image of a macbook computer searching with google

Basic SEO for a Cannabis Business Website

Search engine optimization (SEO) for a cannabis business website is the fuel that makes your site rank (or show on top) when a specific topic is searched. It is the process of getting traffic to your cannabis website via free or organic search. As you know, the competition in cannabis is fierce, so the engines behind Google, Bing and Safari need to present the BEST and most relevant sites to the searcher. This magic is done via algorithms, a mathematical and super-secret formula that takes into account hundreds of bits of information and that determine the ranking for keywords. 

SEO has an air of mystery about it, and everyone wants it to work for them and to be a top-ranking page. Big companies have SEO staff or consultants that help with SEO, but what if you’re a cannabis start-up or a marijuana entrepreneur without resources to work on SEO day-to-day? 

Don’t despair. We have some ideas for you to use to make the SEO for your cannabis business website work.

Here’s the thing: it takes time and effort, and results might come slowly. But if you’re persistent, you can make it happen.

SEO is comprised of multiple factors that work together for a successful search.

It begins with content on your site that matches a search, which are words people use when searching. If your website is rich with keywords that match what people are looking for, that’s a good start.

You need content that is optimized on your website, keywords and meta descriptions for each page. The words that people are searching for should exist on the page name, in the headers, and frequently within the content itself. A meta description is a small amount of content on a web page that tells the search engines and readers what’s there. Take care to write good meta descriptions that reflect how users are searching.

Content creation is essential to successful SEO for the cannabis business website, and that’s where people tend to have trouble. Creating content about cannabis is fun and easy if you’re a writer, videographer, or photographer. But, if you don’t have those skills, you’ll struggle, and fresh content is essential to SEO. People often ask about how often content needs to be added to a website. Ideally, three times a week. Yikes! Who has time for that? Shoot for once a week, or at least twice a month. And before you talk yourself into once a month, create a list of 26 topics you can write about, and you’ll have a starting point.

mac on a table, to illustrate SEO search for a cannabis business website

Other SEO Tips and Tricks.

You need to have an SSL or secure site, which is a certificate (of safety essentially) that you can get via your website host. You need to have a website that loads quickly, check your page speed here. A speed test will give you some ideas to speed things up for users. Your site should have been created with mobile as its focus. You know instantly on a mobile device if a website isn’t mobile-friendly, and you don’t want that to be your cannabis business. Use the free Moz tool to review your domain name and authority. It provides a score between 1 and 100 and other information you might find useful. You can also review the domains of your competition and see how you compare.

When you review your Google analytics, check on the bounce rate and time on page data. Both have an impact on your SEO, and you want a low number of bounces and a longer time on page. If you have a high bounce rate, something isn’t working, and people are finding your site and leaving. Think about why that might be the case.

Links within your website and post are essential to your SEO success. You need to be generous with your outbound links and look for opportunities for backlinks (links to your site) too. The more credible a site that backlinks to you is, the better your SEO will be.

Social sharing also helps improve your SEO. Make sure to post your new content on your social media pages and in groups where you’re a member.

Make sure that you have a business listing on Google, Bing and Yahoo. Having an accurate listing with reviews, where that applies will help with your SEO. 

image of a google business page to illustrate SEO for a cannabis business website
Example of a Google business listing

Inside of your site (if it is a WordPress site), there is a plug-in called Yoast. Yoast will virtually coach you through making new content SEO-rich. It will help you make decisions on headlines, keywords, keyword frequency and other SEO tricks. If not for Yoast, we’d be a lot less successful with our Canna Communication SEO.

Lastly, don’t ignore your alt text on photos within your site. Alt text is written for visually impaired users who are looking at your website. Write text that use your keywords and reflect the essence of the image. It not only helps your SEO, but you’re also doing something right to make your site welcoming and inclusive to all users.

Need help with implementing search engine optimization (SEO) for a cannabis business website? Give us a jingle we’d love to help you out.

a cannabis leaf used to illustrate cannabis news

Our Best Ideas for Pitching Your Cannabis Business Story to the Media

Placing stories about your cannabis business in the news is a powerful means of amplification that can’t be underestimated. It’s something businesses need to do regularly to get the word out and further normalize cannabis for the public.

We know that mainstream media is shrinking, and local newsrooms and outlets are harder to find. Yet, the impact of a well-placed cannabis business news story will have a positive effect on your business that is hard to duplicate. Depending on where you are, your local media will always have more readers, viewers and listeners than you will ever have on your social media site or in your enews subscriptions. And with the big cannabis hitters like Leafly, Cannabis Now, High Times, Culture or Ganjapreneur reaching new audiences there can be a game changer.

