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7 Steps to Establishing Your Cannabis Brand

Oct 08, 2015 12:40PM ● By Ron Kolb

It is an exciting time to be in the cannabis world. Even Forbes declared legal cannabis the best startup opportunity of 2015. In Colorado alone, sales in July 2015 reached $96 million for combined recreational and medical sales. As legalization spreads from state to state, established brands can position themselves to take advantage of the increased demand. Thinking of getting into the industry? Don’t be left behind. 

In a rush to capitalize on the boom, so many would-be successful entrepreneurs are forgetting the old “Ready, aim, fire!” adage. Instead, they go: “Ready, fire!” Or, even worse, they just “Fire!” 

Even in such a booming industry with plenty of room and growing capital to go around, a solid business plan is a necessary first step in the march to success. I’ve compiled seven additional maxims we’re following at Sensi Media Group to help get our brand off the ground. The first five are solid recommendations for any industry, with the final two unique to our growing, changing cannabis field. 

1. Seek good, sound advice. 

To do so, you have to plan ahead. First, find a mentor in the business who has experience and perspective that rounds out your own. It’s a new world we’re living in, and I’ve found it’s far too common to have inexperienced business owners with little practical knowledge giving advice to other new business owners. Don’t be one of the blind being led by the blind.

Be sure to seek some of that good, sound advice from a solid legal team. Make sure you have your licenses in order and your legal partnership structures set up before you dive into this super exciting new venture. Protect yourself and the assets you are trying to grow. 

 2. Build a solid team. 

As your business grows, hire people with skills that complement yours, with knowledge that fills in your gaps. While growing Sensi, I’m aware of my strengths and my weaknesses, but I am not working on getting stronger in my weak spots. Instead, I’m hiring the best people in the world to fill those spots. This allows us all to focus on maximizing the impact of our talents. 

3. Be about purpose. 

When you have a mission to rally around, it’s easy to pull people together—as long as it’s about something bigger than just driving a bottom line. Here at Sensi, one of our guiding principles is our community spirit. We add value by seeking to help businesses and individuals who are aligned with our mission—Shift the Culture—regardless of any monetary gain. If you do something with passion and purpose, the money tends to follow. 

4. Invest in the right branding and marketing programs. 

 “Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell, and advertise.” That’s Ted Turner’s one-line recipe for success. It’s sage advice to follow. A solid branding and marketing plan is a key factor in the success of any business—your brand is your promise, what separates you from your competitors, and your marketing is how your would-be customers know you exist—but it’s a step I see far too many in our industry skipping. Don’t make that mistake. 

Not sure how much of your budget to allot to this? If you’re doing less than $5 million a year in sales, the U.S. Small Business Administration recommends spending 7 to 8 percent of your gross revenue for marketing and advertising.

5. Understand it takes time. 

Commitment is the key to any successful marketing and branding campaign. Even the best laid plans don’t lead to overnight success. Patience can be tough, but if you are fickle with your campaigns, you run the risk of confusing customers who are just becoming familiar with your new brand. Once you’ve established your path, stick with it. 

6. Avoid the clichés. 

The cannabis community is not all about the subculture. There has been a shift in the social stigma associated with cannabis, especially with the proven medicinal values of marijuana. We keep hearing positive messages from respected professionals who are speaking up about their cannabis use. Canna-businesses no longer have to focus on the subculture to be successful. And if you do choose to go that route, you may run the risk of alienating potential clientele who are drawn to the more professional message that’s becoming mainstream. 

7. Take responsibility.

As members of the cannabis industry, it’s our job to move the issues that affect us all forward. At Sensi, we focus on Shifting the Culture, changing the way people view cannabis nationally. Decide what issues you stand for and make them a part of your mission. Collectively, our brands can drive good, positive change in a huge way. 

At Sensi Media Group, we’re following these seven steps as we grow our business and prepare to launch our magazine, with the premiere issue due out early 2016. Keep them in mind as you enter this burgeoning industry, and keep growing. Good times are ahead.