Experts share tips on how to market cannabidiol-rich strains and products
by Joseph Peña
Whether you’re marketing cannabidiol-heavy cannabis strains and products to medical patients, women, baby boomers or weekend warriors, there are ways to boost CBD sales in an evolving, competitive market.
Your goals, among others, are to build confidence in CBD brands, market to targeted consumers and upsell your products.
How do you get there?
Retail pros say you should educate staff and consumers about CBD; know the symptoms the patient wants to treat; leverage relationships with budtenders and retailers; and sell cannabidiol-heavy strains and products as part of a consumer’s overall cannabis care plan.
It all begins, however, with offering a wide selection of quality products.
“The key to moving large amounts of CBD is not trying to create a cult of personality around the molecule, but simply to have a large and diverse selection of high-CBD products sourced from trustworthy producers who inspire confidence in patients and consumers,” said Jackson Holder, the procurement manager for Seattle’s Dockside Cannabis retail store.
It’s important to teach your staff about what they are selling. It might sound obvious, but many dispensaries and rec shops skip this important step.
“The best way – and incidentally, the most ethical way (to successfully market and sell CBD) – is for stores to maintain a very high level of internal education about what CBD is and how it works, so that budtenders can identify people who it can help even if the customer themselves don’t know about it yet,” Holder said.
An educated staff, in turn, can pass along that knowledge to customers. “The number one reason someone who could use CBD productively isn’t using CBD is because they don’t know what it is, what it does or how it works,” Holder noted.
It’s also important to know your CBD product’s terpene profiles and link a consumer’s symptom or desired effect to a specific variety. Giving concrete information employs the power of suggestion. If you tell the consumer the product’s terpene profile will help with anxiety, that tidbit will be top of mind when they’re using.
“The more information we have on the product, the easier it is to link it to a specific condition and the desired outcome,” said Rachael Speegle, a registered nurse and the director of operations at the Verdes Foundation, a medical cannabis dispensary in Albuquerque.
Be mindful, though, to set realistic expectations about what the product will achieve. You don’t want a consumer to be frustrated if the product doesn’t deliver the desired effect right away.
Treat the Symptoms, Not the Condition
If you’re serving medical cannabis patients, go beyond the condition, Speegle said. Train your budtenders to ask, “What part of your condition do you want cannabis to help control?”
It’s important to know the diagnosis. But it’s even more helpful to know which symptoms the patient wants to treat. It’s also critical to keep patients on track to treat a specific symptom, Speegle says. They may want multiple products, some with a higher dose of THC for evenings.
Sell them what they need and follow up the next week to sell something they want – a CBD product that might have a higher THC content, for example. Selling one CBD-heavy product at a time to new patients will also help you identify the cause of any adverse reaction. If you sell them two, it will be harder to know which product triggered the reaction.
Target Women and Boomers
CBD is an excellent introduction to cannabis for educated female consumers and baby boomers. It is a low-risk, low-intoxication product that can be incorporated into health and wellness plans.
With regard to educated female consumers, Speegle said they should be a target market for all dispensaries.
“That female is who we want in our store because women make the majority of household health care decisions. They make over 90% of all over-the-counter medication purchases,” Speegle said. “They’re also more likely to talk to their neighbor and spread the word about your brand.”
California’s Clear Creek Botanicals produces topicals for aches and pains that are marketed toward baby boomers. Dispensaries love the products but don’t have the shelf space for them, so Lisa Donnelly, founder of Clear Creek Botanicals, has to be creative with how she markets her products.
“Our products are designed for baby boomers and people who are older,” Donnelly said. “Baby boomers have arthritis and have had knee replacements and have all kinds of aches and pains – but we’re still weekend warriors.”
Marketing to baby boomers requires a special approach. Baby boomers respond to credible spokespeople. They also rely less on social media and trends to influence their spending. For baby boomers, print advertising and brochures in areas they traffic are more effective marketing methods.
For Donnelly, a tried-and-true method of spreading the word to baby boomers is a good old-fashioned Avon party, minus the Avon. Those attending the get-together sample and purchase Donnelly’s CBD-rich topicals.
Capitalize on Relationships with Budtenders & Retailers
If you’re a producer, find opportunities in your state to promote your CBD products and leverage relationships with budtenders and retailers.
Washington State allows producers to partner with retailers for vendor days. On these days, producers can share information and non-infused samples of products with consumers and budtenders.
Vendor days are important to a Washington producer’s success, said Susan Gress, who co-founded Washington’s Vashon Velvet, a cannabis cultivator. About 20% of Vashon Velvet’s strains are CBD-heavy, and they’re also some of the most popular. One of the biggest challenges for producers in Washington is that they don’t have many opportunities to interact with the end consumer.
“Vendor days are the most important tool to getting our brand understood by consumers,” Gress said.
They’re also opportunities for producers to interact with budtenders and build relationships with retailers. Once you’ve established trust, your retailers are more likely to carry new strains and products. It also opens the door for joint advertising opportunities, something Gress has done with retailers that carry Vashon Velvet’s strains.
Green Labs, an award-winning edibles producer in Washington, is also a big proponent of budtender relationships.
“We want the budtender to have tried our product and be able to vouch for it,” said Jordan McAulay, the company’s director of business development.
Include CBD in a Consumer’s Wellness Plan
Sell CBD strains and products as part of a cannabis care plan for consumers. Consumers use different cannabis products at different times of day. CBD is ideal for day use and it can be paired with THC-heavy strains for nights and weekends.
Often, THC users want something they can use during the day. As a piece of the puzzle, CBD can help with symptoms that THC doesn’t treat. Budtenders can ask, “What’s one way we still haven’t solved all of your problems?”
CBD is a good adjunct for times when THC users aren’t using THC. CBD isn’t exclusive and it can be used in conjunction with other products – which helps a dispensary upsell.
CBD use is also a good way to help consumers reset their tolerance.
“With CBD, (consumers) can medicate at work. They can medicate in a grocery store. They can use CBD-rich oils throughout the day without intoxication,” Speegle said.
Plug Holes in the Market
Look for gaps in your state’s CBD market and fill them.
For example: McAulay noticed most infused products in Washington had 1-to-1 ratios of CBD-to-THC but none had a higher CBD-to-THC ratio. The state imposes a cap on THC of 10 milligrams per dose.
“A lot of producers were creating a 10-milligram THC, 10-milligram CBD product and putting it on the shelf,” McAulay said. “The void was a pure CBD product for people who might have issues with pain they want to control but still have to operate during the day with a clear mind.”
As a result, Green Labs created its Swifts CBD Mint Truffles, with an 8-to-2 milligram ratio of CBD-to-THC.
It went a step further with its Dope Cup Award-winning Swifts CBD Mints that have a ratio of 5 milligrams of CBD to 0.1 milligrams of THC.
“Being a first mover is key,” McAulay said. “If the market interacts with and enjoys your product before anyone else’s, you get a head start on creating loyal consumers.”
Blend CBD and THC Products in Pre-Rolls
Speegle uses CBD in blends. She said it’s something many dispensaries don’t do, and it’s a missed opportunity.
“We use our high-CBD strains or our CBD strains to add to pre-rolls and we can charge more for blends, because consumers expect it to cost more,” Speegle said.
For example, the Verdes Foundation sells a blended pre-roll called Deflame. It’s a mix of sativa strains to get consumers moving, and higher CBD strains for patients with post-surgical pain who need physical therapy, or patients who need a lift in libido. CBD varieties help you market the blends and sell them at a higher price-point.
“We create blends the way tea companies create blends,” Speegle said.