Why should people in your Unit believe selling popcorn is a good fundraiser? I was reminded of this as I read the comments from others on the Bryan on Scouting Blog referencing a very imaginative video parody of the song Do You Want to Build a Snowman from Frozen.
The comments ranged the gambit from “Adorable! Well done boys!” and “Really cute video” to “Problem is the product is overpriced” and “Popcorn violates BSA Guidelines”. By the way, thank to you ScoutingManiac for the unsolicited endorsement of my website.
I found it interesting nearly half the respondents were negative about popcorn. Do they not know the Boy Scouts have been selling popcorn for over 30 years and over that time period across over $1 Billion have gone back to fund local Units and Councils across the nation? If you think there is a membership or financial challenge now with the Boy Scouts of America, think of where they would be without popcorn sales.
My only conclusion is these people do not believe in the Popcorn Sale. I would guess this feeling is prominent in Units around the country. In an article I wrote in 2013, I spoke about 4 Reasons Most Unit Leaders Are Not Successful with Their Popcorn Sale. The first item in this article is Lack of Belief.
So how do we get others to believe in the Popcorn Sale?
In the book Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion renowned psychologist Robert Cialdini identified six key principles of building credibility for a product or service.
People are more likely to do something for you if they feel they are repaying a debt or favor. This is the number one reason stores offer free samples. The customer feels and obligation to do something if they get something for free. Yes, guilt works. Have more experienced Scouts give ‘free advice’ to first-time sellers. Pair up these same Scouts at Show and Sell or on a Take Order route and have the Scouts split the sales. Take away the objection which makes the popcorn sale difficult and parents will feel obligated to have their son participate.
As I have said many times over the years, “Consistency creates credibility. Credibility creates trust. People buy based on trust.” People will trust you more if the leader is consistent with the message on why popcorn sales are important to the Unit and Council. Develop an atmosphere of consistency in your Unit by always showing up on time and follow through on your commitments. Have a Planned Program and a Unit Budget. Let others know exactly what is going to be accomplished and steps needed to be done to get there.
When trying to convince others the popcorn sale works, it is important to bring in someone who has been successful in the past. Camp Masters Popcorn, has a person come into Councils who has led his Unit in selling $10,000 in one weekend. People can duplicate the efforts of another if they see it has been done before. If you are the leader trying to convince others about popcorn, bring in a person from outside the Unit to endorse popcorn sales and the value it brings to their Unit.
Have the top-selling Scout share what he did to be the top seller. If you do not have one in your Unit, then find another Scout in the Council who is willing to share his best practices. Think of the confidence you build up in a Scout when he is brought in as the ‘expert in the field’ on popcorn sales.
Customers like Scouts in uniform. There is a brand associated with a Scout in Uniform. Take any person from a street gang and put him in a well-kept, properly worn Scout Uniform and the perception of that young man will immediately change in the eyes of those who look upon him. Popcorn, in many Councils, is the only fundraiser where Scouts can wear the uniform. This makes in a huge advantage over other fundraisers. My son went out this year in full Scout Uniform including his sash with all the merit badges. People would come up to him and ask him about what he did for his badges. Do you think they would have approached my son in the same manner if he was wearing only a ‘Class B’ shirt? They found him more likeable in Scout Uniform.
People want what they don’t have. Girl Scouts Cookies are only sold one time a year and as stated in the comments of the blog article, people look forward to this time of year to get their Girl Scout Cookies. I will admit the popcorn companies have done a terrible job of capitalizing on providing this same scarcity in the popcorn marketplace. However, Units could do this themselves. My son’s Troop will be going out this weekend for Show and Sell. We have special signs made up saying “Last Weekend to Buy Popcorn to Support Local Scouting.” In addition, teach parents in your Unit the popcorn sale is for a “limited time only” and will not go beyond a specific deadline. For the Girl Scouts, cookie sales are often the only fundraiser they have. What would happen if popcorn was the only fundraiser for the Boy Scouts? When my son was a Cub Scout, popcorn was the only fundraiser we did and we had high participation because of it.
Last weekend, I was at a business conference and they stated this quote, “Fear and Faith cannot exist in the same body.” I believe this is the same with all fundraisers. One must first have faith and belief the fundraiser will work if planned and executed correctly. Only then will people’s fear of not succeeding be eliminated.
This weekend, I went out and visited various Units at their Show and Sell location. Most of them followed their training and set up a striking display. Many of the Units had a poster with pictures of activities they had done or events they wanted to do in the near future. They had their product properly displayed. Those Units who had tables had everything nice and neat. However, there was one significant difference between the Units. Half of the Units had prices either on a large price sheet or on the actual product. The other half had no prices at all.
So what is the difference?
I spoke to all of these Units as to why they chose or chose not to display prices on the product.
For those who posted prices, the main reason was to make it easier on the Scouts. Pack leaders wanted the Cub Scouts to tell the customers what the price was. By having the price on the packaging, the Cub Scouts did not have to remember the price as it was on the packaging. There were a couple of Troops who had placed prices on the product as well. When asking the Scouts why they placed prices on the product, there was one common denominator. None of these Troops had a Popcorn Kickoff. Most of the Scouts knew nothing about the product before they arrived at the Show and Sell location site. In both cases, putting prices on the product made it easier for the Scouts to know their products better.
I also asked Units who did not put pricing on the product why they made decision. It most cases the decision was intentional. Unit leaders believed they were not selling popcorn but selling Scouting. They wanted the customer to agree to support the Scout before they chose which product to buy. In every instance, the Unit had a formal Popcorn Kickoff and many had an activity at their Kickoff where Scouts learn about the different products and what they cost. This made it easier when the Scouts were discussing the product options with the customer. Now there were a few Units who did not even think about putting the price on the product. It had never crossed their mind, but they all had an Order Form available which had the pricing in case there was a question.
One Pack did have a different idea to help their Scouts. Rather than place the actual price on the product, they placed different color stickers for the different prices of the product. They used an Orange sticker for $10 Products, Green for $15 and Yellow for $20 Products. All the Cub Scouts needed to remember was three prices for the three colors. It allowed them to know the price without displaying it.
I believe prices should not be posted on the packaging. The main reason for this is more consumer psychology than anything else. Many location sites only allow Scouts to ask for the sale as the customer exits the building. If the price is posted, the consumer has already made the decision to buy or not before the Scout has the opportunity to ask. This also limits the volume of Military Donations you may accumulate because the customer ‘never comes to the table’. In addition, I agree with those leaders who say we are selling Scouting and not popcorn. Popcorn is a commodity which can be purchased cheaper inside the grocery store. Customers want to buy from a Scout to support the Scout.
However, let’s look at the numbers. I asked every Unit to send me a text on how much they sold at their site on that Saturday. Each of these locations sold for 8 hours. Of those who sent in their numbers, Units who placed prices on the product sold on average of $585 or $73/hour. Units who did not have prices on average sold $960 or $120/hour. This alone should make a decision for most Units.
I understand the need for wanting to help Scouts be successful and placing the price on the product may seem to do this. Nevertheless, based on the numbers, Show and Sell locations have fewer customers thus fewer containers sold if the price is prominently displayed.
Good Luck and keep selling.