Monday, March 11, 2019

Earning the Girl Scout Senior Customer Loyalty Badge... While Selling 1,000 Boxes of Girl Scout Cookies!

It took me YEARS longer than it should have to realize that "Oh, the Girl Scout cookie business badges--you're supposed to have the girls earn them DURING COOKIE SEASON!"


That's why there are the same number of cookie business badges at each level as there are years in that level; girls can earn one badge a year during cookie season, and then earn the financial literacy badges in the off-season.

I caught onto this literally last year (sigh...), so this is the first year that we're doing it properly. During cookie season this year, Syd earned the Cadette Marketing badge (more on that later), and Will earned the Senior Customer Loyalty badge.

And here's how she did it!

Step 1: Show how cookie money helps girls. 

Technically, I think I could have counted this as already completed, since Will helped run the goal setting station at our service unit's cookie rally this year, but she also counted the hours that she worked there for her Service to Girl Scouting bar, and we don't double-dip. 

Instead, Will came up with an even better idea!

Matt helped Will make brochures about her Silver Award to display at cookie booths and to hand out to interested customers. Since she already had the essays that she wrote for her Silver Award application, and the photos that we took of her project, Will just needed to add some text specifically about how she used cookie profits as her funding source.

I really liked this particular activity for a lot of reasons: 1) It's not the same old poster, which teenagers have made a billion of by this age. 2) Because it's not the same old poster, it's a new challenge. I am a MAJOR proponent of practicing all kinds of writing, and writing a brochure is a legitimately useful skill to have. 3) Brochures don't take up a ton of space on our already-crowded cookie booth table, but they're still visible and accessible. And 4) they're a conversation starter for Will when she has an interested potential customer. It's a ready prop and something for her to talk about.

And speaking of conversation starters...

Step #2: Connect with former cookie sellers.

The activity that Will chose for this step is such a clever one: she was to make a list of things that potential customers tend to say (and by the time a girl is a Senior, she likely has a loooong list of these), and then brainstorm replies that are respectful, interested, and engage the potential customer.

Because, as I tell the girls all the time at cookie booths, for a lot of customers the chance to talk to real, live Girl Scouts is half the fun of buying Girl Scout cookies. Sometimes it's old folks who don't get opportunities to interact with kids. Sometimes it's little kids who don't get opportunities to interact with big kids. Sometimes it's lonely folks who don't get opportunities to interact with anyone. And sometimes it's former Girl Scouts who are feeling nostalgic and supportive. So part of the job of selling Girl Scout cookies is representing Girl Scouts in a cheerful, polite, respectful manner.

Unless it's the other two kinds of people who want to talk to real, live Girl Scouts. Because sometimes it's someone with a conspiracy theory in their head who wants to rant at children about Planned Parenthood or "America's Obesity Epidemic," and sometimes it's someone who shouldn't be around children, so it's good that we're all at least standing by the check-out lines in public and with at least two adults right there watching everything. For the former folks, I've told the kids to just look at them and smile and let them rant, because you don't have to say a word if someone's not even asking you a question, and for the latter folks, I told them that if one more person tries to pat them on the head or the shoulder, that they should jerk back and scream like they'd been scalded. 

Seriously, don't touch the Girl Scouts. High fives and fist bumps are acceptable, although frankly, after all the lectures that I've also given the children about how dirty your hands and money are, they'd really rather you didn't touch them at all.

ANYWAY, let's get back to the nice people who just want to buy some cookies while getting to talk to a real, live Girl Scout, mkay? For this activity, Will thought up things that potential customers tend to say to her, particularly things that particularly flummox her as to a reply.

Things like: I used to be a Girl Scout when I was your age!
Or: My sister was a Girl Scout.
Or: Wow, cookies sure were a lot cheaper 20 years ago.
Or: It's too bad you don't have blah-blah-blah cookie anymore.

When people say things that aren't directly related to the transaction, that's them trying to open a conversation, and the way to respond politely (as well as to inspire customer loyalty!), is to continue the conversation by asking an interested, relevant question. But that can be so hard in the moment, so Will thought up several ways to respond to each of her common customer prompts. She realized that she could ask people who used to be Girl Scouts what their uniforms looked like, or how many cookies they sold each year, or what their favorite badge was. When people comment about the cookies themselves, whether they're complaining that they cost more these days or that they don't have the best flavor anymore, she could ask them how much cookies used to cost, or what their favorite type of cookie used to be, or if they prefer fruit flavors over chocolate, or... anything, really. Just something that sounds interested and is relevant. That's the lesson.

3. Build your customer list.

So here's where the badge went off the rails a bit. The badge book wants girls to collect email addresses, so that in Step 5, you can start a year-round newsletter. 

I mean, really?

Consumer privacy is important. I don't let my girls give out their names and email addresses to businesses, and I sure don't want them collecting other people's names and email addresses, either. I really didn't have any ideas for how to help Will attain this step, so I threw it at her and she decided to do the activity suggested on her Digital Cookie site, which was to gain five new customer emails and send them a Digital Cookie link. She asked her grandmother, who came through with the names, and that was that done. I guess the lesson turned out to be networking, because she'd never thought to ask her grandmother for potential customer contacts before, and a couple of those contacts DID end up buying cookies, so there you go.

Just... no email list of strangers, though. Yikes.

4. Create a customer appreciation program.

This step was dead easy, because I always have the girls write thank-you notes to their Digital Cookie customers and any other customers that they know personally. It's a nice chance to remind the girls that many people who buy Girl Scout cookies do so not for the cookies, but for the girls, and it's nice business writing practice. 

5. Keep your customer connection going all year long.

Since I've already established that I was not going to permit my child to make a year-round customer newsletter, she needed another activity that would remind her customers about Girl Scout cookies--and the good feelings that they get from cookies!--outside of cookie season.

Will settled on the idea of sending a Girl Scout cookie-themed Christmas card, again to the customers whom she knows personally and to her Digital Cookie customers. She mapped out a couple of ideas by hand, and then Matt helped her make the final project.

Did you know that the best way to get a good image of a Samoa is just to photograph it yourself?

We haven't had these Christmas cards printed yet, but here's the finished design on my computer:

Aren't they super cute? Will decided on postcards because they're cheaper, so the back side of each card will just have a brief handwritten note and a reminder to save the date for cookie season.

I think the timing will work well for these cards, since our Girl Scout cookie season does come just a couple of weeks after Christmas. There were also a lot of interesting design challenges that Will had to figure out in the making of these cards, and since Matt helped her, she learned a lot about the graphic design and production process.

I had a lot of doubts about parts of this badge, and not a lot of great ideas about how to work around the parts that I didn't like, so I'm thrilled at how well everything actually worked out. Will faced some appropriate challenges and learned new skills, practiced writing to different audiences, developed her social awareness, and grew as a businesswoman. 

And she got our Christmas cards all figured out for us for this year, so that's a bonus.

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