Party Like a Marketer Podcast
Episode 53: Identfying and Reaching the Ideal Customer Where They Are
Lisa Buffo, Founder & CEO of Cannabis Marketing Association sat down with Jason Smallheer, CEO and Lead Strategist of Elevated Growth Group to discuss targeted audience insights, data-driven tactics for limited budgets, and the impact of price competition.
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Read the Transcript
Lisa Buffo 00:12
Hello, everybody. Welcome to the podcast. This is your host Lisa buffo, the founder and CEO of the cannabis Marketing Association. CMA is a membership based organization for cannabis marketers like you focused on education and best practices for industry professionals. We host webinars throughout the year, we host our cannabis marketing Summit Conference in this summer, we also have an award show a Slack channel, we do AMA’s. With our members, we create content on our blog, we have research, white papers, and lots of tools and information for cannabis marketers looking to do their day to day jobs better. And the podcast is one of my favorite parts of CMA, where we get to interview our members who have diverse and varied backgrounds in the cannabis industry, and get to hear more about their story, learn what they’ve learned on the job, get some good information on best practices with them, and share that information with you all. If you are not a member of CMA, we are running a special through the end of the year. So on December 31, it ends and if you join as a business member, we are adding three additional benefits only through the end of the year, including two hours of complimentary consulting with me on your marketing strategy for 2024, or anything else you may need help with. We’re also doing an advertising package across our newsletter and social media. And we’ll do the feature on your business on our blog. And then we’re also including 10 sessions of our future of cannabis marketing, Ted style talks that are data backed talks, short talks about 20 minutes each about all different topics and where the future of this industry is going. So if you’re interested in joining, you can reach out to us membership at marketing cannabis.org Or go to our website, the cannabis marketing association.com For more information to our members, thank you for all of your support. We’ve had such a wonderful year and I can’t wait for all the fun and exciting things coming in 2024 and we’re looking forward to sharing those plans with you after the New Year. Okay, so let’s get into it. So today’s guest is Jason small here. So Jason has over 25 years of experience in marketing, starting with traditional radio, print and television. He now specializes in digital marketing for cannabis centric businesses. He teaches digital marketing, branding, leadership, entrepreneurship and other business courses at Columbia College and Southern New Hampshire University and he holds an MBA from Webster University. Jason lives in Rolla, Missouri with his family and to Australian shepherds, and he enjoys collecting Vinyl reading and having a good cup of coffee. Jason is the CEO and lead strategist of elevated growth group. Enjoy the episode. Okay, welcome, everybody to today’s episode of Party like a marketer, the podcast dedicated to cannabis marketing, public relations and authentic storytelling. Today’s guest is Jason small hear the CEO and lead strategist of elevated growth group. Jason, thanks so much for joining us on the show.
Jason Smallheer 03:30
Thank you for having me. At least I appreciate it.
Lisa Buffo 03:34
So can you introduce yourself to the audience? Tell us a little bit about Jason, who you are, what’s your background? Maybe where you are? And also how’d you get into cannabis?
Jason Smallheer 03:44
Yeah, where to start? I am in Missouri right now, I live in a small community called Rolla where my wife is a professor at a local university. Myself, my career started off in marketing actually, in traditional media, I got a degree in journalism. Many moons ago, I was convinced that there will always be a newspaper machine on every corner, things have changed. So my career morphed, I went from newspaper to radio, to television, to marketing for the hospitality industry, worked at some ski areas work for a group of bars and restaurants in the Midwest, worked in the cell phone industry and my career over the past creeping up on 2829 years now has shifted a bit to marketing and advertising. I started focusing on my own project when my wife was pregnant with our now nine year old, really built out of frustration, because I would see a lot of marketing consultants running around with the flyer and the special, you know, hey, you’ve never heard of me from a place you’ve never been by this thing. And it really started to frustrate me that small business owners weren’t being educated on how Mark Getting works. So I created my own thing, focusing specifically on educating small business owners. Well, I had a hard time really finding a niche, I was kind of all over the place. And really about three years ago, when my wife and I first moved to the community of Rolla, we were at our local hippie shop, if you will, and I had a big sign about getting your MMP card or medical marijuana card. And I grew up in a really conservative military household. smoking was bad drugs are evil, you know, I’m part of the just say, no generation. So I never even thought about something like that. And ironically, a lot of the people earlier my life people that I worked with people that I dated, were into cannabis, and I had that whole, you know, your bad thing. So when my wife sat there and presented that to me, I actually had a moment of clarity. And I said, Ha, why not? I do have transparency, an epileptic condition. I’ve been on medication since I was 17. I’m 50. Now, I’ve been dealing with all the side effects that come with that. My wife is a very progressive thinker. And we were talking with the young lady at the store. And she was telling me all about cannabis and the benefits and on top of supporting epileptic challenges that I may be having. There’s other issues too, that it can help with with depression. I’m just giving you my whole my whole medical history here. Anxiety and things like that. So I said, you know, why not? You know, so I went into the booth and pulled the hood over my head, I talked to the doctor on video. And this was great. I’m thinking, well, I could talk to a doctor, this is new technology to me. And just like that, I had a prescription for cannabis. Keep in mind, I’ve never smoked anything. I’ve never even thought about this. So I’ve got my card. And we went down the street to the dispensary and holy smokes everything, just kind of move whirlwind. And you know, we got a grinder, we got papers, we got all this stuff, and I’m sitting at home, in my living room that night go and Well, here goes nothing. And instantly all the negativity that I’ve had towards people, my whole life went away. Because now I’m a cannabis user, and I’m seeing benefits. And as a patient, I haven’t had to be on my medication in three years. So going back to where my my business went, I said there’s an opportunity here, because a lot of dispensaries don’t really mark it to a specific patient. They just say, and I’m in Missouri, where we just went wide open for adult use earlier this year. Come on down, we’ve got stuff and it’s cheap. And I said, Okay, wait a minute, here’s an area of opportunity where I can take all the marketing stuff that I know, all the teaching skills I have, I teach at a couple of universities. And I can help educate dispensary owners on how to connect with their version of Jason educate them. So they become a patient who’s willing to walk in, spend money and grow their business. So that’s how a whole bunch of dots connected. And I’m a very happy Cannabis Patient cannabis user, I work in Marketing, I teach higher education at the undergraduate and graduate level. And my life is just just perfect.
