How do you create more businesses owned by women, especially businesses with revenues in excess of $1 million dollars?
You start a movement that trains girls to set goals, make decisions, manage money, be good with people, market, and give back to the community. Oh, gee, that’s what the Girl Scouts have been doing this for 100 years.
The organization’s track record is impressive. Eighty percent of the 8.3 million women who own businesses in the United States were Girl Scouts. That’s about 6.6 million former Girl Scouts who went on to open their own businesses. Women-owned firms are enjoying growth rates that exceed all but the largest U.S. corporations and these women-owned businesses account for 29% of all enterprises, according to The State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, a report commissioned by American Express OPEN.
Women have come a long way, but there’s more work to be done. Women-owned businesses account for only 1.8% of all business with revenue $ 1 million or more.
We can fix that. One solution is for women business owners to stop dragging your feet when it comes to using and building confidence in online marketing. Keeping a movement not just going, but growing requires blending new skills with tried and true ones. Girl Scouts have something to teach women business owners about using social media to grow. Women, take note of what the Girl Scouts are doing:
Align your marketing: The medium is the message. You need to choose the right media to reach your target audience. Not all media, even social ones, are created equal. Ask yourself:
- Whom do you want to reach?
- What are your goals?
- Which platform has the features you need?
The intersection of all three is your marketing sweet spot. The Girl Scouts of the USA wanted to reach volunteers, alumni, and the general public. They use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogging, and have recently added Pinterest to the mix. Each reaches its target audience in different yet complementary ways. Facebook is great place to engage and interact; Twitter to broadcast and spread your message; YouTube to demonstrate your message and tug at heartstrings; blogging to provide content for other social media to use and search engines to home in on; and Pinterest to curate and show off what you love.
Divide and conquer: You may be surprised that Girl Scouts of the USA does not market to girls and Thin Mint lovers. Local Girl Scout councils target these two markets. There are more than 100 councils nationwide. Women-owned businesses take note. You don’t need to overload one person with responsibility for all social media. You could divide responsibility by target market as the Girl Scouts do or you could divide responsibility by social medium. The skill to do Facebook well is not the same skill as writing a 140 character tweet. With a little coordination, you can spread the responsibility among different staff members. Or, in the case of YouTube, you may want to outsource content creation.
Provide training: Social media are so important to Girl Scouts of the USA that the organization is growing their staff, according to Tere Stouffer, who heads their social media effort. However, the national organization understands that adding staff may not be possible for local councils. So national will provide training to local councils so they can be more efficient and effective using social media. Another lesson: Women may be communicators and collaborators, yet when it comes to online marketing they lag behind other small businesses. Training isn’t a frivolous add-on, it is an essential investment of time and money (there are plenty of free resources available).
Evolve: The Girl Scouts 100th year anniversary was a great time to re-engage their 59 million alumni. Initial social media efforts concentrated on volunteers. Tere Stouffer, who oversees the Girl Scouts’ national efforts, began targeting alumni as well. Fifteen months ago, the mix of messages was 80 percent volunteers and 20 percent alumni. It’s now nearly evenly split. The tone of the engagement changed, too, from just receiving complaints to sending thanks yous, from just ways to get involved to also sharing of resources. They’re engaging much more and complaining is down. The organization also changed its look. For example, its Facebook page now highlights corporate partners at the very top of the page.
Grow by Growing a Cause: The Girls Scouts have laid down the gauntlet. They want to close the leadership gap between men and women within a generation. They created a separate website — ToGetHerThere — with its own social media support on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
Other women-owned businesses have learned that taking on a cause can grow your business. If you don’t want to start your own movement, like Sandra Wilkin, Bradford Companies is doing with construction techology, climb aboard ToGetHerThere.
Let’s suppose you want to test this purpose-driven marketing thing a bit. How about latching on to the To Get Her There program — after all, it supports women entrepreneurs just like you — by putting the word out in your own business. It doesn’t have to cost a lot and it could give you a whole new marketing theme.
Inspiring girls to start more businesses and bigger ones means changing attitudes. One way to achieve that is by providing positive messages to undercut the negative ones. Imagine a retailer dishing out advice on hang tags:
- Don’t burst a girls dreams when she thinks big
- Stop saying bad things about your hair.
- You aren’t too fat.
What will your business do to inspire girls to dream big and build businesses?
Flickr image: By SwedishCarina