Marketing Lessons from a Smart Cookie

April 7, 2021

My mom taught me more things than she realized, and while she wasn’t in marketing directly, oh boy, did she teach me a ton about the subject!

I was a Girl Scout, and it was cookie season.  Today’s Girl Scouts’ marketing strategy is to park themselves in front of your grocery store with a gaggle of other Girl Scouts, surrounded by overseeing moms.  Back then it was: Head out and walk door-to-door, take orders, and deliver the cookies several weeks later when the shipment arrived.

This then-shy Girl Scout was just going to ask family and some close friends to buy.  But the rub in that idea was that I wanted to sell the most cookies in our troop.  My Mother sat me down.

Time for Marketing 101

My goal and my plan did not match.  My goal was to sell boxes and boxes of cookies.  My plan was to call family (actually, my plan was to have my mother call the family).  That strategy would not get me to my goal.

Mom made several things obvious—I needed a new plan, and I was making the sales, not her (how did she know?).  This was my goal, my “business,” and I had to run the thing.

Out the door and down our street I went.  I came home a few hours later with a lot of single-box orders and a long face.  If I kept up this way, there was no way to meet my goal. I had “launched and learned” as we so often talk about.  And what I learned was that my middle-class neighborhood wasn’t going to be a source for success.  I needed to adjust my marketing plan.

Enter Mom.

“Who can buy more than one box of cookies?”

“Richer people,” I guessed.

“Where do richer people live that’s near to us?” she continued.

“Over there in that neighborhood,” I guessed again.

“Okay, that’s where you go.”

I believe this was an early version of “Who’s your Ideal Customer and where can you find them?”

Over I went to knock on the doors of the “rich” peoples’ houses.  To my great surprise, people bought more than a box or two. Some as many as 10 or 12 boxes. I finally got up the courage to ask one woman why she bought so many boxes.

“Because my children love these cookies,” she said, “and they want them all year long. I don’t want to explain why they can only have them for a few weeks in the Spring.”

I had discovered her aspiration…and the obstacle to her aspiration was that Girl Scout cookies only came out once a year. So, stock up, woman!

I ran home and told my mother about this extraordinary discovery.

“What are you going to do with this information?” she asked.

I looked at her with the most vacant look.  “What do you mean what am I going to do with it?  Some people bought more cookies.  That’s it.”

“You’re missing something,” my Mom said.  “If one mom wants to make sure she has enough Girl Scout cookies to last and last, other mothers will, too.  Go back and make sure you visit the houses where you can see that they have children.  They are who you want to be talking to.”

I guess, looking back, that was my first marketing lesson. It was learned through my Mom, like so many other valuable life…and business…lessons.

So, what lessons has your mother taught you about marketing?

That old saying is true: “Mother knows best.”

Take her advice and…

Go forth and do great things,

Martha & Chris


PS: Yes, I did win the contest for most sales that year!

PPS:  Girl Scout cookies are on sale until the end of April.  Click here to find a troop selling cookies in your area or to order cookies on-line.