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Evil Genius: 6 Business Tips You Can Learn from a Girl Scout

Evil Genius: 6 Business Tips You Can Learn from a Girl Scout

    They are mad, evil geniuses I tell you!

    Every year I watch the sale of Girl Scout cookies with amazement. These sweet, innocent and friendly girls all become masters of marketing, sales and business through the months of January and February. And you know what? I happily buy Girl Scout cookies every year. I open my wallet for them, and admittedly it is because I buy through my personal “connection” (aka: dealer) of these addictive cookies. One would think they are pushing drugs with how people talk about the cookies, but that is all part of their genius plan!

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    Here is the truth: the cookies aren’t special. We all enjoy home baked cookies more than we do mass-produced cookies, but at the same time, I definitely will crave and even horde the cookies. No one better touch my thin mints! Why do I do this every year? Because, I buy more than the cookie. I buy the “sizzle with the steak”, and watching the geniuses work, I have learned a lot about business. Here are six business techniques I’ve learned from the delightfully, ingenious Girl Scouts.

    1. Sell The Idea – The Sizzle

    My father always says when it comes to sales, “sell the sizzle not the steak”. The idea is rather common. Sales is about selling the story, the image and everything around the product, not the product itself. I personally like the saying, “ride the brand”. Brand your sales with an image and then ride it. Apple computers have done very well, as people crave to be part of the Apple computer family. They want the image and the community that comes with Apple, and all someone has to do to join this select group of people is purchase an Apple product. The same idea is used in personal branding.

    When it comes to Girl Scouts, the sweet girls are part of the Girl Scout cookie idea. It is their fundraiser. It is an organization that teaches girls so much, from knitting to car mechanics. By buying Girl Scout cookies we are helping an organization that helps people in our own town and community succeed. So to play off one of my favorite movie lines – Girl Scout cookies are made with real Girl Scouts, as we are buying into the image with the cookie.

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    2. Back Up The Product – The Steak

    Call me old fashioned, but I feel a product needs to be quality, as quality backs up the sizzle. If Apple computers were junk, people wouldn’t want the image of being an Apple fan. True, one may be able to find comparable products for cheaper, but their products are still good products. The idea is that their brand demands a high price, while their product backs up the brand. Girl Scout cookies are good. They may not be my grandmother’s cookies, but they are still good. They are also slightly unique in the style / taste, which makes them stand out from other cookies. Thus, they are able to make a good steak to back up that sizzle. As manufacturers, product managers and business people, we need to make sure our products can back up the brand that goes with them. For me, it is a matter of taking pride in what I do, and I firmly believe the manufacturing company for the Girl Scout cookie takes pride in what they do.

    3. Motivate Your Sales Force

    Did you know there are bonuses for troops that meet sales levels? The girls know they are paying for trips and activities with every sale. Troop leaders are really good at motivating Girl Scouts each year to sell the cookies. Additionally, many troop leaders will teach the girls how to sell. They are great at doing it, and above all they are passionate about doing it.

    4. Order In Advance

    Starting in January in my area, Girl Scouts are asking for orders for their cookies. When it comes to business, this same idea directs part of our sales. By getting advanced orders, we know how much to manufacture. That commitment is great for any business, and why I encourage businesses to find a revenue stream that encourages pre-ordering.

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    5. Keep Product On Hand

    Even with the orders, most troops purchase additional cookies. These will then go on sale outside businesses or are taken with them when they drop off the pre-orders. Why? There are always, always those last minute purchases. There are always people who decide they actually want more than what they first ordered, and you need to fulfill that order. Every industry is slightly different, but learn how much product to have on hand.

    6. Timing is Everything

    I believe Girl Scout cookies are the bane of most New Year’s resolutions. Why? About 20-30 days is when people who are on a diet start craving sweets. Even if you are not on a diet, 20-30 days after the holiday is another time to crave sweets, and guess who comes along? Those, sweet innocent, mad geniuses with the perfect fix to your craving. They are there when the timing is right, and they don’t worry about it for the rest of the year. This not only creates an exclusiveness of needing the product then and there, but it fulfills a desire that is going to be there. Not only do they have their timing down, they have mastered that buy it now or loose it mentality. Two timing essentials at one moment!

    Conclusion

    The girls in my community are geniuses in business, and I think many Girl Scouts carry these sales techniques as they grow up. As someone who was never a Girl Scout, but had a lot of friends who were/are, I know these techniques can help anyone out.

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    So the next time you go out and buy your Girl Scout cookie “fix”, take note of the seller’s genius. I know I will be when little Rachel (my “dealer”) calls to get my order.

    (Photo credit: Mint Filled Chocoalte Patties via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on May 28, 2020

    How to Succeed in Business: 10 Skills Every Entrepreneur Needs

    How to Succeed in Business: 10 Skills Every Entrepreneur Needs

    Learning how to succeed in business used to be a case of being really good at one skill or area and milking it for all its value. Today, we are fast becoming a “skills economy”[1], driving trends in employment and even the way we approach entrepreneurship.

    To succeed in today’s business landscape, business owners and executives need to possess a mix of skills that enable them to stay ahead and adapt to change.

