Not all CFOs are Grey!

This article appears in our Q3 2022 issue of Finance Transformation Magazine. To download the issue, click here

John Stovold, storyteller, brand builder, mentor and marketer explores what Business to Business (B2B) automation providers could do differently to attract CFOs, improving the relationships for both.

Many, many years ago I read 'The Vivero Letter' by Desmond Bagley. The main character was just an "ordinary" man, described by everyone as a "little grey man". An accountant who was dismissed as boring, cautious, and timid.

Why am I starting here?

Well, after a decade working in the Purchase to Pay (P2P) automation world, it seems to me that most people still think this about the CFO and Finance professionals in general. Albeit subconsciously. As a result, this is how providers position their solutions, messaging, brands, and content, which is Boring! All the same as each other, with few daring to break the mould. Safe!

However, over this time I have met hundreds of finance people at all different levels in their careers and they couldn't be further from the "grey man" stereotype. They include Adventure holiday enthusiasts, Public Speakers, Podcasters. Family people, Socialites, Musicians, People! The list goes on and on.

So, why, if we know these people, do we still rely on the same boring branding and messaging that have been used for so long and that every other company is using? What could we be doing instead?


Before I share my thoughts on this, some context. If you pop onto Google and search for Accounts Payable Automation there are 184 listings. 141 for Invoice Automation. All these companies have the same access, to the same audiences and say largely the same things. Save money, save time etc, etc.

A Better Way

Do we need to tell CFOs how to save money? I mean, if they haven't got the message by now than they are probably a lost cause… So, what should we B2B automation providers do differently?

1. Ungate your Content

Stop asking people for their email just to view your latest piece of "thought leadership". Change the call-to-actions on the landing pages of your content (and in the content itself) and blogs. Point to other, related, content that they can also look at without forms.

Ensure every page has a contact / book a demo / ask a question button that pops up a form. Don't send people to a different page to fill it in. That is just annoying.

You can even track what content drives the most button clicks. Much better. Now, your sales teams can talk to people when they are ready. This isn't new, but so few B2B companies actually do it!

2. Rebuild your Brand

I am not just talking about imagery, fonts, colour palettes, all these elements follow. Your company was founded for a reason. Virtually every company forgets this, and it gets lost in favour of Feature, Function, Benefit. Now, these 3 are important. After all these will help people understand what your product does for them.

But WHY your company was founded tells a story to your audience. This should be the centre of everything else that you do. Was it because the founder felt there must be a better way to do something? Perhaps it was because they hated something and wanted to change it for everyone.

Maybe it was simply because they couldn't find the answer to a problem in any other product.

Whatever the reason (not to make money!) this forms the centre of your brand. Your business. The way you position yourselves and the way that you speak to people.

If you forget this and are chasing every form fill, then you are the same as everyone else. You are no longer focused on attracting people to your products based on their needs and drivers.

They have no idea why your product exists or why they should consider it.

3. Simplify the Messages

Review your copy and content and simplify it. Focus on what the content gives to CFOs, the information it supplies, and if it doesn't then get rid of it or re-write it. Stop putting out copies of the same old story.

Whilst you are there remove as many acronyms and abbreviations as you can, and those you can't, make sure it is abundantly clear what they mean. Remove ambiguity and simplify what you are saying. Make sure that every piece of content delivers something that is clear and concise.

4. Focus on Successes

Every good marketing team will have some testimonials and we know how hard they can be to get. However, this need to become central to everything that is produced. Use real-world stories of successes to back up the core messaging.

It is too easy to let testimonials become a stand-alone part of your content, but if you are producing something that is designed to explain how easy/fast/efficient etc your product is then include information from existing users. Quotes, facts, statements from a named customer will add more weight to the copy than anything else.

Of course, as with any strategy there are numerous other considerations - but these 4 things alone will make a significant difference for your audience.

Final Thought

At least 95% of your "target audience" aren't ready to buy yet. But they do want to keep in touch with trends. Let them. People buy from people. Not companies.

Stop following what everyone else in the automation space is doing and start thinking about who it is you are selling to.

About the author: John Stovold

With 10 years in B2B SaaS Sales and Marketing John has worked with iTESOFT, Yooz and Compleat, among others, to help them drive business growth and brand awareness across the UK, Europe and North America.