Public opinion of cannabis is shifting rapidly with adult use cannabis legal in 10 states and 33 states have approved medical marijuana. But we wage a daily battle in our struggle to communicate. Most markets forbid the use of mass media to reach our customers or even educate the general public. Coupons or giveaways of branded products are forbidden. Even simple wayfinding signage for dispensaries are limited or outright banned in some places. This is far-reaching as it also impacts advocacy groups and patients.
And you would think that in this era of hyper-connectivity with social media it would be easy? Wrong.
Even though we invest significant resources in building digital communities with proper opt-in features, our communication efforts are too often silenced. Our dispensary Instagrams can be pulled down at any time, with no explanation. It took a petition we orchestrated at the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) and 25,000 signatures for Facebook to stop its “shadow-banning practice”. The result: The essence of our mission is diluted and ineffectively communicated.
The challenge: Legislators, regulators and digital media companies do not want us to have a voice but consumers want to hear from us. How can we reach our audience? The solution: Find your authentic voice and empower your advocates and employees to step out.
Dispensing cannabis comes with responsibility and we fully support that we have to be responsible operators in our messaging. We must rely on one of the oldest tactic in our playbook; conversations. One-on-one interactions, grass roots efforts, and building a community culture that will empower our communications effort.
At the Wellness Connection Maine (WCM) we are committed to being present in our communities, events, sponsorships, and our open houses. Wherever we want to target and effectively communicate with our audience, we seek to meet our customers in person. I’ve worked as a global marketer and founded an experiential marketing company; I’ve used every tool in a marketer’s toolkit. In my work as an experiential marketer, nothing can match one-on-one conversations. Print, video and other channels cast a wide net. Conversations and personal interactions are authentic and make a lasting impression on your customers.
Our goal is not conversion but conversation, debunking stereotypes and misconceptions, one person at the time.
- Know your target audiences.
- Find them where and when they are receptive and willing to participate.
- Whether it be the cannabis curious or the cannoisseur, train your staff to tailor your company’s message to the customer’s specific needs.
- Become more than a store or a dispensary: Become their community.
- Turn your employees into brand ambassadors; finding ways to bring the dispensary experience outside the walls.
- Involve your customers in your decisions.
- Entice your loyal patients for referrals from their own communities.
- Create a relationship beyond the transaction; become their point of reference for all things cannabis.
- Know the rules for social media and use the channels for authentic outreach.
- Optimize your CRM platform to capture and utilize valuable data to help create unique experiences for each customer.
- Launch live chats on your website and be available to your customers 24/7.
We have harnessed the power of conversation. We have built a community that not only thrives in our brick and mortar store, but continues to flourish in and beyond our walls.