Recruiting Cub Scouts, Part 3 – Strategy Is Not a Four-Letter Word

Now that you have solved any contact information errors and you know who you are reaching out to, it’s time to develop your recruiting strategy.

If you are like most people, you hear the word “strategy” and instantly go into panic mode. You hear about sports teams having winning strategies, or politicians having a campaign strategy, or a large company having a business strategy. You think that it is too complex, and requires too much work to develop a strategy.

But the reality is it’s not that bad. A strategy is just a plan. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as “a careful plan or method.” So it doesn’t have to be some big, hairy thing that has to be developed. It just needs to be a plan that you follow.

Failing to create a plan — or strategy — can lead to continued unproductive recruiting in your pack. Think about going to work. You know what time you need to wake up, what you need to do to get ready, what to wear, and which roads to drive on to get there in time to start. You didn’t just wake up randomly, decide to go for an aimless drive, and you happened to show up somewhere with a paycheck. You actually planned out when and how to get to work, and that plan allows you to arrive at work successfully. In the same way, you need to develop a strategy for your pack’s recruiting efforts to get the desired results.

The best way I can suggest that you create this plan is for your pack to operate much like a corporate marketing department. Your recruiting efforts are a marketing presentation, asking the parents to “buy” Scouting for their child, so marketing methods that work for companies will also work well for Cub Scout recruiting efforts.

The first thing that you need to do is take a good, long look at your pack. Ask yourself some questions about the community, about other packs in the area, and about how your pack does things. This isn’t an effort to critique your pack, but rather to define your pack so you know what you are working with and what you are attempting to explain to others. This may take an hour for two or three pack leaders to define, or it may require that several pack leaders think about this and reconvene to further discuss. Regardless how you do it, make sure you get to a point where you feel like you have a good definition of your pack.

Once you have defined your pack, you need to figure out how to explain that message to others. There are a lot of ways to do this, and if you have a marketing professional in your pack, you may want to use what they suggest. One of the best ways that I have found to come up with a strategy is often called the Marketing Mix, or the Marketing 4 Ps. By using this framework, you can better define your message so that it matches your pack.

The Marketing 4 Ps are:

  • Product – This is the Cub Scouting program in your pack. The program materials are produced by BSA, but each pack is unique and different from other packs, even one just a short distance away. As you define the message about your Product, talk about what makes your pack unique. It may be the way your meetings take place (all together for den meetings, or den meetings in leaders’ homes?) and the day and time that you meet. It could be the leaders and the unique skills they bring to your pack. Or maybe it is something about the neighborhood. Also find out what attracts families to your pack. If you don’t know, ask some parents that recently joined why they chose your pack.
  • Place – As you talk about your Place, you want to consider things like where you meet and how many scouts your meeting room can hold. Is your meeting location easy to get to? What neighborhoods do your scouts live in? You also want to discuss where you advertise and let prospective parents know about your pack. Are you going to put fliers in the schools? If so, which schools? Consider the use of social media sites like Facebook or Nextdoor to promote your pack.
  • Promotion – You define the methods that you will use to let the community know about your pack when you discuss Promotion. What methods are you going to use to reach prospective parents? Are you going to try to get into the schools and talk to the kids? Will you send fliers home? Consider what your child brings home from school and how much attention you give it. Are you going to advertise on Facebook, Nextdoor, or other social media? Does your community have a hyper-local online news service (such as Patch) that you can advertise in? Is your web site up-to-date and fresh looking, while maintaining scout privacy? For online sites that you control (like your pack web site and Facebook page) you want it to look fresh and be full of recent content, showing your scouts having fun.
  • Price – The last P is Price. Discuss how much it costs to join your pack. What is included in that cost? You need to consider if the cost is justifiable in your community. For example, if you live in a poorer community, you might consider the cost of events and uniforms, and how many fundraisers you will conduct. On the other hand, if you are in a wealthy area, parents may expect the pack to conduct more events that they are willing to pay for. You also need to think about other costs that a parent will be expected to pay, including the cost of a uniform and handbook at your local Scout Shop. I believe in letting parents know the costs up-front so they can make a realistic decision about their ability to afford Scouting. When asked, I make it a point to remind parents that the cost of one season of other youth activities is comparable to one year of Scouting; it’s very affordable in comparison. But the Price needs to be discussed and possibly adjusted in light of your community’s economics.

When you start working on your strategy, don’t let it overwhelm you. This should not be something that takes months and costs a lot of money to hire a marketing research firm. This should be something that takes a few hours of your pack leadership’s time in one or two discussion sessions. You live in your community, so you know what makes it tick. You generally know the socioeconomic factors in the various neighborhoods in your community. So don’t spend a lot of time and money to have someone else tell you what you already know. What you want to do is get together to define your strategy so that you don’t inadvertently overlook something.

There is no set order to the 4 Ps (I happened to put them in this order because it matches the graphic). You can start with any of them and work through them in whatever order works best for you. You should even revisit each of them as your discussions lead to more ideas. The important thing is to discuss each of the 4 Ps, because each one is equally important to the others in creating your strategy.

As you define your pack and come up with a plan to market your pack, you gain the tools needed to choose successful techniques that work with your plan. When you choose recruiting techniques without a strategy, you are hoping that what worked for someone else will also work for you. The more thought you put into your pack’s recruiting strategy, the more tools you give yourself, and the more likely you are to find a recruiting technique that will be successful for you.

Spend some time on your strategy. It will be well worth it in the success of your recruiting efforts!

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