Beth Rusnock, President, National Life Group Foundation, AVP Corporate Marketing and Community Relations, National Life Group, explained how standout brands are able to build goodwill and differentiate themselves in the financial services space during her keynote address to Argyle's CMO membership at the 2016 Chief Marketing Officer Leadership Forum: Spotlight on Financial Services in Boston on Sept. 15. In her presentation, "Do Better by Doing Good," Rusnock described how focusing on a specific cause can positively impact a company's bottom line and positively shift a company’s culture.
According to Rusnock, goodwill is contagious. In fact, many companies across a large range of industries are exploring ways to build goodwill with customers.
"It seems like everybody is talking about the good they do," Rusnock noted. "And it's not just in [the financial services] industry."
Giving back to the community represents an ideal way to build a brand, Rusnock said. Customers care, Rusnock stated, and companies that show they care about the community may be more likely to connect with customers day after day.
In addition, a brand's purpose may influence a consumer's shopping preferences. And if a company gives back to the community, customers may be more likely to choose this business and its products and services over others.
"Most people want to do business with a company that does good, regardless of whether you're a Baby Boomer or Gen X or a Millennial," Rusnock said. "Regardless of how old you are, most people want to do business with a company that is giving back."
In the financial services segment, there is a perception that companies are "greedy and don't care about anyone else," Rusnock stated. However, this simply is not the case.
"People are buying what we're selling. What it means is that we've been able to recruit top IMOs and employees to the company."
Goldman Sachs, PNC Financial Services and other financial services firms have made financial contributions to good causes recently, Rusnock said. Thus, many financial services companies are going above and beyond the call of duty to do good whenever they can -- something that often delivers significant bottom line results.
"It's important for the community to know we care about them," Rusnock noted. "Donations might be helping your neighbor, and that's a big deal."
Creating awareness of good causes may lead to "brand stickiness," Rusnock said, and could help financial services companies build long-lasting partnerships with community organizations.
Furthermore, financial services businesses can host community events that may help drive lead generation.
To illustrate this point, Rusnock pointed out that her company hosted a "Do Good Festival" that features free music, activities and more for community members.
"Regardless of how old you are, most people want to do business with a company that is giving back."
National Life also hosted a raffle to benefit local organizations during the festival and ensured that all National Life employees focused exclusively on the event.
"What they're to talk about is doing good in the community," Rusnock said. "It's just an introduction."
Meanwhile, the raffle tickets that were sold ultimately provided National Life with potential leads, too.
Providing employees with paid volunteer time may empower a business to foster goodwill within a community as well.
The return on investment (ROI) for goodwill campaigns can be substantial, particularly for financial services firms that go the extra mile to aid communities.
Rusnock pointed out that her company has enjoyed double-digit revenue growth thanks in part to its community outreach efforts. National Life also has been better equipped to attract and retain workers based on the fact that it has grown its revenue significantly over the past few years.
"People are buying what we're selling," Rusnock said. "What it means is that we've been able to recruit top IMOs and employees to the company."
How a financial services business build goodwill can influence the way both customers and employees view the company.
For example, if a financial services business devotes ample time and resources to community outreach efforts, it may stand out in a competitive global marketplace.
On the other hand, a financial services company that focuses strictly on the bottom line may struggle to differentiate itself from rivals. Therefore, this business could encounter problems as it explores ways to bolster its earnings consistently.
At National Life, the company has been able to foster a culture of goodwill, one that extends far beyond the business' bottom line.
Rusnock pointed out that National Life is based out of Montpelier, Vermont, but the company boasts broad appeal. As a result, National Life has been able to differentiate itself from its rivals and generate widespread interest, regardless of its location.
"It's a place where people want to be," Rusnock stated. "People want to be part of it because it's a movement."
A company that understands the impact of goodwill efforts can incorporate community outreach efforts into its marketing campaigns. By doing so, a business' employees will feel good about supporting the community and may be able to help a company extend its global reach simultaneously.
Beth Rusnock is the President of the National Life Group Foundation and Assistant Vice President, Corporate Marketing and Community Relations. In these roles, Rusnock leads the company’s charitable foundation, drives brand activity, oversees corporate sponsorships and builds and executes marketing campaigns.
She joined National Life Group in 2006 as Second Vice President, Product Marketing, overseeing all life insurance marketing activity. In 2009, she managed marketing strategy and tactics for the Group’s life insurance and annuity products. In December 2011, she became part of the Corporate Marketing team, taking on the roles she currently has.
Prior to joining National Life Group, Rusnock led the life insurance marketing department for ING. She also worked for ad agencies supporting a variety of clients including American Express, Citibank, and Tourneau to increase brand awareness and sales.