You might have read this headline and thought “Is Podcast Websites really using click-bait?” Nope, I truly believe that there are a ton of things that podcasters can use that we teach in the Girl Scout Cookie program. For 100 years, Girl Scouts have been selling their delicious cookies to help raise funds but also to show a new generation of young women how to run a business and set goals. You may personally love a good Girl Scout cookie, or you might be like me and have a Girl Scout you are personally supporting, but these young women will be selling millions of tasty treats from January through March in my local area alone. Girl Scouts teach a lot of lessons, but the care and the deliberation of their cookie enterprise are something to envy and copy, particularly for podcasters who are looking to stand out. There are many things a podcaster can learn from Girl Scout Cookie Sales. Here are just a few things I think you can apply to your podcast today.
Embrace new ideas but still use traditional methods
One thing that Girl Scout cookie sales do is force people to adopt new practices. Three years ago they decided to add an e-commerce option for their cookie sales that the Scout herself can manage. Individuals Girl Scouts use digital marketing techniques like e-mail, social media, and online purchasing to sell boxes of cookies to anyone around the world. These new methods are a far cry from going door-to-door, but they also haven’t completely abandoned the things that worked to sell cookies in the past. There are still organized walkabouts where groups of scouts walk through neighborhoods to sell cookies. The girls still host booths at local stores, and many Girl Scout parent brings cookie order forms to the office. Using all these methods allows Scouts to reach the most people.
If you ask a sampling of podcasters a good portion of them want to reach more people as well. The challenge is many podcasters use old, or outdated information to boost downloads. Or worse they don’t follow the basics. Successful podcasting begins with the basics of:
- Good Audio
- Good Content
- Consistent Publishing
- A Strong Promotion Plan
And it takes time to build these into a workflow that makes sense for your podcast. None of these are things you can skip, and these are the four pillars of podcasting that will forever matter if you want have a successful podcast. You can, however, tweak them to make them work for you.
Good Audio can simply be moving into a closet or upgrading your microphone. It can be investing the money to hire an editor or asking for honest feedback from your peers. Good content depends on what your audience wants from your show. Are you willing to listen to them to find out what they need? Consistent publishing can be daily, weekly, monthly – it just matters that when you promise a show you deliver one. A strong promotion plan is what you need to promote your show. The point is you can combine new ways, like Pateron sponsorship or Facebook ads to bring in more listeners and ensure great content is provided.
Girl Scouts stay open to change
Another thing podcasters can learn from Girl Scout cookie sales is to be open to change. The Girl Scout Cookie Program started in 1917 when a troop in Oklahoma sold cookies in their high school cafeteria. The practice spread and over time the Girl Scouts adapted to become more organized and structured to ensure consistent products. They hired outside bakers, started to brand themselves, and the cookie program grew. They listened to their customers to create different flavors and to remove ingredients that were not as healthy as others. 100 years later and Girl Scouts are still adapting to trends and do things like create gluten-free cookies and removed underperforming cookies to make way for new flavors.
Podcasters need to do the same with their product. The key is asking for feedback and then listening to the feedback. Sometimes you’ll get no comments, meaning if you consistently use a call to action, but no one follows the action you might want to adjust of tweak something. Have a segment that isn’t working – drop it and replace it with something else. Getting more feedback on a show with a particular type of guest, then invite more people like that on the show. Create standards for production, so it’s easy to get great shows out that are consistently good. These are all things that will require you to change something, but if you’re willing to put in the work, you will see benefits.
Being open to change is an excellent thing because it allows you and your podcast the room to grow.
Keeps core message the same but change up the method
While change is good, you shouldn’t modify the core of what you’re trying to accomplish with your podcast.
The core of the Girl Scout Cookie Program is all about showing the girls how to do the following five skills:
- Goal Setting
- Decision Making
- Money Management
- People Skills
- Business Ethics
While things like flavors and methods of selling may change, the five skills never change. It is the core that makes the program so worthwhile for Girl Scouts who participate in it. Every decision on marketing, creating, and developing the cookies had the five skills at the centerpiece. It helps the adults helping in the cookie sales to remember who we are there to serve and grow – the girls themselves.
When you begin a podcast you need to ask yourself “why am I doing this?” and “who will I serve.” The core of your podcast and the content that you create needs always to address these two things. Once you can answer those two questions then create the content you need to help your audience. Even if you are doing a funny, comedy podcast, you should be able to answer these questions.
