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Page | 1 Business Strategy for Cannabis Products Courtesy of CMN
Page | 2 Business Strategy for Cannabis Products Courtesy of CMN
Contents
Introduction............................................................................................3
Industry Analysis ....................................................................................4
Legal Disclosure......................................................................................5
Create an Elevator Pitch.........................................................................6
Create a Mission Statement for the Business ........................................7
Complete a SWOT Analysis ....................................................................8
Identify and Define Target Audience .....................................................9
Identify Brand Advocates.....................................................................11
Complete Preliminary Sales Strategy...................................................13
Organize, Plan, and Engage Via Social Media Channels .....................16
Complete the Business’s Website.........................................................18
Fulfillment Process Overview...............................................................20
Formulate Budget and Identify Advertising Channels.........................21
Stay Organized and Stay Healthy ........................................................22
Prepare a Work Breakdown and Timeline Inclusive of Dates, Tasks and
Milestones............................................................................................23
Final Thoughts......................................................................................26
Page | 3 Business Strategy for Cannabis Products Courtesy of CMN
Introduction
Welcome. This guide is specific to launching a product in the cannabis industry. The cannabis industry
is expanding at an exponential rate in the United States. What first started as a medicinal market is
shifting to a recreational market across the United States and Canada. These public policies are
predicted to spread to other states most likely AZ, CA, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada will become
recreational states in 2016. In the majority of medicinal and recreational legal states if someone is
allowed to partake they are also allowed to grow plants for their personal use or to share with others.
In that, there are two different groups that products can be pointed at for products, those for
consumers and those that are growers.
This strategy is a tool that will help you organize, research, plan and initiate a strategy to launch your
product into a very competitive market. Brand awareness, brand recognition are not created overnight
but this plan will get you through the most crucial first 90 days of launch and put the business on the
correct path for success. This strategy is a result a multiple product and business launches that I have
either led or been a part of over the past several years. Using others and my own mistakes, missteps
and successes I have ironed out this game plan that will help immensely. This is not as much advice but
more of a “recipe” to follow but with your input since you know your business and product/service best.
Take time and try not to skip any steps because there is a method to the madness. Let’s keep going.
As a best practice, read through the entire strategy first and then start over while researching and
filling out your worksheet on the second round. The second round should take you several hours for
completion but will empower you and your team on knowing your business inside and out and mentally
prepare you and your team for the launch. As you make your way through the strategy, at the end of
each section there will be instructions of how to fill out the worksheet. From there, that information
can be used on your timeline and then in your business plan.
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Here’s the flow:
Although this will take you some time to complete, as said before, you and others involved will have a
firm understanding of what is happening, when it is happening and why it is happening.
After the completion of the 90-day strategy, it’s time to roll. Although the first 90-days are the most
crucial to get on track, that work will continue. Brand recognition and loyalty take time but keep
steadily moving forward with persistence and patience, you are bound to get there. And although
sometimes the sales don’t come in as fast as you want or in the quantity you were expecting, never lose
faith and realize that you are doing something that only others dream about doing. And lastly, have fun
with this, launching a new brand, product or business is a rare experience so enjoy it! Now, game on!
Industry Analysis
The cannabis industry is served by wholesale, retail and online channels. The industry is broken into
two main groups which includes cannabis growers and cannabis users. Normally growers are also users
but most users are not growers. Growers usually operate under state laws that protect cannabis for
Read Section
Complete
Research
Add information
to worksheet
If tasks need to
be completed
add to timeline
Use information
from worksheet
in business plan
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medicinal or in a growing trends, for recreational use. In most states that allow recreational use of
cannabis, residents are also allowed to grow plants for their personal use. The existing recreational and
medical cannabis industry is large and in 2006 it is estimated that 11.7 million plants were being grown
indoors in the U.S. (DrugScience.org). And if the revenues for the recreational state of CO are scaled to
the U.S. population the cannabis industry is estimated to be worth 40 billion dollars annually. That only
includes the sale of flower and edibles but does not include the indoor growing supply market. In time,
more statistics will be accessible but the preliminary numbers show the true size of this industry. In
short, the cannabis industry is a strong, growing industry with large margins and plenty of potential.
