C-Sweet or C-Suites?

According to a recent survey from Active International, CEOs can best achieve business success by harnessing the combined expertise and skills of the company’s C-suite. Yet, to move at a fast enough speed to keep up with the accelerating business environment, it is imperative that the entire team is on the same page, meaning that alignment within the C-suite is critical to a CEO’s success.

The report says that, while 76% of CFOs and 77% of CMOs believe that alignment is highly or extremely important, only 45% of each group thinks that misalignment has a moderate or higher negative influence on their company’s financial results. Despite that perception, companies whose finance and marketing teams are in sync generally perform at a much higher level than those with disjointed efforts, says the report.

The survey also reveals that even when prioritizing areas in which they do align, the counterparts do not see eye to eye, though both indicate that they are most aligned when it comes to the overall direction of their business. It’s in the details where this alignment falls down. CFOs believe that they are most closely aligned with their CMO on financial priorities, while CMOs think they are most aligned with their CFO counterpart on business development initiatives. In companies where marketing works closely with finance, more than 40% outperformed expectations, says a Marketing 2020 survey.

Just 12% of CFOs surveyed rate their CMO as excellent at connecting marketing initiatives to the ROI, says the report, likely due to marketing’s less quantifiable components. It can be difficult to measure the effectiveness of a particular marketing program, even with growth of new types of metrics, notes the report. Outside of digital programs, most often it can take more than six months to fully ramp up and impact metrics in a meaningful way.

While marketing must represent the value that data brings to strategic programs, the reality is that many marketing programs are not easily measured. For instance, measuring the perceived value of a brand is difficult to quantify in a limited timeframe (i.e., six months to a year). How an advertising campaign moved that needle forward may take well beyond a year. Yet, because of the need to report figures to boards and Wall Street on a regular basis, companies have become overly focused on ROI of every component, which can take attention away from creating long-term business results, concludes the report.

CMOs and CFOs rank overall strategic direction of the business as the area where they are most aligned. Yet, even when agreeing on the big picture, the two groups have very different ideas about ways to achieve that business plan. Response to the question “On which issue are you most aligned with your counterpart?” shows the difference between the CMO and the CFO:

Most Aligned:


  • Overall strategic direction of the business
  • Business development objectives
  • Marketing and advertising objectives and budget
  • Financial priorities (tied for last)
  • Marketing priorities (tied for last)


  • Overall strategic direction of the business
  • Financial priorities
  • Business development objectives
  • Marketing and advertising objectives and budget
  • Marketing priorities

While different perspectives and ways of thinking between CFOs and CMOs can generate innovative ideas and solutions, extreme opposing views can prove detrimental to overall productivity and business growth, opines the report. So, how can CEOs support cooperative work between the CFO and CMO so that their strengths combine, asks the study. Summarized in the report as follows:

  • CEOs should encourage active communication between CFOs and CMOs to eliminate potential blind spots. Both positions deal heavily with finances; CFOs examine and manage them, while CMOs impact them, so sharing these details is vital.
  • CEOs can help CFOs and CMOs find commonalities. The counterparts typically use different tools, methodologies and jargon on a daily basis. By encouraging CFOs and CMOs to integrate their approaches, or at the very least language, CEOs can create a more streamlined and efficient atmosphere.
  • Finally, CEOs should work with CFOs and CMOs to commit to long-term success. CFOs may have to report financial updates on a quarterly basis, which can be difficult if a CMO’s marketing initiative takes many months to deliver a substantial ROI. In these cases, CEOs can help identify shorter-term marketing successes for CFOs to report.

Alignment within a company’s C-suite can be the difference between a successful company and one that is merely getting by, concludes the report. It is crucial that CEOs work with CFOs and CMOs to create an atmosphere of cooperation and teamwork. While the resulting conversations may not be easy at first, they will likely be the means to a new and improved working relationship, workplace atmosphere and business performance.

The full report, CMOs & CFOs: Collision or Collaboration, from Active International is available for download here.





1 comment about "C-Sweet or C-Suites? ".
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  1. Jessica Martinez from Penguin LLC, June 12, 2014 at 11:31 a.m.

    Have you considered the integration of internal task management software to help with these communication issues between CFOs and CMOs? We've been using several applications such as,,, and to help us with this. In all honesty, hitask is all you really need, but I find these all compliment each other. Great article, by the way.

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