Uniforms and Code of Conduct Agreements: You Don’t Get a Second Chance to Make a First Impression

cannabis branding

Uniforms and Code of Conduct Agreements: You Don’t Get a Second Chance to Make a First Impression

First Impressions

 

For a moment, try to imagine yourself walking into a fine dining restaurant. The walls, decadent with brilliant art; the ceiling, intricately laced with gold leaf. The first drink of the night starts off at the front bar as you wait for your table to be prepared. From the greeter, to the bartender, the staff is absolutely lovely, friendly, and enthusiastic. As you’re guided to your seat, you notice a crystal chandelier delicately dangling in the center of the room. You are being sat at the V.I.P. table. The greeter sits you down, places menus gently before you and tells you that your server will be with you shortly. Skimming over the menu with your eyes, your mouth waters from the savory smells invading the air around you. Moments later, the door to the kitchen swings open and a dude in dirty jeans and a band T-shirt, rockin’ a sideways ballcap, bursts out and swaggers his way over to your table. Obviously hungover, he smells like a half-drunk anti-deodorant activist. He stops at your table and, through slimy teeth, slurs out “Hey yo – Hey yo. You thinkin’ food dude or are you just gonna cruze on some booze?”

The question here is, do you walk out before or after you finish your drink? There’s no question that we will not be dining here tonight, nor will we ever bring a client here for a business anything. The deeper question is, how often do we allow our staff to do this to our establishments?

 

 

Impressions and the Cannabis Culture War

 

Especially in the world of cannabis, we are having to fight a culture war to foster a responsible use culture and make a professional industry from something that, for over 80 years, has been a hobby for some and an outlaw lifestyle for others. When patients walk into your establishment (which you’ve taken the time to build out, decorate, choose and stock display cases for, & pour your blood sweat and tears into crafting), do your staff match the decor? Do they carry themselves professionally or are they “bro-dude-ing” the professionalism right out of your patient’s experience?

Some business owners feel uncomfortable setting harsh boundaries and expectations with employees and making high demands of detailed elements like “how one speaks”, as it definitely feels like micromanaging. Yet, in states where THC products are still under prohibition, employees at smoke shops still have to swear on their jobs that everything in the store is for tobacco use or incense burning only. They don’t have a single “bong” for sale, but have quite the selection of “water pipes”. If you go into a fine dining restaurant, everyone’s shirt is freshly laundered and pressed, there is no leaning on the counters or bar, service is friendly and efficient, and no one is being even remotely crass when dealing with a guest. Everyone’s language is kept clean, and professional.

Why is it, that people will conform to those standards when working at a restaurant, but when you ask your employees to make sure their pants are clean before they come in or to stop using slang terms with the patients, they seem so resistant? Is it your expectations and consequences? Bad training? Maybe you don’t yell at them loud enough… I would argue that it’s the culture of our industry as a whole. This is both bad and good news. It’s bad news when looking at the typical person who’s dream life is to move to a legal state and work as a bud-tender and trimmer. They’re usually not as excited about a career in retail as they thought they would be, and their bright, over-the-top, enthusiasm quickly dissolves into lethargy.

 

 

Enforcing Employee Codes

 

For a lot of us who grew up in restrictive cultures and harshly anti-cannabis states, legal states make dispensaries sound like Willie Wonka factories for weed heads. When people get in and learn that it’s just another retail job, it can rot a good apple quickly. It’s also a bad idea to have alcoholics as bartenders, foxes as chicken coop guards, and people who obsess about your product directly over with it. True, at a wine bar you will have staff tastings where staff are asked to taste the products so they can speak about the products from experience, they are also asked to spit the wine out as the go through the tasting so the intoxication doesn’t dull their training experience. Yes, you want your employees to be able to speak in an educated way about the products. You also want your employees to speak in an educated and professional way in general.

It is okay to set boundaries and expectations for conduct and appearance at your dispensary, in fact, as the owner, it is your job to craft the corporate culture of your business. Cannabis branding is not just about a logo. The logo’s job is to give the consumers something to associate with their experience of your product and service. Brands such as McDonalds and Nordstroms denote a specific level of both quality and service in our minds. Ever wonder what “successful branding” really means? Just this… Over the past several decades, the businesses that maintained consistency in the quality of their products and services, are now commonly known for them. It’s really just that simple.

