and I'm the global head of cross industry strategy within strategic accounts at Oracle Corporation.

Jon Busby: So you've just come from a panel on which the metrics that CEOs and CFOs care about and how to talk to your board, like what should marketers be doing to build stronger relationships with their CFO.

Nancy Casey: I think it comes down to really measurement, right? If I think about how marketing people have been effective, right?

It's the traditional days of thinking about brand lead generation marketing campaigns. It's always been very effective and it's very important to get out there with your brand and your message. The challenge is, how do you quantify that? So the, I've seen successful. Marketing folks try to measure the successes of that and thinking about what's the revenue generation that you're gonna get from marketing campaigns, from lead generation, from these kind of marketing programs, because then it helps justify the budget.

So I would say that's one component as quantification. But then also CMOs can be very successful by leveraging data with the amazing amount of data that continues to be out there, to understand your consumer, your end customer, whether it's your existing customer, really evaluating who your best customers are.

Kind of stepping back and saying, are we looking at the right customers? Are we defining customers based on. Revenue based on profits, based on future growth opportunities. So asking these kind of questions among the C-Suite, I think really uplevel the CMO to more the strategic as opposed to maybe doing more lead gen on the backend.

It's more of the driving the overall strategy of the company, right? Yeah. Who are our best customers? So existing customers, but then you may also look at. Future opportunities as well to say, okay, we know we're here today, but the largest growth segment might be in the future that we need to start looking at.

And that's how CMOs I've seen increasingly helping to drive strategy for the company.

Jon Busby: Yeah, love that answer. So you talked a little bit about metrics there. So what metrics should. Should we be using with the CFO? What metrics are important to them?

Nancy Casey: Yeah, so I would say anytime there's marketing campaigns, there's lead generation.

I think that certainly quantifying what revenue, so for the budget, any type of metric that shows the revenue generation with that to justify the cost is absolutely important. And then I also think about. To my second point about looking at new customers and prospects and existing customers, you can quantify that as well.

For example, you can say that 20% of my customers, they may be a different subset that the CEO and the CFO are used to looking at. They could say, oh, we've traditionally looked at these B2B customers really analyze that. Are, are they really your best customers or are they always been there? And maybe the revenue seems to be there, but the growth trend is declining.


So you really have to kind of look at your customer base and say, Let's look at the customer base, whether it's new prospects or existing customers. And then the metric for that is, okay, we can start small. Maybe we do a, a target targeted market research. And then maybe there's a marketing event or there's a campaign or a very specific high touch event that we can start to reach out to new segments.

And then really measuring that to say, Hey, we decide to go big on what we think is a new growth opportunity with a customer segment. And, and here's the revenue that's been generating. And by the way, it's one of the biggest growth trends within the industry. That we can look at.

Jon Busby: Perfect. And so what was the most surprising question you had on the panel?

Nancy Casey: The most surprising question I would say measuring brand is always a challenging one for me because I'm coming from the software industry where I think about data all day long, right? So we think about data coming in from structured, from unstructured data. Customer data, financial data, product data, and trying to bring this together connected.

Measuring brand to me sometimes is somewhat of a challenge, right? I think, I think as a strong marketer, if at the end of the day, if you're working with your C-suite and you're together defining who is my target market? What is my brand? Who am I going after? What's your overall business objectives? Right?

I think that's the most critical thing that you can do, and certainly, you know, measuring your brand is very important because I feel like that comes after. But if you really are working together with your C-Suite, you're really defining those overall goals together with the CO, the CFO, the CEO, the CIO, and together defining that.

And then I think everything trickles. From there, like the brand, the marketing campaigns, the sales execution efforts, the product build. But as companies move from really being product to customer centric, that's a pretty big shift. People say that they're going in that direction, but it's hard to move big companies coming in that direction and they'll get there.

But I think that you start off with a strategy and things like then that really helps define your brand and all these other execution efforts.

Jon Busby: Perfect. And so last question. This is the, this is the shortest one, but the one where each word counts. So in five words or less, what advice would you give a CMO for future success?

Nancy Casey: Focus on. Customer and data.

Jon Busby: Thank you so much, Nancy. That was awesome.

Nancy Casey: Great. Thank you so much.

Jon Busby: Thanks for tuning in for another episode of the Masters of B2B Marketing in association with the ANAs, looking for more insights. Be sure to explore our other episodes showcasing some brilliant leaders in the B2B world.

And of course, don't forget to hit subscribe to Stay up to date with the latest in the Tech Marketing podcast.

Add Extra content or sources citations here