In the latest episode of the Cannacurio Podcast from Cannabiz Media, my co-host, Amanda Guerrero, and I discuss hemp grower, processor, and manufacturing licenses in Connecticut, Michigan, Missouri, and more. We also speak with Michael Crane, National Sales Executive at DataOwl, which is a software company offering point-of-sale enhancement, CRM, and business operating solutions for the cannabis industry.

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Cannacurio Podcast Episode 11 Transcript

Amanda Guerrero: Welcome to the Cannacurio Podcast powered by Cannabiz Media, your source for cannabis and hemp license news. We’re your hosts, Amanda Guerrero and Ed Keating. On today’s show, we’re joined by Michael Crane of DataOwl. But as always, before we jump in with Michael, let’s see what news Ed has for us from the date of vault. Ed.

Ed Keating: Thanks, Amanda. So the team’s been working on a lot of information on the hemp side. So we just updated Michigan hemp, and I’ve noticed, in looking over the data, that many of the license holders appear to have received both grower and processor licenses.

Amanda Guerrero: So for our audience here, Ed, what’s the difference between a grower’s license and a processor license?

Ed Keating: Yeah, on the grow side, it’s really about cultivation for the most part. The processor side encompasses a lot of activity. So in looking through the rules and regulations in this state, you need one of those licenses if you want to process, like convert raw industrial hemp into a marketable form, handle it, which means store it or hold onto it, broker it, or finally, to market it. So that second license actually carries a lot of other activities with it.

In addition, I’m working on Connecticut hemp, and I’ve also noticed that there are some who are trying to have both the processing and the growing. So the thing that I’m trying to get a handle on is are license holders trying to own more of the value chain so that they can solve what seems to be a capacity problem in some states where people grow all the hemp and then they’re stuck with it because they didn’t figure out a way to actually get it processed and then finally to market?

So those will be a couple of things we’ll be keeping an eye on as we get more hemp licenses and updates coming into the data vault. In addition to Michigan and Connecticut, one other state we’re keeping an eye on is Missouri. We just found out through our newsfeed that the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services just settled to medical marijuana facility appeals.

Amanda Guerrero: And why is that important?

Ed Keating: Well, they just rolled out all their licenses over the last, let’s say 60, 90 days, they all were awarded. And to me, it seems that’s a pretty fast turnaround for the state or the regulator to fix things.

What they pointed out in their press release is that this was not a scoring issue. It wasn’t where somebody is saying that they were scored incorrectly. There were really administrative issues and they look to be resolving it by moving some of the licenses around saying, “Hey, you need to open here, not here,” or, “You need to give that one up, but we’ll give you something else elsewhere.” So just pretty interesting that they’ve been able to navigate that so quickly compared to other things that we’ve seen.

Amanda Guerrero: Understood. And why do you think they’ve been able to move so quickly, Ed?

Ed Keating: It’s a good question. In looking back at Missouri, a state that we tracked for a while because they started their program and communicating about it pretty early and really throughout 2019, they gave a lot of great information about what their schedule was, what their timeline was, who the applicants were, and then finally, who the license winners were.

So in part of it may just be, they run a really good program and they have a good relationship with the license holders and maybe even the applicants too so that they’ve been able to get some smooth sailing. So that’s just a bit of pontificating on my part as to why it might have gone smoothly and we’ll certainly be keeping an eye on it going forward.

But in other states, when they run into issues like this, often around scoring, I will say, but they tend to drag on, involve lawyers, judges, lawsuits, the whole Magilla and that creates a lot more strife. And in some cases it can even damage the program where people lose faith in it. And I think what Missouri has done has been very good.

Amanda Guerrero: Thanks for the update, Ed.

Ed Keating: Absolutely.

Amanda Guerrero: On today’s show, we’ll be joined by Michael Crane, the National Sales Executive at DataOwl, Stay tuned.

Welcome back everyone. Today, I’m joined by Michael Crane. He’s currently the National Sales Executive at DataOwl and is one of Cannabiz Media’s power users. Welcome to the show, Michael.

Michael Crane: Thank you for having me.

Amanda Guerrero: Oh, it’s our pleasure. We’re so excited to have you on the show and to be able to connect during quarantine. But so for our audience here, let’s give them some background. How long have you been in the industry?

Michael Crane: Actually, I started working in the cannabis industry in early 2017 where I handled marketing and retail sales operations for a two store dispensary group here in Phoenix called Oasis Dispensaries. I helped with the opening of one of their stores, which was a completely new build from the ground up. So let’s just say I gained a lot of knowledge on the startup side of a retail dispensary.

From there, I came to DataOwl last year after becoming a, I already became a current client during my time in Oasis, and we use DataOwl heavily to streamline processes, automate sales and marketing functions, but most importantly, curate our customer experience.

