As you know, the cannabis market is very competitive across the US.
Standing out among a crowded market in states like Oklahoma, Washington, and Colorado is already challenging – not to mention the restrictive marketing regulations with which dispensaries must comply.
As a result, cannabis business operators need to be creative in how they compete for customers.
One problem that most operators run into is that the customers are newbies and don't know much about the nuances of cannabis, the differences in product quality, and a host of other tidbits that would make their buying experience more enjoyable.
Often, that means leveraging the expertise of your staff to educate customers about their purchasing options.
Don't forget, you're a local business and if a client's expectations are met or exceeded on the first visit, you likely will have that customer (and cashflow) for life...or until you mess up.
This means dispensaries must build trust with their customers to begin to shift the perception of the cannabis market as it becomes more mainstream.
Here’s how to drive sales by using your staff’s knowledge to educate new cannabis consumers.
Know Your Limits
Yes, there are advertising restrictions around what you can say and where you can say it.
And it's important to understand what's off-limits so that you can double down on what's available to you.
Cannabis marketing regulations vary from state to state, but broadly speaking, these are some of the common restrictions:
- No advertising cannabis products within 1,000 feet of a school or area where minors hang out, including television, radio, or print ads that could be seen, heard, or distributed in those areas.
- No advertising on public or private vehicles
- No marketing to minors, including toys, cartoon characters, and inflatables
- No mascots (people in costumes, sign spinners, etc.)
- No billboard advertising (in most states)
- Ads should include a disclaimers stating cannabis products can only be purchased by people who are 21 or older
- No advertising in arenas, stadiums, state fairs, shopping malls, and farmers markets.
Of course, each state has their own specific advertising and marketing regulations, so you should use this list as an illustrative guideline.
The key takeaway?
For cannabis entrepreneurs to have success in marketing while being compliant, focus on education and lifestyle rather than product or service benefits.
Clients are not just buying the product, they are also buying into your staff, your business model, and the EXPERIENCE of your shop.
Familiarize your on-site staff as to what they can and cannot promote in your dispensary’s storefront and in the surrounding neighborhood.
Then give them little sound bytes or one- or two-liners that can really push a point home to the customer.
Empower Your Team to Sell More
Product education doesn’t just apply to your customers.
Make sure your team is trained to talk about your cannabis products with authority and confidence.
Many dispensaries solely focus on training on SOPs such as bookkeeping, accounting, and inventory management, but don't forget about sales and product training.
You help your staff become well-versed in your product offering.
Budtenders not only need to know the different products in stock, but how they will affect customers.
- What are the benefits of each strain?
- How do different products compare to one another?
- Is this strain worth the extra cost, and why?
Allow new budtenders to sample products, or create a product catalogue that includes product descriptions, lab results, effects, and price point. This gives your staff the information they need to close a sale no matter what their level of expertise.
You could also summarize that product catalog into easy-to-understand charts or infographics for customers to put on the counter, waiting rooms, and even as takeaways.
Reduce Transaction Pressure
Go to a few local cannabis shops yourself to understand the buyer experience and get more context to the problem you're trying to solve.
When customers buy anything, they want to know they got a good deal or they will feel buyers remorse which leaves them unhappy with their purchase.
One sticking point that a large portion of customer ask is how much does it cost and how much do I get.
People simply do not want to get 'ripped-off', and understandably so.
Clearly lay out the daily deals and display regular prices prominently so that as clients wait in line or are being helped, they can make the right financial decision and avoid buyers remorse.
Educate Staff About Local Customers
Last but not least, help your team get to know the customer to whom they are selling.
As I said, you're a local business that probably has a stable recurring client base, so get to know their needs, desires, and motivations for coming to your shop.
Make sure to close the gap between your staff’s deep industry knowledge and the customer’s novice understanding of cannabis and cannabis products.
Profiles of customer types can help your team prepare to speak about your products in an accessible way.
Build customer personas from your sales data and marketing tools, using specifics such as:
- Age, education, location, income
- Customer needs and interests
- Their goals and desired outcome from shopping at your store
To take it one step further, you can create fictitious profiles to give your staff a unified vision of who is entering the dispensary, what they seek, and how to serve them.
Operations Pro Tip: Give your staff a few rapport building questions to tease out which type of customer they are serving in each transaction.
Instead of how's your day going, ask them what they did today or will do tonight. This will give you information about their occupation and leisure activities.
Highlight Your Staff’s Cannabis Knowledge
For many customers, the adult-use cannabis market is their first opportunity to consume cannabis products.
In this year’s State of Cannabis report, industry analysts found that “first-time cannabis consumers grew by 140% thanks to adult use legalization.”
Many customers who come through your front door don’t know anything about the different strains and consumption methods available to them.
This is where your staff can really shine!
If you have people on your team who are passionate about cannabis, feature them in your website, emails, or social media.
Feature employee recommendations to help customers discover new products and trigger sales.
You can profile an employee’s background or personality to humanize your brand.
You're not just selling cannabis products, you're selling a cannabis experience.
From the check-in, to the door buzzer, to budtender interaction, checkout, and the exit...consider how you can improve the ambiance and experience.
Unfortunately, dispelling the negative connotation of cannabis dispensaries as “drug dealers” is something many companies still must deal with.
By focusing on the people who make your company great both illustrates the intangible marketing potential of your product as well as the human connection your dispensary can offer.
Host On-Site Marketing Events
Drive foot traffic and build your brand, all in one effort.
Workshops and on-site events can provide opportunities for customers to get familiar with your products, ask questions, and make connections with your team.
And you don't have to do all of these on your own.
Do you understand how many cannabis brands there are?
Do you know how many of them would LOVE to come setup a booth in your space for a weekend, or even host some type of workshop for your customers?
Every one of them!
Reach out to the brands you already offer and ask them to come in and help you with your in-store interactions.
Next, think about other customer touch points where you can connect in-person with the community at large AS part of your community benefits program.
Are there topics where your team can really shine such as talking about topics that are relatively related to cannabis?
What about a yoga or meditation workshop?
Ask your clients what their interested in, and see if you can fill that gap for them.
Some other ideas include hosting a customer appreciation barbecue, geting a booth at a cannabis business conference, or volunteer in other ways to increase the visibility of your brand with a personal touch.
The more customers are familiar with your team, the more trust they will have in your product and company. It's simply the principle of exposure that will drive brand affinity.
Need more ideas to help boost your sales?
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