Lisa Buffo 08:19
That’s awesome. Thank you for sharing all that. And I’m so I love hearing stories on from medical patients about what is often radical transformation and their outcomes or their treatment plan for serious conditions. So thank you for your vulnerability and sharing. No problem. So, okay, so tell me a little bit more about elevated growth group. So as a lead strategists like the meat of what what you do is you you will sit down with these brands, you will sit down with these retailers, educate them on kind of what marketing is, for lack of a better word, and then help from a strategy perspective.
Jason Smallheer 08:55
Absolutely, you’re right on it. I will talk with the dispensary owner or the brand or the Grow operator or the owner of the brand. And we connect dots. And the initial mindset is, well, anybody over the age of 21 can be my customer or my patient. But I engage in a refocus conversation because that’s not necessarily the truth. You know, similar vein, you could say, Hey, I’m a podiatrist, anybody with feet is a potential customer of mine. Well, there’s the there’s a difference between a customer and a profitable customer. So at the elevated growth group, what I do and with the team of people I work with, is we talk to the brands we talk to the dispensaries learn about where they are today as a business and where they want to be in the next 369 12 months. And then we connect dots and offer digital marketing solutions that are gonna get them there. I can work in the traditional marketing space, meaning anything that doesn’t involve the internet, but one of the things we’re finding is that it’s a lot easier to target a specific person you Seeing digital tactics. So if you want to talk to a male or a female, certain age, certain income level, maybe somebody who’s into alternative medicine, we can target that particular person. And the reason being is because these things these cell phones we have in our pockets are always three feet away from us embrace the creepiness, because they have so much data on us as as an individual, we find that a little scary, but as a dispensary if you know that I can talk to a specific brand and a specific or a specific, a specific person about a specific brand and a specific state within a specific geography of a dispensary. Well, now you’re not just throwing caution to the wind, hope marketing, I call it you’re not hoping somebody walks in, you’re talking to Lisa or Jason, specifically, with your specific message.
Lisa Buffo 10:49
Three feet, mine is like six inches away from me at all times. Right? Yeah, it’s true. They’re, they’re kind of the new appendages, for better or for worse. So I know we connected recently in Las Vegas at CMAs member brunch that we had on on the Thursday of the trade show. And we got to talking about this podcast having you on and what we should talk about, and where the, you know, education gaps are so and we had, to your point really discussed talking about meeting your target audience, identifying them understanding who they are, and marketing to them accordingly, which is just what you said. So I’m curious, can you define that in your own terms in context to brands and retailers? And then give us some insight on how it goes when you go through this process with brands and retailers? Like, where are they? Are they still at the anyone with feet level? Or does it depend on the owner? Like what has been your sort of general gauge? And if you have any insight to on the types of businesses you work with? Like, are they just in Missouri, and that’s part of the Missouri market? Or have you seen a different landscape? But I want to get your take on identifying folks?
Jason Smallheer 12:04
Yeah, there’s a lot there. So I’ll start off with the most recent question, I do work, I can do digital marketing anywhere in North America. Now, that being said, there’s a small caveat. There are certain laws and certain states and certain territories about how cannabis can and cannot be marketed. For example, if I wanted to market in Kansas, well, I can’t, because it’s not even open for medical use there. So I cannot do a specific digital marketing campaign that targets people in those specific states. However, not too far from where I live, there’s a nice little three way crosshair between Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas, and within a stone’s throw away, and you can stand on three states. So I’ve got to be very careful about what I say and where the message goes, I can’t put it into Canada or excuse me, Kansas, I can put it Oklahoma, but the message there has to be a little different because their medical use only, whereas in Missouri, it’s wide open. Now again, with digital marketing, I can target specifically where those messages go. So short answer anywhere, but I do have to keep in mind some legalities. Now again, I’ve spent the past two years of my team jumping through those hoops, and it’s an ongoing learning process. So that’s part of our homework assignment every day is to always be on top of that. About the like the customer, everybody, does everybody have feet, I’m gonna use that as an example. The mindset when you think about a podiatrist is it’s it’s usually just the the old people with air quotes around it, who go to get their toenails clipped Well, I worked with a podiatrist as a client. And ideally, that’s not their target customer, they’ll take that patient, but that’s the kind of patient they don’t need to market to they’re going to come in organically. What they really identified was the profitable patient who might be that person with a semi active lifestyle maybe goes trail running with the dog sprains. An ankle needs X rays needs some, some retail therapy, if you will a boot or some braces, and then needs to come back for follow up visits, the lifetime value of that patient is substantially greater than the value of the toenail clipping patient. And really, that’s the same 15 to 30 minute appointment one is is going to generate a whole lot more revenue. And let’s be realistic. Medicine is a business. It just is. Yeah. So how does this shift to the cannabis space? Well, there’s a variety of different types of customers that we can specifically have. And right now the education at the dispensary level of who I’m going to market to is wide open the mindset is if you’re over 21 and you will have the ability to consume cannabis in one way, shape or form. We want to talk to you and I’ll say that as a patient, it’s a little bit muddy because I have in my community I have a couple of dispensaries. There’s one that I favor more than the other. I have joined Have rewards programs and if you have a rewards program, I’ll join it. Even if it’s something that I’m not, not into, I don’t have a cat. But if you sell cat food never rewards program, I sign up for it. I’m a bit of a junkie that way, but also it’s a marketing thing. So I get emails, every couple of days from the dispensary, and they’re focused solely on price. I’m gonna put on my marketing professor hat here for a second, most people focus on what we call the four P’s of marketing, product price place