Food for thought


Wayne looks at retail psychology and how we can apply this to Scouting.

Learning from retailers

Have you noticed how the shop assistant always asks you if would like a bar of chocolate with your paper, or a pastry with your coffee in the café? Or why supermarkets have their bright welcoming displays of fruit and vegetables at the entrance and the smell of freshly baked bread wafting through the store while the essentials you always need are at the back?

Retailers and businesses generally spend a lot of time and money on looking after their customers, especially their retail experience. Terry Leahy (Tesco's former CEO) summed it up in his autobiography when he said 'everything we did was focussed on listening to our customers and acting'. He also talked about the need for big ambitions, but I’ll save those thoughts for another day!

So, what if we viewed Scouting in a similar way? Not exactly 'buy one get one free', but we've used 'bring a friend' evenings and 'The Big Adventure' very successfully. Why not use some of the other tactics and psychology?

Your meeting place

How welcoming is your 'shop window'? Do you have a bright welcoming sign outside? Do you have a display board with leaders' photos so parents know who's who? Do you clearly present opportunities for parents to volunteer, including a parent rota?

You'd be amazed how often I hear that it was difficult to find a local meeting place. Have a look at the Print Centre for a range of branded personalised resources that will help.

The little adventures

Residential experiences (sleepovers, camps etc) are a fantastic recruiting opportunity. This is why The Big Adventure initiative is so successful. 

Including parents and others in evening and regular activities can be successful too; they can enjoy themselves and see what it’s all about. They can be softened up enough for you to make the ask – just like the assistant in the café offers you that pastry!  Make as much of the little adventures as you can.

Happy customers are the best sales people

Just as young people are the best people to recruit new youth members (bring a friend, school assemblies etc), so too are existing volunteers the best people to recruit others. Think about those offers from the book club to ‘invite a friend’ and how getting a free gift isn't because the club likes you.

What can we do to make you confident enough to ask your family, friends and work colleagues to come and join?

Emails and catchy brochures

Of course, these are designed to get your attention, make you feel valued and buy things. How do your communications with parents look and feel? Do you help them feel part of the Group? Are they proud and enthusiastic, or perhaps they feel harassed, depressed and concerned? When did you last seek the views of parents and your young people?

The customer is king

If it's good enough for Sainsbury's, B&Q, Starbucks and John Lewis, then perhaps there is something we can learn from them and put into a Scouting context?

Keeping our existing members, adults and young people happy is key. At the Hampshire County Scout conference recently, they launched their ambitious growth plans, aiming to increase from 18,000 to 25,000 youth members by 2018. It drew breaths of surprise, until Mike Kerrigan pointed out that simply by retaining all of their current 9-year-olds through to their 15th birthdays they would have an extra 10,000 young people.

Food for thought indeed!

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