DispensaryNext In Portland: Day Two
While some of you were stuck in an office all day Monday and Tuesday, I was at the DispensaryNext Conference in Portland. You may have seen me tweeting about it, but if you haven’t, this conference was held at the Jantzen Beach Red Lion and it was geared towards individuals looking to start a dispensary, or those who already have one and want to further educate themselves on what’s going on in the cannabis industry. This event was great for networking as some well known people within the industry were there offering tips and showcasing some of their services. Initially I wasn’t sure what to think about the event, I mostly wanted to go and check out a lot of the media classes that were being offered.
I was ready to own Day 2 and I came in with a big smile on my face! Networking is something that terrifies the shit out of me, attending this event was a way for me to break out of that shell and my mission was to hand out as many cards as I could. I think I was successful in doing so. The breakfast spread was even better than before, we were treated to muffins, eggs, bacon, sausage, and orange juice! It was all so tasty and just what we needed for more learning and networking. While I was eating I spoke with this dude from LA who was interested in starting up a shop in Portland, some might wonder why someone from another state would want to travel to Portland for a dispensary conference. He wasn’t the only one, there were people from Missouri and Minneapolis in attendance too. Some looking to move out west and some just educating themselves for when their state laws smarten up and they can strike.
The first class on my agenda was “Mastering The Web: Digital Strategy for Dispensaries” and it was conducted by Celeste Miranda of The Cannabis Marketing Lab. In this seminar, Celeste covered what shops should be doing in the digital world to engage with their customers via blogging and other social media platforms. Regarding websites, Celeste told us that simplicity is key, you want a website that readers can easily navigate around. Again I heard, “KNOW YOUR DEMOGRAPHIC”, something that is so key when you’re trying to market yourself or your brand. Who is watching and how are you connecting with them? I’ve noticed, and I am guilty of this too, is that in this digital age we try to cater to everyone on every platform. It makes sense, right? The more we’re out there, the more we’ll be seen? Well, that’s not always the case, and it’s best to keep it simple an stick to 1-2 platforms. If you’re demographic is older you may want to try marketing through Facebook, if they’re younger Instagram might be better, personally I hit Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, but I don’t use them all the same and I think many shop owners/brands will find which ones work best for them. It is time consuming though: blogging, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube…it is, so if you’re just starting out, take it slow and stick with the platform that you’re most comfortable using. Find other people on these platforms to connect with as well by finding key influencers and relevant keywords (hashtags) so people can find you. You also want to make sure you’re reminding people of the platforms you’re on, so make sure you mention them whenever you can. Keep an open mind out when picking the platform you’ll be using too, you might think a platform like Facebook, or Pinterest might be dead, but they aren’t and with fresh and exciting content you’ll be sure to gain more followers. With social media comes trolls, haters, and complainers, DO NOT ARGUE WITH THESE PEOPLE. Don’t ignore it, but you want to keep things professional, remember people are always reading. If social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook aren’t for you and you want to focus more on blogging, do it because they are useful…says the blogger Blogs can be useful, but that also depends on the content you’re putting up. Whether you’re posting text or video on your blog you want to make sure it’s quality, relevant, and that you’re always updating so your customers and Google forget who you are. When asked how long a good text post for a blog should be, Celeste pointed out that a post with a minimum of 250 words would be good, you don’t want it to be too long. I AM SO GUILTY OF THIS, but it’s not my fault, I just feel like I have a lot to say! Haha. Another thing I am also guilty of is not updating regularly and it literally pains me, if you don’t believe me ask every person I talk to about my blog and they’ll tell you I am always saying “if I just update this more I can do something with this”, then the days pass on. I asked Celeste how often a blog should be updated and she let me know that it should be updated weekly, now how often you update during the week is up to you, but don’t over-saturate your readers.
