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Take a Marketing Lesson from the Girl Scouts
Bite-size Your Products & Services

by Lee Steele

In tough economic times, there’s much we can all learn about marketing from the Girl Scouts.

Years ago, the perennial Girl Scout Cookie Drive sent tens of thousands of uniformed little girls into their neighborhoods to sell their cookies door-to-door (my favorite cookie was the Savannah). Who could resist the charms, and sales pitch, of such an army? Especially when what they were selling were great tasting cookies for only a buck a box.

However, over the years as manufacturing & distribution costs increased, so did the price of a box of cookies - from one dollar a box to two dollars, then three dollars, and eventually five dollars for the same box of cookies. It now took much more than a sweet smile and a crisp uniform beset with merit badges to get strangers to fork over 10 dollars or more for some cookies, even if it was for a good cause. Price resistance from former customers was an obstacle these non-professionally trained sales people were not equipped to handle.

What to do? Many business owners in this situation might be tempted to take the easy (but costly) way out – lower their prices (and profit margin) and wait for the economy to turn around (hopefully before they go broke).

Is that what the Girl Scouts did? Of course not. They understood that if your customers have less to spend, then you need to sell something that will fit their newly limited budgets. That doesn’t mean selling the same product or service for a lower price. Instead, think “bite-size”. That’s what the Girl Scouts did. Instead of lowering the price of a box of cookies, the Girl Scouts made their cookie boxes smaller, with fewer cookies, and sold the new smaller boxes for a more affordable price – three dollars. The size, and lower cost, of the smaller boxes enabled the Girl Scouts to sell them at a lower price point and, most importantly, still maintain an acceptable profit margin. Price resistance from customers was now overcome.

If your company is experiencing buyer resistance caused by limited budgets, then take a lesson from the Girl Scouts and think “bite-size”. What can you do to create a new smaller, or limited, version of your “standard” products or services that would be lower in price yet maintain an acceptable profit margin? What are the basic, or “must have”, features of your current products or services that should be kept, and what are the luxury, or “nice to have”, features that buyers are willing to forego in return for a lower price during an economic downturn? What products or services do you sell for a fixed price that you could sell on a more affordable monthly or annual subscription basis? Is there a financial services company that could help you to offer your customers an extended payment plan or leasing option for your products or services?

The main advantage of thinking “bite-size” is that you’ll be able to keep your current customers while maintaining acceptable profit margins. You may even gain new smaller customers who previously couldn’t afford your “standard” products or services. And, with the right nurturing, small customers can become big customers over time.

So, during tough economic times, take a bite out of buyer resistance and offer a more affordable, yet profitable, alternative. Everyone will think you’re a pretty smart cookie.


Lee Steele is the President of Strategic Insight, Inc. – a Tempe, Arizona based international Marketing Consulting firm. Over the past 11 years, Strategic Insight (www.strategicinsight.com) has helped companies in more than 25 different industries to grow their business through creative marketing and strategic planning. You can email Mr. Steele at leesteele@strategicinsight.com.


 
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