How do you get Your Cannabis Business Into the news?

It takes a combination of strategy, planning, being able to react quickly to trends and news and a bit of persuasion. Here’s how we work to make cannabis business news happen.

Build a Solid Relationship.

Having a good relationship with a reporter involves providing accurate, timely and newsworthy information; being available for interviews and being a good source. Sometimes being a good source is helping a reporter with a story that doesn’t involve you or your business, but is within the cannabis industry. Use a silver bullet, not a shotgun when making your pitch. While we like to be seen across the media, in multiple outlets, we write every pitch email personally and customize it to the reporter.

The Fast Pitch.

young woman with a softball to illustrate a pitch to the media of a cannabis business story

Journalists are busy people, and in a big newsroom, we’ve heard that a reporter can get about 200 emails a day. Make your pitch short, helpful and to the point. Don’t spend time on minor details in the pitch. You can stick that in the news release that’s either attached or detailed below the actual pitch. If you’ve succeeded in your pitch, they’ll read further.  If you can keep a pitch to about 150 words, you’re doing great!

Think of Your News With a Headline in Mind.

When you’re thinking about the pitch you’re making, write the headline you envision and use it for the subject of your email.  Anything that’s genuinely new and first makes good potential news stories. But it also must have an impact on the business you’re doing and the audience that the media outlet serves. Building a $2 million cannabis grow facility? That’s news. Are you hiring people in your community? That’s news. Are you bringing a new cannabis product to market? That’s news. Make sure when you use first and new that you have the data and research to back it up.

someone reading a newspaper with a headline about a cannabis business in it

Know Your News.

Some stories are breaking news, some are features, and others are evergreen in nature—that is—time doesn’t matter so much. Craft your pitch for what the news actually is and the media outlet you want to be in; it’s okay to ask a reporter about his or her deadlines. Keep in mind that print magazines often work 2-3 months in advance, weekly publications are working on stories the week or two before, and even daily print publications need some lead time. Breaking stories happen throughout the 24-hour news cycle and those are the opportunities for which you drop what you’re doing and jump in. Make sure for radio you have someone who is a willing and enthusiastic speaker, and for TV you’ll need something visual. For print and online, assets like photography help make a story happen.

Timing Matters.

a clock that illustrates timing when it comes to media for your cannabis business

Tuesdays and Wednesday are best days for pitches, and it appears that between 10 AM and noon are also good. But, if you have real news and are connected to the reporter, don’t wait to make the pitch. You can also use slow media times to your advantage. The week between Christmas and New Year is notoriously quiet in the news business as are other long holiday breaks. Remember if you make a pitch on a Friday, you might end up with a weekend news story, which isn’t all bad. If your pitch isn’t working, it could be your news is an internal update, which might best be shared on social media.

Make the quick decision to jump in and help when there’s a crisis. Established brands are always the first to help when disaster strikes—and your cannabis business can do this, too. If a tornado hits your community, or a flood or a family suffers from a fire—lend a hand and let the media know. Whether it is providing cases of bottled water, helping lead a drive for food or funds or giving people in your business time off to help out, that’s the kind of story the media likes during dark times.

Make Sure You’re Qualified to be on the Bandwagon.

Local news organizations often find some of their news leads from breaking national stories that are happening or even from news in a nearby media market. If it makes sense for you to jump in give your opinion on something or offer advice, then make the pitch. Newsjacking or inserting your company or brand into a breaking story is part of what PR professionals do. Keep up on cannabis news so that you can be part of the story.  Make sure you are educated on the subject and not straying too far from your area of expertise or brand.

In the cannabis community, there’s plenty of competition, but collaboration can move all of us forward as we evolve and grow as an industry. If you need a hand with your cannabis business news generation, Canna Communication can help, just give us a call or send a quick note.

a glass you might use for a cannabis special event, it has a leaf made out of confetti in it

Ten Ways to Spark Your Cannabis Special Event

A cannabis special event is one of the best ways for a business to connect directly with customers. An event gives a business the opportunity to showcase a place, a new product or an idea. A special event can be used to celebrate an anniversary, a grand opening, an expansion, a national holiday like Independence or Veterans Day or the high holiday of 4/20. You don’t need an official reason for hosting an event, it’s all about getting to know your customers.

Organizing a cannabis special event can be time-consuming, there are real benefits.

  •      It builds customer loyalty.
  •      It builds brand awareness.
  •      It attracts new customers.
  •      It provides space to inform people on a subject or a product      
  •      It provides insight into your customers.
  •      It’s fun.

Putting together a cannabis special event for your business takes time and planning, but it’s worth it.

Outside of the ordinary planning points of a special event, we suggest paying attention to a few things that can truly make a difference to your attendees and the success of your special event.