promotion. Now in digital marketing, I’m going to screw it up. There’s three more so now we have seven P’s of marketing people, who are we going to talk to the process? How are we going to talk to them in the physical evidence, the experience that we’re going to offer that person, and I use Amazon as an example, they’ve knocked it out of the park, because they realize that anybody who has a credit card can be a customer. And heck, we can order something from the toilet with our phone. And, you know, talk to your listeners, how many of us, you know, let’s be quiet, to be honest with ourselves for a second have ordered from the toilet, raise your hands, those that aren’t raising, your hands are lying. We’ve all done it. So how does this work with cannabis? There are really three specific groups of people that are potential dispensary customers, there’s that young adults 21 to 35 years old, I’m going to start off with breaking it down by age because it’s the easiest, then there’s that middle aged person that 36 to 55 year old. That’s where I sit probably grew up hearing. Cannabis is bad. And we’ve been a part of that transition where Oh, suddenly there’s more research, we’re learning more things. And then there’s that baby boomer group that 55 And up my parents who grew up telling me that cannabis is bad. You’re a druggie, or maybe you’ve got some pretty progressive parents who were hippies, and they just were very outgoing. But there’s those three specific groups of people. And if you think about it, if Lisa buffo has a dispensary, she would love to have all of those people come into her store. But if I said you’ve only got 10 hours a day that you’re open, and you’ve got a small budget in which to market to people, you would want to focus on the group of people that’s going to come in and spend the most money with you the most often knowing that the others would come organically select the podiatrist, a little old ladies little old men, they’re going to show up anyway. But we really want to target adjacent who’s out running with his dog sprains his ankle in neat some different therapy, and I suddenly become more profitable. So the big thing that we were starting to discuss in Las Vegas is what what are these specific target customers? And how do we talk to them? Because right now, it’s being missed a billboard on the side of the road talks to everybody a social media post talks to anybody who’s online. But if I had my druthers, and I could say, Okay, I’ve got $100 $1,000 $5,000, to market to somebody, I want to put that into an area where I know I’m gonna get a return on my investment, not where I’m going to hope hope marketing in hope marketing, again, not where I hope people are going to come in and see me.
Lisa Buffo 18:07
So can I translate that as perhaps brands and dispensary should put more time in that middle aged baby boomer group, because young folks are coming in anyways? Absolute
Jason Smallheer 18:19
Absolutely. And here’s, here’s the thought process, excuse me, the thought process behind that and bear with me here for a second, let’s um, I’m going to focus on that young adult that that first time legal user, but you’re right, they’re probably going to come in anyway, I live in a college community. And if there’s one thing that college students have a lot of is it’s, it’s time whether they want to admit it or not, they’ve got time. And the one thing they don’t have a lot of as money. So you’ll get a couple of college students, they all put in five bucks and, you know, somebody goes to the dispensary and they buy a couple of pre rolls, you know, a pre roll cost you five $10. So there’s your evening out. So these people are walking in, and there’s no problem with that, but they’re probably going to come in anyway. And for the time your bud tender spends talking to them, you’ve made $10 But like I said, if you’re gonna talk to me, the middle aged person or better yet, my parents, we have a little less time we’re working. We have families, we have hobbies, but we have more discretionary income, whether that’s money in a savings account, whether we have a greater salary, whether we have a pension, I’m going to pick on my dad, my dad is not a cannabis user. My dad is going to listen to this and go what he’s gonna learn a whole lot about me. I hope he doesn’t ground. But again, let’s look at my father. My father is an educated man. He’s retired military, he’s been wise with his investments. He has money. He is more prone to spending more money at a dispensary and I’m not just making this up. I’m gonna share a short story when me and one of my partners in crime were at a dispensary in Joplin Missouri. And this dispensaries unique selling proposition I loved it They’re open 24 hours, I’m going, Wow, nobody else can touch that. So I’m sitting in the lobby getting ready to talk to the manager about marketing. And I see everybody from these three age groups walk in, I see the college students walk in to go to the ATM, they each put on their card, they are looking for people to give them change for the 20s that come out so they can give the guy the money to go in and buy the pre rolls. Then you’ve got some of the middle aged folks are getting off work that go to the ATM machine, get their cash, and they go in the back and get their cannabis. And as I’m sitting there, I watched these two very gray haired I’m gonna call them old ladies walking I’m getting I’m gonna explain why they call them old ladies on the second. And the person that does checking him in the says, Hi, welcome. How can we help you today, and they said, We are both 83 years old. We are brand new to this. I’m always in a lot of pain. And I just want the pain to stop. And me and my partner in crime. His name is Jim are sitting there looking at each other and we’re going wide eyed, holy smokes, we just watched everybody walk in here. So okay, these 83 year old ladies, they need an education because they grew up here in cannabis is bad. But they’ve also learned that their pain can go away, we want to talk to them. Because the average shopping cart for the college student 510 20 bucks, grandma and her friend are going to come in and spend 5070 $100 a time. So for that same 15 minutes there in the store, you’re either make 20 bucks, would you rather make 100 or $200. So to your point, Lisa, the young folks that are going to come in anyway. Okay, there’s going to be the outliers, a young person who may be wealthy has a lot of time has a lot of money, but most of them don’t. But if you’re talking to me, I’m on the upper levels of that age group, where you’re talking to my parents who’ve got an abundance of discretionary income. Those are the people you want to talk to, because they have got the money to spend and they need the education. And as human beings, we’re stupid. We need somebody to tell us it’s okay to buy stuff. I tried to find ways to get my wife to say yeah, go ahead and go to the dispensary buy stuff. Honey, there’s a there’s a new strain I want to try. Well, you know, I really don’t like it when you’re angry. So go to them. I’m out the door. So we need to market to these people.
