STANDING OUT IN AN INCREASINGLY SATURATED INDUSTRY
This story was written by The Giving Tree’s Managing Director, Lilach Mazor Power, and was originally published in the November 2017 issue of Marijuana Venture.
Be unique. Know your market. Focus. Stay consistent.
All easier said than done, right?
Everyone involved in the cannabis industry faces challenges. Some are like any other sector of business, some are unique to marijuana, and the combination of these two makes it even tougher to market wisely. I can think of many times when I tried to advertise somewhere and ended up getting rejected because I’m part of the cannabis industry. I won’t bore you with all the details — these examples get extensive — but for context let’s review a few of them:
– The Giving Tree’s Facebook account was shut down two years ago, costing us thousands of followers and invaluable data. We are not allowed to advertise through Facebook anymore as it goes against the site’s community rules.
– The Better Business Bureau in Arizona called to congratulate us for being in operation for four years without a single complaint and wanted to add us to its listing. However, once I mentioned being in the cannabis industry, the organization retracted its offer.
– A major health club chain got excited over the idea of having us advertise, but then its corporate office quickly closed that door.
As you can see, perceptions often make it much more difficult to advance our brand. What do people imagine when they hear cannabis dispensary? Is it a group of stoners with a cloud of smoke around them? Is it a promotion of laziness? Why are they so afraid to let us advertise with them? Is it the issues with the federal government?
Fighting this stigma has always been part of our mission and I believe we’ve been part of the solution — as have most firms revolving around the industry. We fight the stigma by giving back, by being transparent, by helping patients and improving people’s well-being — as well as by allowing people to take control of their own health, by offering attractive positions and recruiting the best team members out there.
We need to remind ourselves it takes time to change history and that we’re lucky it’s happening faster than we thought it would. The challenge with a fast-growing industry is that it attracts interest from many different sectors and investors. This means more funding, mergers, acquisitions and much more competition. The opportunities are endless but, in their allure, can also be limiting. So, what can you do to market your business in that kind of environment?
First: Be Unique. There are so many of us and we come in all shapes and sizes, so what makes you different from the others? What will make your target market come to you? What do you specialize in? What do you do that others don’t? What do you want to be known for?
Use these questions to develop your marketing voice. Let it lead your message and shape your brand. If you do not know how to answer these questions, it means you need to take a step back. You can’t become a jack of all trades, master of none.
New operators should ask themselves: What am I going to offer that is uncommon in my market? Don’t jump in just to be in the industry; jump in because you have a solution or an idea for something that is new and different.
Second: Know your market. Understand the people who will buy your product. Everything you do needs to keep them in mind. Are they going to appreciate it? Will it attract new customers? Is that what they are looking for?
You can’t look at this industry and just think, “Cannabis — everyone likes it!” You need to target your customer with a cannabis product or service that fits your market. For example, a single 23-year-old will have a different budget and needs than a 40-year-old with a family. Understand your market and focus your efforts on attracting that specific demographic. This doesn’t mean there isn’t room for a variety of products, but you need to decide what target market is right for your niche. The days of selling marijuana as “just marijuana” are over. Brand perception is shaped by product lines, quality, testing, social causes, loyalty and more. You must be prepared to compete in this new environment.
Third: Focus. There are so many new and fascinating products around us. In an industry with so many opportunities, you need to silence the noise and focus on the business at hand. Don’t get distracted; realize what you are doing and how to focus your resources and energy on getting it done.
We can all be victims of being drawn to “shiny stuff.” I am one of the first to admit this, so I try to remind myself daily to focus. I’ve also created a leadership team that maps out the company’s direction and we all row together. That means we have to call each other out, albeit politely, when someone gets distracted from the bigger picture. Create a focused team that believes in its mission and you’ll get passionate employees who push in the right direction.
Fourth: Stay consistent. Your marketing effort must be consistent. Your brand is what people think about and what they picture when they hear your name, see your logo, etc. Your brand is your business personality, and in order to create loyalty, you can’t be jumbled or disorganized.
Your messaging and your look needs to be consistent to be recognizable. This is how you stand out in a competitive market. Keep in mind that it may take years to see the benefit of brand consistency, but it’s the only way to create something that people believe in, care about and recognize the importance of.
Most marketing tips remind us of what we already think we know, but are important nonetheless. They can remind you why you started, and just as frequently, they can inspire you to go further. Don’t give up or get discouraged by competition. It simply means it’s time to remind yourself of what you do, why you do it and how best to share that message with the world.