I’d say all of this has given me a unique ability to talk with prospects and have full understanding of their pain points as I was in their shoes as an operator firsthand.

Amanda Guerrero: Wow. Yeah, it definitely sounds like you’ve had some great hands on experience, and I guess this is prompting me to ask, what were you doing before the cannabis industry?

Michael Crane: Well, prior to cannabis I actually was in solar sales. Spent about four there where I went from actually closing solar installs to building and running a sales compliance team for their inside sales department. I’d say this is where I refined my sales experience and tools needed to go along with that experience as an operator.

I’d say it really prepared me to be dynamic because at that time, solar was the fastest growing market in the world. Changes came regularly, much of like what we’re dealing with cannabis today.

Amanda Guerrero: Yeah. Sounds like startups are in your previous background and you understand what you need to do to in order to work within the cannabis space.

Michael Crane: For sure, for sure. It’s all about remaining dynamic.

Ed Keating: Excellent, excellent. Well, pivoting from you, Michael, I was hoping you could tell us and our audience a little bit more about DataOwl. What makes you unique in the marketplace?

Michael Crane: Just to give you a little background about DataOwl, again, I was a prior user of the tool, so I really understood the value to my operation. It really helps streamline internal processes, increase revenue, and really they were a part of our team’s support system.

So here at DataOwl, we achieve all that by offering a full suite of tools to support the marketing and revenue generating needs of a dispensary. Our tools are all designed to work seamlessly together, so e-commerce, loyalty, messaging, TV menus, all drive the customers to be aware of the products, deals, or even benefits of our clients.

What truly sets us apart though, is the depth of our dynamic consumer profiling tools and our ability to offer highly personalized offers and recommendations to each customer or patient of the dispensary.

Ed Keating: Got it, got it. So one of the things in reviewing DataOwl’s information is I notice that one of the features that you add is helping your customers be able to manage both the online and in store shopping experience of their customers. I was wondering if you could tell us more about that because that’s kind of the Holy Grail in all of retail, whether it be cannabis, clothing, athletic material, et cetera. So how do you guys do it and how do you succeed at that?

Michael Crane: We succeed in that with basically integrating directly to the point of system, point of sale system, to provide live inventory. So we can publish those feeds, everything that’s in stock is on the digital menus, Leafly listings, online orderings. We’re taking that retail experience, what a normal budtender would tell you – do they have it or not – to it being live on the internet. So somebody at home could order it and know that it is in stock.

Ed Keating: Oh, that’s great. Well, I can imagine that for everybody streamlining that workflow for the license holder is probably a real big benefit and also to help drive that store traffic.

Now, one of the other questions I had for you from the regulatory standpoint is there’ve been a couple of stories in the news where license holders like Trulieve and others have gotten in some trouble because people complained of getting texts or unsolicited telephone calls. And I wondered as a solution in this space, how do you help license holders stay compliant so that they don’t wind up on the wrong side of a lawsuit?

Michael Crane: Absolutely. This is definitely a concern for our entire industry across the nation. So simply put, we built an entire compliance standard around keeping our clients and dispensaries compliant nationally by basically doing a full opt in process.

Nobody is in our system to receive messages unless they’ve opted in or asked for these communications. And we provide numerous different tools for our clients so that they can capture customers looking for information. So whether it be through signup pages, text message keywords, forms for their website, at some point, that individual placed their phone number on that list and that’s how it gets in the system.

Even brand new numbers placed within it have a double opt in process, so a message goes out stating that they’re a part of the list. They have to respond yes to confirm. Keeps everybody compliant, so they don’t have to worry about this issue.

Ed Keating: Great. And it probably gives a good audit trail in case anybody does have a question to find out, “Hey, when did Ed Keating enter our system?” And it can easily dial in to check that out. So let’s look a little bit forward. Any new product launches, markets, or initiatives that you guys are focusing on right now?

Michael Crane: Absolutely. Obviously with COVID-19, it put a lot of our industry on scramble mode, trying to get things up and running, keeping dispensaries open as we were deemed essential. So we actually have three major releases that we have dropped or are dropping this month.

One that’s out now is our remote online check-in, which enables dispensaries to execute that curbside pickup. So customers can now check in remotely from their vehicles with a mobile enabled device, which we send via a text message notification when their order is ready for pickup.

The second piece that we have is our online ordering that we’ve already had released is now executable within three business days. We saw that during COVID-19, there was demand in several areas of the country. They had to convert to online ordering or even curbside pickup, or they wouldn’t be able to stay open as an essential business.

The last update that we have is, I’m very excited to have coming out, which is our integration with BioTrack and our online ordering. We’ve always shown live inventory, but now our online orders will actually route automatically into the point of sale system, helping the retail staff execute all those new online orders that they’re starting to see because of COVID-19. Previously, it was a separate dashboard that they logged in to be able to execute that it’s ready for pickup, things like that. Now, that’ll happen directly inside the point of sale system.