Lisa Buffo 22:20
Yeah, and that’s interesting, because pain from a medical perspective, I know, at least in Colorado is the number one qualifying condition. And you know, regardless of age, no pun intended, like, I’ll pay anything to make pain go away when it’s bad. It’s like the like, pain point comes from there. Right. So that makes that makes a lot of sense. So I want to talk a little bit about your perspective as a consumer and being marketed to as a medical patient. Have you, in your observations, received any messaging that says, hey, this is like your condition? And this is how we can help you? Or do you see that message more? Again, on the age groups versus or any other category, you want to consider it versus medical or adult use or this condition versus that condition? Have you received any of that? And has any of that been impacted you? Or is it more kind of what you talked about that open 24/7? Accessibility in terms of education,
Jason Smallheer 23:22
right like that? Short answer, no, I have not received specific marketing. It’s all been, we’re here, here’s our hours. This is what we have. This is our specials, again, focusing on the product and focusing on the the price pieces of our little marketing matrix. Now that there’s a bit of a challenge there. Because you cannot technically say when you’re marketing, product x, here’s pain or product y. Here’s epilepsy, you can’t say that. But there is no messaging whatsoever. That speaks to anything other than price. When I signed up for my loyalty programs, none of them asked questions for my age. It says first name, last name and email address. And I get that you don’t want to be invasive, but here’s an opportunity to put something on a digital billboard or an outdoor billboard, you know, do we have a senior data we have a discount for seniors, I see some of those things. But we’re not doing anything specific to target that person. We’re not doing anything that says, you know, show us your AAA card and get a discount. No, we can play some of the stereotypes that will help get somebody in the door. I drive a lot across the country and I get those emails that say, show us your AARP card for free coffee. You know, I’m a coffee fanatic. I will take a free cup of coffee from anywhere. But specifically, there’s a huge area of opportunity to target a specific group of people and you really can’t do that with a lot of the ways marketing is being dunrite Now, if you have an email list, you can target certain areas based on your email list. But unless you’ve asked for certain criteria, like an age and let’s face it, a lot of us don’t want to give that up, you’re not going to get targeted that way. However, again, if we are the dispensary owner, or we work in marketing at a dispensary, or we own a brand, there is an opportunity to get a little granular into what people are interacting with at home. Streaming television is available to the cannabis industry as a tactic. Almost everybody who’s going to get that brand new television set from Santa Claus, that TV is going to connect to the internet. And there is an abundance of apps built into that television that are free for you to watch. Programming. One of them is called Pluto one is called to be Roku has its own set of channels of the Google TV has its own set of channels. So my wife, who’s a little bit younger than me, she’s a huge fan of Doctor Who, okay, she grew up watching Doctor Who She’s upstairs, she’s logged into that television set. And again, this is where we need to embrace the creepiness, that TV knows that the person logged in is a woman of a certain age based on websites, she’s visited things she’s bought, she’s at a certain income level. She’s got a certain education, she sees marketing messages that are targeted to her, she teaches a foreign language, she gets messages for foreign trips all the time. I’m down in my office, and the messages are law and I’m logged in and it’s to a male of a certain age with certain habits, maybe certain medical conditions. I’m over 50. So I’m getting the the IDI ads, you know all those things that make me tumble. But why are we using that data that is and I’m telling you, I promise you this, it is available to say, hey, I want to talk to somebody who’s into alternative medicine, about my business where I can say, Come to Buffalo dispensary, where we have special days for people over 50 or mid career send the kids to the sitter, and why don’t they offer me something besides just something is cheap. And instead offer me the education that I’m looking for that the quote, pain can just go away, or the shakes and the tremors can just be mitigated. That isn’t being done. And that’s where our opportunity is, as a marketer.
Lisa Buffo 27:33
It never occurred to me, but I really love that idea of well, first of all, what you just said is what mainstream marketers do. And that’s one thing I’ve been talking about with the membership is pay attention to what corporate America is doing what’s happening in mainstream marketing. Learn from that, because we can apply those best practices here. But I love that idea of show your AARP card. Show your partner no student ID of course, if you’re over 21, but just to get to that through almost backdoor measures, but still get that information and have people feel seen and like they’re spoken to. So what is your advice to smaller business owners? Like for those who maybe don’t have bigger budgets who are just getting started? You had said that it’s something you specialize in? Can you define small businesses in cannabis? And if someone was starting from zero, so not, hey, we’ve already done this, and we’re reworking a strategy or lack of strategy. But if you were starting from zero and you are new, what would you say would be those first steps?