  1. Choose your date and time carefully. Look at not only what’s happening in your community, but around the world. You don’t want to plan an event and have it fall on Rosh Hashanah, Good Friday, Super Bowl Sunday, the Michigan/Michigan State game day or Martin Luther King Day.
  2. Assign two point people to help “manage” the event. One is the host the other is the troubleshooter. Don’t have the host solving on the ground problems and don’t have the troubleshooter serve as the host. Your guests need attention as much as the problems do.
  3. Be fun, but be legal. Make sure that everything you do when it comespeople having fun at a cannabis special event to marijuana is compliant with local and state laws. You don’t want to do anything that would jeopardize your license, whether that is onsite consumption, giving away product or serving alcohol in your space.
  4. Give people something to do other than stand around. Whether it’s a game like corn hole (assuming you’re outdoors), building something like a jenga tower, a trivia game or even crayons to color on a table cover or provide a photo wall where they can take a selfie.
  5. Collect data on your guests while being a friendly host. When your guests check in, ask for their email and phone and for them to opt-in to your mailing or texting list. Ask them about their favorite way to consume cannabis and about the one thing they want you to carry that you don’t already have.
  6. Establish a hashtag for your event and post it where people can see it. Do your research to make sure it is unique and short. People will use it if they’re on social media and it will help you see what your visitors are saying.
  7. Door prizes, not raffles. Keep in mind that in most states a raffle requires a license, so don’t call your giveaway a raffle. People are pretty much happy to get anything free. Branded swag from your company, like a tee-shirt or a pint glass, is always a good option and big stickers, rolling papers and lighters are always welcome.
  8. Food is an essential part of any event—it should be simple, abundant food for a cannabis special eventand easy to eat. Keep in mind the time of your event, 5-7 PM is the dinner hour and people might expect heavier foods, 7-9 PM might lend itself to desserts and mid-afternoon is great for veggies, cheeses and crackers.  Keep in mind food preferences like vegetarians and allergies like gluten and provide options. Label your food and make sure your troubleshooter knows what’s in the food you’re serving. If you’re serving infused food make sure it’s clearly labeled with potency and that you’re not outside the law.
  9. Music is essential to setting the mood for your event and developing a playlist isn’t an easy task. Keep in mind your audience and the purpose and time of your event and use music that works to meet those goals. If you know someone who really knows music, ask that person to make suggestions for your mix. Using a paid subscription to a music service can provide a party mix without ads.
  10. Thank your attendees. With collected emails or phone numbers, you can send a quick note after the event and let them know how much you appreciated their attendance. It’s also a great time to offer a discount on something you’ve got in stock.

Need a hand with planning your next cannabis special event? Give us a shout and we’ll give you the help you need to make it perfect.

scrabble tiles that say take more photos: for your cannabis business website

Making Content for Your Cannabis Business Website

You’ve heard this before: Content Rules.

New and searchable content is what makes the Internet hum. Fresh content helps improve traffic on your cannabis business website, drives sales and makes your business relevant to search engines.

Content is made up of text, images, video and audio that live on your website.a laptop used to create content for a cannabis business website

When properly optimized for search engines content is more easily findable by people looking for something specific. We won’t get into search engine optimization in this blog, but this video by Neil Patel is pretty useful for getting some basics about why you need to pay attention to this and what to do.

When you plan content creation for your cannabis business website, it needs to accomplish a few of these things. The more of these ideas you can include, the richer your content will be.

  • Educational—tell people something they might not know
  • Compelling—write or show the topic in a way that keeps people’s attention
  • Useful—give practical advice or a “how to” to the reader or viewer
  • Focused—stick to what you know and what your business is about
  • Quality—if you’re writing, make sure your grammar is correct and if you’re making a video, the audio and picture need to be good, too.
  • Relevant—produce content about something that’s happening now
  • Entertaining—use humor and visuals that make your content fun (when appropriate)
  • New—put a new spin on what you’re writing about and try to make it fresh for your web visitors.
  • If possible, make it personal and always be aware of your brand voice.

Creating content takes time and effort. Whether you’re making a video, writing a blog or creating a podcast, you need to do a few things before you jump in.

  • Think about and plan out what you want people to learn or know—what’s the core message? Are there other details and secondary messages that support what you’re saying?
  • Make sure you have enough knowledge and expertise to say or write at least 400 words or create a 90-second video. There will be some topics that come naturally to you and others you’ll struggle to complete.
  • Think visually. How can you show and tell your story? Are there images or video you want to include?
  • Don’t plagiarize! Make sure what you write or say is original to you. Yes, you can read another author’s articles for ideas, validation or outbound links, but don’t steal someone else’s words or images.
  • Create content in small chunks that people can easily skim. Like we did here.
  • Think about the questions people ask about your business or products and use those to generate your content. For instance, we had someone on Linked In ask us about how to get a medical marijuana card in Michigan. While it wasn’t communication-related, we could see there was a need to share this information.