Sometimes the core doesn’t change, but you can find new ways of promoting it and growing into new areas. The Girl Scouts have some base cookie flavors that never change: Trefoils, which are a butter Shortbread, Thin Mints, a crispy chocolate and mint cookie, and the Do-si-dos which are a peanut butter sandwich cookie. In the 100 years of being sold the cookies have changed and new favorites like Tagalongs and Samoas, or Caramel-de-Lites depending on where you live, are added. The flavors don’t change too much, but the messaging behind the cookies change with the times. For example, did you know that the Thin Mints were a vegan cookie? They’ve always been a vegan cookie but only in the past few years have Girl Scouts promoted this. Girl Scouts realized their market would appreciate a vegan cookie, especially a delicious one that has been popular for years. Highlighting this benefit is a way to keep the core message but give it a new twist. They also change up the theme every year. Last year they celebrated 40 years of Samoa cookies, and this year they are celebrating 100 years of Girl Scout cookies. Similar and yet different gives the scouts new ways to promote the same thing.
You can do the same thing with your podcast. In August and September of 2015, I did a special Two-a-Day Series for my podcast The Sports Gal Pal where I interviewed superfans from another podcast for about 20 minutes on their specific NFL team. I released the episodes two a day until the start of the football season. I still produced my regular episodes, but I was able to create content that honored my core and still do something different. And only for a short time. I’m sure if you brainstorm some ideas you will be able to find a special series or episodes you can produce.
Use data and the right feedback to make wise decisions.
Like any business or enterprise, Girl Scouts use data and statistics to make informed decisions. They look at overall sales of a cookie to determine if they need to remove it or bring it back next year. This requires looking at sales stats. Another thing the Girl Scouts do is to listen to feedback from their top sellers. One of the things our local Girl Scout Council does is invite girls who sell 1,000 boxes or more to a special luncheon with the CEO of our local Girl Scout council. She asks the girls to share their best selling tips and tricks and then those girls get to help select the prizes for next year.
Now just because you get stats like download numbers for your podcast, it doesn’t mean that you need to live and die with them. Instead look at trends in your listening pattern. If you suddenly get a spike in listenership in a particular area for a specific episode do some research to find out why. Was it the guest, the topic, the length? Any of these can provide feedback to make a direction for something new or different for your podcast.
A tried and true system can build confidence
One of the reasons Girl Scouts at all levels are successful at selling is that they often follow a blueprint for what works regarding cookies. They will get preorders from friends and family, host booths with their troop, and host walkabouts in neighborhoods. This formula is tested, tried, and works. When scouts follow this formula they see success right away which builds confidence and the freedom to try new things.
The same can be said for podcasts. Many podcasters shy away from using a formula because they want to be original, but some things just make sense to duplicate because they work. Things like editing processes, sound checks, even show notes, these are things you can use and adapt to your needs. They let a beginning podcaster sound more professional, and it builds confidence, which leads into my next point.
Practice makes perfect opportunities to mentor
My daughter is three years into selling cookies and getting better every year. She understands the product benefits and features of each cookie. She is better at her sales pitch, and more comfortable knocking on doors, but only with a trusted adult. Each year she grows into a well-oiled cookie machine who learns and teaches new scouts how to rock the cookie sales. This year her troop put together a table at Cookie Palooza where they helped explain price grouping the cookies for easier sales. She and her troop taught their direct competition one of the ways they have figured out how to really sell cookies.
The podcast community must do the same way to continue to grow and thrive. We need to understand how to pitch our podcast to advertisers, traditional media, and the public, and share how we do that. You only get good at those things with continued practice. Podcasters also need to be willing to share their knowledge with the community. Groups, meetups, events, and conferences need to continue to welcome and embrace every brand new podcaster. While you may see another podcaster entering into space as a competitor, it is instead another opportunity for listeners to discover podcasts and for them to find your show. Remember the old Girl Scout song, “Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other’s gold.” Competition is a good thing in our industry, and it opens up more doors for people outside of the podcasting world to discover more podcasts in the first place. If you’re a veteran podcaster take the time to answer questions in Facebook Groups, or submit to speak at a podcast conference. You have wisdom from practice, share it!
The five skills in Girl Scout Cookie sales matters to your podcast
The pillar of the Girl Scout cookie sale season is teaching the scouts the five skills of running a business. These are:
- Goal Setting
- Decision Making
- Money Management
- People Skills
- Business Ethics
Each of these skills is also important for podcasters in any niche.
Take goal setting; even a hobby podcaster should try to have goals like some downloads per episode, or for those trying to use podcasting as an income source the number of email subscriptions you get a call out on an episode. Goals help motivate and keep a podcaster focused on getting better.
Decision making is another critical skill, and one many podcasters face in a lot of different ways. Which media host to use? Is it worth hiring an editor? Should he upgrade to a more expensive microphone? Should she try running Facebook ads? All of these decisions require thought, research, and sometimes gut instinct.