 

Your Brand is Your Personality

 

No one goes to Taco Bell because they’re looking for an organic vegan meal. No one goes to IHOP for a great steak. So where does your business fall into the spectrum of the businesses around you? Would people say that your cannabis retail location is the corner store dispensary or do they call you the fine dining of local cannabis goods? Further, if you do find yourself on the lower end, what is one simple solution to increase brand recognition, create more staff compliance, and increase the professionalism of each patient’s experience? Uniforms and Code of Conduct agreements.

Having your brand literally in front of the patient the whole time of purchase will certainly help associate your brand with their experience more than, let’s say, doing nothing. It also allows you, as the one who chooses the branded uniforms, what level of professionalism your employees will come dressed in every day. Instead of doing T-shirts with wacky graphics and bright colors, consider embroidered dress shirts. Instead of telling your employees to wear whatever pants are comfortable, or just setting limits like “no yoga pants” and “pants must be worn at the waist”, consider setting the expectation of “Pants must be black, properly fitted, dress slacks, worn at the waist and held up by either a belt or suspenders”.

 

 

Resistance From Employees

 

You will always face resistance from employees when changing policies like this, though if given a 60 day compliance period, most employees will either comply, or sort themselves out of the mix. After 6 months, the change will be the new norm. As your business grows its reputation for being more reputable, higher level employees will seek you. Just as the quality of your light attracts bigger bugs in the night, the quality of your cannabis branding can attract new partners, investors, and employees who are looking for others who “take it seriously”.

This is where we leave you with this choice. What will you do with your business and brand? Tomorrow when you go into your shop, check their pants and shoes, then ask yourself if they would be allowed to serve a sandwich and bowl of soup at a restaurant dressed the way they are. Ask: if my waiter was dressed like this, what would I assume of the quality of my upcoming meal? Remember, that it’s never too late to re-brand, until it’s too late to re-brand. If you’re noticing that your profits have hit a plateau, it’s time to choose; grow or die. Sometimes upgrading your business starts with upgrading your staff.

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Higher Yields Cannabis Consulting

Higher Yields Cannabis Consulting

Higher Yields Consulting is a Marijuana Consulting Group comprised of industry experts with decades of combined experience in the legal industry. Whether you are looking to get into the business or already have a license we can help your business succeed. Call (844) HI-YIELD to schedule a free initial consultation.

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Branding: How To Court Your Customer

marijuana branding

Branding: How To Court Your Customer

BRANDING AND RELATIONSHIPS

When we try to conceive and talk about “branding”, we most often approach it from a strict business mentality. Our machine minds take over as we do our best to boil our company down to a slogan that’s going to be “catchy” or an image that will both “represent us” and “stick in their minds”. We think of it as a way to define our company, market ourselves, or build a following; but what we’re really talking about here is relationships. So let’s talk about relationships.

When you first meet someone who’s going to be special in your life, how do you attract them? Is it their first impression of you? Or maybe, your “look”, or the way you’ve dressed yourself up? Perhaps it’s how they perceive you socially, or generally in comparison to others. Wait! Obviously, it’s all about that first real one-on-one experience with you. Right? Well, with both business and dating, the truth is that it’s all of the above.

BRANDING AND THE LAWS OF ATTRACTION

Now, any basic business person already understands these elementary concepts, but have they learned the art of the dance? In all forms of “attraction”, some people are naturals, some get lucky, some are wise enough to get coaches or mentors. The purpose of attracting is setting yourself up so that you have the real opportunity to build a relationship beyond a single moment of connection. With this perspective in mind, why do we create brands while thinking about our business and ourselves, on a personal level, instead of thinking about the specific types of cannabis customers we’re trying to attract to our cannabis businesses?

When you go out on a first date, are you really trying to show “your true self” or are you purposely projecting only the best parts of yourself that you think your potential partner is seeking? These are some of the traits that we’ve found to apply on a social and macro-cosmic level as aptly as they do in actual interpersonal relationships.

BRANDING – WHAT’S IN A NAME?

Over the generations of branding trends, we’ve noticed that brands have as much of an ability to isolate certain potential clients as they do to attract others. Sure, calling your dispensary “Uncle Jerry’s Pot-a-Palooza” sounded like a great name when you were testing out the potential products, but the next morning, before you file that license, rent that property next to the old record shop, and contact a sign company; you may want to ask for an outside opinion.

The more “fun” the name incorporates, the more it will appeal to the culture of “stoner humor”. The more “medical” it sounds, the more “approachable & trustworthy” it will appear to older and more conservative crowds. The problem with both is not in who they attract, but who they either fail to attract or who they repel.