Every cannabis business website has some easy wins for content that are necessary. Team or leadership biographies and a robust about us section are essential. People like to see and know about who is behind the product or service they are using. It’s also a great place to share your brand personality and voice. Keep in mind the “why” of your business and use that for content, too. The reason you started growing, processing, testing, transporting or provisioning cannabis is something people like to know. If it’s personal, let that shine.photo of people who might be featured on a cannabis business website

It’s important to create content that moves your cannabis business forward and looks to bring people to you for your expertise in cannabis.

When appropriate use a call to action like this: for help creating content give us a nudge. We’d be happy to work with you.

bowls for mixing a cannabis brownie

Chile Dark Chocolate Cannabis Brownies

chile chocolate cannabis brownies Here is an amazing and adaptable recipe for making cannabis brownies. It’s adaptable because if you don’t like dark chocolate or a spicy brownie you can remove the cayenne powder and substitute semi-sweet chocolate chips and instant coffee powder. But, trust me, the pop of spice really makes these great. It also tolerates a lot of stirring, which is good for getting the cannabis mixed throughout.

Ingredients:

12 TBS (stick and a half of butter)
1/2 cup of dark chocolate chips (get the regular or small size chip)
½ cup of cocoa powder
1 tsp of cayenne pepper
¾ cup of granulated sugar
¾ of brown sugar
2 large eggs and 1 egg yolk
1 tsp of vanilla extract
½ teaspoon of sea salt
1 cup of all purpose flour
¾ cup of dark chocolate chips
650 to 750 mg or RSO or distillate of cannabis (check the THC on the stinger)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Pan size: 9×9 or if you have the odd 6×10 rectangle pan that will work, too.
  3. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment and butter the bottom and the sides, too.
  4. Melt the butter and ½ cup of chips over LOW heat, stirring until blended. No bubbling allowed. Remove from heat and stir in the RSO or cannabis distillate. Stir and stir and stir. Add the cocoa powder and pepper, stir it some more.
  5. Pour this into a mixing bowl.
  6. Add the two sugars into the mix and stir it up.
  7. Add the eggs one at a time and stir after each addition. You cannot stir this enough!
  8. Stir in the vanilla and sprinkle the sea salt over the batter.
  9. Add the flour and stir it up some more. You cannot overstir this recipe, you want that cannabis to be in every little bite.
  10. Stir in the 3/4 cup of chocolate chips.
  11. Stir it up one last time.
  12. Spread the batter in your prepared pan. Lick the bowl, spatula and spoon. Pretty soon you won’t worry about the raw eggs.
  13. Put the pan of cannabis brownies in the fridge for 30 minutes, this will give you a very nice crackly top.
  14. Move the pan into the oven and bake for about 35-40 minutes. Test with a toothpick, there should be some fudgy stuff on the toothpick, but not too much. And with chocolate chips in there, it’s a bit hard to tell. DO NOT INCREASE THE OVEN TEMP, but you can give it another 5 minutes of baking if needed.
  15. Allow the brownies to cool for a couple of hours. The chocolate chips need to return to a stable state for cutting, use a sharp serrated knife.

Now, for the math. 750 mg of cannabis is what you have in this pan. How much potency do you want your cannabis brownie bites to have? I like to chile chocolate cannabis browniesmake something that’s about 10 mg per bite, so with a 9×9 pan, you’ll want to cut something around 81 pieces, or 9 down and 9 across. Keep some in the fridge and freeze the rest.

Keep in mind that for the inexperienced cannabis consumer, 10mg is a lot, so if you’re sharing your cannabis brownies, ask them to eat just a half to start and wait about an hour before eating the other half.

postcard that was mailed to voters

Voting YES for Medical Marijuana Zoning

A Canna Communication Case Study

Early last summer we were contacted by a cannabis entrepreneur that was facing opposition to a medical marijuana grow business in Egelston Township, Michigan. He realized he needed professional communication assistance with this issue and we jumped right in.

Background:
The elected officials in Egelston Township opted-in for medical marijuana businesses in late 2017. Soon after opting in, the entrepreneur/grower who had already purchased property in the township started construction on buildings for greenhouses and a provisioning center. In the spring of 2018, a resident of the municipality who is also a developer that owns a subdivision adjacent to the two greenhouses under construction began circulating a petition to upend medical marijuana zoning in the community. The petitions were validated by the township clerk, and the proposal would appear on the mid-term ballot. If the vote didn’t go the grower’s way, he would lose the opportunity to have any cannabis business in the township.

