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Free Advice: Marketing in Four Seth Steps

Seth Godin's Marketing Advice for Cannabis BusinessesYou’re running a business, so you probably don’t have time to follow marketing luminaries, like Seth Godin, but I saw this post this other day and appreciated his concise explanation.

“The first step is to invent a thing worth making, a story worth telling, a contribution worth talking about.”

This is you. Whether you grow, process, bake, dispense, diagnose, defend, or provide a myriad of other goods and services related to cannabis — you are making a contribution worth talking about.

“The second step is to design and build it in a way that people will actually benefit from and care about.”

This is still you, but on a more granular level — where the details distinguish you from other worthy contributors. Examples might include, who you hire, where you source from, who you give back to … endless details that make you unique. You and I might partner at this stage; I might see opportunities for differentiation that you take for granted, but could be optimized. These efforts create a perception of value beyond price, an experience or relationship that’s more than a simple transaction.

“The third one is the one everyone gets all excited about. This is the step where you tell the story to the right people in the right way.”

I know you can talk about your products in great detail, but can you tell a story about your business? A story that, as Seth puts it, resonates with “the right people, the right way”. Customers are the right people, but for specific reasons — you want a story or experience that solidifies repeat business and encourages referrals. Do you have a story that interests people who are looking to purchase cannabis legally or for the first time? Do you know where they go to “learn more”? Are you on those websites (advertising, contributing articles, an expert source for journalists)? Have you spoken with their physicians? Sure, you can talk about the benefits of the product, but you need to include the benefits of doing business with you. I find that dispensaries, in particular, spend too much time talking about the product that “sells itself” and less time talking about why their business is the intuitive choice. You need to think beyond “selection, price, and in-house experts” — these details can describe any dispensary. There’s a bigger story to you, I can help you find it.

“The last step is so often overlooked: The part where you show up, regularly, consistently and generously, for years and years, to organize and lead and build confidence in the change you seek to make.”

This needs no explanation, but I want to stress the importance of “regularly” and “consistently”. Predictability and frequency are hallmarks of marketing — it keeps your business “top of mind” and relevant for any one who might be looking. Whether you connect with your customers/constituents through email, newsletters, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. — be consistent about it. Again, if you need help developing and communicating content, you can always take the High Road!

Free Advice: Don’t Walk Your Talk

I never liked the advice, “walk the talk”  — in other words, do what you say. It’s far more important to say what you do. So, today’s free advice: Talk the Walk.

If we can agree that “the walk” is your planned path to achieve business objectives, then “the talk” is everything you need to say in support of that effort.

If you find yourself posting content on your website that is not relevant to your strategy, you’re not only wasting your breath (and resources), but forecasting that your priorities are elsewhere. And that means you’re sending the wrong message.

Case in point: a medical marijuana dispensary in the District greets visitors to the website with this:

Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 1.23.25 PM

Maybe it’s me (update: turns out it’s not), but when I’m investigating herbal solutions to treat a medical condition, the last thing I want to see is “MESS” spelled out in cannabis. The last thing I want to read is a 17-page policy paper. And the last thing I want to do is leave the dispensary’s site (no offense to the Brookings Institution).

It’s an innocent mistake, but a good lesson for all: Before you talk your walk, step into the shoes of your customer. Make sure your content and resources align with your business objectives.