In January, I issued a challenge to Girl Scouts: I would buy a box of cookies from any girl who 1) sent me an email she wrote herself or 2) asked me directly to buy a box. The best pitch would “win” the sale of an additional ten boxes (to the benefit and delight of my children and neighbors).
I received some charming emails, had several nice exchanges with scouts I knew and didn’t know, and I met some outgoing young women at cookie booths at local grocery stores.
I’m happy to announce the winner of the challenge: 11-year-old Kate Schulle of Troop 967 in Cedar Park!
Kate’s email was enthusiastic, informative, and concise. It explained cookie pricing, new offerings, her sales goal, an option to donate the cookies, and her appreciation. She included a “Guide to Cookie Nutrition” as an attachment, and offered to follow up with more information if I had questions. I also appreciated her liberal use of exclamation points!!!
I met Kate to pick up my cookies and asked her a few questions. Not unlike her mother and troop leader, Andrea Schulle, Kate is a savvy marketer who knows how to adjust tactics as necessary to meet her goals.
Here are five marketing tips, gleaned from my conversation with wise Kate, that will serve any entrepreneur:
1. Build on your communication strengths.
Kate saw sales success at booths she set up at Walgreen’s, Wal-Mart and Randall’s (each booth is required to have a minimum of two girls and two parents). While some scouts (like Kate) might be more comfortable in “pitching” cookies to passersby, she suggests that more quiet types might find success by making and holding a colorful sign.
2. Start with your inner circle.
Kate recommends starting your marketing efforts with your circles of influence. She sent emails to friends and family members at the start of the sales cycle. She even reached out to a few contests and potential customers referred to her, like me.
3. Tap your local market.
“A good way to sell is to set up a booth in your driveway, because children will come by, and who wouldn’t want cookies?” So true, Kate. I wish she had been in my neighborhood for easy Thin Mint access.
4. Create a strong message.
Kate made a t-shirt that said “Got Cookies? Help Me Reach 1000!” Who wouldn’t buy from someone wearing that t-shirt?
5. Embrace technology.
“This year we were able to swipe credit cards on phones and it was the first year we used an email campaign to friends and family.” Kate also found helpful marketing resources, like the nutrition guide, on the Girl Scouts’ website.
When we met, Kate had sold 451 boxes of cookies, almost one-third of her troop’s total sales of 1,500 boxes. She’s adjusted her original 1,000-box sales goal to a more reachable 500, which should be attainable with a couple more booths (in fact, two people even tried to buy cookies from my box of ten at the coffee shop while we met).
Speaking to the benefit of her cookie sales experience, Kate says they “let me to do community service, help me with my people and social skills and help me with my business skills.” With goals of becoming a doctor, lawyer, and/or champion golfer, these skills are bound to help her succeed.
Kate’s favorite cookie? Trefoils. I think she just told me that to distract me from the fact that they were out of Thin Mints. Well played, Kate. Well played.
I asked some other scouts I know to share their best marketing tips. Here are a few:
“If someone says ‘I don’t eat cookies,’ I tell them about buying cookies to give to the Ronald McDonald House. It’s a place where families can go when their kids are sick or having surgery.”
“Always say thank you; it even says thank you on the box.”
—Emily, age 9
–Peyton, age 9