Jason Smallheer 28:40
Absolutely. So for starters, let me preface this, I have absolutely nothing to sell anybody today. So the advice I’m giving you is free. And if we talk about it outside the podcast, my passion is for helping people to grow part of the pond the right way. So if you are new, you are new to the business or you have a limited budget and when I say a limited budget, I’m gonna say you’ve got less than $2,000 a month okay? There are still things you can do. Okay, whether that is building a website, a real website, not specifically a Facebook business page, a real website. These are things that don’t cost you a lot of money but it gives you credibility. So that when I am say the new kid in town, like I was three years ago and I’m looking at where to go and I go online, you show up Facebook business page doesn’t give a lot of credibility that tells me they may not be here for a while I want to relationship with my dispensary. That’s issue number one. Number two on social media there is value there. There’s a lot that you can do. Whether it’s through regular posts or video, use video okay, show people the products or services give people the education. You can do that for free. Your phones right now I’ve got amazing care cameras on them, you can use that to create content to maybe create, quote a YouTube page that is also free. Now, you will not be able to monetize your YouTube page because it’s got cannabis. But there are some people who have built wonderful online presence in the world of cannabis to educate people. First one that comes to mind write this down friends, they call themselves that high couple. I’ve never met them, they’re out of California. It’s funny that high coupled THC, almost all of their videos are either four minutes and 20 seconds long get it or they end with a for 2014 minutes or 20 seconds. But they educate people, they pull some pretty cool stunts as well, like, Hey, we’re gonna stay up for 24 hours and take a hit every hour. I mean, it’s a cute married couple. But one of the things they did, which is another opportunity dispensaries are missing is they said, Hey, we understand. There’s a lot of people who are new to cannabis, this is a safe space. So today we’re going to show you how to roll a joint. And they did a four minute and 22nd video on how to roll a joint. Or this is what you should be looking for when you go on buy cannabis for the first time. And they showed the whole flower, how to grind and I’m going Holy smokes, this is fantastic information that I want to learn. So I’ve subscribed to them. And again, they don’t monetize anything, it’s all their time, and they’re well produced videos. But again, we don’t need to have a fancy Hollywood production, you can do a video from your camera for free. That’s another thing you can do. A third element is start to build a community you know, word of mouth is a big deal. Now it can also be a double edged sword. Because if you think about it, when we have a horrible experience, we tell everybody, when we have a okay or a great experience, we tell some people, but not everybody. But if we can start to build the community and get into people’s minds when I am walking out of that dispensary. How come somebody doesn’t say, Hey, tell a friend, I’d appreciate it. Or How come when I’m walking out I’m not given you know, a coupon or something that I can give to a friend so that I can you know, write my name on it. You know, Jason small here and give it to my friend Lisa. So Alisa walks in, she can say hey, my guy Jason told me to come see Jennifer, the bud tender and Jennifer’s Wow, now people are talking. And we’re starting to build a community that doesn’t cost anything. So as you’re starting off, let’s lean into some of the organic things. Let’s not do what we’ve always done, or what we’ve always been told. And that’s one of the challenges we run into right now is somebody said the only thing we can do is say a billboard. And there’s no disrespect to billboards. I love billboards. But there’s other tactics available now. Or we are told that we can’t do digital marketing. And that’s not true. So the biggest piece of advice I would have from a brand owner or a dispensary owner or grow owner is, let’s be open to hearing new things again, I have nothing to sell you. Do I have products that I sell to clients. Absolutely. But that’s not what gets me up in the morning. It’s being able to sit down have this conversation, it gets me all fired up. So that Jane or Jo dispensary owner can go back to their team, get them motivated and inspired about serving baby boomers having wonderful education on new products and services they have so that when my parents walk in, and my mom has gotten medical conditions that cannabis would help, she doesn’t feel scared. Does that make sense?