Legal Disclosure
The cannabis movement/industry is expanding but the use of cannabis is still federally illegal (at least
when this was written). Being that, selling a product for to grow or consume an illegal product is on the
fringe of legality. Although the risk is much less than in the past there are areas of the country where
this is a more sensitive item than other states, where it may be completely illegal. If the product is only
being sold for medicinal or recreational uses in states that have adopted those laws, it’s extreme low
risk. But if the product is being shipped over state lines, that falls into inter-state commerce which is
federal jurisdiction, which still says cannabisis illegal. That is why you will note hydroponic/indoor
growing stores normally don’t advertise that the equipment is for growing cannabis and why smoke
shop bongs are for “smoking tobacco”. This is part of a game and a “code” if you will, for the industry.
No one gets in trouble, everyone is making money but at the same time, everyone knows what the
products are truly for, and that’s fine. So when designing marketing materials, selling to wholesalers
and distributors and advertising, keep this in mind. Be creative, there are some fun ways to get around
this caveat of the industry.
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Create an Elevator Pitch
This is essential because any team member needs to be able to pitch the business in a manner that is
concise, powerful and will leave a lasting impression. The nine C’s for an elevator pitch are:
• Concise. Keep the pitch succinct and clear, with as few words as possible.
• Clear. The pitch should be easily understood by a layman, rather than filled with acronyms and
industry terminology.
• Compelling. What problem does your business solve, and what can you do for your target
audience?
• Credible. Spell out what makes you qualified to do what you do, without using buzzwords like
"outside the box" or "synergy." Using credibility-driven words like "certified" will help sell you.
• Conceptual. Keep your pitch broad; don't go into too many details.
• Concrete. The pitch should be tangible and easily grasped by your audience.
• Customized. Each target audience is different. The pitch should be tailored to the listeners.
• Consistent. No matter how many versions of your pitch you have, they should all convey the
same basic message.
• Conversational. Start the conversation, and hook your target. Keep it casual, and don't try to
close a deal in the pitch.
Here’s an example:
The Wicked Bud Pot is a revolutionary product that gives the urban farmer the ability to grow
beautiful and lush plants without the time commitment and without the worry of over or under-
watering their plants. For many, growing is alluring but the time commitment and complexity is
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intimidating and for existing growers there are times when hectic schedules and other commitments
may inhibit their ability to properly care for their plants. For both the novice and experienced, the
Wicked Bud Pot delivers freedom, reliability and consistency that cannot be achieved by any other pot
on the market. For retailers, the Wicked Bud Pot can be seen a retention tool in keeping customers that
may fail and be disappointed in their growing experiences in the past. The Wicked Bud Pot is a product
that can be offered as an alternative to the standard methods that consume more time with less
consistency.
Create a Mission Statement for the Business
A company’s mission and mission statement is an enduring statement of purpose that distinguishes
its business and products from competitors, identifies the scope of operations, exemplifies the business
philosophy, and how the business image is to be portrayed to the public. The mission statement
answers the first question of any business venture: What business is it in and what is the reason for
being? The mission statement is the first step of identifying the direction of the company.
Here’s an example: The Trusty Paper Products Co. is dedicated to providing quality, eco-friendly and
dependable products to our customers. This is done by following strict requirements for material
product sourcing to be environmentally friendly and our business to be conducted fairly, responsibly and
with the highest level of integrity. We realize that our customers have choices but with our selection,
outstanding service and responsible and high quality product sourcing practices we feel confident we
will be their vendor of choice for all of their office equipment needs.
STOP-Instructions for Worksheet
Worksheet notes: Go to your worksheet and create a mission statement. This section can be skipped
until the end if preferred but keep this in the back of your mind while moving forward.
