Common Cents

Top 3 Ways the Cannabis Market Needs to Grow Up.

Sorry to be so blunt, but we need to be honest about something. 

The cannabis industry is in its infancy. 

This happens with every “new” business or trend that comes along.  Hey man, that’s life. It’s ok. Everybody and every movement must start somewhere.

But however young this industry may be, there are a few things we could do a lot better on across the market place.

Recently, I watched a video from theCannabist that talked about how there was a “dirty little secret” about vape pens that no one wanted you to know.

“Dirty Little Secret?” Seriously?

I have a number of issues with this sort of appeal.

The article from theCannabist had the real potential of addressing some potential problems.  But, they didn’t and that is something I wish would change.

This article is NOT about the actual issues that face the cannabis industry, which require more in-depth discussion. I’ll get to those later – things like imports, white labels, packaging, etc.  We will definitely address some of the underlying issues in the industry.

This is an article about appropriate responses by business owners and leaders in an industry that is still finding its way.  That is a big deal that we should be conscious of.

So, here’s the thing…

As cannabis products and technology expand throughout the states and globe, there are going to be more companies, and larger companies, that come into a marketplace to try and make a profit.

This is something that the youthful cannabis industry is yet to realize, but every other industry in the world has gone through this phase. Think of it like puberty for the marketplace.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I agree completely with the idea that companies need to be transparent with their marketing and the sources of their products.

But, there are some good lessons to learn from this quick video that we can apply throughout the industry which will help cannabis become more accepted, which will lead eventually to federal legalization.

In essence, the topics that this theCannabist article is trying to get at are valid, but the scope and approach are just as inaccurate as the “marketing speak” they reportedly detest.

ITEM #1.  TRANSPARENCY.

Let’s dive right in, shall we?

In case you didn’t see the article/video, the gist of it was pretty much “they make vape pens in China and sell them in the US.” 

Right.  So, what is the problem?

At one point, the conversation turns to the topic of marketing, with the vaporizer reviewer saying “… when I have somebody actively trying to sell me a load of lies, like marketing speak, it’s harder for me to understand what’s going on”.

Again, I fully support being transparent and providing information that helps both the consumer and the industry as a whole. I mean, our company at CannaLocations is focused on doing exactly that throughout the states. 

However, there is a widespread epidemic of “do as I say, not as I do” in many areas of this business.  That just doesn’t work in real life.  Not when we’re trying to shape the future.

For example…

The headline of this article/video is titled “The vaporizer industry has a dirty little secret, and companies are hoping customers aren’t paying attention”. 

I doubt that is exactly truthful.  But… this is a great headline for marketing.  It got me to read the article, so clearly it worked.

The “marketing speak” they referenced in discussion is the exact method they used in choosing their own headline for the article.  They wanted people to read the article or watch the video, so they chose a headline with words specifically designed to get attention.

I don’t think it’s fair to complain about how these “big bad companies” are using marketing to attract consumers to purchase their product, while at the same time using a headline designed to get the reader’s attention.  That’s the same thing.

If you want to be transparent in the industry and taken seriously, then we need to bring the game up a level.   

No one said the cannabis business is easy. Well… at least not the guys who are really a part of it. Headlines make you think so, but we know the truth.

Within this industry, we have all had to grow thicker skin, refine our craft, and become a lot more creative with ideas just to be standing here today.

So, the next time the grower next door starts complaining about competition, or the retailer wants to cut prices, then we, as cannabusiness people, need to react with good business sense rather than slamming those who are attempting to get attention.  We need to focus on marketing our own products and companies in a way that allow people to understand and see what we truly stand for.  Find ways that outline the value of whatever it is you offer or sell.  Why is your product actually better than the one next door?  Don’t make up stuff that isn’t true.  Just find your unique feature or advantage… and then market it in a way that lets the whole world know.

Even the best product in existence needs superior marketing and connections before consumers will notice and buy it.

Thankfully, CannaLocations has a service to help you out with this and get some eyeballs on your business needs.

We all need to be leaders and spoke models for the future generations.  Truly skilled marketing can embrace transparency.  And transparency is something we need the world to recognize as part of the cannabis industry. 

ITEM #2.  COMPETITION IS GOOD.

Back to the article…

“… If you actually innovate a vape pen or a vape product, the odds are somebody else is just going to steal it.” 

The panel goes on to talk about how companies are all buying essentially the same pens from china and then loading them with product and selling them in the states.

Right.  That’s how we make things affordable in this country.