Still, there is a third option. High end cannabis branding has been finding recent success by using words or phrases that have seemingly nothing to do with the cannabis products themselves, but carry more of a “sense” or “feeling” of luxury or an exotic nature. Generally, if you were to name your brand “Luxe”, french for luxury, it could easily represent anything from a cannabis brand to a perfume, meaning that the only sense the name gives to your customers is the experience and emotional memory of luxury and foreign lands. Combining the right kind of professional cannabis brand image with these kinds of more aloof brand names can present a mystique, sending the message: “Whatever this is, it’s the good stuff.”

WHY SHOULD CUSTOMERS CHOOSE YOU?

Your customers think that they can get what you have lots of other places; so why would they keep coming home to you? Maybe, at this point, you’ve already failed at love at first sight. It’s okay, we’re talking about rebranding now. At this point, how else can we build that attraction? Well, by social comparison. When thinking about how they’ll see your product next, will the items have their own display case or is something used to keep things presentable? In packaging, we can think ahead so the sole responsibility of keeping your cannabis merchandise tidy and presentable on the shelf isn’t the sole responsibility of the local budtender on shift.

When hanging next to other cartridges, do your eyes read the font more easily on your packaging than others? If you look at your packaging in a lineup of others, would you guess that your product would be visually identified as the most expensive or highest quality? What local partners do you have promoting your product at popular events, festivals, & community gatherings? Further, when you are out in the community, what image are your representatives projecting on your company’s behalf? Yes: all of this is still “branding”. This is why it takes a community to make a real business. Some are naturals at this, and some are wise enough to get help when it’s time to take the next real step forward.

BRANDING – LOOK THE PART

Someone walking around at an event with a duffle bag full of hamburgers wrapped in paper towels may actually have some trouble giving them away for free. But someone walking around with hamburgers stacked aesthetically on a silver platter will sell out before the burgers cool. So when out at events, are you telling your staff to “dress comfortably” or did you make uniforms and set a dress code? These are the little moments that matter!

When Starbucks started, their mission was not to make coffee, it was to replace the word “coffee” itself. When I was young in business, an exec from their company bragged to me “One day people won’t say ‘Let’s go get some coffee’, but say ‘Let’s go get some starbucks’.” Hearing this, I thought, there was no way; he had to be out of his mind… and that was my first real lesson in business. Little moments matter.

Having grown up, I’ve learned that when you first hear of a product or new company, first see a new something on an old familiar shelf, see a new sponsor at a show for your favorite band; these are the beginnings. These are the key moments that we work to make meaningful, and potentially form a relationship from them. If that new thing catches your attention once, you may not engage with it, but after the third time, on average, people stop and interact. At that point, it’s about the actual quality of your services and products, your customer’s belief in what they’ve conceived of your brand, and what it means to them.

If I call my chemical company “one-earth sustainable chemicals”, it doesn’t matter what I’m actually making; I’m going to be protested less than “capital-first chemical solutions” (Though the latter would probably grab more investors). Even if both companies manufacture the exact same products. When you find yourself in times of trouble, image can be everything.

BRANDING – IMAGE MATTERS

People want something to believe in, to rally around, to fall in love with. Connection is the purpose of life for most of us on this planet. It’s why we make families, observe our faiths, and live in communities; we recognize that we need each other. So why does your customer need you? How much time do you spend telling people to buy your product versus showing them how you can help them? If you offer the most “expensive looking” and highest quality product, and it’s “marked at a discount” so it’s still at a competitive price point; now you’re doing them a favor. You’re reaching out and giving instead of looking for new opportunities to take. You’re making the same amount of money, but having your product is now a bragging right, so your sales start trending steadily upward. The point here is just this simple; like it or not, “image matters”.

At a lecture, I was fortunate enough to attend, a group of investors asked Russell Simmons, “How do you always know what the next big thing is going to be?” Russell responded, “I don’t. I look at where there is a need and an opportunity to do a good thing for my community, then I do it. Funny, it always comes back to me once others see it, support it… and it turns into that next big thing.”*

Step one to branding is not just knowing who you are now, as a company, but who you want to directly serve in your community. Step two is finding a way to use your brand and logo to convey to the community how you are going to help them. Step three is having a good product and service… but that’s a whole different article.

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Higher Yields Cannabis Consulting

Higher Yields Cannabis Consulting

Higher Yields Consulting is a Marijuana Consulting Group comprised of industry experts with decades of combined experience in the legal industry. Whether you are looking to get into the business or already have a license we can help your business succeed. Call (844) HI-YIELD to schedule a free initial consultation.

The Latest from our cannabis consulting blog