    1. Digital Savviness

    As the adage goes: “If you’re not online, you don’t exist.” Today’s entrepreneurs need to take to the internet to increase their presence and to remain relevant in an evolving business landscape.

    Companies like Amazon, Netflix, Airbnb and more are a testament to the disruptive impact of technology and the new image of what it means to be a skilled, successful professional. Think about today’s Mark Zuckerberg versus a banker from the 90s.

    Being able to quickly adapt to new technology, like cloud applications and collaborating remotely across the internet, is fast becoming the expected norm for executives.

    For businesses, discoverability on the web is becoming a quick litmus test for credibility. Potential customers and investors bank on the first page of Google to make up half their minds about making further transactions with a business. GE Capital Retail Bank found that 81% of retail shoppers conduct online research before buying[2].

    How to Develop This Skill

    For a start, begin by hosting your website and reserving all of your brand’s handles across social media platforms. While hiring a web developer might sound like the next step, consider first hosting your company’s site on more user and budget-friendly options like Squarespace, Wix, or WordPress.

    From here, you can start on some simple search engine optimization techniques that will increase your discoverability over time. Through keyword research, organic content creation, and external back-links, your site will, eventually, slowly but surely garner more traffic.

    Note, however, that an increase in search traffic does not immediately imply an increase in revenue. But it’s a start for delving into customer conversion rates in the future.

    2. Financial Forecasting

    Let’s face it, many business owners feel that time could be better spent on developing and running the business instead of planning for it financially. However, a financial forecast serves as a roadmap for shaping any kind of business and is not just reserved for the likes of listed companies providing financial guidance to shareholders.

    Largely, forecasting and planning your financial goals will give you a clearer idea of resources required and ways to measure success. It can also provide assurance to investors as a testament to the thorough research and planning you have done when included in business plans.

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    However, inaccurate forecasts can lead to livid investors and mismanagement of expenses, which could potentially result in financial teething problems. When creating a detailed financial forecast, a rule of thumb is to always start with your expenses.

    How to Develop This Skill

    Generally, it is easier to calculate and predict your expenses compared to your revenue, so noting down your expenses is a starting point to benchmark how much you might need to generate in sales to turn a profit. It is a good habit to regularly update and evaluate how adjacent your operations are to what you have forecasted.

    Building a precise set of growth forecasting will take time, but, remember, you are an investor in your own business. You must have confidence in the validity of your business concept.

    3. Video Production Skills

    The rise of visual mediums and the dopamine boosts it gives to users has long been researched and proven as providing an unfair advantage to businesses that leverage it[3].

    If you’re a heavy user of social platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and even YouTube, you’ll know that it’s pretty hard to stop once you get started on a binge-watching session.

    In fact, video marketing is seeing a non-stop rise in popularity and effectiveness when used in conjunction with social media to drive traffic and boost conversions[4]. According to research, by 2019, 80% of global Internet consumption will be video content[5]. With video marketing becoming more ubiquitous, businesses that fail to leverage the power of video are almost certain to lose out.

    How to Develop This Skill

    Some ways to get started with using videos for your business would be:

    • Creating a series of educational videos that cover useful information for your audiences
    • Live videos interacting with your community at large (these can be shot on your smart phone)
    • Using videos on landing pages to boost your customer conversions

    4. Benchmarking Personal Goals to Business Performance

    As far as you get into achieving endeavours on your business bucket list, it’s important to remember that being an entrepreneur is just one facet of your identity. Don’t forget why you started in the first place.

    Ambition usually stems from some lifestyle goals you’ve always wanted for yourself and the people you might be providing for today or in the future. Working 24/7 is a surefire route to burnout and may manifest in an unhealthy interaction between partners and employees as well.

    How to Develop This Skill

    Money can’t be your only motivation, but look into the positives of how having more financial freedom and time can impact your life. In the short term, involving your interests in your businesses can make everyday tasks feel less like mundane errands. In the long run, your business may also bring you fruitful rewards, including personal fulfilment.

    Set realistic income goals to manage expectations for your performance and your company’s revenue, especially during its earlier stages. See how projected growth can align with your personal goals and make adjustments accordingly to maintain a balance between growth and your personal values.

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    5. Leveraging Healthy Competition

    Some of the best athletes who have spent their careers neck-and-neck with each other have changed the standards in their respective sports. The notion of healthy competition applies to the business world more than it may seem on the surface.

    Innovation has always been a key driver in free markets, which were intended to boost economies and provide customers with more choices. Just like the biggest sporting rivals that build on each others’ game, you can use your biggest competitors to hone your strategies.

    How to Develop This Skill

    Turn a competitive market landscape into an advantageous one by leveraging on long-established systems your business proposes an alternative to. Learn from the mistakes of predecessors once you discover their product or service loopholes.

    For example, the Dollar Shave Club’s viral video[6] became a big hit because it hit the right buttons of consumers being tired of purchasing expensive but low quality shavers from incumbent retail giants. Going in second meant they could fill a gap competitors might not even have been aware of.

