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Where Do You See Scouting Membership In The Next 5 Years? What Can We Do To Grow The Program?

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“Marketing must be directed to both parents and youth.”

That is very true. The main reason scouting membership is doing OK in our area is intense marketing around the schools. I don’t think anyone has ever been aware of us via social media, tbh.

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Nor through google searches.

The BSA website and pages are not search engine optimized (SEO).
For example when you search for the terms like:

  • teenager development
  • Child development
  • youth development
  • Child development stages
  • youth organizations
  • youth activities
  • youth group ideas
  • youth group outings
  • youth group field trips
  • youth summer camps
  • character building
  • character building activities for students
  • youth leadership programs
  • outdoor adventures
  • youth adventures
  • youth adventure program

the 2 million strong BSA is no where to be found neither in the organic results or the ads.

What the BSA needs is an SEO engineer.

An SEO Engineer or SEO Specialist analyzes, reviews and implements changes to websites so they are optimized for search engines. This means maximizing the traffic to a site by improving page rank within search engines.

Simply put “it is the job of the SEO specialist to make your website show up at the top of the search engine results. Ten years ago that job looked a lot different than it does now, and it requires a whole new skill-set from what was needed back then.

The BSA also needs a digital ad designer for google, Facebook, YouTube, and Snapchat.

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It’s pretty obvious that the BSA is being reactionary to the attacks rather than being proactive by ringing the bell with the many ways to tell the nation how great Scouting is.

The BSA reminds me of Sears. It was a staple of Americana. Everyone went to Sears to get stuff. @davidEPPS even mentioned how Scout gear was on display. One of our favorite things was the Catalog. It was a pretty big deal to get the new edition…Well, about the time they decided mail-order was dead and cancelled the catalog in 1993 is about the time online shopping from places like Amazon (founded in 1994) revolutionized retail. Had Sears had the vision to embrace this new technology with their infrastructure of brick and mortar stores in just about every part of America they could have transition their catalog to the internet and places like Amazon might never have happened. They were too late to this realization and now they are all but gone because they were not proactive to the changing times. BSA, like Sears has been living off of its reputation without realizing that sometimes you have to stick your head out from the sand and remind people of how great you are.

Younger parents probably have never seen a BSA commercial. What’s the old saying…“Out of sight out of mind”?..

How about a “free trial membership” for first year Scouts? It doesn’t matter what year if they’ve never been registered. This happens in retail promotions all of the time. Maybe 90 days? Just show up well dressed and see if this is the program right for your Scouts. This allows parents to meet other parents and the kids to interact and see what Scouting is all about. Let the program sell itself and people will be more willing to pay the money.

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Your talk about sears brings back memory’s, of the scout stuff set of in the back, yes it was no were as big as the the scouts shops now but my mother always knew were to find me, the sad thing is I dought not to many of today’s scouts have even been to a scout shop unless they are leaders children when they pick up supplies for the troops. Due to the long distance many of us have to drive to get to one.

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Yep. We have two Scout Shops in metro Detroit. Both are a good 45 minute drive from where I live – if I wasn’t going their specifically for troop stuff, I doubt I’d ever be in that part of town. Plus, they don’t really pull you in to look at stuff… Fortunately, there’s a hobby shop that carries most Scout gear that’s only about 10 minutes away – they stock uniforms and books, and pretty much all the bling except for restricted awards.

What would really help out here – partnering with Cabelas or Dicks Sporting Goods. Put a big Scouts BSA display in the middle of the camping gear, and add plenty of pictures of Scouts Doing Things thoughout the store – and not just stereotypical Scout Things like camping and fishing – Scouts excel at all sorts of sports! Ryan Held won a Gold medal in the 2016 Summer Olympics, and he’s an Eagle Scout – get his picture on the wall by the swimming gear! Michael Jordan and Hank Aaron are Eagle Scouts… There’s got to be some way to leverage that…

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What is the name of the hobby shop?
We have Hobby Lobby around here.

Does there exist a BSA policy for the sale of Scout gear by independent stores?

It’s Nankin Hobby, which is a local Metro Detroit chain.

I imagine there’s no issue selling Scout gear by outside vendors, other than the restricted items that require an advancement report. Heck, there may even be a process to sell those directly, as long as your shop is willing to process/confirm the advancement paperwork.

It’s my guess that Council’s would not want their monopoly on these goods broken up and have a revenue stream impacted. Places like Wal-Mart, Target might sell some of those items at cost or even a “loss-leader” to get you in the store so you will shop for other items while there.

The other side is does any of the retailers even want to stock the merchandise? Providing retail space is something merchants always have to decide if it’s profitable enough.

