By Samuel Brealey wrote an article titled Marketers, it’s time to grow up and talk to Finance.

« The Finance team are the stewards of the business world, they take care of the money. Marketers are supposed to deliver it, they are supposed to drive revenue, they are there to identify sources of income and to get it through to the finance department. Which means marketers need to understand the basics of finance. Again, it doesn’t have to be complicated in-depth understanding. It just has to be a common language. »

« If marketing is framed as a cost, it’s expendable »

Alastair Thompson works as an outsourced CFO for a number of companies. He says:  “be absolutely clear in their own minds about how they’re bringing in customers (or at least marketing qualified leads, if that’s how the process is structured), improving retention, generating referrals or whatever other business objectives the marketing has as that gives a solid basis for shared dialogue with the Finance Dept.”

« Finance are not as complicated as marketers think they are, their goals are summarised as follows:

  • Healthy and predictable cash flow.
  • Steady earnings growth, year after year.
  • Increasing shareholder value or financial value.
  • A credible story about future earnings to present to the CEO, board of directors and industry analysts.
  • A defensible set of controls on company expenditures.

Marketing should be contributing in some way to all of these points. If Marketing isn’t, then marketers should take a look in the mirror and think about why. »


See also this Q&A between Samuel Brealey and Alastair Thomson: Leading By Example: A Marketer Interviews a Chief Financial Officer (2019).

« Admittedly this is easier for digital or direct response marketing as those levers are easier to spot (even if we still don’t completely understand all the jargon), but a good CFO understands that the overall value of the business is often driven from its intangible assets (branding, market positioning, increased customer lifetime value, etc) so we’re generally happy to support the marketing team in those areas too. »

« Equally we understand that not everything is going to work, but if we’re testing a new strategy with a time-limited budget and review points to see if it’s better than whatever we’re doing now, that’s fine too. »

« if the “hard to quantify” part of the marketing budget is 20% of it, the likelihood is we’ll be fine with that. If it’s 80%, especially if the sales aren’t coming in according to budget, we’ll want to know what on earth is going on. »

« Marketers’ “secret weapon” for dealing with CFOs is to be absolutely clear in their own minds about how they’re bringing in customers (or at least marketing qualified leads, if that’s how the process is structured), improving retention, generating referrals or whatever other business objectives the marketing has as that gives a solid basis for shared dialogue with the Finance Dept. »


Alastair Thomson is the author of Cash Flow Surge and How to Build a Better Business Plan.

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