Support Your Marketing Plan on a Scaled-Back Budget

Two business people in masks pinning post-its to a wall

This year, many financial institutions’ strategic and marketing plans were pretty much tossed out the window.

In a survey earlier this year, 63% of U.S. marketers said their marketing budget commitments had been delayed or were under review.

The impact on earnings from COVID-19 will likely last through 2021. Thin margins, loan write-downs, increased reserves, and slower economic activity will make it harder for banks and credit unions to grow and regain lost profitability.

As they begin strategic planning and then the budgeting process, marketing executives are now grappling with the question of how and where they’ll spend their limited marketing dollars in 2021, and they’re looking to cut costs by eliminating efforts that don’t have a direct link to the bottom line.

But while cutting marketing spend is a natural reflex in a tough market, smart businesses know that continuing to advertise during a recession positions them to grow once they’re on the other side.


Overcoming today’s obstacles won’t come from spending cuts, but by investing your available budget efficiently and strategically.

There is no doubt that the goals and habits of consumers have changed due to today’s challenges. Using the right channels, messaging, and promotions will help ensure you’re putting your budget to the best possible use. This is especially crucial for banks and credit unions with fewer resources, such as those with less than $1 billion in assets.

Because pausing their marketing and branding efforts could be detrimental, smaller banks and credit unions need a solution. One way many institutions can better execute their marketing plan is to outsource all or part of their efforts to an advertising agency.

As you make plans for the coming year, now might be a good time to evaluate marketing staff size, skill sets, and marketing performance given the corresponding salaries, benefits, overhead, etc., and compare these costs to what you could expect to pay a competitively priced agency.

While many financial institutions already outsource some marketing responsibilities, many still rely solely on internal teams. Others outsource only a small portion of their work and leave much of their creative work and campaign management to a large (and expensive) internal team.


Today’s consumers are bombarded by marketing messages. To cut past all the noise, you need to home in on the proper channels and the right messaging.

Internal marketing departments are constantly juggling numerous wants and needs from other departments, all the while developing and implementing a marketing plan, managing internal and external communications, creating and distributing website and social media content, supporting lead generation, and more.

These responsibilities call for a variety of skill sets. To ensure great creative and effective campaigns, financial institutions typically need strategists, copywriters, graphic designers, animators, video editors, proofreaders, web developers, campaign coordinators – you get the picture.

You may find these roles in the marketing department of a larger financial institution, but it’s rare to find a group of professionals with these skill sets within a smaller one. This puts many community financial institutions at a real disadvantage.


It might be worthwhile to compare the experience levels of your internal team versus that of an agency, given the wide range of capabilities needed for marketing projects.

Then, compare the costs of a large internal team versus the cost of using an agency (multiplying the blended hourly rate of a competitively priced agency by the number of hours needed to complete your work). You’ll likely find that the right agency is far more cost-effective.

One potential concern among marketing directors is that they’ll lose control by outsourcing. This is a myth.

By developing clear communication channels, workflows, and objectives from day one, your financial institution can make its agency into an extension of your internal team.

Outsourced marketing relationships cover a broad spectrum of needs. For smaller banks or credit unions where executives may wear multiple hats, dedicated, specialized marketing roles may not exist within the organization.

In this case, the entire marketing function can be outsourced, with an agency partner reporting directly to one member of the leadership team. Larger institutions with an in-house marketing staff can adjust their roles and responsibilities to better leverage the skills of their internal team while benefitting from the additional capabilities provided by an agency.

As your financial institution navigates today’s challenging marketplace while attempting to maximize its marketing budget, there’s no better time to have an introductory conversation with an agency that can help you improve results while lowering costs.

Watch our Marketing Buzz video for more information on developing your marketing plan for 2021.


Leverage the experience of an agency that works with more than 40 financial institutions nationally, with clients ranging from small community banks to national financial institutions. Lightstream can provide exceptional creative services for a low flat rate of $85/hour, with no retainers or markups for outside expenses. Connect with us today to learn more.