Getting a Marketing Badge from the Girl Scouts

You can learn a lot from the Girl Scouts and you don’t even have to be a member — or even female, for that matter. In this case I’m talking about the Girl Scouts of Oregon and Southwest Washington, which does a fantastic job of using email marketing to communicate with more than 11,000 volunteers and nearly 19,000 members and their parents.

There are two things about this Girl Scouts organization’s use of email that make for an interesting study. First, it’s the Scouts’ realization that disseminating information to the Scouts and their parents through the volunteers was an ineffective way to communicate. “If you truly want to communicate with your members on a regular basis, email marketing is the only affordable way to do it,” says Michelle Clinch, director of communications for the organization. “It allows us to talk to volunteers about important issues that are going on, and making sure everyone is in the loop.”

The benefit of using email marketing for communication is not the only thing that makes the Girl Scouts’ story great. I also think the way they use it can serve as a lesson for all marketers.

While the group sends out an email each week, each one targets a different segment of its list. Michelle explains: “We have four emails that go out each month, and they’re staggered, so that if someone is on multiple lists, they’re not getting hit all the time. The first week, we send an email to all of our members — it’s one of those general ones and it covers all the events and activities that girls can do. The second week of the month, we do one that’s solely for volunteers. It allows us to talk to volunteers about important issues that are going on, and make sure everyone is in the loop. The third week is solely for our alumni; we send out messages about what other alumni are doing, as well as what activities and events they can get involved in. And then the last one of the month is for parents and guardians. These stakeholders may not be troop leaders, but they still want to know what’s happening with their daughter and how their daughter is benefiting.”

Michelle decided to stagger the emails that way to ensure that no one person on the list was getting hammered with up to four emails in a single day or even a week. She enforces the schedule, so if her staff has something they want added to an upcoming message, they need to get it in on time or else it won’t be included. For Michelle, it’s about honoring the subscribers’ time.

Any business or organization sending out multiple email campaigns each month can — and should — learn a little something from Michelle and the Girl Scouts. In addition to keeping messages on a staggered schedule, she advises those using an Email Service Provider to utilize the reporting data that’s there for the taking. “The reports are going to tell you what your volunteers are interested in hearing about from you and that is going to lead the way to more success with email marketing.”

Sage advice.