We were asked to create a campaign to persuade voters to keep medical marijuana zoning in the township.

We provided the client with a full political campaign proposal and he chose to rely on web, social media, direct mail, and yard signs. Our messaging focused on providing accurate information and guiding conversations while helping people understand two issues: zoning and medical marijuana.

Strategy:
After a discovery meeting with the client, his horticulturist, attorney and a business colleague we wrote a set of key messages that went to the heart of the zoning issue.

The messages focused on:

  • The township has done its due diligence in creating medical marijuana zoning and the work should be respected.
  • The township work was done with multiple opportunities for public input and within the open meetings act.
  • Ensuring people knew this was a medical marijuana business issue. Adding to the complexity was that Michigan voters were going to vote on recreational marijuana, too. This was a separate issue, but also on the ballot. This was a point of confusion for people.
  • Voting yes for medical marijuana zoning.

We created a theme for the campaign and began work on developing a website and a Facebook page. We presented Egelston Grows Green as the theme because it spoke to the idea of growth in the township, not only cannabis itself but jobs and tax revenue. We wanted to include the township name in the theme to create a sense of place, identity and pride.

The key messages were used to create website content, to launch the Facebook page and to provide content throughout the summer. As it came closer to election time, we promoted the vote and ended each post with a Vote YES for medical marijuana zoning message.

photo of the egelston grows green facebook page
Facebook cover photograph

Significant challenges and opportunities for execution:
One of the most significant challenges we faced was the convoluted language that was in the petition and on the ballot. We knew that the best thing we could do was to make it simple for voters to understand and accurate to the ballot. We chose: vote yes for medical marijuana zoning.

In May of 2018, Facebook put restrictions on two essential parts of our campaign: political advertising and marijuana pages. The platform required anyone wanting to conduct political advertising to supply a physical mailing address and a copy of a photo ID like a driver’s license. We did this but were thwarted by another new policy that made marijuana pages unsearchable. Cannabis pages and groups that had been easy to find for years had disappeared from the search tool, and Facebook was denying requests to boost to create ads for all marijuana businesses regardless of what they did, i.e., law firms and accountants were being denied promotional space. This made launching the site and promoting content a challenge, especially for a new page. We relied on a network of advocates to share our daily posts and a popular community-centric Facebook page, Wolf Lake World News. We posted our information on that site and engaged in multiple conversations there, too.

We created the website egelstongrowsgreen.com for key messages and details about the growing operation, that people had an interest in. They wanted to know how this business could potentially affect them: everything from the smell, to security, to job creation, to compliance, water use and plant waste. We posted two informational videos to the page as well. All the time we are reinforcing the message about voting yes for medical marijuana.

yard sign about voting yes for medical marijuanaOne month before the election we helped the client with a succinct, clear message for yard signs and designed a postcard for voters. These collateral materials reinforced the singular importance of voting yes for medical marijuana zoning. The postcards were mailed to the 7500 voters in the township. The client also held a yard sign pick-up event with principals on-site to answer questions. 

postcard that was mailed to voters to encourage them to vote yes for medical marijuana
front of the postcard

In the days before the election, one of the business partners secured a video interview with a hyperlocal indie news channel, and we were able to share that interview and clear up some of the misconceptions that the opposition was promoting.

Outcome:
Great news! The voters of Egelston Township approved the zoning ordinance 1921 to 1751 votes.

thankful graphic because we are thankful for cannabis legalization in Michigan

Cannabis Legalization in Michigan: A New Day

This piece first appeared in Rapid Growth as a guest blog on November 15, 2018

There are moments in your life when things happen and you always rememdrawing of Jerry Garcia from the Grateful Dead, he is mentioned in this article about cannabis legalization in Michiganber where you were and what you were doing. Some memorable events are bad, like the Challenger explosion, the World Trade Center attacks, or the death of Jerry Garcia. And then there are the good, memorable events. I’ll never forget when same-sex marriage was made legal. And most recently when cannabis legalization happened in Michigan with the voter approval of Proposition 1. My business partner and I launched our firm, Canna Communication, in the summer of 2017, knowing we’d be working in medical cannabis for a couple of years, but were focused on the passage of adult-use recreational legalization. I spent election night in Detroit watching voting returns in a Jefferson Avenue law office, consuming cannabis with a few dozen other activists until early in the morning when we were sure we’d won. I proudly wore the heady scent of marijuana the entire next day.

