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By Andrew Wilson
Between Marketing, Operations, & Finance in Corporate Strategy
In the dynamic realm of business, where every decision can have major implications, the intersection of marketing, operations, and finance becomes critical. Executives often find themselves navigating the delicate balance between creating compelling marketing campaigns and maintaining fiscal discipline. To elevate marketing from a creative endeavor to a strategic asset, a deeper understanding of the intricacies of operations and finance is necessary. In this article, we delve into the key facets that finance executives believe marketers need to know when planning and executing campaigns.

1. The Well Is Not Bottomless

Finite Capital

Understanding the finite nature of capital (money) in any organization should guide all decisions, marketing or otherwise. Every dollar spent on marketing is a dollar not available for other crucial facets of business operations. Capital is often scarce and there are competing needs for it—acquisitions (especially in consolidating industries, like engineering and architecture), investing in new technologies, and client-delivery capabilities, employee compensation and welfare, dividends to shareholders, and more.
Imagine a chessboard where each piece represents a dollar in the budget. As marketers make strategic moves, they must be mindful of the broader corporate chess game, understanding that their actions directly impact the company’s ability to invest in other competing areas. A successful marketing campaign isn’t just about generating revenue, it’s about economically maximizing the overall health and growth of the organization.
Understanding the finite nature of capital involves acknowledging that budgets are not boundless. Each dollar must be strategically deployed to achieve the greatest impact. This goes beyond an organization’s financials, flowing into human resources. Like financial capital, an organization’s human capital is limited and should be deployed to the highest and best use. It’s hard to overstate the importance of marketers developing a keen awareness of the resource-constrained landscape in which they operate.

2. The Metrics That Matter

Return on Investment

While creativity is the heart of marketing, finance executives stress the importance of marrying it with a data-driven mindset. Return on investment (ROI) is not just a buzzword, it is the bedrock upon which financial decisions rest.
Ideally, marketers will remember to always view campaigns through a financial lens, demonstrating how each dollar contributes to the bottom line. By understanding the correlation between marketing spend, revenue, and profit generated, marketers can justify budgets and provide tangible evidence of campaign impact. This is especially important in the engineering and architecture industries, where competition is fierce and profit margins are generally thin.

Marketing initiatives should not only aim for immediate returns but also contribute to the long-term value of the brand. Marketers who articulate how their campaigns build brand equity and customer loyalty over time are speaking the language of finance.
For instance, consider a marketing campaign that focuses not only on short-term sales but also on cultivating a strong brand image. This approach may result in a higher upfront cost, but the long-term impact on customer loyalty and brand perception can be substantial, contributing positively to the ROI over time.
Additionally, measuring the effectiveness of marketing campaigns goes beyond immediate sales figures. Marketers should consider a comprehensive set of key performance indicators that align with broader organizational goals. Metrics, such as customer acquisition cost, customer lifetime value, and brand sentiment, can provide a more holistic view of a campaign’s success.

3. A Strategic Compass

The Budget Blueprint

Developing a budget is not just a procedural task; it is the blueprint for a marketing campaign’s success. Especially for large marketing campaigns and project pursuits, meticulous planning and adherence to budgets should be viewed as strategic compasses rather than rigid constraints. A well-constructed budget aligns marketing efforts with overall corporate goals, ensuring that the allocation of resources is strategic and purposeful.
However, we must also acknowledge that the business landscape is ever-evolving, and flexibility within the budget is crucial. Marketers should be prepared to adapt strategies based on real-time data, industry trends, and competitive dynamics while still adhering to an overarching financial framework. This can be applied in practice through updating periodic financial forecasts to the original budget.
The budgetary process, when approached strategically, becomes a dynamic tool for decision-making rather than a static set of numbers. Marketers should collaborate with finance teams during the budgeting phase to ensure alignment with broader financial objectives. This partnership fosters a shared understanding of the financial constraints and opportunities, enabling marketing teams to craft strategies that are both creative and financially responsible.

