Better get another gallon of milk -- Girl Scout cookies have gone digital.
That's right: The Girl Scouts of the USA have approved a brand new platform for most scouts to sell Girl Scout cookies online and ship them across the States starting in the 2014-2015 cookie season. The program is called "Digital Cookie," and it will allow scouts to sell cookies online using their own cookie website and/or mobile application. They'll be able to take credit card payments and set shipping up so boxes are delivered right to customers' doorsteps. (Cue a collective sigh of relief from parents who've spent entire, painstaking afternoons delivering cookies by car.)
Since the Digital Cookie program won't start rolling out until January, it's hard to say exactly how the website and mobile app will work and exactly what scouts will need to do to sell cookies online. What we do know is that many scouts will be given the opportunity to have their own cookie website -- which, thankfully, not just anyone has access to. You'll need an email invitation from the scout themselves to gain access to their cookie website. Although this takes SEO plays off the table for our mini marketers, it helps protect the girls' identity and safety while also encouraging scouts to handle sales themselves -- a traditional Girl Scout value. In a similar initiative, many scouts will be able to use the Girl Scouts' new cookie selling mobile app to take in-person orders, process credit card information, and automate direct shipping. Both will require approval from each local Scout Council, as well as individual scouts' parents and guardians.
In light of GSUSA's effort to teach young girls essential entrepreneurial skills in the context of our modern, online, and mobile world, we thought it'd be fun to curate some kid-friendly tips for parents to teach their scouts practical skills in inbound marketing in preparation for the upcoming cookie season.
5 Online Marketing Lessons for Girl Scouts
1) Setting Goals
Goal-setting has always been a huge part of the Girl Scout Cookie program. The Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. have a lot of kid-friendly literature on the subject, including goal-setting activity sheets and cookie selling goal charts.
And scouts already seem to see how goal setting can help them sell cookies online. "I think it helps me organize my life in a way," 15-year-old Laura Tinlin of the Girl Scouts of Greater New York told USA Today . "It has you set goals. I think it will help me grow as a person and a future businesswoman."
As a parent, you can help your scout set reasonable cookie-selling goals. Here's how you might adapt the typical SMART goal format to selling cookies:
- Specific -- Teach them the importance of setting goals with real numbers and real deadlines. Think "I will send emails to 20 family members by this date" as opposed to "I'll reach out to as many family members as possible."
- Measurable -- Help them find ways to track their progress, such as using a spreadsheet, the Notes app on a phone (yours or theirs), or the goal chart from the Girl Scouts website.
- Attainable -- The goals they sets for themselves should be a reach, but possible to achieve.
- Realistic -- Regardless of their age, don't get too crazy with the goal-setting. They've got to learn how to set (and stick to) their own goals.
- Time-bound -- Your troop leaders likely gave your child a deadline for selling cookies. Make sure you stick to that deadline, and you can even set mini-deadlines with your scout along the way.
2) Learning Conversion Paths
The online Girl Scout initiative is a great opportunity to teach your scout how a sale happens from start to finish. In this case, that means walking them through each step Aunt Lynn took when she bought a box of cookies: From getting an email from your child about the upcoming cookie season, to clicking through to and reading your child's website, to entering credit card and shipping information, and finally, to receiving the cookies on her doorstep.
At work, you'd call this a "conversion path," but terms like that can be overkill for your child. That's why my colleague at HubSpot Alec Biedrzycki created this cartoon: to help break down the concept of conversion into a more fun, digestible format. See the whole cartoon here along with little blurbs explaining each step.
3) Writing Great Email Copy
It's not clear yet whether scouts will have the opportunity to send custom emails from the Girl Scouts website to their family and friends (or whether it's a transactional-style email sent automatically), but email copywriting skills will still come in handy. Chances are, you're still going to want to let your friends and family know about the sale -- including instructions on how to buy -- or send them reminders closer to the deadline.
In any of those cases, your child is going to need to know how to compose an email. You and I know that simply telling any human that you're selling Girl Scout Cookies is probably compelling enough, but it's still a great opportunity to teach your child how to write up a professional-sounding email that has all the essential components: a catchy subject line, short-but-sweet email copy, great images, and an actionable call-to-action.
The biggest hurdle here will be teaching your scout how to write more professionally than normal while also still showing their personality. Truthfully, you can lean on images to sell cookies, too. Let's be honest: If you received an email picturing a plate of three glistening Samoas next to a glass of milk, the chances of you buying a box of cookies probably goes way up. (And in the next section, we've got some more visual content ideas your scout can tackle.)
If your scout likes the email-writing side of things, you can also teach them the basics of post-purchase nurturing and upsell nurturing. In other words, once Aunt Lynn buys four boxes of cookies, your child might send her a thank-you email that includes a link she can share with friends. Or, perhaps the email contains a link to buy more cookies for her team at the office -- who wouldn't love getting surprised with a few boxes of Thin Mints?
4) Making Visual Content
Since cookies are so visual, another great way for your scouts to market the cookies is by creating visual content they can use to power their marketing campaigns. Not only do images help break up the monotony of text, they can also help your scout tell their friends and family a story and evoke a memory or emotion. It helps that a lot of young people nowadays are pretty familiar with taking photos thanks to smartphones. Older scouts might also be familiar with image-heavy social media sites like Instagram and Pinterest.
Remember those glistening Samoas next to a glass of milk I mentioned earlier? There are lots of other ways your child can incorporate cute visuals into their marketing. Here are some other ideas for visual content related to Girl Scout Cookies to get you started:
- Help them dream up fun, creative recipes that include Girl Scout Cookies. Think of things like crushing up Thin Mints and throwing them in a blender with milk, ice cream, and chocolate syrup -- simple stuff. Then, spend some quality time making these recipes together. It's a win-win: More quality time together, and your child can photograph the end results and put those photos in an email.
- Create one or two simple messages using cookies in place of O's, zeroes, or the dots of i's to post on approved social media outlets (or via email if they're younger). The simpler, the better. You can create these in PowerPoint if your child knows how, or they can write a message on a sheet of paper along with real Girl Scout Cookies, and take a picture of it from above.
5) Building Email Lists
Picture this scenario: Your child is posted up outside the local Stop & Shop, asking shoppers if they'd like to buy a box (or five!) of cookies. "Oh, shoot! I don't have any cash on me," says one passerby. "I know my kids will want some, but I'm not sure exactly which kinds," says another.
What if your child responded, "No problem, but would you like to leave your email address with me? I'll send you an email with a link to buy cookies right from my website, and you can fill it out when you're ready." Chances are, a lot of people will -- and with just a little effort, they'll grow their reach significantly. The key here is that they will need to follow up with these people by email later that same day while they are still on the customers' radars.
We're excited to see how the Digital Cookie program works in January -- and even more excited that mouth-watering Thin Mints will soon be only a click away.
What other online marketing lessons could parents teach their Girl Scouts? Share with us in the comments!