Sometime in early December — ten days after the election results are certified — Prop 1 will begin to be implemented. For those of you that were hoping to go out and buy cannabis in a shop, you’ll have to wait for at least a year; that’s how long the legislature has to review and adopt the law.

The good news is, if you already have cannabis on your person, you’re not a criminal anymore, and that’s the most critical aspect of the passage of this law.

If commerce and tax revenue are the brains of ending prohibition, then decriminalization is its heart.

With the new law, you can grow up to 12 plants on your property without having a caregiver license. You can possess up to 2.5 ounces on your person. You can have up to 10 ounces in your home. None of this is a crime anymore. If you are a non-medical, card-carrying marijuana consumer, you no longer need to worry about trouble with the police if you have cannabis and let’s say, you are stopping for speeding. As long as you are NOT under the influence or using as you’re driving, the small bag of marijuana in your purse or pocket is your own damn business.

For people of color, marijuana law has always been unfair. According to the ACLU, people of color are arrested at a rate 3.7 times greater than white people, though whites, African Americans, and Latinx people use cannabis at the same rate. The war on drugs that we all grew up with was an invention of President Richard Nixon, not based on facts, but on his personal whim. It’s come to light that he moved cannabis to schedule 1 status to repress young war protesters and black people.

Consider this quote from John Ehrlichman, Nixon’s domestic policy advisor speaking to reporter Dan Baum in Harper’s magazine, “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course, we did.”

How about that 10-ounce possession cap that has taken a few people by surprise?

Cannabis flower is light in weight, and 10 ounces is a lot of product, more than 200 joints depending on how you roll. Critics of the law say that’s too much. But, consider this: there’s no limit to the amount of beer, liquor, or wine you can have in your home, right? If you want a wine cellar with 200 bottles, a well-stocked bar, or a keg of beer in your home, it’s your right as an adult to do that. We need to think about cannabis that way, too. Just because you have you ten ounces, doesn’t mean you’re just sitting around consuming it all at once. Marijuana keeps well in a cool, dark, dry place, just like wine.

Cannabis Legalization in Michigan = Economic Gains.

Cannabis legalization in Michigan brings opportunities for businesses and jobs here and not just selling the plant. Because public consumption (smoking or vaping) isn’t allowed — not on the street, in a place of business, or in your personal vehicle — there should be opportunities for people to create private or membership-style spaces for consumption.

Popular in already-legal states are bud and breakfast accommodations, outdoor patios where people can consume, places for puff n paint events, party buses where people can consume while taking tours of growing operations and provisioning centers. In Colorado, Amsterdam-style coffee shops are popping up. In Aspen, Colorado, cannabis sales outpaced alcohol in 2017. Much of the potential cannabis tourism will be dependent on how Michigan’s legislature digs into the specifics of the law.

Marijuana activists still have work to do post-Prop 1. People need to stay in contact with or begin conversations with elected officials about how the law will be implemented. It’s likely that the legislature will attempt to over-regulate cannabis where it is able to do so. On the local level, we need to watch our city, village, or township meeting agendas for opt-in discussions. Just over 100 municipalities in Michigan are open to medical marijuana businesses at present, and many municipalities were waiting to see if legalization passed. The marijuana opposition has stated that its next effort is to stop opt-ins in communities. If you want to see Prop 1 enacted in your community, you’ll continue to need to make your voice heard. We need to work together, too, for expungement of prior marijuana arrest records and for the release of those serving time for minor marijuana crimes.

By the time of the next election, we’ll have lived with recreational cannabis in Michigan for about a year. There will be some speed bumps and rough patches, I’m sure. But like the West and East coast states that have already blazed the trail, the sky will not fall and Michigan citizens will see the benefit of new businesses, jobs, and taxes, not to mention the easy pleasure of marijuana consumption.

a photo of women who might work in a cannabis business

Cannabis Businesses: The Future is Female

Last week I attended the MJBizConNEXT conference in New Orleans for cannabis entrepreneurs and professionals. This was my first marijuana
conference and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The structure was the same as other conferences I’ve been to, keynote speakers and specialized sessions, and of course networking. But what made this one different was, I was surrounded by other professionals who are in my industry—cannabis. It gave me much needed context and perspective on what’s going on in North America, other than my microcosm of West Michigan.

One overwhelming topic from the conference was the importance of women in cannabis businesses.

Irie Selkirk

Irie Selkirk, with Emblem Cannabis in Ontario, gave a great presentation about engaging not only female consumers, but female leaders. She thinks it’s crucial that we establish an industry with strong female leaders, and I couldn’t agree more.

