One of the best ways to build your business in the cannabis industry is by networking with other cannabis professionals. Cannabis is an industry that has grown exponentially in recent years, but it’s still very young. Meeting cannabis professionals and building relationships with them is still a critical part of establishing and expanding your own cannabis business and brand.
Unfortunately, networking doesn’t come easily to many people. The good news is that networking is a skill that can be learned. It’s one of those things in life that adheres to the adage – the more you do it, the better you get at it.
To help you start networking in the cannabis industry, following are tips to set yourself up for success.
The first step to networking successfully in the cannabis industry is to do your homework and get prepared. There are three main parts of networking preparation: research, message development, and takeaway creation. Let’s take a closer look at each.
Extensive research is required before you start networking in any industry, and this includes the cannabis industry. That means you need to start learning about cannabis business operations, licensing, the supply chain, laws, terminology, and more. The Cannabiz Media blog is a great place to learn about cannabis licensing!
What will you say to people when you start networking? You need to be prepared with an ice-breaker introduction and craft an elevator pitch that piques people’s interest.
This is not a one-size-fits-all situation. You need to craft multiple introductions and elevator pitches for different types of people who you might network with. For example, you wouldn’t say the same things to a potential investor that you would to a potential services provider for your business.
You always need to have a tangible takeaway available to give to key contacts when you meet them face-to-face. If you don’t have a tangible takeaway, you run the risk of being forgotten.
Imagine you’re at a cannabis industry conference and meet dozens of people. You won’t be able to remember all of them when you get home, and you won’t be able to follow up with them to further build relationships with them – unless they gave you a takeaway like a business card or brochure.
The same is true for the people who meet you at networking events. They may not remember you or know how to contact you after the event unless you give them a takeaway. Therefore, create business cards and/or a brochure – even if your cannabis business isn’t operational yet. You need to give people a tangible way to remember you.
And don’t forget to ask other people for their business cards and/or brochures as well.
Make a Plan
Don’t jump into networking without a strategy and a plan to execute that strategy. Without a networking strategy and plan, you’ll waste a lot of time and money.
Your plan should establish clear goals for each networking opportunity or event. For example, you may set a goal to speak with a certain number of cultivation license holders or to meet a specific cannabis industry influencer.
In order to develop your networking plans, you’ll need to research each event you attend in advance and get an idea of who will be there, what the focus of the event is, and who the event is for. This is crucial so you can tailor your networking plan and your elevator pitch to be as relevant and useful as possible.
Of course, you also need to determine which conferences you’ll attend so you can create your networking plans for each. Some of the most popular cannabis events and conferences you can consider include:
- Marijuana Business Daily events like MJBizCON
- NCIA events like Seed to Sale and Cannabis Business Summit & Expo
- Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference
- CannaTech events
- Cannabis Conference
- Cannabis World Conference & Business Expo
- NECANN events
- Women Grow events
Don’t start networking until you’ve practiced your ice-breaker introduction and elevator pitch for a variety of people. Tailor your conversations to each event and person, and be mindful of presenting yourself as professionally as possible.
When networking, you should try to build relationships, not business opportunities. Try to be useful and helpful without focusing on closing a deal.
In addition, think about your body language and actions while you’re networking. Hold your drink in your left hand so you can shake hands with people with your right hand. Avoid the food, so you don’t have to talk with food in your mouth. If name tags were given, wear yours. Ask questions, smile, and make eye contact.
Practice, practice, practice!
Be Social and Seek out Networking Opportunities
Use social media before and after you attend a networking event to get even more from your efforts. Connect with organizers and key people on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and so on. Share content related to the event, use the event hashtags, and tag people in your posts. Also, publish pictures, videos, and messages from the event.
In other words, use social media to enhance and expand your face-to-face networking efforts before, during, and after each event you attend.
While you’re at a cannabis conference, seek out networking opportunities. Attend any scheduled networking events during the conference, but don’t stop there. Be present at lunches and dinners, speak with people on the expo floor, and make a point of not attending every educational session. If you’re in sessions all day, you’ll have less time to meet and talk to people.
At the end of each day at a networking event, take some time to debrief. Review the people you spoke with and make a plan to follow up. Follow and engage with them on social media and send personalized email messages to continue your conversations.
If you don’t have time to email everyone you connected with at a networking event right away, make sure you jot notes on the back of each business card or in a document so you remember who they were, what you talked about, and topics you want to discuss with them in the future.
Ideally, you should follow up with each person within a few days of meeting them or within a week at the most. In your follow-up messages, try to set up phone calls or in-person meetings with important business connections.
The key to following up is to be personable and authentic. That means you shouldn’t send template messages to everyone you met through your email marketing software. Instead, send personalized messages to each person.
Also, don’t oversell. You’ll get better results in the long run if you if continue trying to build relationships. The time to sell will come later.
Key Takeaways about Networking in the Cannabis Industry
If you follow the tips above and focus on doing your research, making a plan, practicing, being social, and following up, you’ll be on your way to networking success.
Remember, the cannabis industry is just like other industries when it comes to business networking. Understand the industry, learn the challenges cannabis professionals face, and present yourself accordingly. In time, you’ll build relationships through networking that turn into lucrative business opportunities.
Susan Gunelius, Lead Analyst for Cannabiz Media and author of Marijuana Licensing Reference Guide: 2017 Edition, is also President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company offering, copywriting, content marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, and strategic branding services. She spent the first half of her 25-year career directing marketing programs for AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more as well as small businesses around the world. Susan has written 11 marketing-related books, including the highly popular Content Marketing for Dummies, 30-Minute Social Media Marketing, Kick-ass Copywriting in 10 Easy Steps, The Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing, and she is a popular marketing and branding keynote speaker. She is also a Certified Career Coach and Founder and Editor in Chief of Women on Business, an award-winning blog for business women. Susan holds a B.S. in marketing and an M.B.A in management and strategy.