Medicinal marijuana dispensaries are being given the biggest head start possible for introducing and implementing recreational cannabis business in Oregon. Marijuana sales will be legalized starting October 1st  (possession was legalized July 1st). Recreational businesses licenses by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission are not expected to be open until Fall 2016. To address this critical chunk of time , Oregon will be allowing adult cannabis consumers to make purchases in existing medical marijuana establishments. For these dispensaries, this is an opportunity to get ahead of the game by taking advantage of this 12-18 month gap.

For these existing dispensaries, we have some helpful tips and advice to steer you in the right direction in this critical timeline leading up to October 1st. If you’re planning to open your doors to the adult consumer population, you will be an early witness to the new recreational market, and if you’re prepared – you will will have information on this demographic that no one else will – including the competition that will be opening their doors in fall of 2016.

We will be discussing these advantages and more the next couple months, offering unique insights and strategies for businesses who want to take advantage of this lead. To get you started, we’ve put together some starter questions you might now want to consider so that you can make plans and put them into action by October.

Are you ready to be legit?

Do you know what a legal sale of recreational cannabis looks like to the State of Oregon? Now is the time to meet with your lawyer and make sure you have everything in place to properly track, document and report your sales so that you are above board and are recognized as a legit business – to your customers, and to the state of Oregon.

Are you ready to train your employees on how to check for minors and fake ID’s? Don’t throw away all the hard work you’ve put into your business because a teenage was clever enough to sneak through your front doors.

What are your goals?

You can meander aimlessly through this opportunity, or you can be proactive and watch your business evolve because you started thinking,acting and planning out your strategies to enhance your business in this new uncharted industry. Take some time now to come up with attainable, measurable goals.  What do you hope to accomplish? Where will you be financially? Are your growers and suppliers ready to provide more to meet the higher demands? How will you handle holiday sales? You have a year of opportunities to engage with, educate and provide delight to your customers and the first wave of legal cannabis consumers in the state. Don’t let it go to waste because you decided to continue with business as usual.

Do your future customers know where to find you?

I’m gonna let you in on a little secret – most consumers who are looking forward to October probably have no idea where to find you. WeedMaps is a great app, the catch is your customers need to know the app exists. Is your profile updated to indicate whether or not you’ll be accepting non-patients? How will you market to older individuals who are less likely to use apps to find you? What is your plan for making sure you’re found when tourists and the local consumer decide to go exploring? There are lots of ways to get noticed, and you have 3 months to be the first business your future customers consider when making their first purchase. Getting on their radar is possible, even with the unclear limitations on advertising, and we’ll be discussing lots of them over the next few weeks to help you get ramped up.

How will you keep track of what you learn and share it with the others in your business?

The most valuable information any business can have has all to do with customers needs and desires.  We have previously discussed the value of data in cannabis, and this is no exception. In fact, if you’re going to collect data and learn about your customers, October is the BEST TIME IN THE WORLD to start. Why?! You will be the first businesses allowed to ask cannabis consumers what they really want. And then, you will have that information and be able to act on it, before your customers have a chance to go anywhere else.

You are the first witnesses and providers of adult use cannabis. Businesses who imagine that recreational consumers have the same preferences, or wants as patients are missing out on a huge opportunity to predict the future of cannabusiness in Oregon.

Whether it’s polls, customer purchases and preferences, sales data or questions you ensure your budtenders ask – collect whatever you can. Keep it secure and honor your customers privacy – but it’s time to mimic the successes of other industries by learning as much as you can about your customers so you can continue succeeding when your competition triples in 2017 and suddenly your customers have more options. Now is the time to learn what you can so that your customers end up loving your business and never wanting to leave.

What will you do to make the best first impression?

Do you assume that the consumer who walks in your doors will know the differences between Indica and Sativas or Hybrids? They’ve probably been getting the same weed for years – if at all. Will your budtenders be accomodating? Will your environment feel welcoming and comfortable to new customers who are used to a typical shopping experience? How will you accomodate customers suprised about the one on one service and noticeable security? Will they feel comfortable asking “stupid questions”? How will you make them feel welcomed? How will you ensure they don’t have a bad experience the first time they have an edible? How will you be communicating the vague notion of dosage? Will you have low-THC options for them to consider? That first time experience at your dispensary will set your business apart from everywhere else they decide to go in the future. If you make their first experience a good one, you could have a customer for life.

Conclusion

These are a lot of questions that you might not have answers for yet, but for now we just wanted to help expand your ideas of what your business can become in the next few months.

We will be talking extensively on specific techniques and strategies that growers and dispensaries can put into action over the next few months to make sure you get the most out of this critical time in Oregon’s history. If you’re on our email list, you’ll be the first to find out how to turn October 2015 into a giant leap forward for your business.

These same techniques and strategies will be great for growers and dispensaries all over the nation, and we are going to have some killer webinars coming up to give you the juicy insights you need to absolutely crush it though the holidays and into 2016.

About The Author

Starlight is the founder of Craft Mary Jane. She is a mix of innovative thinking, maverick leadership and startup nerd-ery, with a healthy dab of spirited swagger and technological whiz-bang, If Woody Harrelson, Richard Branson, Gertrude Stein and Andre 3000 had a love child, it would be Starlight.

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