According to a 2015 survey from Marijuana Business Daily, women held 36 percent of leadership positions in the cannabis industry. MJBiz conducted an updated survey on the topic in August 2017, and the number of women in leadership roles had dropped to 27 percent of executive roles. Women need to continue to not only represent in this industry, but to lead this industry. And if we don’t want to see continued drops in women leadership we have ensure that women have power and voice in this industry.

Ms. Selkirk reflected on her first cannabis conference and how she and other women there felt left out. They felt more comfortable sitting outside the building to network, than the expo floor. This brought up a great discussion about how women feel outnumbered on the expo floor, and how men (the vast majority of the vendors are men, with a few booth babes) interact with them. Several of the women in the session felt intimidated by the overwhelming presence of men on the expo floor and didn’t interact as much as they normally would. Ms. Selkirk encouraged women to speak up and take control of what you want to accomplish in cannabis. If you can’t find what you want, create it. Can’t find other women in cannabis to network with? Create your own network. Want a more balanced expo floor? Get some booth space. Make your voice heard and lobby for change.

Kevin O’Leary on ABC’s “Shark Tank.” (Bob D’Amico)

The keynote speaker was Kevin O’Leary from the hit TV show Shark Tank. Mr. O’Leary, or Mr. Wonderful, as he’s fond of calling himself, said he prefers to invest in women-led businesses because he gets better returns. O’Leary found that about 95 percent of the women-led companies meet their financial targets, compared with just 65 percent for businesses with male leaders.

He has a couple of theories about why female-led businesses outperform male-led ones:

  • Women are better at time management
  • Women set more achievable goals

He also talked about how when goals are achieved, company morale goes up, which can help create a great culture, which obviously leads to less employee turnover.

In short, his largest returns have been from women-led businesses.

Women—we make up over 50 percent of the US population, yet according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, we made only 80.5 cents for every dollar earned by men, a gender wage gap of 20 percent.

The cannabis industry represents the future—a chance to enter a growing industry with relatively low barriers. It is an opportunity to help make medicine available to people who desperately need an alternative to opioids and other over-prescribed drugs. And we have a chance to shape the future of this industry into a more equitable and inclusive environment, where women can make their mark, and open doors of opportunity for future generations.

After all, the future is female.

reading glasses and some content for a new marijuana business that might need a cannabis investor

How to Win Over a Cannabis Investor: What Entrepreneurs Need to Know

You’ve got your cannabis startup going: the license is in process, your business plan completed, marketing plan written, site plan done, security and operations are all there. Things are looking good, except for the money part. You need a cannabis investor or two to help make it happen.

Before You’re Ready to go to The Dance, Make Sure You Know The Steps.

We talked with Eric Seifert about the relationship between investors and cannabis entrepreneurs and what startups need to know when seeking an investment partner.

eric siefert connects cannabis entrepreneur with cannabis investorsEric has been working with investors and startups outside of cannabis for a decade at the Michigan SBDC and since leaving the SBDC has been helping bridge the funding gap in the cannabis space. His company, Left Coast Capital works with investors looking for solid businesses, in cannabis and other businesses as well. Here are ten things Eric says cannabis entrepreneurs need to know before opening themselves up to an investor.

1)   If you know how to grow marijuana, but don’t know much about business, find a partner who does. “Investors look for business sense and experience.” Having a passion for cannabis goes a long way, but so does the idea that you will succeed in business. “If you need to, bring in someone to help your business, to supplement what you really don’t know or what you recognize as a weakness. Show how you can mitigate that.”  You need a solid business plan and it’s smart to give an investor several scenarios for outcomes—one that’s modest, another that shows what you believe to be reasonable growth and another that blows the roof off of all expectations of how the business will grow if things go well.

2)   One of the hardest parts for cannabis entrepreneurs is that they don’t have the kind of documentation that other businesses might have as proof of prior success. “Even a caregiver can show what they’ve done already and how they’ve tracked income and expenses. When you’re scaling up a business, you need to point to your past success, even if it is just a year or two.”

3)   Find great legal and accounting representation. “Compliance is going to be a major issue, if you successfully launch, but then are audited and shut down, that will make for a dissatisfied investor. You need to have your attorney draw up investment documents that protect you.”

4)   You’ll want to work with an accredited investor, someone who can produce a signed affidavit that they have at least $1 million in net worth, an annual income of at least $200,000. It documents that they are an SEC accredited investor.

What a Cannabis Investor Wants From You

5)   Every potential cannabis investor is looking for one thing: making more money than they might in the market. “In your business plan and pitch deck, you need to be able to show profits that are greater than the stock market.” Investors want to get their money back in about 3-4 years and they’ll want a portion of the profits beyond the investment. “They want a big return because they’re taking on so much risk.”