The next seminar was Banking in the Cannabis industry that was conducted by Luc Nelson, and this seminar was definitely more business than some of the other seminars I was present for. In this seminar business owners learned about some of the issues many face with banks refusing to take “drug money”. Business owners learned about ways people are trying to work around this issue with Bitcoin machines and cash kiosks. We were also introduced to the Carer’s Act, “a groundbreaking federal bill to allow states to move forward on medical marijuana without federal interference, is gaining bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress.” With this act they hope to achieve:
- Allow states to legalize marijuana for medical use without federal interference
- Permit interstate commerce in cannabidiol (CBD) oils
- Reschedule marijuana to schedule II
- Allow banks to provide checking accounts and other financial services to marijuana dispensaries
- Allow Veterans Administration physicians to recommend medical marijuana to veterans
- Eliminate barriers to medical marijuana research.
There’s a long way to go with legalization, banking and insurance issues, and stigma, can we get there?
Lunch was so bomb on the second day! BBQ Ribs, BBQ Brisket, Fried Chicken, Potatoes and Cake (pic of the lunch buffet from @MadderThanAHat)!? Are you kidding me!!! At lunch I got to talk with Melanie from Bloom a bit and she was such a lovely person to speak to, I hope to visit her shop soon, it’s across from one of my favorite stores, can you guess which one?
You know what sucks? When you’re ready to learn, but the person speaking doesn’t show up! Jeremy Sackett was supposed to speak during the “Quality Cannabis By Design” seminar, but he was a no-show. Instead some joined the “Behavoiral Interviewing” seminar that was conducted by James Moser, I was told that he was such a delightful speaker and that they had learned a lot. Since Jeremy Sackett was a no-show this meant that Kelli Brown aka @hemptres of MarijuanaInfographics.com, was able to start her speaking event early. Kelli was here to conduct the “Creative Content Marketing – The Art Of Creating Loyal Customers, Not Just Buyers”, she showed us why it’s important for shops to develop relationships with their customers and seeing them as people instead of dollar signs. Kelli showed us some of the infographics she’s created for some of her well known clients (check out her portfolio). Instead of words or videos to capture someone’s attention, Kelli creates stunning infographics to help share information, so instead of a wordy blog post you get pictures that help explain the information in a much more fun way.
It was interesting attending seminars for the many different ways business’ can advertise to their customers, they all basically said the same thing, but it was nice getting that information in different ways so we can find what works for us.
Just as Monday ended with a panel, there was another one, but this one felt more intimate. Instead of the speakers trying to project in a big room, we settle in a small area in the main hall to discuss how we can change the stigma of cannabis, better ways for shops to conduct business, and the need to provide proper education on the many different ways cannabis can be ingested and it’s affect on us. Many of us agreed that in some states where medical and rec cannabis are being merged that the budtenders should be retrained to look at cannabis from a medical standpoint, so they’re giving out correct information to patients. A big thing that a lot of people don’t talk about is how community outreach can play a big role in how we’re educated, more meet the grower events would be great, along with workshops on the many different ways you can use cannabis medically, even just donating your time to show your community that you aren’t just another “pothead” can send a big message.
This panel was helpful to me because I did break out of my shell more, I talked about my blog and my experience with cannabis and it’s affects on me. At one point shop owners were talking about how displeasing it is when patients come in just looking for higher THC levels, and I will admit that it is a shame, and that’s where education comes in. With my blog, I don’t claim to be an expert, all my reviews and experiences are based on that…ME! The way a strain affects me, won’t necessarily affect someone the exact same way, and I did mention that I do try to point that out in my reivews. I am sharing information, but also saying, “hey this is my opinion, take that into consideration”. I’ll be honest, sitting in that group, talking about cannabis so passionately was pretty cheesy, but it was in the best way possible. When we all said our goodbyes it felt like some of us had made life long friends, isn’t that what networking is about? Connecting? I’ve said this many times, I love how weed brings the people together. The one thing I will say for the next event: 1. Make sure your speakers are present, and 2. A tighter schedule would’ve been nicer. I understand no show goes on without it’s kinks, but it’s something to think about.
Keep it lit!