When every Tuesday rolls ‘round, my buddy “Likes” and “Shares” Collared Greens’ Facebook post for “Free Tie Tuesday,” in the hope of winning one of the company’s spiffy bowties. Within two hours of its Instagram and Facebook posts for “Free Tie Tuesday,” Collared Greens had some 1,400 “Likes” and multiple “Shares” and comments.
Collared Greens – a play on the beloved Southern New Year’s Day vegetable (symbolic of folding money in the new year and great with black-eyed peas and cornbread) and the environmentally-friendly philosophy behind its preppy products – dress shirts, ties, T-shirts, shorts, polos, swim suits and accessories – has not only cashed in on online sales and marketing. In our view, it provides some great ideas for bank marketing.
- Know your values: Collared Greens philosophy has had two unbending core beliefs since its founding in 2008. The products are made in America and are high quality. And customer service is critical for community banks, the lesson is simple: know what you believe and live by it. Collared Greens search for American manufacturers can be a challenge, according to an article in Apparel News. Ties and bow ties come from New York City; button-down shirts and polos, swim trunks and shorts come from Philadelphia. T-shirts come from Los Angeles. But Collared Greens remains deeply rooted to its commitments.
For community banks and credit unions, the commitment rests in efficiency, high-quality, caring customer service and vigorous community involvement. Those attributes separate community banks from their larger competitors. Find your niche and its values and hold fast to them.
- Build your brand: This is especially pivotal in attracting Millennials. Collared Greens president Mason Antrim put it simply: “Younger kids are brand-oriented, and we have to play into that a little bit,” he told Apparel News.
In a larger sense, and while the data is anecdotal, “American-made” resonates with Collared-Greens customers, just as “going local” hits a chord at your bank or credit union.
“People are becoming more conscious about how things are sourced and produced,” Antrim said. “We try to produce goods that are better quality and better looking and then put them at the same price point as our competitors We hope that Made in the USA helps consumers make their purchase decisions. People do see that and recognize that we make things here.”
Community banks and credit unions build their brand by making its presence felt, not only in the community, but one customer at a time. A friend recounted the story of a call she received from her community bank, checking on the validity of a transaction that hit her account. That small kindness helps build the brand in an incalculable way.
- Going Local: As a firm committed to online sales, this lesson from Collared Greens may not seem to apply. But think again. Consider the company’s customer service philosophy, which sounds more Main Street than Wall Street:
“We have to deliver as promised and make sure all of it clicks,” Antrim told Apparel News. “There are still a great number of Americans who don’t know who we are yet. We’re always trying to expand on a grassroots level.”
And if customers don’t like their purchase, they can return it for something they like, hassle free.
Community banks can bite into an increasingly competitive market by delivering what they promise to every customer and community they serve.
- Understanding customers: The company seems to understand that its customer base is drawn to the traditional. Collared Greens knows it clothing line and the types of customers it attracts –from frat boys to seersucker-suited lawyers. But as the company extends its reach, it also seems to understand changing regional tastes, without abandoning its respect for tradition.
The same is true for its internal customers –suppliers. For Collared Greens, it’s about something we talk about a lot: Relationships matter.
“Being a small company and working with small batches, there’s a give-and-take process of learning about each other in the beginning,” Antrim told Apparel News. “We go to trade shows and talk to people. It’s a fluid thing.”
Community banks are blessed to have the time and ability to understand their customers in ways that big banks never can. The formula is simple: No cookie-cutter approaches allowed. Every customer is unique and should be treated as such.
- Keep It Simple: Collared Greens has only one retail outlet – in its home base of Richmond. Its products are made by American workers. And there are no outside investors, just family and friends. There’s an advantage in that – family and friends know your commitment and your values. Community banks and credit unions are winning customers through simplicity and trust, just like Collared Greens. Remember “Free Tie Tuesday”, a simple idea that really sings.
“Family and friends” is an idea at the heart of community banking and applies to customers and employees. It’s the kind of culture that can ignite a brand’s success, and grow your customer base. And, it can draw high-quality employees into your financial “family.”
Remember, Collared Greens’ brand is a play off the collard, the tasty Southern leaf of good luck. The company is gradually serving up success, one customer at a time. Follow their lessons and your community bank or credit union can do the same.
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