What Dealerships Can Learn from the Girl Scouts

By Desiree Homer 

It’s that time of year again. The neighborhood Girl Scouts are setting up tables outside your favorite markets, filling up your social media feeds, and knocking on doors. You don’t mind, though, because everyone appreciates their efforts, and those cookies are just so good. Oreos might usually top the list as America’s favorite cookie. But every year, between January and March, Girl Scout cookies steal the title and bragging rights. Around 200 million boxes are sold within that three-month window.

There could be a few lessons dealer owners can learn from the young ladies in sashes from their marketing playbook. Today, we’ll take a look at brand and marketing tips that dealerships can be leveraging to drive more ‘Tag-a-long’ and ‘Samoa-like’ sales results.

A Trusted Brand Doesn’t Need to Be Sold

What’s your favorite cookie? Chances are you have at least one, and if you don’t, you could still probably name a few. When it’s cookie time, you know exactly what’s in those boxes. The brand is known and trusted globally. The organization is rooted in both rich history and flavors that everyone has come to rely on over the years. Think about your dealership brand and evaluate the public perception of its trustworthiness. Of course, you’ll have your franchise automaker brand to lend credibility to your dealer name’s public impression. However, having a strong reputation for being fair, trusted, and reliable as a dealer is best managed at the local level. If you don’t have a process in place that helps you measure the customer service experience at each phase of the engagement process, you might not know what areas need improvement. It’s this very reason many companies employ secret shoppers or customer surveys, to engage at a customer level and then report back the nature of the overall encounter.

Creating A Seasonal Demand

If cookies were available on-demand via Amazon and year-round, they might eventually lose their appeal. Having a season, with a precise deadline of availability, creates a sense of urgency to find a local scout and get your orders placed. In the same vein of creating a seasonal, short term availability, there may be marketing opportunities to create your own seasonal perks to drive sales. You can get creative with sales, discounts, or incentives that tap into the FOMO (fear of missing out) psychology. Some experts suggest leading with your best foot forward and try to promote seasonal offers during your busier times of the year. Instead of tapping a faucet from a dry well, during the slow times, consider increasing the volume during a time that already produces strong revenues. If every dime in advertising you spend is measurable as a drop of water in an empty glass, it may take a while to eventually fill that glass. Once your glass is full, however, every drop you add will produce overflowing results. Build on your best and test the waters with seasonal demand creation.

Online Isn’t Everything 

The Girl Scouts certainly know how to make use of social media and online cookie-selling techniques. However, they don’t rely on emails and Facebook messenger exclusively. You’ll notice them setting up tables outside popular shopping areas, as well. They send physical order forms into work with the adults in their lives. They call long-distance relatives to make sales. When it comes time to deliver the goodies, the girls offer to ship or deliver the boxes in person, as well as digital payment options. The strategy here that works well for the cookie peddlers is one that provides flexibility and convenience options, without forgoing the personal touch and experience. In your sales and marketing efforts, you know the importance of digital browsing and online engagement options. However, don’t forget that many buyers will appreciate the in-person engagement on the showroom floor. Review your key customer touchpoints and make sure you’re maximizing those personalization and engagement opportunities, beyond the digital platforms.

Taking Sales to the Buyers

One girl scout set up shop at a local florist on Valentine’s Day. A father set up a table with his daughter outside a legalized marijuana dispensary. Many young badge-earners venture to local colleges and set up shop in common areas and cafeterias. The marketing approach here is about finding buyers where they are and bringing the sales opportunity to them there. As a dealer, you often streamline your advertising efforts to lure the car buyers to your store. However, there may be opportunities for you to take the sales to the car buyers. Many dealers will engage in off-site sales, as part of a local celebration or summertime community event. When county fairs and holiday celebrations are in full swing, you know where your buyers will be. If there is a way to bring your car-buying experience to them there, you can maximize your bottom-line sales.

A Good Cause Eliminates Buyer’s Remorse

When the Girl Scouts reduced the number of cookies in each box due to rising costs of production, no one batted an eye. Buying habits are sometimes less affected by changes to the pricing or processes if customers believe it’s for a good cause. While there’s nothing not-for-profit about your dealership business model, there are ways you can leverage causes to your sales advantage. Dealers that align themselves with community charities, for example, can establish the brand as one of involvement, support, and leadership. As a result, consumers may be less likely to reject a sales email or special service offer in the mail, because they know the dealership is an upstanding local company.

Promoting the Team

As an organization, the Girl Scouts of America has always promoted life skills, business lessons, and leadership initiatives among its young members. Scouts are required to learn teamwork within their groups. They are encouraged to volunteer in a spirit of giving back and doing good things. Being a Girl Scout to many means learning how to be confident in one’s abilities as an individual, as well as a productive member of a team. It’s this framework that is shared with the cookie buying public and can reinforce the integrity of the brand. Along those same lines, what you share with your audience about the growth, support, and betterment of your teams, can foster an environment of integrity as well. Consider offering employee spotlights via social media. Celebrate a sales member who recently completed another brand certificate in training. Highlight the good deeds of your service technicians who volunteer in their off time. In demonstrating your vested interest in the success of your teams, you send a message to your potential customers that your dealership and brand are comprised of diligent and reliable staff. Neither floor plans nor dealer management systems are most valuable to your business. Your people, however, are.

What’s Your Thin Mint? 

When it comes to America’s favorite Girl Scout cookie, the recent data shows Thin Mints top the favorites list, making up a quarter of all sales. Caramel de Lites (also known as Samoas, depending on your location) are the second most popular at 19%. You know that all the marketing strategies in the world won’t work if you have a weak product. For the Girl Scouts, the cookies really do sell themselves. Regardless of which iconic flavor suits your palette best, you often don’t care which Girl Scout comes to your door. As long as you’re able to enjoy your treats. In keeping with trending consumer tastes, you may notice that in addition to the classic Thin Mints, there are often other varieties available, with no preservatives, vegan, or sugar-free options. The strategy is to appeal to the existing trusted audience, yet still attract new buyers as well.

Now consider your business operations and product. Which of your revenue streams is your Thin Mint? Your new inventory is designed to sell itself in a way, depending on the badges your operation represents. However, the most significant profits might be in selling your used inventory. If you’re not precise about selecting and pricing your trades, your used vehicles might now be selling themselves as you hoped. Some dealers have branched beyond their brands to bring in niche and desirable quick turn inventory. One dealer in Texas went so far as to include lift kit services as part of its service department to meet the local demand. In doing so, they were able to keep those dollars, formerly doled out to outside vendors, in-house. With your product strategy, be mindful of what favorites you have to offer and get creative in attracting new buyers.

When you sit down to your morning coffee with your favorite peanut butter patties, consider evaluating what led you to buy those cookies. You might get some insight into your dealership’s marketing strategy to improve your efforts. 

Imagine your customers getting just as excited about your brand as America does about Girl Scout cookies.