Developing a Local Council Marketing Plan

The Importance of Marketing

As relationship building becomes a key to success in business, marketing is becoming more and more important in today’s competitive business environment. As a result, businesses and organizations like the Boy Scouts of America are incorporating this important element into their strategic planning process. In 2001, the BSA debuted its 2002-2005 National Strategic Plan, which includes marketing and strategic positioning as one of five critical elements essential for the continued growth of the organization.

The plan emphasizes the importance of telling Scouting’s story to target audiences, coordinating national and local marketing programs, and encouraging the development of marketing support committees in all councils. More specifically, the strategic plan calls for the BSA to

  • Improve, clarify, and focus the image of Scouting by placing emphasis on the outcomes of the BSA’s values-based program rather than its methods.
  • Continue to strengthen the Scouting program by reinforcing relationships with chartered organizations.
  • Increase message frequency to target audiences using messages that reach those most predisposed to join Scouting and target populations with the fastest growing available youth.
  • Improve total marketing training for council and regional personnel to include media and crisis communications.
  • Increase the use of cluster marketing in order to create more efficient and less costly marketing efforts.
  • Provide local councils with marketing plans and materials that enhance local efforts.

The combination of increased competition for people’s time and the complete inundation of the media makes marketing absolutely necessary for new unit development. Although advertising can play a key role in a marketing plan, the best marketers do not simply promote products with advertising. They develop relationships with their target audiences, which sets them apart in the audience’s mind as vital and necessary to the community.

Now is the time for councils to engage a strong marketing plan to attract adults and youth to Scouting. With the challenges youth face today, there is a greater need than ever for the Boy Scouts of America’s values-based program. To help the public better understand the mission and benefits of Scouting, every council must communicate to them. When community organizations and parents understand that Scouting is a resource they can use to enhance their developmental programs and teachings, the more apt they are to become involved in Scouting and to encourage youth to take part in the program.

Well-planned, integrated communications will enhance a council’s relationships with volunteers, youth members, and donors by making them feel more involved and keeping them informed about new developments in Scouting and the council.

Attracting and maintaining new members requires a combination of personal, direct, and mass communication efforts, organized in a thorough marketing plan created by the local council marketing committee. When formulating a marketing plan, councils should study past marketing efforts, set goals for the future, and make decisions on how to best achieve those goals. The plan should chart the overall direction for the council and name the major steps to be taken to achieve council goals.

The council marketing plan should be an extension of the council’s strategic plan and formulate how the council cultivates relationships with target audiences to ultimately achieve its strategic objectives. A marketing plan outlines the tactical approaches councils employ in order to be successful.

This workbook is intended to serve as a guide for developing a council marketing plan. The summaries provided describe the major elements of a plan and should help you formulate a plan based on council needs. Please note, there are many other resources available to guide you, and various authors define the different sections and use distinct terminology to describe the components of a marketing plan. However, each has common key elements.

Remember, a marketing plan’s success does not lie in how it is laid out on paper; it lies in how well the plan is communicated to those who take ownership of it, how well they understand their role in carrying out the plan, and its results.


What Is Marketing?

Marketing is the process of influencing the behavior of one or several people so they will make a purchase, cast a vote, offer a contribution, or join an organization. Some activities that fall under marketing include advertising, public relations, and market research. The Boy Scouts of America’s key marketing objectives, as outlined in the 2002-2005 Strategic Plan, include

  • Emphasizing to our target audiences the outcomes of the BSA’s values-based program rather than its methods and reinforcing among customers the good decision they make when they become part of the BSA family.
  • Strengthening relationships and building new relationships with organizations that have values and attitudes similar to those of the BSA.
  • Maximizing BSA awareness and exposure to our target audiences, including the African American, Hispanic American, and Asian American markets.
  • Coordinating national and local marketing programs.

The Boy Scouts of America’s national “umbrella” marketing programs are designed to increase national awareness about Scouting, while encouraging local participation and donor contributions. To understand the philosophy behind these marketing efforts, it is important to understand how they impact the organization’s target audiences and the product-adoption process—the psychological steps consumers, or target audiences, go through from the time they learn about Scouting to the time they actually buy into the program.

Moving a target audience along the product-adoption continuum requires extensive, focused marketing efforts. The National Council’s efforts create awareness and interest, but local councils must complete the sale by convincing community members to become involved in Scouting in some way.

