Commentary: Marketing and accounting: Better together
Posted: 4:08 pm Wed, October 31, 2012
A marketer and a chief financial officer walk into a bar …
That isn’t the start of a bad joke. Today’s marketing teams are looking to get a leg up on the competition, and are being asked to look at the numbers like never before.
CFOs and operations teams may see marketing as the giant overhead number on the spreadsheets, but even they have to understand how future business is obtained. So, if marketers and accountants are not talking regularly, they should today! To get started, here are a few things the teams may want to discuss.
What does future revenue look like?
When it comes to those somewhat unpredictable future sales, no one can help forecast with more truth than marketers. They know their leads and the best real chance to win the work. Get them involved early in the reporting and it can only improve those revenue projections.
Where are overhead dollars most effective?
The marketing department might love easy-to-fill-out time cards, but the simple shift to the use of business development tracking numbers for timekeeping and project management open up a wealth of information. Why? Because when staffers split their marketing efforts like billable work, marketing and accounting will finally have those numbers that sales and operations managers are always asking for.
With accounting assistance, a system can be set up to report numbers such as sales by market segments or clients. It can even address that age-old question: How much did it really cost to pursue that new client or market?
Does the proposal have detail?
Accounting is a never-ending wealth of knowledge and information. Marketers, please learn what they and their tools can do. Accounting systems can usually look up team members on jobs, work done with specific vendors, and even a history of work with a client. This translates to powerful proposal or interview statements with details most firms don’t get too.
Does the proposal say something like, “We have worked with ABC Company for over a decade”? What if marketing, with a little help from accounting, could turn it into something like, “For 11 years Bill, Joe, June and Craig have been helping the ABC Company with five projects totaling $2.5 million in fees”? Now there is the beef!
Is there a good story to tell?
Marketing teams often have to dig through old submittals, interview staffers, or beg and plead for that text explaining what a great project manager the firm has. In the end it is often written out something like, “Bill is always responsive and excited to do this work.” But we know it has been written before!
With a little sleuthing via the accounting team, the text could easily turn into something like, “Bill has been with our firm since 2004. Since joining us, he has managed five projects with budgets this size or larger. All of these projects have come in on time and under budget.” Now, that really paints the picture for the client!
While these are only a few examples of simple dialogue, some firms do in fact take it a step further with super fancy integrated database systems that let accounting and marketing share information without even visiting each other. This is where the really juicy stuff starts to develop and these tools can heat up marketing and accounting reports.
With that said, a firm doesn’t need anything fancy to get started. Just sharing a bit of knowledge between the teams and the difference in both business development and operational reporting will be noticed. So, pull up a barstool and let me know how the conversation goes.
Stacey Ho is the 2012-13 president of the Society for Marketing Professional Services’ Oregon chapter. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. A version of this column originally appeared in Daily Journal of Commerce (Ore.), sister publication to The Daily Record.