4. A Powerful Duo

The Symbiosis of Marketing and Finance

Executives envision a corporate landscape where marketing and finance operate in symbiosis rather than isolation. The two disciplines, often perceived as disparate entities, possess complementary strengths that, when harnessed collaboratively, can drive tangible results.
Marketers bring creativity, innovation, and customer insights to the table. Finance, on the other hand, offers a disciplined approach to resource allocation, risk management, and quantitative analysis. Executives advocate for cross-functional collaboration that integrates the best of both worlds, allowing organizations to navigate the complexities of modern business with agility and foresight.
The synergy between marketing and finance goes beyond the mere execution of campaigns. It involves a shared language and understanding of each other’s objectives. Successful marketers actively seek insights from finance teams and involve them in strategic discussions from the early stages of campaign planning.

Consider a scenario where a marketing team is contemplating a significant investment in a new digital marketing platform. From a marketing perspective, the potential benefits may seem evident, but finance teams can provide valuable insights into the total cost of ownership, potential ROI, and the impact on cash flow. This collaborative approach ensures that decisions are not made in silos but are informed by a holistic view of both creative and financial considerations.

5 . From Vanity to Value

Evolving Metrics

Executives stress the need for marketers to evolve their approach to metrics. Moving beyond metrics, such as likes and shares, to those that align to financial outcomes or business goals. While social media engagement and website traffic are important, they should be viewed as part of a broader metrics ecosystem that contributes to the overall financial health of the organization.
For example, executives encourage marketers to explore the correlation between marketing efforts and client retention. By understanding the impact of marketing initiatives on client loyalty, marketers can demonstrate contributions to long-term revenue streams. This shift in mindset requires a more nuanced understanding of the client journey and the ability to attribute marketing activities to various touch points along the way.
Moreover, marketing plays a key role in enhancing client lifetime value (CLV). Beyond acquiring new clients, marketers need to focus on strategies that foster repeat work and upselling opportunities. By aligning marketing efforts with CLV, marketers contribute not only to short-term revenue goals but also to the sustained profitability of the organization.

6 . Navigating Uncertainty

Agility in Action

The business landscape is inherently uncertain, marked by rapid technological advancements, shifts in markets and client behavior, and unforeseen global events. Hence, the importance of agility in marketing strategies to effectively navigate this uncertainty.
Agility involves more than just adapting to changing circumstances; it requires a proactive approach to anticipate shifts in the market and respond swiftly. Marketers need to build flexibility into their strategies, allowing for real-time adjustments based on data-driven insights.
Scenario planning is a strategy worth implementing. Anticipating various outcomes, both positive and negative, enables marketers to develop contingency plans and respond strategically to changing market conditions. This forward-thinking approach positions marketing as a proactive force, capable of driving growth even in the face of uncertainty.
And, finally, it’s important to remember the inherent difficulty in winning new client work. Regardless of how well-executed a campaign or pursuit is, sometimes the wins just don’t go your way.

Architects of Growth


Finance and operations executives yearn for a paradigm shift in the way marketers approach their roles within the broader corporate strategy. By understanding the finite nature of capital, embracing ROI and other key metrics, developing and adhering to budgets, fostering collaboration between marketing and finance, and embracing agility, marketers can position themselves as indispensable architects of growth.
As the business landscape continues to evolve, the synergy between marketing, operations, and finance becomes not just a competitive advantage but a prerequisite for sustainable success. By working together as strategic partners, marketing, operations, and finance executives can help their organizations unlock untapped potential and navigate the complexities of the modern business landscape with confidence and resilience. The future belongs to those who can seamlessly integrate creativity and financial acumen, creating a harmonious symphony of growth and innovation.
Andrew Wilson is a Senior President of Financial Services at Stantec. He oversees the North America operational finance group and has worked in various finance roles at Stantec and in the AEC industry for 25 years. He is located in Boulder, Colorado.
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