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The Magic Behind the Thin Mints: What We Can Learn from the Business of Girl Scout Cookies

April 12th, 2011 | Customer Support,Online & Small Business Resources,Quality,Small Business,Small Business Tips,Social Media | No Comments »

It’s a familiar scene: a group of elementary-aged little girls set up a card table in front of the local Giant with every intention of guilting you into buying a box (or three) of Tagalongs or Samoas.  Okay, we might as well admit to ourselves that we wanted those cookies anyways.  But what is it about those Girl Scout cookies that keep us coming back for more?  What may seem like a couple of innocent girls selling door to door is actually a hugely successful $700 million cookie empire.

Here are some simple tips for applying the strategies behind Girl Scout cookies to your own businesses:

  1. Make your brand recognizable and familiar. There are hundreds of thousands of independent Girl Scout troops across the nation.  Yet, customers know exactly what to expect when they open a box of Girl Scout cookies.  The packaging, the pricing, and ultimately, the quality of all Girl Scout cookies are uniform across the nation.
  2. Keep up with the times. The organization has recently unveiled the Girl Scout cookie app for the iPhone.  An organization that is so historic gets bonus points for embracing a society where customers automatically assume that “There’s an app for that.”  The Cookie Finder app makes it easy to locate places where customers can purchase Girl Scout cookies.  Which brings me to my next point….
  3. It’s all about the convenience. Even though concerns for the safety of young children have slowly eradicated a door-to-door selling culture, people don’t typically have to look too hard for another box of thin mints.  Girl Scout cookies still tend to find you, whether it’s at a local grocery store, or through an order form at a Girl Scout parent’s office.
  4. …Except for when it’s not convenient at all. Girl Scout cookies are not available in stores.  Nor are they available all year round.  The only place to buy them is directly from a Girl Scout (or her parent, when he or she inevitably brings that form into the office).  When customers know that they can’t just stop by the store for another box, they will inevitably start stocking up for the year.
  5. Appeal to the goodwill and emotions of the public. The Girl Scouts of America is an organization that is widely recognized for its part in empowering girls across the country.  The mission statement cites goals to build girls of “courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.”  People are more likely to support a business that they believe is doing good deeds.  Of course, there’s also the fact that sometimes it’s just hard to refuse that little girl.  And that might just be the Girl Scouts’ greatest advantage.
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