Tips for Improving Relationships

Historically, tensions between the chief financial officer (CFO) and the head of marketing have often resulted from misalignment of long-term and short-term goals.

While CFOs are required to submit quarterly financial reports to shareholders, marketers focus more on long-term goals, such as brand value — which can be abstract.

Thankfully, the CFO’s role has changed over the past few years, as most CFOs are no longer business office supervisors focused on cost cutting and oversight.

Instead, many CFOs are now actively engaged in organizational growth strategies designed to offset losses in any economic environment.

Ideally, this common goal should naturally align with the goals of many marketers and create synergies in the future.

However, many organizations struggle to create proper symmetry between top management and keep data in silos.

What’s more, I’ve dealt with many CFOs in the past who simply don’t understand the benefits of SEO and how it differs from traditional marketing.

Unfortunately, for many agencies, this has created considerable frustration when it comes to updating clients and getting proper budget allocations for projects.

Therefore, educating CFOs and SEO professionals about each other’s roles and processes is important to breaking down the disconnect that prevents them from aligning around the same business goals and objectives.

The Importance of CFO and SEO Alignment

According to a Deloitte study, at least 73% of organizations reporting that executives are aligned on marketing performance metrics experienced positive revenue growth over the past year.

Data shows that CFO and marketing alignment around goals, key performance indicators (KPIs) and language clearly leads to greater business growth.

As CFOs begin to prioritize long-term growth over cost cutting, this creates an opportunity for SEO professionals to understand their goals and strategies and justify higher budget allocations.

With this in mind, we need to identify the barriers that prevent this natural pairing and explore ways to overcome these deficiencies for better symmetry.

How to Improve Your SEO-CFO Relationship

Create a shared language

As SEO professionals, we understand that marketing can provide any organization with better long-term stability than short-term one-time sales.

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

CFOs cannot understand the goals of an SEO team without real numbers or a shared understanding of marketing performance metrics and terminology.

Furthermore, it is impossible for SEO professionals to translate these strategies into results without tangible financial metrics to show the CFO.

Ultimately, it’s up to the SEO team to educate the CFO about their strategy and how this can benefit their business financially.

Otherwise, CFOs may be reluctant to put money into activities they deem abstract.

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

For example, assigning value to prospects and forecasting their revenue enables CFOs to plan budgets. SEO professionals can also assign value to intangible assets such as brand equity to better communicate their value in a way the CFO understands.

Another way SEO professionals need to educate CFOs is around the budgeting process.

For example, marketing budgets are often used for multiple activities that are amortized over time. However, this is usually not reflected in the CFO’s income statement.

In this example, the SEO professional must clearly outline these considerations to the CFO to avoid budget cuts due to unused or improperly allocated funds.

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

Create common goals

If you really want to build alignment around common goals and language, coordinate with your CFO to track performance data using the same metrics and KPIs.

While marketers are free to get the granularity they want, ultimately it’s up to department heads to agree on a few key metrics.

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

  • Return on Investment (ROI): The overall profit generated from the SEO marketing campaign.
  • Customer Lifetime Value (CLV): The estimated net profit that the customer will contribute throughout the relationship with the company. This tells the CFO roughly the value of brand loyalty.
  • exchange rate: The number of people who visited the site and made a sale. This number estimates the efficiency of a marketing campaign.

However, as CFOs look to extract more insights from the data, adding quantitative value to KPIs will also go a long way in helping both teams align on a common goal – long-term growth. These KPIs may include market penetration, lead acquisition, and brand exposure.

connection data

Unfortunately, one of the biggest stumbling blocks for CFOs and SEO professionals is that finance officials often don’t see SEO as the most profitable person in their organization.

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

Thankfully, analytics software makes it easier than ever to assign quantitative value to activities that prove the value of a marketing team.

For example, by assigning sales to individual campaigns at the top of the sales funnel, marketers can show how they are actually adding value to the business.

Additionally, to help communicate ROI to the CFO, marketers can incorporate dotted reports that share the SEO team’s financial performance directly to the finance team.

Think of activities as financial portfolios

In the end, our focus tends to change the way CFOs think, not how we act or distribute information.

Since financial experts tend to think in terms of investments, why not showcase a marketing campaign like a portfolio?

With this approach, SEO professionals can link individual campaigns to investments in the portfolio and report any gains and losses on each investment directly in the statement to the CFO.

SEO professionals should also be wise to explain how these investments can help achieve long-term financial goals and support their business.

Again, most of these considerations depend on resolving differences of opinion.

By assigning financial value to individual activities and metrics, SEO professionals can better align around common business goals and growth strategies that increase their business.

By demonstrating the growth potential of the SEO team, they can get the necessary budget to function optimally, making the CFO look good.

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