If CMOs were asked to rank difficult conversations in the C-suite, my guess is ones with the CFO would be at the top of the list, second only to those with the CEO. As the designated holder-of-the-purse-strings and the (often stern) face of budget accountability, it often falls to the CFO to bring big plans back down to earth and to ask the question no one really wants to hear: “How much is that going to cost us?”

Most CMOs have gone a round or two over marketing spend or the ROI of a particular initiative, especially if it demands a significant upfront investment. But remember, the CFO does want what you want: for your strategy to be successful and for revenues to increase. So, if you want to put him/her at ease, you’ll need to be transparent about what you’re planning, how you’re using your budget and the kind of results you’re seeing. Here are a few key steps to help get you there:

  • Create a seamless approval process. Build a centralized location where you can organize your marketing initiatives for approval from your finance team. It’s a
    thoughtful nod to how busy they are—and keeps your plans moving forward.
  • Be compliance-friendly. If you’re on top of every penny you spend, you’ll create fewer headaches for your compliance officers and meet financial regulatory requirements.
  • Make the connection. Your marketing data needs to link with the financial data to make the clearest case possible for your ROI.
  • Share your results . . . and be willing to pivot. Give your CFO the capability to check in on the effectiveness of your marketing spend across your different brands and regions, and make sure you have the capabilities necessary to course correct in real time.

Much of what your CFO is eager to see comes down to the classic “single customer view:” a 360-degree, cross-enterprise understanding of who your customer is, developed through the aggregation and analysis of all your data. To ensure that picture is accurate—and actionable—data governance needs to be a major priority.

But how do you maximize the impact of the data you’re gathering for you and your CFO? Ask yourself the following questions to get up to speed:

  • Where is our data? Use a common data platform as the repository for all of your information including all of your offers and content across channels. This ensures the most accurate and up-to-date information is always available, for anyone who needs it across the enterprise.
  • Are we respecting our customer preferences in terms of how we use data? Your data and offers should subject to the preferences and permissions of your customers – keeping you on the right side of compliance.
  • Do our plans begin with real insights? The data in your customer warehouse holds the key to better campaign results, and every great strategy starts with actionable insights gleaned from that customer information. Add in insights gleaned from data patterns, customer interactions, marketing results and other digital marketing attribution channels.
  • How are we keeping track of our results? Keep your finger on the pulse by configuring personalized dashboards that provide real-time campaign visibility and creating a variety of reports that can be pulled at any time to measure success (or indicate the need for a shift).

Most of all, your CFO wants to know that you know what’s going on: who your customers are, what they want, how you’re connecting with them, what kind of results you’re getting . . . and how much bang you’re getting for your buck. Once you’re able to provide proof of your team’s performance and can proactively provide the CFO with the data he/she requires, your conversations in the C-suite are going to get a whole lot easier and – who knows? – you may even find you have a new, valuable ally.