November 1, 2022

Let budget season begin! We all know this time of year well – mixed with a bit of excitement, lots of doubt and anxiety, and ultimately, we’re all a bit jaded knowing we’re going to have to defend our budgets more than anyone else. 

Working with banks and credit unions around the country – and having gone through a few budget seasons myself at a bank – there are some tips we’d like to pass along as you gear up for the tough conversations ahead. 

Keep the “Why” Top of Mind 

Even if you’re the only official marketer in the room, we know at budget season, you’ll find yourself suddenly in a room full of “marketers”. Everyone will have an opinion and scrutinize every dollar without understanding the value behind the efforts. Beat them to the punch by clearly indicating what each line item is going to support and why – feels silly, but don’t just say “advertising” as a line item, let them know that X amount is going to support checking growth and another X amount is going for the CD promotion. Let them know that you’re being as thoughtful as we know you are. 


Some of the most successful budget conversations we’ve witnessed clients have started with a recap of the current year’s marketing efforts. This isn’t just to say "we printed x number of flyers for the branch food drives”. It’s saying “this is the increase in applications that cannot be easily attributed to any other effort” or “these campaigns led to x number increase in web traffic and conversions year over year” - go into detail, help bring your senior team up to speed on what each marketing KPI means and why it matters. It’s a lot of extra work, but it really helps to illustrate the value of marketing. 

Account for Accountability 

Most marketing budgets include donations and sponsorships – sometimes even sales efforts that marketing doesn’t even have a say in. C’est la vie, we can’t fight every battle, but we can defend our budgets. If you don’t have a detailed budget, it’s easier to pick apart and harder for you to justify saying “no” to another $500 to the little league. Have separate line items for CRA-eligible donations, another for community sponsorships, and yet another for branch one-offs, sales efforts, etc. That way, when the senior team signs off on it, you have a strict budget for those efforts and the responsibility is then on the branches to be more thoughtful in expenditures, or to go to bat for over-budget expenses. 

Budget season is tough... we empathize entirely. Lean on your internal and external partners to pull data, create recaps, and craft arguments to justify spends. Ultimately, don’t go it alone if you don’t have to, but trust that you will get through it, just as you always do.

Not sure if your marketing budget is in line with your peers? According to the Financial Brand, the average bank (pre-pandemic) had a marketing budget of approximately 0.07% of assets, though what you should aim for is more like 0.10%.