B2B Marketing and Finance Alignment: Balance Makes for a Stronger Business In Uncertain Times
Poor alignment can steer your car off course, and similar can be said of your business. Lack of alignment between each department can result in missed opportunities, unachieved targets, and even animosity amongst your teams.
With a recession knocking on our doors, B2B organizations don’t have the luxury of relying solely on individual departments' independent efforts to drive and sustain the business. Now, more than ever, it is essential for businesses to look inward at what is needed to bring their teams together for the shared purpose of doing what is in the best interest of the organization as a whole.
Gone are the days of departments siloed in their cubicles, passing along their contributions in an assembly line towards the business’s goals. Instead, high-performing businesses are aligning their departments in an effort to increase transparency, enhance collaboration, and work towards shared objectives.
Ready to see better collaboration between your B2B marketing and finance departments? BOL and B2B In The Black, a collection of marketing, finance, and operations leaders in the B2B space, conducted a survey to learn more about how marketing and finance work together, and identify areas for improvement. Using our findings and advice from these B2B rockstars, we’re here to help you develop better alignment in your business.
Aligning B2B Marketing & Finance
It may seem obvious that alignment begins with communication, but this is an essential element that many businesses let fall through the cracks. And we’re not talking about watercooler talk or pings on your favorite messenger app–we mean structured, purposeful, and ongoing collaboration that centers around your business objectives. So, what does aligned communication look like? Let’s dive a little deeper.
Frequent Communication Means Better Collaboration
In the B2B Marketing and Finance Benchmark survey conducted by BOL and B2B In The Black, the majority of companies reported that their marketing and finance teams meet quarterly to discuss objectives and performance.
“It was shocking to see that there are marketing and finance teams out there that only meet annually and quarterly to discuss things like goals, KPIs, strategies, and budget,” Rob Goldenberg, CFO of 6sense says, “Building trust comes from meeting more than quarterly or annually.”
It’s recommended that B2B marketing and finance teams meet monthly to review performance and ensure consistent alignment on their shared goals. This helps both teams stay on track and remain accountable for their contributions. Meeting quarterly or less could result in wasted resources or ineffective campaigns that could have been remedied earlier.
Rob also brings up another interesting point, which is the facilitation of trust between marketing and finance. Teams that share mutual respect and understanding will outperform those that aren’t focused on alignment. Regular meetings can help build meaningful relationships between departments and enhance collaboration.
“If more marketing leaders were more vocal about what they could do for the business, it would happen more often,” says Jay Gaines, CMO at AgentSync. “I don’t think there’s resistance from CEOs, or CFOs, or heads of sales, or anybody like that to hear it. But I don’t think it’s being offered as much as it could be.”
Recognizing the Value of Marketing Beyond LeadGen
Another way to enhance alignment between B2B finance and marketing teams is to use marketing’s capabilities to the fullest extent. While lead generation is one of marketing’s main duties, it’s far from the only contribution this department can make to your company.
Jay says, “The fact is, not everything that marketing does, in fact, a lot of what marketing does, you can’t just draw a straight line to ROI for every dollar that’s spent.”
Our survey revealed that general marketing expenditure decreased by 6.2% of overall budget allocation despite all other budget allocations expanding over the fiscal year.
“If you’re looking at sales and marketing spend as a whole, marketing’s percentage of that envelope should be increasing. And it’s because of the way buyers are evaluating their purchases, they’re doing it all digitally. So, that’s tough if you’re in a sales agency. If this plays as I think we all believe it will, you may be reducing the size of your salesforce, expecting more bookings per head. It should be more efficient. If there’s more digital engagement and more digital evaluation of options and buying happening more passively through digital channels, your sales team should be more efficient and it should be a smaller cost,” says Drew Chapin, VP of Marketing at Hyland.
Many of our leaders agreed that the decrease in marketing expenditure was a surprising direction and believe this may result in untapped potential.
Marketing has the ability to do more than generate leads, it can also:
- Create a consistent and memorable brand experience
- Nurture relationships with both potential and existing customers
- Maintain client retention and engagement
- Drive overall brand awareness
Drew adds, “The role of marketing is evolving, especially when it relates to long-term customer value, customer retention, and customer satisfaction.” While it can be more difficult to measure marketing’s direct impact on these actions, it’s not impossible.
B2B in the Black leaders advise companies to look for the ways marketing can contribute to goals outside of lead generation and direct pipeline impact.
“What I advocate for is aligning with your finance leaders and leadership team on how you’re going to measure those things that go outside of directly attributable ROI,” says Christine Gately-Evans, marketing leader and brand builder.
She recommends that finance and marketing work together to create a report card with measurable performance metrics on marketing activities outside typical lead generation. This will ensure that both teams understand how marketing can affect other areas of the business and what’s expected from these efforts.
