What can this Boy Scout marketing prodigy teach you about popcorn sales?

Donovan Fisher isn’t your typical door-to-door salesman.

“The Popcorn Scout,” as he’s now known, is a 12-year-old marketing prodigy who in 2011 sold $9,208 in Trail’s End popcorn and chocolate pretzels, ranking 14th among all Boy Scouts in the U.S.

I first read about Donovan last year on the marketing Web site “Web.Search.Social.” Here’s what marketing pro Scott McKelvey wrote about Donovan: 

Last year, a Boy Scout named Donovan, who couldn’t have been more than 11 or 12, knocked on our door and said he was selling popcorn and other treats to raise money for the Boy Scouts and our troops. I expected to see a tattered catalogue, but my jaw dropped when he pulled out his iPad and started to go through his presentation.

Donovan completely blew me away, and I got to enjoy the sequel when he knocked on my door again a few weeks ago. It wasn’t any slick sales gimmick, because I could tell that he’s a good kid with the best intentions. He just happened to have a completely authentic, rejection-proof marketing strategy that any business owner or marketing professional would be smart to copy. He also gives new meaning to the Boy Scout motto, “Be Prepared.”

Read the full article for tips relevant to anyone who markets anything — popcorn, multimillion-dollar business deals, and everything in between. Some of the tips include:

  • Tell a compelling story. Donovan has a family member serving overseas in the military, and he explains that some of the money will go to help troops.
  • Create a brand. Donovan purchased the ThePopcornScout.com domain name.
  • Make an irresistible offer. Donovan creates a sales pitch that makes it tough to say no.
  • Follow up and say thanks. Donovan sends a personal thank-you e-mail to customers that includes a summary of the order.

One year later

But wait, there’s more. Today, McKelvey posted an update to The Popcorn Scout story and included an interview with Donovan.

Here are a few best practices that stood out from the updated post:

  • “To get ready for selling season, I need to look back at last year,” Donovan tells McKelvey. “I need to keep track of every sale so when I go to someone’s house next time, I know that they got a certain kind of popcorn. Maybe they like it or maybe they want something bigger, or even double it. Maybe they want to try something new. That’s one of the biggest things – getting all of the information down.”
  • “I also have to work on my presentation and get comfortable with it,” Donovan explains. “Part of that is knowing the facts. With the Kettle Corn and the Unbelievable Butter Microwaveable Popcorn, I can tell you for a fact that each bag has almost 320 calories in it. I want to know for customers just in case they want low-calorie things. If you have a peanut allergy, I’ll make sure you don’t buy something that has any risks.”
  • “You can obviously see that the older you get, you lose your cuteness. It’s not like you’re a Tiger Scout and everybody says, ‘Aww, you’re so cute.’ So you have to find something that amazes them and gets their attention,” Donovan says.

Read the complete post, and share your own popcorn-selling secrets below.

What do you think?

What do your Scouts do to make popcorn sales soar? Leave your thoughts below.

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23 thoughts on “What can this Boy Scout marketing prodigy teach you about popcorn sales?

  1. This is great and a very gung ho scout. However, I have one small concern. His domain name redirects to Facebook. If he’s only 12, how can he legally have a Facebook account when under FB’s terms of service it states you need to be at least 13. Aren’t scouts suppose to obey the rules?

    • Yes, that is correct. Thank you for noting that for everyone.

      The Facebook Account is set up as a “Business Page” for that reason. His Parents are the Administrators and he shares his thoughts with US to post on his behalf. By being a “Business Page” anyone who “Likes” the page is not able to gain the type of personal information that a “Facebook Profile” shows. We are very adamant (and he often complains that some of his “sub-13” friends already have them) that he will not have a Facebook Profile before turning 13.

  2. It’s great to see “the media” do articles/blogs on Supporting Scouting and Supporting Our Troops – especially when related to the activities that Scouts can do that will help mold them as they go through life. Whether it be camping, hiking, science, life-saving, or even SELLING, these skills will go as far (or often farther) than some of the other activities our Scouts do (like baseball teams, soccer teams, band, etc.)

