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The CMO/CFO Relationship: An Adversary or Your Greatest Ally?




In many organizations and law firms, the CMO must work with the CFO even before a final budget is presented to the decision makers of a company or firm. In some organizations or firms this may be the role of the COO or Executive Director depending upon the size of the organization and structure. Marketing plans can be complex, especially when an organization is looking to create change – albeit cultural or a new market shift. CFOs (or the designated role in an organization) inherently combat dollars spent but can be a marketer’s greatest ally to set forth a path of both growth and change within a company/firm.


To truly create a cooperative environment between the CFO and CMO, there must be a shared alignment of company/firm culture and vision. All decision-making funnels through this value system and can make the relationship a lot more amicable. Here are some tips and tools to form a positive working relationship.


Collaborate to Become Allies


The CMO’s responsibility is to carefully define and understand your mission, goals and strategy. These must roll-up and have parallel themes to the overall company/firm culture and vision. Where you can show great connection between your ideas or campaigns to a broader company/firm umbrella goal, you will prove greater relevance. Mix your creativity with structure by ensuring you establish Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for any new programs or to support existing spend/resources. Minimize the unexpected by pre-thinking any anticipated questions, concerns, requests for data or “proof” that you have for your ideas. Own your own marketing budget - know the parts and pieces, the history of categories that have changes over time and areas of need for growth or minimization.


The CFO’s role is to get off the sidelines and become a partner in the process. It’s important that the CFO recognizes that structure should not impede creativity and that thinking on a macro level will lead to ultimate success. The CFO should help with accountability and assist the team with vendor management.


What are the Steps for Effective Collaboration?


1. Define your Objectives. Utilize key elements from your firm’s Strategic Plan to outline the goals and action items that fit nicely into the overall plan.


2. Determine Project Specifics. Be prepared with action items lists, responsibility assignments, and timelines for delivery. Make sure to establish goals, determine measurable outcomes, and identify any internal or external resources needed. You can also utilize outside properties to enhance task completion.


3. Put Ideas into Action. Work within the structure and culture of your company/firm. Try to secure your “Idea Champion” – if at a law firm, a managing partner, practice group leader or partner. Create face-time opportunities to meet with your champion to build greater buy-in and support. You can also involve your audience to get input and make the “owners” of the project.


4. Measure and Report. Work with your CFO to define measurement tools together. Focus on your audience’s information needs: What do they need to hear from you? Clarify what would make the most analytics sense for the CFO, the organization's leaders, attorneys, practice groups, committees and firm management. Each program or project can have a unique measuring tool or data assessment. Provide reports that are concise and include a limited number of key metrics. Watch and listen to your audience to understand which metrics they rely on for information.




Examples of Law Firm

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for

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5. Provide Resources. The company/firm can provide the right employees that meet the experience level prescribed in your job descriptions. Use industry market benchmarks to support your staffing requests, and do not underhire if you anticipate changing the business development perception within your organization or law firm. Financial resources recorded in the general ledger can also be measured and reported. There are technology tools like a contact management system, customer relationship management (CRM) system, public relations database, social media intelligence, marketing intelligence and financial reporting.


Business development and marketing efforts must be supported by a plan, goals and a process for achieving success. Programs and initiatives should be measured and reported with simple metrics. As CMO, you can be proactive in obtaining the resources needed to effectively run the program. Any firmwide collaboration will raise business development/marketing awareness and perpetuate an overall business development “cultural norm” internally.


Key Points on Changing Perception

1. Ensure business development is a key strategy of the organization.

2. Gain high profile support from leadership.

3. Actively involve a marketing committee or core group of senior leaders who will serve as ‘sherpas.’

4. Business development is not a one-off discussion.

5. Establish goals and measurements.

6. Give all professionals the opportunity to be involved.

7. Create the buzz through news sharing throughout your organization.

8. Perhaps most importantly, provide resources.


Adapted from a 2016 Legal Marketing Association Annual Presentation Jennifer Bankston co-presented, Austin, TX




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