Tips to improve your relationship

In the past, tensions between chief financial officers (CFOs) and marketing executives often stemmed from a misalignment between long-term and short-term goals.

While CFOs are required to provide quarterly financial reports to shareholders, marketers are more often fixated on long-term goals like brand equity — which can be abstract.

Fortunately, the role of the CFO has evolved in recent years as most CFOs are no longer just business hall monitors concerned with cost cutting and oversight.

Rather, many CFOs today actively participate in organizational growth strategies designed to counteract losses in any economic environment.

Ideally, this common goal should naturally align with the goals of many marketers and create synergy later.

However, many organizations struggle to create adequate symmetry between C-suite executives and keep data in silos.

Also, I’ve dealt with many CFOs in the past who just didn’t understand the merits of SEO and how it differs from traditional marketing.

Unfortunately, this has led to frustration for many agencies when it comes to renewing clients and getting proper budget allocation for projects.

Therefore, it is important to educate CFOs and SEO professionals about each other’s roles and processes in order to break the disconnect that is preventing them from aligning with the same business goals and objectives.

The importance of CFO and SEO alignment

According to a study by Deloitte, at least 73% of companies reporting a C-suite alignment with marketing KPIs saw positive revenue growth over the past year.

The data shows that clear CFO and marketing alignment on goals, key performance indicators (KPIs) and language leads to greater business growth.

As CFOs begin to prioritize long-term growth over cost-cutting, this provides SEO professionals with an opportunity to educate them on their goals and strategies, and make the case for increased budget allocation.

With this in mind, we need to identify obstacles that hinder this natural pairing and find ways to overcome these pitfalls for better symmetry.

How to improve the relationship between SEO and CFO

Create a common language

As SEO professionals, we understand that marketing offers any business better long-term stability over short-term, one-time sales.

However, qualitatively communicating brand equity and loyalty to a CFO is like explaining how your favorite football team will win the Super Bowl next year.

Without real numbers or a shared understanding of marketing performance metrics and terminology, CFOs can’t understand the SEO team’s goals.

Additionally, without tangible financial metrics, it may be impossible for SEO professionals to translate these strategies into results to present to CFOs.

Ultimately, it’s up to the SEO team to educate CFOs about their strategies and the financial benefits to their business.

Otherwise, CFOs may be reluctant to pour money into what they see as abstract campaigns.

SEO professionals need to find ways to translate broad metrics from customer acquisition and lead generation into value-based business impact.

For example, CFOs can plan budgets by assigning values ​​to leads and forecasting their earnings. SEO professionals can also assign a value to intangible assets like brand equity to better convey their value in the CFO’s sense.

Another way SEO professionals need to educate CFOs is through budget processes.

For example, marketing budgets are often used for multiple campaigns that pay for themselves over time. However, this is not often reflected in CFOs’ income statements.

In this example, SEO professionals need to make these considerations clear to CFOs to avoid budget cuts due to unused or misallocated funds.

However, if SEO professionals and CFOs want to speak the same language, they need to start pursuing the same goals and KPIs.

Create common goals

If you really want to achieve alignment on shared goals and language, coordinate with your CFO using the same metrics and KPIs to track performance data.

While marketers are free to get as detailed as they like, it’s ultimately up to department heads to agree on a few key metrics.

For example, these key metrics can be directly translated into financial terms that create a common language between SEOs and CFOs:

  • Return on Investment (ROI): The total profit generated from an SEO marketing campaign.
  • Customer Lifetime Value (CLV): The estimated net profit that a customer will contribute to a company during their relationship. This roughly tells CFOs the values ​​of brand loyalty.
  • Exchange rate: The number of people who visit a website and make a sale. This number estimates the effectiveness of a marketing campaign.

However, as CFOs look to derive more insights from data, adding quantitative value to KPIs will also greatly help both teams align toward common goals—namely, long-term growth. These KPIs can include market penetration, lead acquisition, and brand exposure.

connecting the data

Unfortunately, one of the biggest stumbling blocks for CFOs and SEO professionals is that finance executives often don’t see SEOs as the main moneymakers in a company.

Additionally, many CFOs simply don’t understand how SEO makes money or relates to their long-term goals.

Fortunately, thanks to analytics software, it’s easier than ever to assign a quantitative score to campaigns that proves the worth of the marketing team.

For example, by allocating sales to individual marketing campaigns at the top of the sales funnel, marketers can demonstrate how they create physical value for a business.

Additionally, to help CFOs communicate ROI, marketers can integrate dotted line reports that feed SEO team financial performance directly to the finance team.

Think of campaigns as a financial portfolio

After all, we tend to change the way CFOs think – not how we act or disseminate information.

Since financial professionals tend to think in investment terms, why not present marketing campaigns like an investment portfolio?

With this approach, SEO professionals can link individual campaigns to investments in a portfolio and report all gains and losses from each investment directly in a statement to CFOs.

SEO professionals would also be wise to illustrate how these investments will contribute to long-term financial goals and fuel their business.

Again, most of these considerations depend on resolving differences in perspectives.

By assigning financial value to individual campaigns and metrics, SEO professionals can better align with common business goals and growth strategies that grow their business.

And by demonstrating the growth potential of the SEO team, they can acquire the necessary budget they need to do their best and thereby make the CFO look good.

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Featured image: fizkes/Shutterstock

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