What Is Public Relations?

Public relations is communicating with various sectors of the public to influence their attitudes and opinions in the interest of promoting a person, product, organization, or idea.

What Is the Difference Between Marketing and Public Relations?

  • Public relations is one element of marketing.
  • Public relations is primarily a communications tool, whereas marketing also includes needs assessment, program development, and promotion.
  • Public relations seeks to influence attitudes, whereas marketing tries to influence specific behaviors, such as purchasing, joining, voting, etc.
  • Public relations does not define the goals of the organization, whereas marketing is involved in defining aspects like mission, strategy, potential members, and services.

The Marketing Audit

A thorough analysis of target audiences and their needs is essential to effectively determine the challenges the council faces and to identify opportunities to improve the council’s performance. A marketing audit examines the council’s overall marketing efforts and should be performed before a council begins setting specific goals and objectives for the council.

Formulate a marketing audit worksheet the marketing committee can use to create the council’s strategic marketing plan. They look at

  • Target audiences and their needs and the cost for the council to satisfy those needs.
  • Cost for target audience members to participate in—or make contributions to—the program.
  • How target audiences learn about the program and how it is implemented in the community.
  • How the council promotes itself and the Scouting program in the community.

Answering the questions may be simple or may involve extensive marketing research. Add or delete questions, as they are relevant to your council. Remember, completing a marketing audit will give marketing committee members a clear idea of the council’s strengths and weaknesses in marketing and what to do to improve those efforts.

Questions for the Marketing Audit

Target Audiences: youth members, volunteers, donors, council staff, and community members


  • How easily identifiable is the organization?
  • What are the program themes?
  • What is the council mission?
  • How well is the mission understood within the council?
  • How well is the mission understood outside the council?


  • How does the media perceive Scouting and the council?
  • How do council members and the community perceive the council?
  • How does the council perceive its response to community needs?
  • What is the council doing to improve Scouting’s image?

Service to Members

  • How is council volunteer leadership recognized?
  • What is the quality of service being given to council members and the community?
  • How do members benefit from the program?
  • What is the biggest complaint from members?
  • What new program activities are being planned?

Customer Service

  • Is training provided for front office personnel?
  • Are council visitors and phone calls treated as opportunities or interruptions?
  • Is the front office pleasant and clean?
  • How are complaints about the council formally handled?
  • How is negative feedback from council members handled?
  • Who is responsible for handling complaints?
  • Who makes sure feedback is received and seriously considered?

Cost for Contribution or for Being Involved in Scouting

  • Are target audiences aware of membership fees and other costs (e.g., uniforms, activities, etc.) related to Scouting?
  • Are there potential members in the community with special financial needs? Are there contributors to help meet those needs? Are the needs and donations communicated to those audiences?
  • Are potential donors aware of the benefits of Scouting? Do they know about research that supports those claims?
  • Does the council keep a comprehensive list of community members who have been involved in Scouting in the past that the council can call on for various needs?
  • Does the council make good use of volunteer and professional time? Do volunteers and professionals feel that their time is well spent? Do they receive adequate training and resources? Does the council recognize them for achievements and efforts?

Convenience of Scouting in the Community

  • Is the council service center well marked and easy to find?
  • Does the council have a Web site that is easily accessible?
  • Is the council prominently listed in the local telephone book?
  • Are training events/gatherings at a convenient time and place for council volunteers? Do you offer training events/gatherings at multiple times?
  • Are you meeting the needs of all possible chartered organizations and following up with them periodically to ensure their Scouting program is thriving?
  • Are the Scout shops conveniently located and open when needed?

Council Promotion


  • How well does the council communicate with its members and staff members?
  • How well does the council communicate confidential matters?
  • What is the level of team spirit among those who promote recruitment?
  • What are typical objections given by potential members as to why they do not enroll?
  • Does the council newsletter meet the needs of its readers?
  • Does the council Web site meet the needs of its audiences? Is it updated regularly to ensure accuracy?


  • How do community members perceive Scouting?
  • Are promotional brochures distributed at Scouting shows?
  • Is a registration table set up at Scouting shows?
  • What media are currently being used? (Refer to the Council Publicity Guidebook, or contact the Marketing & Communications Division for tips on promoting your council through the media.)
  • How do the seasons affect council marketing efforts?
  • What does the annual report say about the BSA and the council?
  • What do key community leaders think of the council?
  • Are parents and youth given the opportunity to participate in demonstrations or a sampling of programs/activities at community events?