    Apart from lifting off from what could have been your second-mover advantage, solidify your place with your business’ own first-mover advantage — whether you’re tapping into a new geographical region, unexplored market sector, or introducing a business model that proves more viable than others. There’s always room for improvement in business from mature markets to newly emerging ones.

    6. Honing Pitches to Investors

    Stand out in a broad mix of budding entrepreneurs by mastering the art and science behind a solid investor pitch that can determine the acceleration of growth for your business. Get comfortable talking about your ideas and receiving feedback or questions from peers, partners, and advisors before setting out to make a good impression on potential customers and eventually investors.

    The phrase “If you can’t convince them, confuse them,” will certainly never get your business funded, especially in front of seasoned venture capitalists who have seen thousands of startup pitches. You should be able to deliver a quick elevator pitch that summarizes your unique proposition and its market viability for casual meet-ups[7] because you sometimes only have a few minutes to make a good impression and move on to another meeting.

    How to Develop This Skill

    Develop your investor pitch deck by highlighting your business’ strongest points, which will vary for every funding round. Create your deck with the investors’ interests in mind, balancing technical jargon and buzzwords.

    You can also introduce your diverse team of experts, some proven traction, or the current state of the market to demonstrate profitability and the attractiveness of the opportunity to investors.

    Ensure each slide flows into the other to develop a persuasive narrative, utilizing consistent and intelligent design principles to support your content.

    7. Developing a Strong Brand Identity

    In a world of saturated content and numerous emerging businesses that offer similar service lines, developing a unique brand identity will help you cut through the noise and stand out from your competition. From aesthetics to the body of clients you’re associated with, these contribute to how you’re perceived by prospects looking to buy.

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    Evaluating your brand identity is linked to identifying your target customers, your business goals, a proposed promised land your solution achieves, and identifying values that are aligned to these components. Brand identity serves as a guide to maintaining consistency and creating an image you want your business to be associated with.

    How to Develop This Skill

    Efforts to strengthen your brand identity are closely tied to giving marketing strategies a direction. By knowing what makes your target customers tick, their values, ideals, and behavior, you will be able to elevate your business from simply being a service or product to be utilized into a projected brand customers and partners would be happy to identify with.

    8. Automating to Your Advantage

    The need for efficiency is often the general problem new businesses aim to resolve across all markets and industries. Assure that your proposed solution is more efficient than what’s readily available in the market to instill the need for it.

    Efficiency is often achieved nowadays through digitalization and new technologies. While your product or service may not necessarily be the most innovative out there, you can apply the same automation concept across your business’ daily operations.

    How to Develop This Skill

    Shorten turnaround times and conversion rates by investing in small tools for automation where you deem fit. While it may come out of your pocket in the early stages, evaluate the holistic advantages and benefits of automating certain processes. At our office, we’ve tried using collaborative apps like Workplace by Facebook, Slack, Asana and a few other popular apps to reduce human error and friction.

    9. Managing Millennials

    Your team plays an integral part in whether your business will accelerate at breakneck speeds or be dragged down by dead weight. Hence, it is imperative to be selective and strategic when choosing your team.

    In leaner small business teams, the addition of every new teammate can impact how your organization culture evolves.

    Today, learning to manage millennials has become an increasingly sought after skill as well due to the increasing proportion of them in the workforce[8]. Some brand them as strawberries that are easily bruised and others loath their need for “meaning” and wearing t-shirts to work.

    How to Develop This Skill

    Naturally, there are many misconceptions surrounding millennials, and various businesses would do well to leverage their unique skills.

    A couple of ways to manage a millennial team include:

    Encourage a Flat Team Structure With Open Communication

    Maintain clear professional lines between supervisors and subordinates but keep communication channels open to ensure no negativity festers.

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    Offer Constructive Feedback

    Baby boomers are well known for their straightforward approach to delivering feedback. Millennials, on the other hand, don’t always take feedback in a form that could be construed as deep criticism.

    Being constructive with feedback ensures that we don’t coddle millennial workers but also tell them the things they need to hear.

    10. Maintaining a Network of Connectivity

    Instead of proposing a business that’s ambitiously and entirely disruptive to the supply or process chain in a respective industry, foster connections with other companies that cater to the same target customers as long as they provide a different service.

    By creating partnerships, both you and other businesses thrive simultaneously through creative avenues for customers to utilize your products and services for a holistically improved user experience.

    Sole market disruption isn’t always the best strategy to take. Not everybody has the opportunity, bandwidth, or financial capacity to dominate and monopolize a marketplace. See your potential for integration into other businesses and services as a good opportunity for co-collaborative marketing efforts with shared campaigns, split costs, and a strengthened customer database for everyone to tap into.

    How to Develop This Skill

    Regardless of the stage your business is in, never stop looking for ways to expand your network. Keep in contact with mentors you can look to for valuable industry advice that can help you avoid pitfalls and costly mistakes. Strengthen brand awareness by attending cross-industry events and casual meet-ups to open your business to reinvention and innovation.

    As the African proverb goes:

    “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

    Collaborating will get you where you want to go quicker and gear you up for further growth.

    More Tips on How to Succeed in Business

    Featured photo credit: Tyler Franta via unsplash.com

    Reference

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