While the cannabis industry may still be in its relative infancy, the overall market of retail sales is certainly not. As leaders emerge in the new frontier, the building blocks of success are sure to remain relevant. One of the longest standing leaders in leveraging relationships are business development opportunities with third party partners. Developing deep-seeded relationships with fellow industry leaders to achieve a mutual goal in the B2C world not only creates positive brand authority, but also drives sales in a thoughtful, rewarding way. As the holiday season is here and the inevitable slower Q1 shopping season is to follow it is as important as ever to invest in relationships now to build bonds with fellow future leaders of tomorrow. Here are some executable opportunities that may be developed with third party partners in the cannabis retail space for holiday season and beyond.  

Share of Voice 

Specific to cannabis, social media is a widely leveraged marketing tool- although that may be an ironic channel as many social media platforms are not particularly friendly with cannabis content. Commonly, cannabis pages may be subject to shadow bans, account restrictions, and account removal, it is still a viable channel to build brand awareness and authority. Because of the previously mentioned hurdles as well as the added localized restriction of currently not being able to utilize paid ads, social partnerships and signal boosting is increasingly valuable. While these may be as simple as encouraging brand managers to create assets to promote pop-ups, promotions, and brand events for both brand voices to share, it can also scale up to user generated content campaigns, giveaways, social storytelling, or even an educational series for consumers. Dispensaries may be encouraged to feature as many third-party brands as possible to not only speak to their wide array of product selection, but also their opportunities for discounting and educating across a wide variety of products. Third-party brands are able to promote select retail locations that have current products in stock and even where highly coveted strains, products, or swag items can be found.  

Co-Branded Advertising 

Cannabis brands are restricted in other branding efforts outside of social media- across a majority of mainstream marketing channels the promotion of cannabis products are strictly regulated (if they are allowed at all). In fact, it wasn’t until April of 2021 when Colorado-based multi-state operator Livwell Enlightened Health launched the first marijuana advertisment on television, nine years after adult-use cannabis was legalized in the state. Suffice to say, cannabis opportunities may be few and far between and certainly will vary by region. By partnering with cannabis brands and dispensaries to create co-branded advertising campaigns and split the cost, overhead may be reduced but reach may be expanded quickly. A cannabis brand may offer an exclusive strain or offering to a specific group of dispensaries and that collateral may be used on billboards, print media, via influencer activations, or the most achievable localized paid advertising opportunity. Cannabis is a highly regulated industry and being creative with often a narrow budget is key to quickly relaying differentiators to eager consumers.  

Non-Medicated Goods 

While the true crown jewel of cannabis is medicated product, there is a built-in culture of unmedicated items that may be effective when connecting the brand to both staff and consumers. Allocating spend to the promotional item category to create another positive touchpoint for the brand may pay off in cannabis more so than in other industries. Promotional tee-shirts may not drive affinity for a local insurance seller, but a promotional tee-shirt is highly coveted from an exclusive edible brand or cannabis extractor. The taboo nature paired with the exclusivity of the regulated cannabis market compounds into dedicated consumers hungry for branded items. Outside of wearable merchandise, products such as dab tools provided with extract products, 510 batteries paired with cartridges, lighters or rolling papers, and other consumable accessories are not only coveted, but useful. To offset the cost of some of these items, the same principle as the previous two pillars applies. Pairing a dispensary logo and brand logo to develop a co-branded merchandise or gift with purchase line reminds the consumer of the product and where they got it- encouraging return customers. Additionally, as cannabis is often a social activity these consumable accessory pieces may affect more than just the purchasing customer. A well-made dab tool paired with high terpene full spectrum extract experience tells a story of care and quality that affects all those consuming it. For brands that may not necessarily have built-in consumable accessories such as edible brands or tincture brands, partnering to offset the cost of dispensary exit bags supports the dispensary's sales and ends up in the hands of a wide variety of cannabis purchasing consumers.  

Leverage Learning Opportunities  

The entire industry of regulated cannabis is owed to the passionate activists of the cannabis community. To honor these roots as well as encourage those who may be new to the world of cannabis, partnering on educational events or community-building efforts is an impactful way to leverage third party partners. A weekly or bi-weekly series on terpene education paired with an extractor may empower both staff and consumers to understand more about how cannabis works in the human body when consumed. Topical brands may explore yoga or spa opportunities and discuss how CBD infused topicals may reduce inflammation and encourage those attending to seek CBD solutions in their life for areas where they experience pain. Education in the cannabis industry creates well informed consumers who trust the authorities in cannabis learning.  

As the regulated cannabis market evolves, traditional marketing regulations will inevitably be more accessible across the board for all cannabis operators. Until that time comes, building business relationships with partners now will only create stronger relationships for the future. Outside of leveraging existing cannabis producers and players, pairing a scalable software enterprise platform is essential to establishing a successful cannabis operation. Connect with our team of cannabis compliance platform experts here to explore software solutions that not only ensure operation compliance but also seamlessly streamline software needs.