The Situational Analysis

The situational analysis is considered by many marketers to be the most important element of a marketing plan. If a thorough analysis is conducted, then objectives and goals will be easily developed.

Conduct a SWOT analysis. This provides the opportunity to define your council’s strengths, weaknesses opportunities, and threats.

Include the following elements in the situational analysis:

  • What is the council’s percentage share of the membership market (total available youth)?
  • What is the average tenure of members?
  • How is the council’s organizational chart structured?

External Environment

  • What are your chartered organizations’ goals for their youth programs?
  • What activities compete for the interest of Scouting-age boys?
  • What benefits does Scouting offer Scouting-age youth other activities do not?
  • What political issues are affecting your council? What is the political climate for Scouting in the community?
  • What environmental issues might affect the council over the course of the planning period?

The Marketing Plan

A marketing plan is the blueprint you intend to follow to achieve council marketing goals. A marketing plan should be an action document. It should require some immediate decisions and immediate action steps to help the council move toward its long-range objectives.

The council executive board should approve the plan before it is implemented, and it should be communicated to those who will carry out the plan. This requires a written document.

The plan should be written by the marketing committee and supported by the council’s leadership. A committee member—perhaps a marketing specialist—or marketing agency willing to do pro bono work should be able to help write and implement the marketing plan. It is especially important to write a plan that is congruent with the council’s strategic plan. Keep the plan simple; marketing plans often become too complex to serve as effective management tools. Give the executive board a concise plan for approval.

Plans should be

  • Simple.
  • Responsive to council requirements.
  • Practical.
  • Flexible enough to be changed as necessary.
  • Precise in terms of goals and objectives.
  • Coordinated and integrated with all types of council planning (strategic, short-term goals, long-range goals, financial, program, benchmarks, etc.).

Committee members juggle many responsibilities. Be considerate and realistic and make commitments that can be kept. Make sure committee members and leaders understand the resources that are available to them.

The plan should be sufficiently detailed to guide each committee member in his or her role in achieving council marketing objectives. It should include the tasks to be completed, the person responsible for each step along the way, and timelines for achieving set goals. Committee members with specific responsibilities may enlist the help of others by forming subcommittees, finding outside help, or delegating parts of the job to other volunteers and staff members.

Have a clear chain of command. Keep key people updated and informed on the status of the plan. Keep communication flowing. Be flexible and responsive; the plan will sometimes need revision depending on progress, outcome, and external influences. Revisions can sometimes bring about new opportunities.

Remember, simply writing the marketing plan will get you nowhere; writing, implementing, and following through with the plan will make your goals achievable.

Marketing Plan Outline

I. Background and Mission Statements

Include background information about your council, the BSA mission statement, the local council mission statement, and the marketing mission statement.

II. Executive Summary

The executive summary is a brief synopsis of the marketing plan. It highlights the plan’s major elements. It also briefly describes BSA products/services, recommended strategies and tactics, specific goals and objectives, and desired results.

III. Situational Analysis

The situational analysis addresses the internal and external variables that affect Scouting. It includes quantitative and qualitative projections for the marketing actions being proposed. Projections on performance indexes are based on extrapolations of past data and the subjective input of the committee. The situational analysis also briefly summarizes background, history, trends, successes, challenges, obstacles, and other pertinent information.

IV. Goals and Objectives

Marketing goals provide the focus for the marketing effort and should guide the marketing plan. The marketing audit should be completed before setting any goals. Include the short-range (annual) and long-range (three- to five-year) goals the committee wants to achieve.

Goals are the end result that the council wants to achieve (e.g., increase membership by 20 percent), while objectives outline how the council will achieve its goals (e.g., increased membership through better promotion and communication).

Goals must be feasible, and they must be measurable in some way to determine if they are met. Some goals cannot be measured numerically, but others can be measured subjectively (e.g., looking at resources allocated for the task and the likelihood of achievement).

The long-range and short-range goal worksheets in the appendix may help the council marketing committee set priorities when defining goals and determine any external factors that help or hinder its ability to achieve those goals.