Lisa Buffo 33:24
Yeah, absolutely. And didn’t you find that high couple because after your first experience, you Googled how to roll a joint and that’s what came up. So it’s like people, people are looking for this information. And And I’m curious to for and I bet that would have been helpful to those 83 year old ladies who said, basically, I’m starting from zero. How much time do you have to spend with me because there’s a big education gap to go from zero to even one in cannabis. Right? And like, how lovely would it be if at your first interview, how long did the bud tenders fed spend with you? Do you remember that first time
Jason Smallheer 33:59
the first time I went into a store the bud tender did not spend a ton of time with me. They they were they were young, you know, they were probably new to their role. And again, for the state of Missouri at the time it was just medical use. I think they expected that I would know everything because of my age which like I said cigarettes, forget about it. Now I’m gonna I skip that one right tweet. And they didn’t spend a ton of time with me they had their menu on the board. Well, this will make you feel like this. This will make you feel like that. I didn’t know what I was getting into. So I got some flour and I got some gummies you can probably see where this is gonna go. I didn’t want my house. I’ve got children to smell and I wasn’t really sure what my children would think about what Dad is doing. So I went and took a gummy. didn’t feel anything. I’ll take another one. You can see where this is gonna go and after about an hour I went oh my god, I’m gonna die. And I’m laying on the floor. You know all the stereotypes. It was just a disaster. I’m laying on the floor behind me here, my dogs laying on top of me. So that I, you know, graduated to flower and okay, I’m just much happier that way. But I found that high couple because I needed an education my bud tender didn’t spend a ton of time now. Maybe that’s a unique situation. Because when I went into this newer dispensary in town I walked in, and I met a young lady. Her name is Jennifer. She looks like Amy Winehouse, I’m an Amy Winehouse fan. She’s got the beehive she got the eye makeup, the tattoos, I’m like, wow, you’re here. Right. And at that point, I’m more knowledgeable. But I said, Look, I, I really want to, I travel a lot and want something that’s more portable, I’m thinking of making a move to a vape. I know nothing. So part of it as a consumers, we have to be open enough to tell our bud tenders what we do or don’t know. There’s no shame in it. Okay. And we talked and she talked to me about a couple of different different things. And she says, Well, do you know what an indica is? And a sativa? And I said, Yes, I do. So I told her that I really wanted an indica because I don’t want to be up. I don’t want to be amped and she spent a good half hour with me. And we were really stuck on the disposable vape versus the non disposable vape. And I said you know, I really don’t want to take these batteries and throw them in a landfills that bothers me. And she now gets into my, my personal feelings as you said, okay, so because you said that, we’re going to do two things. Number one, you’re going to go with the non disposable people are not disposable. Still need a battery, and you’ll need your cannabis. And I’m gonna give you the battery. I want what now the battery is branded? Sure. But I’m like holy cow. There’s a lot of perceived value here, my $12 battery. And my friend, Amy Winehouse, Jennifer, who just educated me and every time I go in there, she doesn’t always help me. But I say, Hi, Jennifer. And I see her doing the same thing. So she educates me a lot. Now, it doesn’t really happen unless I go in and I asked for it. But again, it’s a great area of opportunity for our bud tenders to be educated about more than just what’s on sale, but to be educated specifically about the customer, and what their needs are. I know they’re not doctors, but it’s a great opportunity for my mother to walk in and say hey, my son recommended I go in to talk to you because I have chronic pain. I have depression, I just want the pain stop. And I want to feel good. Oh, okay. Lisa says, so let’s talk to you about a couple of things. And if I’m going to mansplain this to you forgive me, and then set the expectations and move forward. It’s that same mindset that we take, when I talk to my clients is if I say hey, if I use jargon, forgive me, cut me off. I’ll break it down. So it’s easy for you. And that’s the opportunity that bud tenders or the dispensaries have to serve us.
Lisa Buffo 37:53
Yeah. And what I was thinking is, wouldn’t it be nice if after when they made that sale and spent, say, the five minutes with you even Ted could hand you a pamphlet and say, here’s our YouTube channel, here’s the different playlists and START HERE TO YOU ARE THOSE 83 year olds who it does, it’s going to take time, it’s not going to just be 30 minutes, and very generous of that budtender to do it. But often, there’s lines, they have expectations, they they can’t. So how do you bridge the gap between and I’m glad that you didn’t write it off completely after that edible experience. I mean, I know people who have done that for the first time and they say it’s not for me. And that’s it and they write it off. And that’s a huge missed risk. Sad thing and missed opportunity because they had their first experience was bad. So how can you prevent that bridge that education gap, but also build trust. And I love what you said about you can do low budget, you can use video, you can use these other channels, and you can direct folks that way. And to me that builds trust in so many different ways and would keep in my perspective, that would be something that would factor into loyalty because I had such a positive experience. And I would spend time on that education and learn how you did.
Jason Smallheer 39:14
I did and I’m telling you I went back and I got a t shirt and I got a hat you know, and I’m very, very proud to rep my dispensary. But you raise an interesting point least so why isn’t it that when somebody walks out they hand you a card with their social links on there. Because again, I’m going to use the reference to YouTube. YouTube is the number one streaming service free or paid in the world bigger than Netflix. And we’re watching YouTube to learn about marketing. I learned how to change the brakes on my own car with YouTube. I set the laptop outside by my car and I had a C clamp and a piece of wood. Holy cow I learned how to change the brakes on my car. This is great. So why doesn’t our dispensary look at that as an opportunity because now you’re built In a community you’re building a community of followers. All right now again, it’s it’s global. All right, that high couple is in California, but I watched their videos to learn about
Lisa Buffo 40:13
I beg your pardon. You know how many followers they don’t
Jason Smallheer 40:15
So homework assignment for all of us go to YouTube and and check them out. But again, I spent four minutes and 20 seconds learning how to roll a joint, a tie, that’s a weak a weak spot of mine, I have flour, I usually put it into a water pipe, but I figured I’d like to learn. So I brought an idea to the table and I went to a dispensary by dispensary said, Why don’t you all hold workshops and they just kind of looked at me like I’ve got lobsters crawling out of my ears. I said, What if you told your social followers or the people on your email list that for $5, this covers their cost, you’re going to come in, you’re going to learn how to roll. And when you are done, you will have a pre roll they get to keep it okay, that person is probably going to tell a friend, ring a friend, buy papers if they enjoyed it, probably buy flower, maybe something else. So for $5 you get a commitment, you cover your costs, you’ve given somebody a skill that they’re not going to forget. And now you have a unique selling proposition that the dispensary down the street who’s just putting balloons outside with those Lawn Care signs says flower 30 bucks or something like that. You’re giving me something that’s more tangible. I’m going to be more prone to going back there and I’ll use that us for coffee. I went to a coffee shop that said hey, do you want to take part in our coffee tasting? I’m gonna bring out the biscuits and the different kinds of coffees Holy smokes, nobody’s ever done that with me before. You know, it was a fantastic experience. You built loyalty, I told my friends. So this is a way you can start to build a community, people start to talk and that is marketing that you can’t buy. Yeah, wonderful.
