No longer in the shadows and back alleys of America, cannabis has become big business. With restrictions dissolving and new markets cropping up everywhere, there is a ton of money to be made.
In states where licenses are plentiful, the competition is fierce, with more and more investors looking to cash in on the booming industry. But that doesn’t mean you can’t separate from the pack and present consumers with a unique and exciting alternative to big cannabis products.
So how does a startup stand out from the competition and increase its market share?
In this article, we will discuss the following topics about how to differentiate yourself from other companies:
- Be authentic
- Engage candidly with your customers
- Embrace diverse marketing strategies
- Review best business practices
- Be consistent and active
- Pay attention to detail
- Create an archive page for your blog
In 2020, it’s harder than ever to be a fraud. With the advent of social media, and the evolution of technology, the world’s become a lot smaller. Young consumers have snappy attention spans that quickly shift from one product to another. And they can smell a “wannabe” from a mile away. Stop trying to force a sales pitch and focus on providing a real, product/experience.
According to Kara Goldin, founder/CEO of Hint and guest writer at Entrepreneur.com, you can be more authentic in your business by following these 5 tips:
- Do what you love — Finding success in an industry you are not passionate about is difficult. You need to ask yourself right off the bat — do I love what I do? If yes, continue reading. If no, you may want to head back to the drawing board. Countless successful startups are the result of someone trying to solve a personal problem in an area they love.
- Build a team of authentic employees — Some CEOs believe that passion is way more important than experience. After all, you can always train your employees. But you can’t force them to be passionate about your brand or industry. Some studies even suggest that brain waves align when working alongside like-minded people. To help you stand out from the cannabis crowd, you want people that share your love of cannabis and are as excited about selling your product as you are. You can ensure everyone at your company is on the same page by participating in the hiring process and only selecting individuals who share your zeal.
- Admit your weaknesses — You might have the next great cannabis product. But if you are going to find success in this industry, you need to acknowledge your weaknesses. You might be the foremost authority on cannabis horticulture in your area but have no clue about how to run a business. Instead of stumbling through the steps ahead, bring on an employee with a strong business sense. Successful businesses are not run by one leader — they are helmed by multiple people, all with different strengths and weaknesses that work together to reduce costs and increase profits.
- Engage with everyone — As CEO of your company, you probably don’t bump shoulders with everyone that you employ. However, to really understand the workings of your company and how to differentiate your cannabis brand from the competition, you should be engaging with everyone in your company — from the lowest to the highest paid employee.
- Develop authentic customers relationships — Wherever possible, you must be looking for opportunities to strike up authentic communication with your customers. This might mean selling directly from your site in addition to other distributors, maintaining an educational blog, or chatting with your audience on Instagram and other social media platforms. Cannabis businesses need support in building their audiences and brand awareness, and this mutually beneficial relationship with consumers will only work if there is a high level of authenticity and transparency between both groups.
Gone are the days where the industry standard was creating content just to have a lot of content. Now, you must create authentic, quality content that reflects your brand and excites your audience. Over time, through organic discourse, and a passion for cannabis, you will develop an authentic voice for your brand that grabs your audience’s attention and helps you interact candidly with your customers.
Engage Candidly With Your Customers
If you don’t like interacting with customers, find another calling. To run a successful cannabis business and stand out from the pack, you must be more than willing to engage with your audience: you gotta love it. Interacting with your customers provides exposure, advertising, consumer insight, and more.
Let’s discuss some of the basics of customer interaction:
- Talk to customers directly — It’s no secret that different demographics demand different products, and what sells in a downtown city strip might flop in a sleepy suburban community. Cannabis businesses must understand the preferences and lifestyles of their customers, and the best way to do that is by freely talking to them. While talking directly to clients is mostly seen as a traditional form of marketing in the context of today’s digital-first world, it’s a surprisingly effective way of finding out what your audience likes, needs, and wants in regards to cannabis products.