    Please BE SURE to Click “Like” on BOTH of Scott McKelvey’s Blogs (and share them around). I think he deserves recognition for identifying that universal theme that we can all relate to and then running with it. Last year, the Blog got over 200 “Likes” (far more than any other topic he had covered – although their web redesign reset it to ZERO) and THIS YEAR, let’s show the media what “US SCOUTERS” think of POSITIVE COVERAGE of the Scouting Traditions and Values shared by Scouts and Scouters across the Nation and the World!

    Just my 2 Cents (as a Scouter — and — as a PROUD Father of “The Popcorn Scout”). If you agree, these (and Bryan’s Blog) are GREAT ARTICLES to Share with the world!

  3. Perhaps this will encourage other boys to sell more popcorn. The popcorn is only one aspect of the sale. The others are pubic relations, business skills, communication skills, leadership, and satisfaction of doing a good job. So the scout is also selling the Scout Brand as well.

    Promiting sales within the troop? – I heard of one suggestion that one troop was doing. They sold more popcorn by opening up the microwave popcorn boxes and selling the bags one by one. They did this at a table outside of a business. People that did not want to buy an entire box, would rather buy one or two bags of popcorn instead. Some people came back later on and bought the entire box. I am not sure if this in in align with BSA policy, but the product moved quickly.

    • Helping the “Pack/Troop Go” is EXACTLY the idea. I am actually still Committee Chair for the Pack that Donovan crossed over from 2 years back and they now still sell twice what they did prior to Donovan starting ($25k for 53 Scouts). Donovan is a Den Chief and shares a lot with the other Scouts. His Troop is small but does about twice what they did before (excluding his) as well due to the “encouragement” as you state.

      On the other note, it is AWESOME to get the Scouts “thinking outside the box” in various ways. Unfortunately, the lack of a “Nutritional Values” chart means that Scouts are NOT supposed to sell the microwaves individually. The “Collections” that have individually packaged bags in them can be sold individually. (Refer to Scouter Scott’s important notation: “Aren’t Scouts suppose to obey the rules.”)

      • My son and I are selling a 3-pack microwave “you pick em” for $3.50. They can include one kettle corn pack. The actual cost is $3.60 but dad and I will make up the difference. We include a copy of the nutritional info of all 3 flavors in each pack.

      • We are selling a 3-pack microwave “you pick em” for $3.50 which includes a copy of all nutritional info. One kettle corn can be included, but that drives the cost up to $3.60 so mom and dad will make up the difference. It gets scout product into the hands of those turned off by high prices.

  4. Just like anything in life..the bottom line is simple get out and do the work. In our town here in Arkansas, my two boys ages 13 and 14 have sold between 4000-5000 each year. Takes one thing to do it…WORK. Turn the TV off and get in the car and go WORK. The result they sell between 300-400 each evening. The profit they make is between 100-150 per night of work. This is for 2-3 hours of effort, and of course we celebrate with a little ice cream cone along the way.

  5. It’s great to hear how Donovan has succeeded, but I think this also illustrates a lot of the problems with the BSA popcorn fundraiser.

    A lot of what goes into a good popcorn selling process depends heavily on the parents of a Scout. If you want to sell beyond your immediate area, you need parents to transport you there. If you want an iPad to sell your popcorn, you parents to buy it. If you want a domain name and Facebook page, you need parents to do that. It also depends on factors a Scout cannot control. Perhaps a Scout doesn’t have anything happening him that can compete with another Scout’s compelling story. Perhaps it is the cuteness.

    As Donovan himself is aware of “You can obviously see that the older you get, you lose your cuteness. It’s not like you’re a Tiger Scout and everybody says, ‘Aww, you’re so cute.’” Which is why popcorn selling drops dramatically the older a Scout gets. If the area that a Scout is going door to door to has a younger Scout as well, the younger, cuter, Scout will get the sales.

    After a few years in Boy Scouting, unless the Scout and parents are putting in a lot of effort, their popcorn sales will dry up. And at least in my Council, most Venturers don’t even bother with selling popcorn because people want to buy from the Cub Scouts and younger Boy Scouts. Venturers tend to find other sources of fundraising, which isn’t that bad of a thing because it allows the youth to take a major role in deciding what to do. But that doesn’t stop councils from being upset when Crews don’t sell any popcorn.

    However, there are plenty of valuable lessons in this article. Scouts should definitely work on their fundraising presentations, finding ways to spice up their sales pitch. And the follow up and say thanks as well as looking back to previous years is another thing that all Scouts should do when fundraising.