V. Marketing Strategy

The marketing strategy is a plan for achieving specific goals and objectives. This can include key messages, delivery methods, and positioning statements to be used for conveying messages to target audiences.

If the council wants to update its image or explain how it can meet the community’s needs, then positioning may be a vital step in the marketing plan. Positioning involves finding and establishing a niche, or unique role, in the community; it helps define how the council wants to be seen. A mission statement defines the specific outcomes of the program, whereas the positioning statement pinpoints the unique role the council wants to play in the community.

VI. Tactics

Tactics are detailed tasks required to implement strategies. These can be defined using a timetable of activities and tactics reports that outline specific responsibilities.

Use the timetable of activities chart in the appendix to plan project dates. Put a square () in the month the activity will take place; fill in the square (_) once it has taken place. On the tactics report chart—also found in the appendix—specify the project/action step, method, planned completion date, and name of the person performing the task. Check off tasks as they are completed.

Most plans call for a promotional campaign. The campaign can range from moderate to extravagant. Whether small-scale or large-scale, promotional campaigns include all the ways you communicate in order to create an image and motivate people to respond. A campaign employs a mix of promotional techniques that can work alone or in conjunction with other promotions.

The marketing plan should follow a logical planning process, beginning with more general goals and objectives, followed by more specific marketing strategies and detailed tactics, including an implementation schedule and calendar of events.

VII. Measurement

Measurement involves objectively evaluating and measuring the effectiveness of the marketing plan by establishing benchmarks to assess interim and final achievements.

Despite the best planning, changing situations can force marketing objectives and strategies to be altered or entirely scrapped. Regularly scheduled evaluations allow for slight alterations as needed to ensure that year-end objectives are met. Reviews can be held monthly, bimonthly, quarterly, or at year-end.

Because one cannot predict the future, it is important to review long-range marketing goals each year. The short-range/annual goals can be analyzed, re-evaluated, refocused, and updated. Objectives, strategies, and tactics may also require modification.

Finally, after attaining the plan’s short-range/annual goals, the plan should be rolled forward another year by realigning short-range goals to meet the long-range goals. At year-end, summarize the problems, ideas, and changes necessary to write the next year’s short-range/annual marketing plan.

VIII. Example


Have 75 percent of parents of first- through fourth-grade boys hear about Scouting.


Get our message out to the community through different media outlets and speaking engagements, reaching the parents of first- through fifth-grade boys.


  • Place 15 press releases in April, May, August, and September.
  • Schedule 10 speaking engagements during April and August at community organizations such as Rotary, Kiwanis, and churches.
  • Having yard signs in 60 percent of our member’s yards.
  • Distribute fliers at events such as Scout Sabbath/Sunday, back-to-school events, and Scouting shows.


  • How many press releases were placed?
  • How many speaking engagements were scheduled?
  • How many yard signs were displayed in member’s yards?
  • Did we distribute fliers at events?

Marketing Research

Since understanding the wants and needs of potential members is the key to successful marketing, time and effort must be taken to uncover local market information. This falls under the category of market research. In general, research information can be obtained via two methods:

  1. Primary Research—Refers to data collected specifically for the project at hand. This type of research typically entails a “customized” format in which specific objectives are to be accomplished. This data can be collected with qualitative (e.g., focus groups) or quantitative studies (e.g., surveys).
  2. Secondary Research—Refers to a type of data previously collected from a variety of data sources that cover specific markets. This information is available at local libraries and includes U.S. Census Bureau reports, U.S. statistical abstracts, county business patterns, and local newspapers.

Some research objectives that might be considered by your council in support of a marketing plan include the following:

  • Determine the number of Scouting- or Venturing-age youth within the council.
  • Project the five-year growth/decline of total available youth (TAY) in the council area.
  • Ascertain the racial breakdown of youth in the council area.
  • Project the five-year growth/decline of TAY by race in the council.
  • Identify gaps between TAY and current unit placements.
  • Determine the proportion of former Scouts and Eagle Scouts in the council area.
  • Measure awareness of specific programs (e.g., Tiger Cubs, Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting, and Venturing) among parents.
  • Identify perceived strengths and weaknesses of the BSA program among parents and youth.
  • Learn the particular reasons why youth in the council area choose not to participate in Scouting or Venturing.

Download the Marketing Plan Template (.doc)