We often take for granted how other people still perceive the cannabis industry. The stigma we’ve all received because we live and breathe it every day still thrives, especially in communities that may not be as hippie. The difficulty becomes ingratiating your store (and yourself!) in communities like this, with so much misinformation and prejudice present.
Loyalty programs are wonderful, and a perfect addition to any retail promotion mix, but this still doesn’t address the problem.
“There are some unique, engaging, and interesting ways to bring education forward and address the stigma.”
The good news is there are some unique, engaging, and interesting ways to bring education forward and address these issues head-on! Many sales representatives are pressing their sales pitches and product knowledge sessions on retailers. While these can have immense value to current customers, they work on the assumption that the information is being shared with dialed-in customers who have a basic knowledge of cannabis and are generally past any stigma-induced hurdles. How then, as a retailer, can this same strategy be used to grow and educate the community at large?
Open your Doors (and Hearts)
There is no better way to get to know your community than through open and transparent dialogue. Think of an open house as a house-warming—an opportunity to form and build relationships rather than a way to increase sales.
“Create an open house that focuses on community.”
Retailers, more than anyone, know the pains of cold calling and pushy sales representatives. Take the pressure off, create an open house that focuses on community, not products. Introduce yourself around the neighbourhood and ask if other shops may want to participate or contribute for some cross-promotion. Other stores may not have the capacity to host their own open house but have participated in the past and found it a great way to get involved in the community. This also will help you gauge who around you are friend or foe, and where you may need to add a little extra pleasantry to help lessen stigmas around cannabis and the type of consumers many assume it will attract.
Invite customers who are shining examples of the culture and community; realistically these will be your more mature and regular customers. Store owners in your community are likely to be over 30, and more established in their lives, making these customers easier to relate to than younger customers for your non-cannabis community guests. This consumer segment likely frequents other local stores as well, and familiar faces will help anyone on the fence about your presence feel more at ease.
Share Your Story
Use this open house as an opportunity to put together an education deck that you feel represents the goals and hopes you have for blossoming in your new store. Don’t treat this like a generic sales pitch, this isn’t about the products you’re selling, but rather about who you are and what your values are. Use this opportunity to be fun and engaging, and remember the objective is to captivate those non-believers and show them that the cannabis industry is full of wonderful, hardworking, everyday people.
“It’s about who you are and what your values are.”
You can also use this as an opportunity to share your story via social media; always remember your mission when leveraging social channels and stick true to your vision.
If your community has a local Business Improvement Association or Chamber of Commerce, reach out to them, and see what kind of initiatives they have on the move. They are usually very dialed in, and an amazing resource to tap into. Considering reaching out to local food banks, clothing drives, and animal shelters finding ways to support the community through philanthropy.
These are just some of the ways you can navigate your way through community engagement in your town or city, but remember that you can’t sway everyone’s opinion and that’s okay! Your actions will speak louder than words.