Hi! Amy here.
Coming to you feeling inspired and ready to take on the world after spending last week in Vegas at Marijuana Business Magazine’s MJBizCon. MJBizCon is the largest cannabis industry conference in the world and as a cannabis-friendly marketing agency, it was important for us to attend, meet and learn from our peers and most importantly, bring back and share our knowledge. Here are my top ten takeaways from the conference - hope to see you there next year!
Cannabusiness is just that...business. Aside from some very obvious regulatory issues, it’s important to remember that the cannabis industry is a business, just like any other. In fact, Bryan Hill of Botanica Premium Cannabis boldly opened his session about data and analytics by stating that “the biggest lie in cannabis is that we are somehow different than any other industry.” Passion for cannabis is one thing, but a keen business sense is what will drive success for your business.
Loyalty programs are essential. The cannabis industry is limited on how they can market, so customer retention is arguably more important than customer acquisition (although both are vital). Implementing a loyalty program that brings value to your customers can provide you not only with a methodology for keeping them coming back, but can also provide valuable analytics for your business. And as #1 indicates, numbers are the name of the game.
Promotional products to create brand advocates. The aforementioned limitations on advertising can be a catalyst for out-of-the-box creative thinking. Promotional products are a great way to showcase your brand in a way that customer value, leading to brand advocacy among your loyal customers. They are also a great loyalty program reward (see #2, above). Located a promotional products professional in your area by visiting getintouchadvertising.com, courtesy of PPAI.
More than ever, give back. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs do a lot to not only promote a business, but they also build morale among employees and a host of other benefits - too many to name here. For cannabis businesses, our future success hinges on our ability to help the general public to see past “reefer madness” and overcome the stigma that cannabis is bad. CSR programs show the general public that we care about the issues plaguing our communities, and that the cannabis industry is here to help. I especially liked the programs implemented by Bloom Farms - for every purchase they donate a meal to a person in need.
Don’t open the door without a crisis communications plan. While this is sound advice for any business, it is especially crucial for cannabis businesses to be prepared for crisis. What if some of your product gets contaminated? What if your celebrity endorser ends up on Page Six (and not in a good way)? What if there is an accident on your premises? It’s important to be prepared for these issues, so you aren’t scrambling in front of the cameras. If you need a crisis plan, I know someone you can call. (Hint: it’s me.)
All eyes are on Oklahoma. It isn’t a secret that Oklahoma has one of the most liberal medical marijuana regulations in the United States. Everyone's watching to see how we navigate our regulations, and how the market responds. Further, everyone is waiting for us to fail - so it’s up to Oklahoma cannabis businesses (and ancillary services like Chisel Creative) to prove everyone wrong. Through careful implementation of the regulations, and the industry’s willingness to over-comply, we can be industry leaders (instead of guinea pigs).
A hole in the market - testing. There are a variety of ways to get involved in cannabis - growers, processors, and dispensaries are just the beginning. And while a variety of ancillary services were well represented at the show, there was a distinct hole - product testing. Many may think that equipment costs are a large barrier to entry, but it might not be as expensive as you think. If you have a little bit of capital and a mind for science (or the willingness to learn), you might want to consider product testing as an entree into the cannabis industry. (You can purchase refurbished testing equipment from Analytical Instrument Resource.)
Diversity in cannabis. Although the crowds were some of the most diverse in age, gender and ethnicity that I’ve ever seen at a trade show, there is still room for growth in this area. The majority of the speakers, panelists and attendees were white males. I challenge all cannabis industry owners to intentionally bring diversity into the workplace, and I challenge industry leaders to intentionally showcase the work of diverse thinkers.
Strategic planning: it doesn’t have to be the Wild, wild West. “Wild, wild West isn’t a term you hear every day, but I heard it frequently at MJBizCon. Since states are on their own to define their regulation - and that regulation varies dramatically from state to state - the cannabis industry does seem pretty “wild.” But your business doesn’t have to be. Developing a strategic plan, and tactics to execute, will set your business apart from others that are flying by the seat of their pants. Having a clear direction on goals, and empowering your staff to take ownership in achieving those goals, will pay off in the end.
Don’t be afraid to get weird. This may go without saying considering the industry, but there are endless opportunities to show your creative side in the cannabis industry. One of my favorites that I met at MJBizCon was a pair of ladies that were in their 60s that have a processing operation in Florida. Their goal is to bring cannabis medical treatments to older generations - and they are doing this by creating their own YouTube cooking show featuring Grandma’s recipes infused with cannabis. I can’t wait to see their show, and I empower other passionate people to exercise their creativity in this industry.
Bonus takeaway! Again, just like any industry, the best brands stood out on a very crowded show floor. The brands with the most traffic weren’t always those with the largest booth, but rather those with modern branding and a good value proposition. (And guess what! We do that too!)