Lisa Buffo 41:50
Yeah. And to your point about YouTube, it’s the number two search engine in the world, of course behind Google. So like people are searching there anyways to get information and education for all types of things. And Google does from an SEO perspective, rank highly if if you are also content on YouTube and embedding it on your website. So those two things can work together. Okay, so coming back to targeting the ideal customer and marketing to where they are, perhaps we’ve covered this. But if you have additional context, can you speak to what it is not? Like? Do you see people doing things and say, This is me targeting them, but it’s what is it not? Where do you see people kind of missing the mark there.
Jason Smallheer 42:33
The mark that’s being missed right now is that anybody who’s over 21 is a customer or a patient, depending on your state. And that’s where the opportunity is being missed. Again, just because you have feet doesn’t mean you’re going to be at the podiatrist. Right now the main thing that is being done is we the royal we are marketing people based solely on price, buy one, get one for $10. Come get this for 15% off. And it’s easy, because that’s the way most people think. But it doesn’t build loyalty. If you compete on price, you don’t have a brand. That’s it, those folks will be loyal to you until somebody else comes up with a better deal. The area of opportunity for us to his to don’t focus specifically on price focus specifically on solving the problem. Let’s talk about the silver haired ladies for a second. Something brought them in there and I don’t know what it was. Now there’s a sign outside the store that can be seen from space, open 24 hours. But somewhere they talked to somebody and they said hey, would you go in with me? And somewhere somebody told them? Here’s a couple of options, whether it’s flour, gummy, I don’t know specifically what they bought. I do know that they each spent over $100 Holy smokes. That’s fantastic. They were brought in because their problem was being solved. We don’t have to talk about price. And I don’t know about everybody else, but at no point. Have I ever walked into a dispensary and said, What are you What do you have on sale? Every time I have walked in, I’d said, Okay, I’m using vapes. This is what I’m looking for. And 40 bucks. 60 bucks $100. And I’m not trying to say that my wallets ridiculously thick. It’s not. But it’s a problem that’s being solved. Much like your car. If your car doesn’t stop, you need breaks. You are focused on getting your brakes replaced. Not who does the cheapest brake job. Because sometimes the person who does the cheapest brake job you will you get what you pay for. Yeah, so right now what it is not is it’s not assuming that all customers are all patients are created equal, because we’re not. We’re unique.
Lisa Buffo 44:49
And to your point, so I just spoke at MJ biz on their marketing forum and I was on a panel with Joe Hotez who’s the Chief Marketing Officer of one of brands and maybe Everyone knows wanna but they’re arguably one of the most prolific brands in the industry. They have a net nationwide presence there in Canada, but they’re Colorado based, but we were talking about the panel was about brand loyalty. And Joe had mentioned that. So competing on price has led to price compression in the industry. And it’s, it’s been, you know, in our circles, we’ve talked about a race to the bottom has, it’s just, it’s gotten so bad. And Joe had said, when Juana launched in Michigan, they have a, they’re about 20 bucks for their gummies, they have sort of a middle tier price point, there are brands that are there are a lot of brands that are less expensive. And they said, what Joe said when they launched in Michigan, you know, they, they kept it, that’s their brand, that’s their price. And they consciously did that, knowing that they were going to forego market share. But they that was their brand, and that’s where they stood. So it’s from a business perspective, that may be the case, but you’re also retaining the brand, you’re also retaining loyalty, you’re maintaining that standard. And arguably that image, too, that this is worth what we’re paying for. And this is this is the brand. And that’s what it is. So I just wanted to emphasize that point, that price, the price race has led to price compression. And I think from an image perspective, is not great for the industry. It’s not sustainable for brands, either, you’ve got to stand out in other ways, if you’re gonna stay in business, not only from a, you know, profit and loss standpoint, but from a brand image standpoint, particularly over time and trying to go to markets in different states. So I’m glad you mentioned that issue on price, because it’s come up in so many different ways.
Jason Smallheer 46:46
It’s totally commoditized the industry. And again, I’m going to look at this from a purely medicinal standpoint for a second, I do not ask my doctor at any point, what’s the most the least expensive medication for seizures, depression, or that conversation never happens? Yes, I have insurance, but the conversation is what’s going to get me from where I am today a hot mess, to where I want to be tomorrow, you know, happy and lovable. And they’ll say, pop the 17 pills. Now for me, it was hot mess. lovable is, you know, do a short session with cannabis in the evening. And holy cow. It’s fantastic. The economics never come up. And again, I get my medicine filled at a pharmacy that’s close to my house. Am I a fan? No, they just solve my problem. So I would love to see a brand, or a dispensary. And again, who’s going to be first that’s my challenge to anybody who’s going to be that first person that first group, that first dispensary to say, we are loyal to our our results. And there are people who are looking at it from a medicinal standpoint in my state, there are people who are looking at it for my recreational standpoint in my state. And there’s going to be everything in between. But at no point that I and I, I promise you this, I have never heard the times I’ve been a dispensary somebody even asking I want or saying hey, I need something that costs less money, those buy less product. That’s what it is. Yeah. So the product has the ability to be and it is, you know, profitable. We’re seeing some price challenges this year. But I think a lot of that comes back to is we’re competing on price. And as you said, Lisa, this is a race to the bottom. And it’s not a great place to be and it doesn’t build a successful business.