I found out recently that Scout Shops aren’t necessarily owned by the local Councils, but by National – check it out the next time you’re in one; people working there with gold shoulder loops work for National and people there with silver loops work for the local Council.

In my area we have my council with a local shop along with Garden State Council. Monmouth Council is a national shop. We also have Flemington Department store as a scout supply and formerly Harry’s Army Navy. Now when I was a scout I could go to the national headquarters in North Brunswick or Morris Stores in Metuchen for scout stuff. As an aside, my mother worked at national.

Another thought about losing the revenue stream… Are they really making enough money at the Scout Shops to justify the expense of them? I know that camping gear at our Scout Shop isn’t competitively priced with other sporting goods stores around Detroit; I can’t imagine they’re moving tons of backpacks, tents, and sleeping bags there compared to ALPS online or even general sporting goods chains… The only stuff I buy there is the stuff I can’t buy anywhere else.

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As leases expire, I believe more and more national Scout Shops will close. The one closest to me was closed when the Council declined to pay the operating expenses of the shop. Going forward, I believe the only national Scout Shops will be those co-located with Council offices or subsidized by councils.

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That sounds depressingly plausible. I think in the mid- to long-term there’s going to be a push to go online-only for the restricted purchase items – that’s much simpler (and cheaper) for National and the local Councils to manage… Either email your advancement report out, or add a link to sumbit it via Scoutbook, and get your badges in two weeks…

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The harder the access to basic Scout supplies, books and uniforms are the more likely parents are going to be unwilling to deal with the “bullfeathers”. While the world wants to order everything online, very specialized items such as Scouting merchandise needs to be “cash and carry”. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a Scout store watching extremely confused parents trying to figure out what their Scout needs. It’s even worse in the Cub Scout level. These people need in-person help. Also, people will purchase more items out of impulse if they are in a well-stocked brick and mortar facility.

I’m finding it interesting in how ease of access to Scout Supplies is resonating with everyone.

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You’re right about that, and partnering with a major retailer would help that tremendously. If you could get the basics at Dick’s Sporting Goods, life would be easier for many parents.

You’re not wrong here, either. Though I wouldn’t lean on the Scout Shop folks for that (or any retail sales people for that matter…) I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a parent walk into a Scout Shop to get a shirt for their excited kid, to be told “Well, you have the shirt, but you also need another $170 of merch to get your kid everything”…

When I was a Cubmaster, we tried to help with this by giving new parents clear lists of “must-have” and “nice to have” items for their Cubs – essentially all we asked them to provide was the blue uniform shirt and closed-toe shoes, and we provided the neckers and patches – and told them anything else they wanted to get was entirely up to them. We also kept a bin of out-grown uniform items that were available to anyone that wanted them.

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That is my thought too; so when Crossroads of America closed 2 of their 3 scout shops (the one in Muncie on the east side of the state, and the one in Terra Haute on the west side of the state) leaving only their Indy shop open, that has really made it difficult to “visit.” It is a 1.5 hour drive one way to get there, if the traffic is good. Sometimes, I even drive to Dayton, Ohio which is closer to us than Indy if I need something. However, that doesn’t help in turning in any paperwork. They have offered free shipping to those of us who need to buy online, but I can’t tell you the hundreds of dollars that I have spent over the last 25 years for “extra stuff” when I have gone into the shop to leave advancement papers and pick up awards. I haven’t looked at the online shop as yet, but I am sure that they will not have the little sales items or extra stuff that I would see when I walked in…
Also, the new parents do need help with uniforms, insignia, and the myriad of other things. It is quite intimidating for them and may put off those to stick with the program. I am glad also that advancement online may be getting easier, but I even miss that one-on-one discussion I would have with “the people that know” in the local offices. I understand trying to save money, but you are cutting off the local access for the ordinary parents.

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@SherylWhitted, I have the good fortune of being about 10 minutes away from our Scout store. I am not a big fan of the “Scoutstuff” website. It’s interface tends to lag at times and It’s just not as good as in person. I would go nuts with some of the distances some of you are having to travel.

I buy a lot of “stuff” online at places like Amazon because I don’t like riding around the city looking for an item and rarely do I need something so bad that I can’t wait a couple of Days. Scouting merchandise is different. A well stocked stock allows you usually to drive up, get in, do you shopping and check out fast with as you put it some council chatter.

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I agree with you about buying stuff online, but I don’t think I’d have a big problem with doing routine advancement stuff online, especially if it was integrated into Scoutbook. I’d love to see a link in the Needs Purchasing report to have your order shipped to you.

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There’s always that last second situation where you need something last minute and you have a parent going nuclear if “little Johnny” doesn’t get recognized yesterday. It’s nice to be able to run down to a Scout Shop and pick up those last minute items. If we can train impatient parents your idea would be pretty easy…