February 01, 2022

How One Marketing Director Fought Back

The worst matchup in the marketing / finance battle is a marketing director who is bad at math fighting against a CFO who is good at math. This matchup happens all the time, it is a one-sided matchup, and it is one of the reasons that marketing leadership is sent packing every-other-year.

The best matchup in the marketing / finance battle is a former accountant who now runs marketing, fighting against a CFO who is good at math.

Every time the CFO went after this individual, the individual came armed and ready for a battle. And oh my goodness were those battles exciting. I was there for them, in person. The Marketing Director went after everybody who didn't possess the title of "CFO".

  • "Why are we featuring an item on the home page that has a 44% return rate? We're losing money on every one of these widgets. Stop it!!"
  • "Your gross margin on this widget is 19%. Why would we do that? Are we stupid? This widget is responsible for 2% of your sales and we can barely mark the item up because of pricing pressure? Why would we even sell the item?"
  • "This item sells at half the rate it sold at two years ago. Is anybody in merchandising even paying attention anymore?"
  • "Why did the inventory team buy 50% more widgets when we have no proven track record of selling more widgets? Are they stupid? Now we have to sell all this garbage at 50% off, and I'm being told to reduce marketing spend as a consequence. Why can't the inventory team wake up and behave in a rational manner?"
  • "Why is creative constantly rolling out Haley as a model? When Haley wears our stuff the productivity of the items drops by 30%. We all know this. So why do we keep doing it? Can somebody explain it to me in language a seven year old would understand?"
This marketing director would go into meetings with much higher paid Executives and just drop facts all over the room. The marketing director would go on the offensive, go after "low hanging fruit".

The marketing director figured out that the key to success was manipulating the "Profit Factor". If she could increase the profit factor by 2.5 points, earnings before taxes would dramatically increase. So she'd do all the research. She knew which items impacted the profit factor most. She knew that return rates were critical. She knew that gross margins were critical. She knew that creative strategy impacted merchandise productivity.

She wasn't dumb.

She wasn't exactly kind, either.

But she got things done.

And she deflected all of the horrible comments away from the Marketing team, a team that didn't deserve the static they received.

I was there, I watched it happen.

It was amazing!

On Twitter, I asked readers what percentage of marketers know which items were among the top 100 sellers at their company. The respondent could choose between 0%, 15%, 45%, and 85%. Almost all answers were 0% or 15%. In other words, readers knew that marketers do not understand what sells. And if the marketer has no idea what sells, how can the marketer even market to the customer in the first place?

Borrow the strategy used by the Marketing Director mentioned above. You don't have to be nasty about pointing out flaws, be kind instead. But by all means, realize that if your CFO is demanding that you become more profitable, focus attention on all of the little pieces of the puzzle that yield more profit ... and shift accountability toward those who evade accountability.

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