Lisa Buffo 48:37
So I want to ask few last questions before we wrap up, but you started your career in journalism, from a newspaper perspective. Now you’re in digital now we’re in streaming TV, you’ve obviously seen a lot of changes as far as the marketing landscape. Where do you see things going in the future? I know it’s changed quickly in the last in the speaking from our experience the last two years, we’ve talked about everything from marketing in the metaverse to now AI is the topic of conversation and it’s the pace of change has not slowed down. What is your take on it and your context for cannabis marketers?
Jason Smallheer 49:15
I think digital marketing is going to continue to grow. We’re going to see traditional marketing anything that doesn’t evolve the internet. We’re going to see it stick around but what we see is a lot of traditional marketing companies, Radio TV newspaper, they continue to dive into the digital space. As a consumer or a or a small business owner, we have access to more knowledge with the with the use of the Internet that we had beforehand. Whether it be a podcast like this or something they read or watch on YouTube, there is a greater opportunity for today’s dispensary owner or manager to market their product in ways that don’t rely on a person like me or somebody at the TV station or the radio station. What I do see happening is artificial intelligence. Making these individuals lives a lot easier. That being said, AI is not always right. I’m going to put on my marketing professor hat here again, I don’t encourage my students to write papers using artificial intelligence. That’s a no no. But I call it my writing buddy. Paul McCartney had John Lennon or John Lennon had Paul McCartney depending on which side of the Beatles you you are, you can use that as your writing buddy. And I use this in one of the classes I taught, we created a marketing persona, that fictional character that represents our ideal customer, we created a fictional company, it was a cookie and coffee shop based at Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri. All this stuff is fiction. We plug this material into chat GPT. And said, Give us an idea of who our target customer is. Before we hit the enter button. We brainstormed on who our target customer was, and they were darn near the same when we were done. So I think today’s dispensary owners, people who want to market are going to get a lot of mileage out of using AI to help them create images or thumbnails for their YouTube videos or for their social media posts. You can use AI to help you create the social media post itself the actual text, you can use it to create content, maybe a blog post, you know, five ways to save $100 On your next cannabis or your next dispensary visit all these things that people like me, are you the new cannabis folks, because there’s always going to be somebody new, are starving for and maybe they’re a little embarrassed to ask the question can gain this content online. And I see artificial intelligence and digital marketing continuing to grow. Let’s call it flower, it’s going to continue to flower and help these people share their story so that they can establish credibility and loyalty with their upcoming customers.
Lisa Buffo 51:59
And last question, what is your parting advice for listeners any of your best open game best cannabis marketing advice that you had a few to sum it up?
Jason Smallheer 52:08
Know who you want to talk to? You know, just because somebody is alive does not mean they are your ideal customer know where you want to spend the bulk of your energy. Again, I use the Pareto Principle, know where you want to get 80% of your revenue from and if they 80% of your revenue is going to come from that small microcosm of people, let’s say baby boomers at 55 and up when you go into work that day, know who you’re going to talk to start from the end and work backwards.
Lisa Buffo 52:40
Well, thank you, Jason, do you want to share any contact information for yourself or elevated growth Group website? Social anything? Yeah,
Jason Smallheer 52:48
absolutely. My name is Jason small here, there’s only one of me. That’s S M A L L H E R. So you can find me on LinkedIn. Elevated growth. group.com is the website actually going through a refresh right now. So that’s going to be the brain that the URL is gonna stay the same, but we’re working on some new imagery, we’re gonna bring AI in so that we can practice what we preach. I also have a YouTube channel. It’s not entirely cannabis specific. It’s called the marketing professor and I share marketing lessons to the dispensary owners on the non dispensary owners. Every video was five minutes or less.
Lisa Buffo 53:23
That’s awesome. Well, thank you so much. I appreciate you taking the time.
Jason Smallheer 53:27
Thank you very much, Lisa. I appreciate it.
Lisa Buffo 53:31
Thanks for listening, everybody. If you’re new to the podcast, we’d love to hear from you. Please like and subscribe. Wherever you get your podcasts, you can email us membership at marketing cannabis.org with your feedback, we’d love to know what topics you want to learn about any guests you want to hear from. We really do take that feedback seriously and program accordingly. And if you’re not a member of cannabis Marketing Association, if you join at the annual business level by the end of the year, December 31 2023. We are adding three additional benefits just for this time period only, but it can be used whenever including two hours of complimentary consulting with myself, your host Lisa buffo, the founder of CMA. We’re also including 10 hours and 10 sessions of our future of cannabis marketing, Ted style talks, as well as an advertising package for your business across our blog, website and social media. You can reach out to us the cannabis marketing association.com or membership at marketing cannabis.org See you next week.
Meet Your Host
LISA BUFFO, Founder and CEO of Cannabis Marketing Association
Lisa Buffo is an award-winning entrepreneur and marketer with a passion for launching companies with experience in both the cannabis and technology industries. Lisa is the Founder & CEO of the Cannabis Marketing Association, a membership based organization focused on education and best practices for industry marketers with the vision of rebranding cannabis at the national level. She was named one of 2019’s 40 Under 40 Rising Stars in Cannabis by Marijuana Venture Magazine in 2019 and named “The Marketing Guru” by Women & Weed magazine and is a featured speaker and media source in publications like Forbes, The Guardian, and VICE. You can find her on Instagram @libuff and Twitter @libuff21.
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