Building an Internal Partnership Model
Sometimes friction exists between marketing and finance departments in any organization. Clashes in budget recommendations, marketing attribution, and performance can reduce productivity, but proper alignment can help fix these issues.
“You aren’t independent,” Christine says of each department, “You are partners in building a business.”
One way to bring teams together is to incorporate empathy into your workplace.
How Empathy Contributes to Alignment
While the B2B industry can be very data and tech-driven, it’s important to remember that behind every spreadsheet or email is a real-life human. In today’s business world, cold corporate bosses are out, and an empathetic workplace is in. Empathy can be used as a tool to bring your departments closer together and foster better working relationships.
“I think that there’s some empathy that’s needed on what the marketing team needs to gel as a team, but also to understand the business and the contributions and the leverage that person can pull from their toolkit to contribute to the business,” Christine adds, “It comes down to understanding the different departments’ roles and contribution and potential.”
Here are a few ways your organization can encourage understanding between your B2B marketing, finance, and sales teams:
- Cross-functional training to help individuals better understand the roles in other departments and who is responsible for what
- Regular meetings to discuss recent wins, future goals, and upcoming initiatives
- Work in interdepartmental pods to better connect the dots throughout the sales funnel
“I think, fundamentally, it starts with being able to build a trusted relationship with any leader you have to work with within an organization, and that trust has to be built over time. And how is trust built? I mean, we’re human. Human to human connection is about relatability and being able to relate on a human level, relate on a professional level. But if you come at it with an open, honest, and transparent method… because at the end of the day there’s always going to be some kind of business driver to get us there… there are things that bring you together and align you. And you have to look for those opportunities to continue to build on that relationship,” says Rashmi Vittal, CMO for Productiv.
The Impact of People Driven Culture
One might not automatically think of company culture when discussing B2B marketing and finance alignment, but the two concepts can actually be interconnected.
Our survey found that 75% of respondents said their finance team was highly likely to approve the budget to hire and retain top talent. But money isn’t everything.
As Drew points out, “We’re going to run out of money, all of us here, soon, if the trends continue because we’re paying significantly higher salaries and bonuses to attract new people and retain them. So we have to focus on these other things to keep people around.”
Christine notes, “The majority of retention is in comp. And that’s where people are putting money. But you can’t throw enough money to fix a toxic culture. You make a promise to your employees through your values, your company values, and adhering to those company values is what creates culture. Those things are so inextricably linked that when you start pulling it apart, it might have to do with the values at the top.”
Filling your company with the right people is a proactive step in creating better relationships among your departments. For example, hiring leaders with some shared business philosophies could enhance collaboration amongst teams.
Rashmi says, “You have to authentically have these values that you know your leadership really adhere to. They embody it, they embrace it, they exemplify it every day and they don’t do it in a forced manner - it's very natural. So anytime you’re adding new people to the leadership team you have to assess whether they also embody and embrace those values and they can authentically display them on a day in and day out basis. If you put it out there and you put out the positive energy and you put out the good vibes, you want people to feed off of that and that’s going to push things forward. That’s really important.”
Healthy conflict does have the power to challenge your business to continually improve, but your leadership teams still need to work together to come to the best consensus.
The members of our B2B in the Black panel also cite that culture is a big reason they have remained loyal to companies themselves.
Tillster CMO, Hope Neiman shares, “It’s about building a culture that embraces the ability that you can be a risk-taker and not fail. That you have an opportunity to try new things without somebody constantly looking only at the metric and that you’re only as good as your last performance. I think that’s something that employees, or partners really, in your business that you are looking to bring in are really hungry for at this point.”
Riccardo Caruso, Senior Director of eCommerce and Digital Solutions for Cepheid adds, “People feel motivated when they are part of something bigger. They have a purpose. It’s not only about culture, but purpose.”
Reduced employee turnover benefits all teams, as finance will have to allocate fewer resources to recruiting, and marketing can keep their team intact long enough to see campaigns through B2B’s particularly long sales cycles.
Looking at Marketing From a Holistic Perspective
In the end, there’s no singular way to improve alignment between B2B marketing and finance teams–instead, businesses need to take a multi-faceted approach to achieving this goal.
“I think one of the things that’s applicable to every business because there’s no one type of culture, but the thing you have to have in every business is alignment throughout the organization. Finding alignment with those people is going to be crucial. And in some cases, it means you’re going to have to lose people because you just won’t have alignment. And then you’re going to have to backfill or augment with folks that are aligned to the overall company mission. I think that’s a little bit different, or maybe just augments culture,” says Rob.
Finding balance between data-driven performance and holistic marketing methods, your company can begin to create a true partnership where every department feels valued and better positioned to meet uncertainty head-on, together.
To get more insight into what top B2B finance and marketing leaders have to say about the current state of alignment in their organizations, get the infographic now.