Money management is necessary for a lot of things in life. For podcasting, it can be as simple as realizing how much you’re paying for creating your podcast. For example, the price for Podcast Websites can seem a lot when you compare other hosting options. But when you add up the cost of website maintenance, hosting the site, unlimited hosting of podcast episodes, 24-7 technical support, education opportunities exclusive to the community, and design help, plus the time saved when going for an all-in-one product like Podcast Websites, then it actually makes financial sense. You will be able to spend more time marketing and promoting your podcast than worrying about tech issues on your website. Being able to make a smart decision about finances is another skill to borrow from Girl Scouts.
It might seem minor, but people skills is another critical item that podcasters need to work on – especially when you’re trying to develop relationships with influencers in your podcasting niche. Being able to network, build relationships, and even get people onto your show require excellent people skills. The Girl Scouts practice this at their booths by not shouting about cookies, only talking to buyers who approach the booth and thanking customers. In podcasting, it is better to develop a relationship with someone before trying to do things like trade reviews, get guest spots, or mentioned in social media. Plus, your product needs to be good enough for people to eventually approach you. The Girl Scouts have been at it for 100 years and are still improving. Imagine what you’ll sound like after six months, 12 months, 24 months. Every episode you’ll get better and more people will notice.
Business ethics is the last skill and one that many consider the most important. Girl Scouts are encouraged to act honestly and responsibly throughout the cookie selling process. They have, to be accurate on their forms; they have to follow the rules set, and follow safety procedures. For podcasting, ethics include not lying about your download numbers. Even publishing episodes on time is considered part of business ethics. The values of podcasting should also include not leaving bogus reviews to make your competition look bad, and not trash talking in Facebook groups for podcasters.
Accepting rejection gracefully
Accepting rejection is another skill Girl Scouts learn during cookie season. It’s an important one because no matter how delicious the cookies, no matter how adorable the girls, and no matter how much of a good cause it is there are those who choose not to purchase. The girls very quickly have to learn to brush it off and keep going. They have to handle rejection with grace.
Accepting rejection is another good lesson for podcasters because if you are in podcasting long enough, there will be some form of denial. There will be a guest you want that will pass, there will be listeners who say your show is bad, and sponsors who will turn down the opportunity to advertise on your show. Being able to handle rejection gracefully will help you build relationships because while one person might reject your proposal they might know of someone who is a better fit.
One of the hallmarks of the Girl Scout cookie program is the branding. You know an authentic Girl Scout cookie box when you see one. They are brightly colored, with photos of real Girl Scouts in action. Even when grocery stores tried to copy the recipes, the authentic Girl Scout cookies taste amazing. The branding from the websites to banners is in classic Girl Scout green. There is copy everywhere about what the cookie sale does for girls and why you should support them. And above all else, the Girl Scouts themselves are branded while going out in their vests and sashes with badges. All of these things help to sell more cookies and get the word out about the sale.
You should treat your podcast the same way. The collateral, language, colors, and the fonts you use for your podcast marketing should be consistent. When people see your marketing they should know which podcast that is, and what you talk about. When you go to podcasting conferences you should consider wearing a branded t-shirt. All of these things help brand your podcast.
Using your network
One of the big rules about Girl Scout cookie sales is that you sell to friends and family first. You use the network to spread the word of the sale. Mom and dad bring the order for to work and enlist other adults like grandparents to promote the sale. They use their network to get more sales.
You have to use your network to promote your show. Your first listeners are almost always going to be people you know, people who want to see you succeed. What a lot of podcasters do wrong is not remind their network enough, or worse too much. There is a fine balance between self-promotion that you have to strike. But you need to promote your podcast to your network, you need to share blog posts where and when you can. You have to be your best advocate.
Fun is contagious
The final lesson from Girl Scout cookies sales to apply to podcasting is this, it should be fun. The girls have an awesome time planning booth decorations and going to cookie rallies. They love handing out cookies and running the booths. They have an awesome time and then usually reward themselves with a service project or trip with their earnings.
Your podcast should be fun, it should be something you love to do. You won’t be truly successful if you’re only in it for the money or potential fame. Those are not worthy goals ultimately. Instead, focus on the value you provide to listeners and try to have as much fun with podcasting as the Girl Scouts have selling cookies.
Need a cookie fix? My daughter is currently selling them, or you find a local cookie booth using the zip code locator. And if you’re thinking about starting a podcast we would love to help you here at Podcast Websites. Schedule a one-on-one with our founder Mark Asquith and he can tell you more about our company.