Ed Keating: Excellent. So thanks for the look forward, now, the look back, I’m curious what you would view as the biggest achievement in the last 12 months, either for you or for DataOwl.

Michael Crane: Honestly, being a part of the DataOwl team is a huge success of mine as well. But as far as DataOwl, biggest achievement I’d say in the past 12 months really comes with this COVID-19. I’m very happy to state that rolling out these new processes when our clients reach out to us expressing their need for changes, we were able to roll out remote check-in in a matter of a week. We were able to get things mobilized with BioTrack in a matter of a month. We were able to get our online ordering down to three business days after a week of review on our SLAs. So I would say that our biggest achievement has been overcoming COVID-19 to be able to streamline our internal processes.

Ed Keating: Wow, that’s great. It really speaks of how you’re a trusted partner to the license holders that you work with, whether it be on helping people opt in or making sure that their businesses can run during these crazy times where not all of them are essential businesses, but they’re trying to stay open and do the best they can.

Amanda Guerrero: So tell us, Michael, what are some of the ways that you and your team utilize Cannabiz Media?

Michael Crane: We definitely utilize Cannabiz Media heavily here at DataOwl. It’s our go-to source for notifications on any new licensing. But in addition to that, we like to dig into the deeper layers that Cannabiz Media provides, which is the licensing types, because we aren’t just a solution for the retail dispensary, but there’s many different license types out there that we can provide our solutions to.

Whether you’re retail recreational, or your retail medical, or you’re a dual license situation in the same building or separate buildings, those license types, even if delivery, cultivation, we can customize our solutions to cater to what their business is and the things that they need.

So we utilize Cannabiz Media to understand and have insight to who’s vertically integrated, who’s not, but in addition to that, who the best lead contacts are, who actually runs those licenses, et cetera, so we can reach out and get valuable information.

Amanda Guerrero: Wonderful. And how does this compare to other sales tools that you’ve used before?

Michael Crane: I would say the biggest comparison is that this sales tool is definitely in the culture and industry where most of the time sales tools or lead tools are literally just leads or lists. It’s very dynamic, and you can tell that everybody who’s participated in this, participates in the cannabis industry as a whole, and you can clearly see that.

Amanda Guerrero: Yeah, I also agre. When I worked, when I previously worked with a different company, I utilized Cannabiz Media as a way to generate leads myself, and I also agree. That was one of the biggest value adds was that it really allowed us not only to connect with the license holders directly, but it also allowed us to get a better understanding of email marketing analytics in terms of best times to send for certain markets, and it wasn’t just a generalized kind of a number, it was actually focused and specific to what Cannabiz Media, or to the cannabis community. So I wholeheartedly agree with you there.

Now, are there any tips or tricks that you would like to share with our audience about some of the ways you utilize the platform?

Michael Crane: The only tips and tricks I would give is really just plan your strategy on making solid contact because these leads are very good contacts. They are within the company. So it’s all about doing a value add, not just selling to sell, but actually making communication that gives value to the operators. That would be my tips and tricks.

Amanda Guerrero: I love it, yeah. Communication consistency is important when you are messaging to these license holders. So making sure that your messages are succinct and that they are effective and relevant to your audiences is very important.

But thank you so much for joining us on today’s show Michael. It’s been a true pleasure getting to learn more about yourself and about the DataOwl team, and we look forward to hopefully seeing you sometime after quarantine.

Michael Crane: Absolutely, I look forward to it.

Amanda Guerrero: Yes, thank you. So, Ed, what do we have to look forward to in the upcoming weeks from the data vaults?

Ed Keating: So next week, we’re looking ahead to the upcoming Cannacurio blog, and I’m going to focus on manufacturing licenses, looking back over the first quarter, where were they issued, et cetera. And the first quick look appears that it’s the same story we’ve seen in other license types where Oklahoma and California are leading the pack by far.

Looks to be about 180 manufacturing licenses were issued over the quarter – 96 of them came from Oklahoma and I think about 50 or 60 from California. So we’re still seeing that pattern where these are the hotspots, but I’ll have to dig in to find out how Michigan has done, because we’ve noted that in Q1, they’ve issued a fair number of dispensary and cultivation licenses. So we think that that’s going to continue to be one of those up and coming markets that people keep an eye on. So we’ll be keeping an eye on it as well, too.

Amanda Guerrero: Awesome. Well, I always look forward to the Cannacurio blog posts that come out every Monday. So definitely stay tuned for that, as well as we’ve got a few more Cannacurio podcasts coming out in the next few weeks, so make sure to click subscribe on Spotify, Apple Music, iHeartRadio, so that you can get to tune in and learn more about the updates from the data vault. Thanks everyone for joining us today.