Scouting was good to me, and actually one of my earliest businesses was selling candy at summer camp.
So the other night our neighbor’s grandson came by in his Cub Scout uniform, almost too shy to even speak, to sell some popcorn products as a fundraiser.
Happy to support, we ended up with a $20 bag of caramel corn. I had a little bit of sticker shock, but figured it was a small price to pay to support our neighbor and the scouts.
Here’s the goods:
(Hand shown for scale — not a very big bag for $20!)
The whole thing got me thinking about how the Girl Scouts are a million times better at this fundraising hustle.
And it’s not like their model is a huge secret; the boys could learn a thing or two from their peers. Here’s my advice for the Cub Scouts, and how the concept applies to your side hustle.
Too Much Transparency Can Be a Bad Thing
In this case, the package says, “70% goes to local scouting.” What they’re trying to say is, “Thank you for supporting our cause,” but when your charity runs on volunteer/child labor and you still have a 30% overhead, that’s not impressive.
The result of this statement is reinforcing in the customer’s mind, “Hey, you just paid 3x more for this than it’s worth. Sucka!”
Your customer already feels good about their purchase — otherwise they wouldn’t have made it. There’s no need to remind them of the hefty markup.
Instead, you know what the Girl Scouts put on their cookie boxes?
The 5 skills the “cookie program” develops that girls will use throughout their lives:
- Goal Setting
- Decision Making
- Money Management
- People Skills
- Business Ethics
Boom! Delicious cookies and helping young women learn 5 important life skills.
Better messaging, right?
But your side hustle probably can’t rely on “cause marketing,” so what’s the takeaway? To focus on the benefit during and after the sale, not the price.
Can you imagine in your customer messaging, “Thank you for your order! 70% of your purchase today is going directly to my bottom line.”
They don’t care what your margins are like; only about the value they get from doing business with you.
Simplify the Menu
When we were presented with our options, we were handed a two-sided fold-out brochure with at least a dozen different choices, all with different price points.
(And yes, they all said the “pass-through” dollar amount as well, further complicating the menu.)
It was overwhelming.
And sure, there are probably an equal number of flavors of Girl Scout Cookies, but the prices don’t vary (much) box to box and pretty much all the boxes are the same size.
It’s much easier to make a decision when some of the variables have been removed for you. Thin Mints only come in one size box, where the caramel corn had different size packages and add-in options.
Offer Some Lower Tier Price Options
The least expensive thing I spotted on the menu was $10, and normally I’d be all about going for the higher price points.
But think about it from the customer perspective. If the average order is going to be $20 regardless, I’m a much happier customer walking away with 4 or 5 boxes of Girl Scout Cookies (Samoas, baby) than I am with 1 bag of caramel corn.
There’s more perceived value because I got more stuff!
The simplified menu and lower price points encourage sampling, multiples, and may even result in higher average order values as people are encouraged to add “just one more” box because it’s not that much more money.
In my painting business, I remember taking on some smaller jobs (decks, trim, pressure washing, etc.) because it would give me an “in” into a neighborhood. If we did an awesome job, maybe we could plant a yard sign out front, score a reference letter, or even earn a referral.
Make It “A Thing”
This one is hard to explain, but Girl Scout Cookies are definitely a thing.
Cub Scout caramel corn? Not a thing.
My take? If I was going to insist on selling food as a fundraiser, I’d try and sell something “scouting” or outdoor-related. Trail mix. Beef jerky. S’mores?
But it doesn’t have to be food at all. How about some emergency preparedness kits? Or a service? Our troop collected people’s Christmas trees the first week of January.
People actually look forward to Girl Scout Cookie season. That’s how powerful a thing it is. That’s the kind of pull you need behind your brand to make a successful fundraiser year after year.
The Girl Scouts have managed to turn a commodity product (cookies) into a thing, which isn’t easy to do. Think of that in terms of your side hustle — are you positioning yourself as the ONLY reasonable choice for the product or service you offer.
After all, the Girl Scouts have a monopoly on Girl Scout Cookies, just like you should aim to have a monopoly on your service in the eyes of your customers.
There’s no one else who can get the job done like you!
The Bottom Line
Girl Scout Cookies are a $700 million a year business. (source)
I couldn’t find any data on the Cub Scout’s popcorn business.
Sorry fellas, the ladies win this round, hands down!