I hate to break it to you… but importing products from other countries is not a new thing in America.  We do it a lot – to the tune of $2.4 trillion worth of products each year. Also, consumers do know about this phenomenon. White label products exist in many industries. Just like we all know that Costco doesn’t have a distillery operation for their Kirkland brand whiskey, surely you could make the short leap to include vaporizers.

Whether you agree with it or not, is a separate issue, and one we will discuss at a future date.  The truth is that big companies will buy things in bulk from other countries because it’s cheaper than making them here. 

Sorry to be blunt.

Do you want all vape pens to cost $200?  No, you don’t.  You want to have options for what you can afford. Maybe that’s $15 or $50 or $150.  But, you want options.

Heck, have you walked down the cereal aisle lately and noticed the 6 different kinds of Cheerios?  In essence, it’s kind of the same thing.  Cereal is some sort of refined flour or oats that are puffed up with some sugar and put in a bowl…. Or Ziploc bag and then taken to work.  With Cheerios, there are countless versions of pretty much the same thing… yet consumers still go and search for “the one” they’re looking for.

Cannabis is similar. There are a bunch of different products, but they are all the same, in a way. And it’s a good thing that there are multiple versions *cough* or white label versions *cough* of the same product.

Competition brings innovation and new methods to the market.  Without that, then we would all settle for the same box of name brand Cereal.  With competition, consumers have choices and then the market drives prices. 

From a marketing perspective, instead of saying “It’s the best”, “It’s the newest”, “We’re the greatest” … say something that truly brings value to your product and lets you stand out in the marketplace.  What is that unique selling proposition (or USP for you marketing gurus) for your company? 

I don’t know what your USP is.  Sometimes it is really hard to figure out.  But once you do, the world will open up.

For example, CannaLocations is the only company that places an emphasis on both educating business owners and providing open resources at the same time.  We want to make business easier and better all around.  I don’t see anyone else in the industry giving away as much information and real data as we do.  It takes a whole lot of time and work to do it, but we know it is worth it in the long run because it supports our goal of shaping this industry into the best it can be.

Remember, keep your eye on the ball… and make your vision for the future includes something special that only you do.

ITEM #3.  TRUST.

This one might be a hot topic, but it’s one that we need to address.

My last quote from the video is in a much more relaxed tone at the end… and it’s actually the one that worries me the most. 

“I’ve always been in a place where I distrust everyone. It’s sort of automatic. I’m automatically in the standpoint that all these guys are lying to me.”

Oh boy.

Trust works both ways.  But, someone needs to go first.

When working in the cannabis industry, you’re in a world where, every day, there are outside forces trying to make you feel like you are doing something wrong.  I’ve had companies I’ve worked with for decades drop me out of the blue.  I can’t go to the bank I’ve used for years.  I wait every day for my social media pages to be shut down.  I get calls and looks from people I’ve known and worked with forever who have misconceptions about the industry from the outside.

It is sometimes easy to let myself think that I’m a terrible person. I mean, that’s what many (former) colleagues must think, right?

But I can deal with it because I know that by providing education and being open with people, they will eventually see this industry as something to be accepted.

But, do you know the worst part?  The piece that is the most frustrating in our business? 

It’s that every single day… we see people who are supposed to be working together in the industry and they can’t take a step back to trust each other long enough to buy or sell product to a processor, or start a new venture together, or even work together to sell something.

We cannot let the mistrust of those outside the industry leech in to how cannabusiness people treat one another. There is an undue scrutiny placed on the cannabis industry to prove that it is as legitimate as businesses that sell whiskey, or even Cheerios (a much larger topic that I’ll cover later). And If there is any hope in bringing this industry into the light and not only legalizing it federally, but also getting it accepted by the public, then we need to show the world that we are legitimate, trustworthy, and trusting businesses.

We can’t continue with the in-fighting amongst partners or lack of trust between companies that need each other now more than ever.  Without trust and cooperation, then we will never become successful and profitable enough to make it through to the next round of whatever the future brings.

We are an emerging industry.  There will be people who fail.  There will be people who succeed.

If you want to be one of the few who will make it… and I mean not just cover bills, but truly thrive in this new market, then we need to get off the fence and start trusting each other.  By creating a culture of transparency and cooperation... trust becomes a whole lot easier.  But, someone needs to take the first step.

The hard truth to accept is that as long as cannabis is still illegal federally, then we end up having to meet a higher standard in order to be accepted.  It doesn’t seem fair, but it is what it is.

Being a cannabis business owner is hard.  I get it.  I do it every day right beside you.

You know how we win in the future?

We remain focused.  We stay on the high road.  And we keep moving in the same direction together in order to make this industry thrive.

Let’s do it together. 

Join us.  Be a Leader in Change.

We’re right here with you.