  6. It’s great to see any Scout that succeeds. Our Troop is a firm believer in “Boy-Led” Troops, for example, but that is not the same as “Parent/Leader-abandoned” Scouting.

    Whether a Scout’s passions are in Camping, Science, Hiking, Climbing, Sales, High-Adventure, or perhaps Pine-wood Derby (for all of those Cubs), etc. — OR ALL OF THE ABOVE — a Scout’s success is going to be furthered by Parental Involvement and Coaching. We should hope that our Scouts (our children) grow up with some guidance on how to best excel at THEIR OWN PASSIONS.

    It is often assumed, or even ingrained, that top-performing kids (scouts) are actually just parents behind the scenes DOING FOR the Scout rather than LEARNING WITH and GUIDING ALONG the Scout. As a Parent, a Leader, and as a Volunteer, I see the challenges (advancements, merit badges, fund-raisers) that are placed in front of our Scouts as wonderful OPPORTUNITIES to bring families closer together to face these challenges when our sons/daughters are at an age that they can learn in a protected environment.

    “After a few years in Boy Scouting, unless the Parents are putting in a lot of effort,” . . . a teenager’s PASSIONS may dry up in all areas. This is not a unique challenge to popcorn sales. Solely relying on being young and cute (aka having NO responsibilities) is something that our Scouts should be learning will only take them so far IN LIFE. Thank you, Brian, for pointing out such an important topic facing our Scouts as they get into their teen-age years.

    As Donovan notes in HIS “5-Questions” interview (ie, not a Parent or Adult interview), each one of his Scout Activities and Scout Merit Badges represent a future opportunity, a future PASSION if you will, that he may one day make a career (or hobby) out of. That’s a powerful observation for a 12-year-old.

    Here’s to all of those Scouts out there that one day come to that same conclusion. (Hopefully, it’s not a realization that they missed their PASSION as an adult 20 years too late.)

  7. The prices are just outrageous. This only further embeds a feeling of entitlement in the scouts. It would be better if they learn a lesson in economics. Just say no thanks to this overpriced crap. It’s the ugly baby of some over-zealous parent and has no place in these tough economic times.

  8. This year, we had a lot of customers refuse to pay the price for the popcorn. They said that the scouts are pricing themselves out of business. Perhaps in other areas of the country, popcorn can sell better. I guess if a person can buy similar products at Walmart, they will. People will vote on this with their wallet.

  9. Individuals are always finding ways to increase finances for a beneficial motive. Organizing a popcorn fundraiser is considered among the ideal ways to generate money for charitable organization.

  10. Way to go Donovan!
    My son was the top seller in our Council with sales of $12, 385. Do you know how I can find out how his sales compare for the entire country. I’ve contacted Trails End several times with no reply. They are not the best at communication with the scouts, btw. Thanks

    • Although there is no “Official Time Frame” to release the regional and national rankings (that I know of), Donovan and I have found over the years that it has usually been about April or so. Trail’s End usually posts them under the Scouts section of the Trails-End website. I know they are currently very busy with their website re-design in the off-season.

      It is also interesting that the amount of sales to achieve specific rankings varies DRAMATICALLY from year to year. So, it is anyone’s guess what $12,385 would rank for 2012 sales until the rankings are actually released. Donovan did very well this year with an increase that would have had him ranked 5th in the country in 2011. As with your son, he is very anxious to find out where that will fall in the 2012 rankings.

      Congrats to your son. It is a GREAT PROGRAM to support (obviously) — BUT beyond that — the amount of experience and expertise (sales, marketing, people-skills, confidence, etc. etc.) that these young men (my gosh did I just say that about my son?) get from the Trail’s End program at THIS LEVEL will affect them for the rest of their lives!

      “The Popcorn Scout’s” Dad

    • Was it perhaps $12,835 in Reno? Looks like perhaps 10th or so in the country (with another 3 above him in Canada). I’m not sure how “official” the numbers I have are as of yet. Trails-End is in the middle of a major overhaul of their web, etc. and sometimes there are late data submissions that change the numbers for some reason.

      CONGRATS to your son! (If it is, in fact, Adolfas from Reno at $12,835.)

      • Yes it is. We are quite proud of his accomplishment. He’s set an even higher goal for this year! I’m tired just thinking about it!
        BTW, how did you find out his name?

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