8 Tips for Selling Social Marketing to CFOs


Marketers are usually challenged to justify word of mouth social media marketing programs to the finance department. With economic challenges ahead, your job doesn’t get easier.

As someone who’s focuses on both creative and measurement, and as Interim CFO at Bazaarvoice, I started thinking more about the question of what marketers need to sell CFOs on the social marketing opportunity. Ultimately everything comes down to the bottom line – drive revenue, margin or costs down – but every marketing strategy has a different familiarity, timeline to ROI, or measurements that have to tie back to the P&L. So the approach to start, grow and sustain social marketing through the eyes of the finance department will differ from doing business as usual. And the justification needs to span beyond the numbers to get the entire management team to understand the ‘ecosystem’ effect of how customers make purchase decisions in a networked world.

I posed a question on LinkediN question to my marketing peers and colleagues: With the economic downturn, how will you convince the CFO that "social" marketing is a priority?

I’ve summarized the 25 answers to the question into these 8 tips:

  1. Provide financial leaders with hard facts—give numbers representing the anticipated dollar value of social media marketing compared to its cost (ex: anticipated ROI) for your company, cite research on the proven effectiveness of social media (ex: reviews/testimonials turn potential customers into actual customers, which is crucial, especially during an economic downturn) and emphasize that a company should always aim to drive sales (especially when proven tools for doing so exist!)
  2. Emphasize that capital expenditures necessary for social marketing are often minimal compared to other forms of marketing (even if the time and effort necessary for social media marketing is equivalent to traditional forms of marketing, the return on investment has the potential to be much higher), emphasize that driving $1 of sales revenue costs less with social media marketing than with traditional marketing, investing in social media marketing can help companies reduce cost drivers during an economic downturn (ex: Ratings & Reviews result in lower product returns and thus lower unnecessary costs associated with them)
  3. Demonstrate the value to your company of existing social media and how new social media initiatives would create more value than (and could possibly replace) stale company practices in place today (ex: compare direct revenue from social media marketing to that raised by other traffic, demonstrate value of free social media marketing as an argument for additional social media marketing investment)
  4. Explain that social media marketing creates brand ambassadors who market for free—social media marketing represents a cost-effective marketing alternative that drives actual results and can spur a viral marketing campaign
  5. Note that social media is here to stay—the proven effectiveness of social media and consumer dependence on it indicate it is here to stay and failure to partake will result in missed opportunities (becoming actively involved in social media will give your company a chance to influence what’s being said about your brand as well as a chance to listen and respond to the current conversation)
  6. Keep tabs on the effective social media marketing initiatives of your competitors—it’s important not to fall behind
  7. Identify social media tools used effectively by other companies and think of which social media tools will help you deliver what your customers want
  8. Show the CFO SEO—For example, present the CFO with consumer feedback about your company already on the Web (Google your company) to encourage his/her interest in developing a dialogue with those consumers

9 Responses

  1. Jay Deragon says:

    Excellent post, I’ll use it and reference it in my blog this week

  2. I agree with your points, but you need to back them up with some numbers (and maybe a case study or two). That connection between social media and increased sales still seems to be missing for most companies – I’m certainly not seeing ANY real-world case studies (esp in the B2B world where I live). Without that the rest of the business case simply isn’t there.

  3. Social Networking also is a mindset not just a business marketing model. Not suggesting that you suggested that, if that makes sense. Social Marketing really is a philosphy and part of a much larger strategy.

  4. Selling the untangible is always a hard sell to number crunchers.

  5. Ken Kaufman says:

    Good points. In a lot of ways, social media is no different than other marketing efforts that are not closely tracked to understand the results they bring. If a company can track the actual results of social media to their firm, then the CFO will not only buy-in, but he/she will probably become one of your biggest advocates.
    The best way to do it is start small, track your results, and then ask for an increase in budget based on your proven traction and conversion rate.

  6. Robert Ford says:

    Good article and summary. Gaining insights by crowdsourcing responses from sites like LinkedIn Answers is a great way of showing the power of social media in its own right.
    The challenge a lot of us face in selling these concepts is in finding a way to overcome the traditional right brain / left brain way of viewing things. Other tools are so much easier to sell (e.g. pay per click, direct marketing, etc.), because they lend themselves readily to measurement, which means that ROI can be calculated. It is much tougher (in the short term, at least) to measure the ROI on deeper customer relationships, market insights, extended reach (through using your customers as brand ambassadors, etc.).

  7. Great information ! I’m going to share it with our clients.
    Thanks & Take Care,
    Rachel, Social Media Marketing

  8. I agree with your point! Although this is my first visit here, I find your blog and your posts very insightful. Keep up the good work. thanks for the tips. I’m impress.

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