True confession: I recently had a Diet Coke and a box of Caramel deLite®/Samoa® Girl Scout Cookies for lunch. Okay, maybe more than once.
This year, some of the more than 1.9 million young women who are members of the Girl Scouts will come together to sell a projected 175 million boxes of delicious treats to people like me, eager to trade any New Year’s resolutions around weight loss for the opportunity to help these engaging young women build confidence, discover leadership qualities and develop essential skills in communication and business.
See, I was once the girl in the green uniform. Back in olden times selling cookies was a door-to-door endeavor, soliciting neighbors with paper and pen and making deliveries by towing stacks of boxes around the neighborhood in a red wagon. But even then I was one of many and while I could count on family members and neighbors who bought from me out of proximity, how would I stand out? How would I keep them coming back for more?
As it happens, I learned a lot in my cookie selling days about how to position a product, how to understand your audience, how to understand what they were looking for, all in the hope of creating a stand-out message that would make me – an only child who, literally, lived on a street with 21 other kids – the one they’d come back to year after year to get their fix of Thin Mints® and Tagalongs®. These same tricks of the Trefoil® trade, the ones that work so well for the Girl Scouts, can also serve as helpful reminders, whether you’re looking to reach new members, retain those you already have, or deepen engagement. Here are of my favorites to bear in mind:
- Brand Together
Girl Scouts take their brand seriously. Each scout is a representative of the organization and carries the responsibility of upholding the brand. And the experience of selling cookies provides each Girl Scout with an opportunity to represent her organization and its values. Even if you have staff working outside of membership, take the opportunity to remind them of who you are and what you do, and give them ways to talk about it – easily and accurately.
- Don’t be Afraid to Persuade
What’s the old adage? People don’t love to be sold to but they love to buy? When you’re working with prospective buyers, or members, or even those at risk for letting their membership lapse, there’s no worse feeling than trying to “pitch” them. But never underestimate the value of a persuasive person with a story to tell. Girl Scouts aren’t just selling you cookies, they’re telling you about the product, why it matters, and why you need their cookies in your life. When’s the last time you told your existing members who you were and why they need you, now more than ever?
- Think Outside of the Box
You’ve got the brand working in your favor and have a relevant story. Now it’s time to get creative. For Girl Scouts, they’ve met the growing number of mobile shoppers by adding new payment options. Others have set up dedicated email addresses and “cookie hotlines” to take orders, or created bundles to introduce new cookie types to wary consumers. Are there additional things – small things – you could do to let your members (and prospective members) know you’re thinking about them? Are there new ways you can engage?
Eating Girl Scout cookies is a cherished American tradition, but the important lessons imparted on these young women are far from child’s play. The same simple, high-impact steps can help you in your association world, too.