- Hire enthusiastic staff — A knowledgeable and engaged staff is at the heart of any successful business. It’s no different in the cannabis industry. Budtenders for example, play a central role in a customer’s in-store experience. Sure, they sell cannabis products. But they also offer passionate and informed advice to customers on different strains, new products, etc. Your staff is the face of your business. They must leave a positive impression and strive to develop lasting relationships with customers.
- Engage the cannabis community — You can also separate yourself from the competition by socializing and engaging with the cannabis community. This might mean creating an account with cannabis social media platform Weedlife. Or discussing cannabis topics on Instagram, Facebook or other social media channels. You can also attend the industry’s different events and experiences to create awareness for your business through word of mouth. Even if you do not consume the product yourself, you can find new customers by connecting cannabis culture — think music, art, history, etc.
Interacting with customers should be a fun experience. Get to know your audience. Who are they? College students? Seniors looking for muscle pain relief? Luxury spa guests? Connoisseurs of coffee and cannabis? Customer interaction will differentiate you from other cannabis companies and provide you with real data about how to sell cannabis to your target audience. Next, you need to focus on choosing the right marketing strategy to promote your brand.
Embrace Diverse Marketing Strategies
Many people new to the business world are intimidated by the word marketing. Maybe it conjures up images of costly advertising campaigns of the past? Who knows!
But here’s the thing: You can love what you do all day long, but if you don’t have a marketing strategy in place, how will your customers find you?
These two basic strategies are essential to helping your business gain exposure:
- Brand presence — Brand presence programs drive traffic to your online store and push customers through the door. With many of the mainstream media outlets closed to cannabis and related businesses, startups must look for other outlets to reach their target audience. A strong social media strategy can go far toward raising brand awareness, creating a digital footprint, and allowing cannabis businesses to differentiate themselves. When you promote your business, its products or services, staff, deals, and in-store experience, you attract new customers and retain old ones.
- Loyalty marketing — A challenge of operating a cannabis business, especially in a saturated marketplace, is having a loyal customer base. Whether you are a cannabis grower, retailer, dispensary, or a B2B ancillary service company, loyalty programs go a long way in sustaining your business. Build a system that rewards repeat customers, offers deals, develops your name recognition, and increases traffic to your stores and you will be on your way to creating a stand out cannabis brand. Examples of such programs include free or discounted products, exclusive access to high demand or top-shelf products, store credit that is commensurate with purchase amounts, or opportunities to meet cultivators.
When it comes to marketing in the digital age, it’s okay to think outside the box. Try and be innovative whenever possible. Afterall, if your goal is to separate from the pack, you’re going to need to find your own path.
But make sure you follow the regulations and guidelines of social media platforms — a violation could result in a closed account.
Also, amidst finding new marketing trends and staying authentic, don’t forget that you’re running a company! While separating yourself from the competition is crucial for success, you must remember the basics of business — they are what will empower you to stand out from the crowd.
Review Best Business Practices
Starting a new business can be an exciting endeavor. But it can also be risky, time-consuming, and frustrating. To reduce stress, increase productivity, and stand out from the cannabis crowd, you need to review your business practices. Marijuana startups that come up with unique ideas or identify unique markets and unmet industry needs are more likely to succeed.
First, you need to decide which area of the industry to focus on:
- Dispensaries — Dispensaries provide access to medicinal and recreational cannabis products. Depending on your location, customer base, and state regulations, you may find success carrying a variety of plant strains, edibles, and/or concentrates.
- Grow operations — On the other hand, your passion and/or expertise may lie in horticulture. If you have a green thumb, you can provide marijuana, hemp, and extracts to other businesses.
- Ancillary — These types of businesses do not handle the plant directly. Rather, they are all other cannabis “support” businesses such as manufacturers, tech companies, law firms, banking solutions, communications companies and more.
Second you need to focus on two elements:
- Find a niche — Being the first business to innovate in any saturated industry is an excellent way to build trust, credibility, and authenticity. Since cannabis is still illegal under federal law, the bulk of the business regulations in the industry apply to cannabis growers, sellers, and processors. Hence, ancillary businesses are doing well because the industry’s high taxes and red tape do not burden them. From cultivation products and hydroponics to professional training, consultancies, marketing firms, the plethora of new technologies, the list and opportunities where you can find a niche are nearly endless.
