Just as we see in any industry, “who you know” plays a large role in how successful you become in the cannabis space. Whether you are a grower looking to link up with distribution channels or a SAAS provider pitching to retail clients, making connections is a critical first step in business.
It’s no secret that the cannabis marketplace is unique in many ways. As the industry is brand new and always changing, it takes a certain personality to survive and thrive in this space. To this end, cannabis professionals are generally thick-skinned, startup-savvy, quick-thinking, and exceptionally creative.
While many of the personalities that define the cannabis industry are unique, how we get to know each other is not so different from those in other businesses. If you are interested in expanding your network of cannabis professionals, here are some essential criteria to help you on your way.
Developing a Professional Profile
Before you begin actively networking in the cannabis space, you must develop a strong professional profile. In creating this profile, you build your own “personal brand” in the cannabis industry.
Your cannabis business profile is based on the relevant information you would utilize in an up-to-date resume. Keeping your resume current is an excellent way to maintain your personal brand in the industry. This notion is particularly relevant for cannabis, as many Executives and Managers “wear a lot of hats on the job” that is not formally reflected in job titles.
Your resume can act as a reference point in describing your professional attributes when networking. This practice gives your personal brand a consistent message. Moreover, information on your resume should be utilized in creating such essential tools as social media profiles and business cards.
In today’s business world, effective networking relies heavily on digital avenues. However, before you can begin expanding your professional network online, you must mold your digital profile around your brand message.
Generally speaking, the primary avenues for creating a digital profile in the cannabis business are websites, blogs, and social media. You should ensure that your “About Us” page on your website or blog accurately reflects your professional profile, for starters. Secondly, you must recreate your personal brand message on relevant social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
While the importance of keeping a professional appearance seems obvious to most business people, the cannabis industry is unique in this sense, namely, because we are still in the process of de-stigmatizing negative cannabis stereotypes in the mainstream.
As we work towards establishing a productive and sustainable cannabis industry, maintaining a professional appearance lends credibility to ourselves and our peers. Similarly, keeping yourself looking your best will help your efforts to network and develop partnerships within the industry.
Once you have developed a solid professional profile in the industry, it’s time to begin networking. Multiple avenues can be taken in networking in the cannabis space; these include both digital and in-person.
It’s hard to believe how vital digital media has become in the realm of networking. Over the past 15 years, digital platforms have become essential in meeting networks of like-minded professionals.
Social media represents the apex of connectivity in the digital age – the cannabis business is certainly not insulated from this fact. However, using social media to network effectively in the industry takes skill.
It would be best if you were careful to only connect with people who are essential to your overall business goals. This process can be accomplished by searching for relevant key phrases in locating profiles. After finding people who could be an asset in your network, write them a brief personalized message with your connection request.
Social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook also feature groups where people of similar interests can share ideas. Cannabis business-focused groups are a great place to meet people who can help you on your way to finding success in the industry.
The cannabis industry also offers a slew of online trade shows and seminars explicitly designed with networking in mind. Therefore, it is good to consistently monitor the web for online events that could afford opportunities to make connections. Once you sign up for a web-based trade show, the event should also give you the name and contact information for other attendees.
When it comes to making a good impression on another person, nothing is more effective than a face-to-face meeting. Therefore, while digital marketing offers invaluable avenues for global connectivity, there is no better way to earn someone’s trust than by formally meeting them and shaking their hand.
There are several avenues that you can take for professional in-person networking in the cannabis industry. Popular options include trade shows, mixers, meetups, and attending a gathering for a specific advocacy group or charity.
The cannabis industry has seen a massive influx of trade shows over the past ten years. While it may be tough to decipher which show is best for your networking needs, MJBizCon in Las Vegas is always a sure bet to draw a large crowd.
Cannabis-specific mixers and meetups also present excellent ways to meet like-minded professionals. To illustrate, Sensi Media Group puts on “Sensi Night” events in various locales of the cannabis industry each quarter – offering a place for people to mingle and have fun. Similarly, certain cities such as Denver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Portland feature cannabis industry meetups at local bars.
A great way to meet people in the cannabis business is to become a cannabis-focused advocacy group member. For example, joining your local chapter of NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) could open the door to fruitful relationships. The same could be said about getting active in the Last Prisoner Project, a group dedicated to overturning unjust cannabis convictions.
As you continue with your cannabis networking efforts, it is always important to retain a professional demeanor. Therefore, your communication with new connections should be enthusiastic while respecting other peoples’ space and time. Similarly, when meeting someone for the first time, it’s always a good idea to offer something before jumping into a business proposal. Following these basic rules of conversation will help ensure your networking efforts continue well beyond an initial meeting.
If you are passionate about cannabis, meeting other people who share your values can be an absolute joy. Moreover, because such a fantastic cast of professionals populates the cannabis industry, we have a vibrant community to share information. Looking to the future, it is precisely this vigorous talent and willingness to share that will continue to push the industry forward.