Pub. 2 2020 | Issue 11


Bank Digital Marketing Capabilities: In-House or Outsource?

By Michael C. Keenan, President, Keenan-Nagle Advertising, Inc.

Unless your bank still regards the marketing department as a glorified arts-and-crafts squad, you realize the importance of digital marketing in today’s competitive environment. But should you build your own in-house digital marketing department? Or contract with an outside digital marketing agency?

In-House Option: The Rough Math

For a community bank in the $700 million to $1.5 billion asset range, structuring a robust in-house digital marketing department typically requires three specialty hires at the following overhead levels. (All compensation estimates are approximated based on secondary MSAs.)

  1. Digital Marketing Director—This is the head honcho for all digital platforms—website, social media, email marketing, SEO/SEM, online advertising. This person must interface well with all department managers and directors, communicate on all projects, effectively interpret analytics reports, strategize and direct/redirect tactics on an ongoing basis and provide accountability for results. Estimated annual salary/benefits………$76,000+ range.
  2. Social Media Manager—This is a strategic thinker who interacts consistently with your social media community, working to build and engage your bank’s social media population with the right mix of brand-driven offerings and benefit-laden customer experiences. This position works directly with the Digital Marketing Director to augment campaigns and focus on goals within the context of social media execution and performance.
    Estimated annual salary/benefits……$43,000+ range.
  3. Content Contributor/Manager—This person is responsible for the messaging content your bank is sending out through all the digital pipelines—social post copy and visuals, blog posts, video scripts and visuals, website content, online ad copy and graphics, etc. Content marketing strategy is particularly important for community banks and getting it right is critical. Your content manager must be creative yet careful, possess high level communication skills and be able (and always willing) to pivot as opportunities or challenges present themselves.
    Estimated annual salary/benefits………$52,000+ range.

Along with the estimated $171,000 annually for these core performers, ancillary considerations would be a marketing intern, digital marketing programs and tech build-outs, training costs and episodic out-of-bank contracting services. Keeping it simple, we’ll round the in-house costs up to a conservative $200,000 per year. Naturally, this does not include costs for initial website development or updates, online display media costs, social media and other external costs.

Among the “pros” of an in-house department are familiarity with your bank’s culture and direct communication with all departments. Also, a shorter learning curve and faster campaign ramp-ups. Among the “cons” is the potential erosion of fresh thinking/ideas through a natural tendency to follow corporate groupthink. Another is the cost/time/morale challenge of rerouting should performance levels flag. As the old HR lament goes: “Easy to hire, tough to fire.”

Outside Agency Option: Get the Milk, Not the Cow

On the other side of this digital marketing decision are some solid reasons to consider hiring an outside agency. Here are three of the most compelling:

  1. Task-Ready Talent, Tools and Technology
    Experienced digital marketing firms hit the ground running with trained professionals, current technology and a performance-proven track record. Yes, this is what is baked into those bills, but if their work is getting you from A to B on a consistent basis, you are achieving your goals at a fraction of the annual costs of an in-house team.
  2. Broader Skillsets and Brainpower
    Digital marketing requires a lot of different skillsets—from content strategy, copywriting and graphic design, to web development, email marketing, online media planning and placement, social media output, analytics, data wrangling, etc., etc. Good agencies are one-stop-shops already equipped with these areas of expertise. Great agencies have all these capabilities PLUS the right people to inform your teams and leadership on the most effective strategies and direct routes to your goals.
  3. Willing to Work Fast and Effectively
    Given the current curveballs of COVID-19, we’ve all seen how fast things can change in the marketplace. Oftentimes, challenges must be addressed on an ASAP basis…or faster. Marketing agencies are by nature nimble and uniquely equipped to implement multi-component campaigns quickly and efficiently. You’ll get upfront cost and time parameters to get the job done. You won’t hear any whining about how difficult the challenges are. And the people at the agency you choose will be grateful for the opportunity to let their talents shine on behalf of your bank and community.

The answer to the question of “to buy or not to buy”—in-house digital marketing vs. outside services—is driven by multiple factors, chief among them being your own marketing goals balanced against your organization’s strengths and weaknesses. As always, every financial institution’s marketing needs, culture and resources are unique. It is often helpful to spend some time with experienced out-of-bank marketing advisors to help determine the best route for your institution.

If we can help in this regard, please contact us.


Michael C. Keenan is the president and CEO of Keenan-Nagle Advertising, Inc. Based in Allentown, PA with a full-service team of 12 professionals, the Keenan-Nagle firm has specialized in community bank marketing for more than three decades. For facts, visit or call 610-797-7100.

This story appears in Issue 11 2020 of the Hometown Banker Magazine.

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