- Create multiple sales channels — Given the diversity of the cannabis industry and its customers, you should have multiple channels where customers can order products and shop quickly and efficiently. Remember, your customers may be working parents, grandparents, graduate students, etc — their lives are very busy. By providing a variety of sales channels, you can potentially reach more people. Create as many avenues to purchase as possible, whether via your website, phone, email, text, or physical stores.
When running a cannabis business, you want to stand out for the right reasons, not because of your inexperience in business. Failure to acknowledge and understand business basics can topple even the most promising ventures. Now, let’s talk about the importance of consistency.
Be Consistent and Active
Nothing turns off a would-be customer like visiting a social media account that hasn’t been updated in 2 months. A major part of achieving success in any business is consistency. This means that you need to “show up” everyday and improve your business.
Some ways that you can be consistent and active, and thus separate your cannabis brand from the rest of the pack, are listed below:
- Post regularly on social media — Choose a posting schedule that works for you. Maybe it’s every day. Maybe it’s a few times a week. Whatever schedule you decide on, stick to it. Imagine that you have an audience tuning in every week — don’t let them down!
- Perform routine blog updates — If you have a blog, it is crucial that you post new info on a regular basis. A rarely updated blog can stagnate and hurt your business. Your target audience may think that your business is suffering or that you have given up.
- Keep your website current — Post regular updates on your website about new products, upcoming events, or new social media/blog posts. Also, be sure to use your website to tell your audience how you are handling major events like COVID-19.
Many businesses start off with a strong presence initially. Maintaining that same effort every day, however, is a different story. If you can consistently maintain your media channels, blogs, and website, you will be ahead of the competition. And if you can compile your blog articles into an easily searchable archive for your audience, even better.
Create an Archive for Your Blog
Given the fact that cannabis remains federally prohibited and illegal in many states, marketing your business can be a bit tricky. Fortunately, you can draw potential customers to your site and create a unique cannabis brand, by maintaining an active blog. Your blog should be educational and help people learn about hemp, CBD, cannabis, marijuana, etc.
But having a blog isn’t good enough. Ideally, you want to have a searchable archive page that lists all blogs according to date. If you remember to consistently post new articles, eventually your archive will become a library of cannabis related information. This has the potential draw in customers searching a range of different topics on Google.
Additionally, while social media channels like Instagram prohibit cannabis marketing, you can link to your educational blog archive. Once customers arrive at your blog, they are only a click away from your company website — just make sure your homepage, social media channels, etc., are polished and professional.
Pay Attention to Details
You can make your cannabis company standout from other businesses by paying attention to important, yet often overlooked, details. Think your business is tight and ready to go?
Take a closer look at the following areas and ask yourself, Can I do better?
- Brand photos — Are they reflective of your business philosophy? Are they related to your target demographic?
- Website layout — Is your website clean, and easy to navigate? Pretend you are a customer. How easy is it to buy from your website? Does your site clearly convey what you are selling and what your brand is?
- Brand voice — Is the voice of your brand accurate? On point?
- Email blasts — How often do email blasts go out? Are customers being spammed? Is the content within the email blasts clean and clear? Does it add value or encourage customers to buy?
- Social media content — Are your social media channels consistently updated? Is there a singular voice across all channels? Are you violating any regulations?
There should be a cohesive theme across all channels and facets of your business, including cannabis packaging. Remember, the devil is in the details.
With more than half of the United States already legalizing cannabis for either medical or recreational use, now is the time to join the green rush!
However, competition is stiff, and cannabis startups must develop innovative business and marketing practices if they want to thrive. To build a standout cannabis brand that’s both original and successful, love what you do, retain passionate staff, engage with your audience, and focus on creating an authentic product that enhances the customer experience.
This content was sponsored by Everything But The Plant, a premium marketplace to supply you with everything you need to build, manage, and grow your cannabis business.