6)   Most cannabis investors want something beyond a return on their investment, and you should expect they would negotiate a percentage ownership of your company for the long or short term. “Investors tend to like hard assets, so the first lien on your building might be an option. If there’s a failure, the investor has something to sell to recoup their losses.”

Show the Investor Your Passion for Cannabis

7)   The entrepreneur, rather than the cannabis industry is where an investor will focus his or her attention. “Investors look for people who are in business for something bigger than making money.” They want to see a passion for the medicinal value of the plant, either personally or for a family member, so make sure you have a relatable story.

cannabis investors want to know how you'll handle money, this is an image of a lot of money8)   You must be able to talk about how you’re going to handle cash and mitigate the risk involved with it. “Investors want to know that their investment won’t be lost at gunpoint. Know what you’re doing to handle cash and security.”

9)    Create a great pitch deck and practice your presentation. “No more than 20 minutes from start to finish, followed by 20 minutes of Q&A.” Investors don’t need to hear every detail about your business—don’t drown people in details until they ask for them.” Investors who want more will ask for it. Stick to the regional view when you’re pitching—don’t worry about national picture yet. “Until cannabis is legal across the U.S. there’s not much point in spending time talking about it. You need to get the investor’s attention, high-level summary information.”

10)  Don’t underestimate your knowledge and skill in the cannabis marketplace. “You need to show passion and expertise for the industry.  It’s an 8 or 9 on the scale of importance.”

 

marijuana plants are part of any new marijuana business

Fire Up! PR Musts Your New Marijuana Business Needs

If you are the owner of a new marijuana business, you’re probably thinking about a lot of things: compliance, human resources, inventory, customer service, security and how to handle all those twenty dollar bills! We hope you’ve given some thought to your marketing communication plan, too.  Like most pursuits, taking the first step is the hardest part. To make that first step a bit easier, we suggest getting things underway with these six simple-ish things.

Develop Your Story.

People want to know how and WHY you got into the cannabis business, they want to hear about your vision and values around your business, too. These are vital parts of your company story. You’re in the medical marijuana business and it’s important, outside of making money, to tell people why you’re doing what you’re doing. Some of it’s personal, like fighting cancer or helping a family with an epileptic child; some of it might be business-related, as in you want to create jobs and contribute to the economy. Whatever your reason for being in the cannabis business, start forming a relatable story. Every successful company has a story.

Be an Expert About Cannabis.

marijuana plants are part of any new marijuana businessTake time every day to read/watch/listen to cannabis news, especially regarding Michigan and cannabis as medicine. You expect expertise from businesses you patronize and your customers expect the same from you. You need to be able to help people understand the business of cannabis, too. Be accurate with your information and data, you don’t want to be the source of bad information. This acquired expertise will also help you as you connect with the media where your business is located.

Reach Out to The Media.

Media relations begins with getting to know the media. The newspaper reporters, radio personalities and TV journalists in your own community need to know who you are and what you’re doing in the medical marijuana industry. Reach out to them and make sure they know you are available as a resource for future cannabis stories. When you are awarded your license and start to establish your business make sure the media is the first to know.

Create Content and Be Social.

You’ve probably heard a lot about content lately. New and fresh content drives traffic to your website, and makes people come back for more, it’s the gasoline of SEO or search engine optimization. Content is the words, videos reading glasses and some content for a new marijuana businessand images that you put on your website and on your social media pages. It needs refreshing regularly. High-quality content is an integral part of communication and marketing and while you’re selling something, you’re also helping people understand the why of what you’re doing. If you don’t have social media pages for your company, yet, get them established. You can do this long before your new marijuana business is open. It’s good to get your name out there, connect with people and practice your content posting habits.

Discover Your Niche.

While you want to work with everyone and provide medical marijuana to anyone with a card, there’s good reason to have some of your business be a bit specialized. Having a niche makes you different and will help you stand out from your competitors. To discover your niche, you need a passion about something you can address, you need to deeply know the audience you want to reach, you’ll need to research them and their interests, buying habits and behaviors and craft messages to them. Your niche interest needs to be authentic.

Define Your Brand.

A brand is the outfacing image of your business and its inner personality. It starts with your logo and is part of everything about your company including customer interactions. A brand is the personality of your company, not only who you say you are, but more importantly, what others say about you, too. Your brand is the culmination of YOUR work AND customer relationships. It is formed by the content you create, the story you tell, what you share on social sites and how you respond to a crisis. People outside your company will also determine your brand by their opinions, ideas and reviews, but it’s mostly formed by your content, interactions, voice and how your company behaves in the community.

Interested in learning more? Need help getting started?

We’d love to help you move your new marijuana business forward. Drop us a note and we’ll be in touch.