How making finance a ‘strategic partner’ of marketing has benefited one B2B brand

In the first of our new series, A B2B Marketer’s Best Friend, we explore how the relationship between marketing and finance has evolved at software giant SAS.

It doesn’t matter the size of business, the sector, whether it’s B2B or B2C, the relationship between marketing and finance can often be fraught with tension.

Part of the issue, according to Jennifer Chase, executive vice-president and CMO at SAS, is the fact marketers are often seen as a cost centre. But alongside Peter Dean, vice-president of global finance at the firm, she has been working to flip this perception so marketing is instead viewed as a profit centre, “an enabling growth engine for the company”.

In the first episode of our new series, A B2B Marketer’s Best Friend, supported by The Marketing Practice, they discuss how the relationship between marketing and finance has evolved at SAS and how embedding finance into marketing has benefited the business.

While she says the relationship was never “adversarial”, she does admit it was too “transactional”, which is something her and Dean have been working to resolve.

Historically they would have annual discussions about budget and quarterly conversations to track how marketing was spending against that budget and the outcomes it was achieving. While those conversations still happen, she now describes that as the “baseline”. The relationship is now far more involved, with Dean and his team viewed as “strategic partners” to the marketing organisation.

Dean says it was “very intentional” on both sides to explore what they could do to drive that relationship forward, and talks about the need for “mutual alignment and commitment”.

The marketing and finance teams now have “highly strategic discussions” on investments at a project level, a campaign level and at a macro level in terms of marketing performance as a whole, Chase explains.

“The finance team is embedded in our organisation,” she adds. “They understand our objectives, our challenges, our hopes and our dreams of how we want to contribute to SAS, and then help us to make the right decisions in order to get there.”

By having this relationship and by understanding how finance views the business, Chase says it has also made her a stronger leader in the organisation.

“They’ve made me understand how to talk about marketing impact in financial terms,” she adds.

Watch the first episode of A B2B Marketer’s Best Friend for the full discussion, which also covers how SAS moved to this new dynamic, future plans to measure creative effectiveness and how to avoid common pitfalls that finance teams and marketers often encounter.

As part of the A B2B Marketer’s Best Friend series we will be exploring the relationships marketers have with other key stakeholders within the business. Look out for the next episode coming soon.