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Complete a SWOT Analysis
A SWOT analysis is a brainstorm activity that requires an objective viewpoint that will be helpful with
the business launch. This helps the business members understand and aware of the strengths,
weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the business and product(s). It’s a good practice to do this
exercise with each product if there is a major differentiation between products in your portfolio. Here’s
some further guidance on each aspect of a SWOT analysis:
• Strengths- The strengths has more to do with the internal strengths of the business and
products versus external strengths of the product(s). Strengths can include superior product
quality and price point compared to competitors, strengths relating to the leaders within the
business and resources available. Avoid vagueness or embellishment to keep this specific and
realistic.
• Weaknesses- Just as with strengths, weaknesses are relating to the internal threats to the
business and product rollout. This could include lack of resources in capital, marketing expertise
or knowledge of the market the business is expanding into in the future.
• Opportunities- Opportunities are also external as in the business being first-to-market, new
changes in regulation that open markets, technological advantages of product, marketing
campaign capital or having a niche in current markets to exploit.
• Threats-Threats are external. These are threats for the business externally from other factors
such as a saturated market, declining economy or new products that out-perform or are priced
lower than the company’s product or service.
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Instructions for Worksheet
Worksheet notes: This is a brainstorming activity and it is recommended to complete with others,
whether they are part of the business or just observers and looking at the business objectionably.
Identify and Define Target Audience
For marketing, advertising, messaging and merchandising it’s important to know who the audience is
for the business and product(s). While this includes the final consumer, which is most important, the
distributors, wholesalers and retailers are also included as the target audience. For the cannabisindustry
in regards to products the target audiences are the following:
Cannabis Users: This includes users of cannabis that do not grow cannabis. These individuals frequent
cannabis lifestyle websites and social media channels. The cannabis users will be the primary focus of
products that are for using cannabis. Example of genre of sites: www.hightimes.com; www.leafly.com
• Geo locations of high concentrations of cannabis users: California (L.A. area, San Jose,
San Francisco), Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Connecticut.
Cannabis Retail: Dispensaries or similarly structured retail operations i.e. collectives, that dispense
cannabis, inclusive of flower and edibles, to patients and/or legal residents. Smoke shops. Dispensary
consulting companies.
Cannabis Commercial Growers: Growers associated with legal commercial growing operations normally
associated with a legal dispensary. Normally these operations take place in large greenhouses and
warehouses that have been outfitted for large grow operations.
Cannabis “home-based growers”/hobbyist growers: Growers that grow in their personal spaces for
themselves and/or others. Normal plant counts are less than two dozen. This group frequents websites
and forums that center on education, techniques, grow journals and new products strictly about
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growing cannabis. This makes up the vast majority of growers and does not include commercial
growers. Examples: http://www.rollitup.org/ http://www.growweedeasy.com/cannabis-grow-journals
• Geo location to target: Entire U.S. but emphasis on California, Colorado, Oregon,
Washington, Connecticut, Michigan, Arizona, Montana, Maine, Rhode Island…states that allow
patients/residents to grow.
Growing Suppliers: Retail indoor and organic grow shops, both brick and mortar and online, and the
distributors that supply those grow shops. The audience comprises of shop owners, managers and
purchasing agents for distributors.
• Primary geo location to target: Entire U.S. through distributors especially California,
Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Michigan.
• Secondary will be states that allow growing of plants by patients/residents limited to
Connecticut, Arizona, Montana, Maine and Rhode Island.
After identifying the target audience various criteria include purchasing behavior, levels of
involvement, media consumption, lifestyle, and personality traits. Using stock images of your target
audience as visual aids will help in designing marketing approaches, advertising and selecting content for
your social media postings.
Advertising and marketing needs to be laser-focused to be effective in this noisy world. So after the
ideal customer is in mind, go into more detail of who they are including; age, lifestyle, living situations,
married/single, hobbies, shopping patterns, frequented social media platforms and where they live. For
example, if you have a smoking product you may identify your target audience as 18-25 men and
women, living in high-density urban areas that regularly visit nightclubs and vape lounges, are in college,
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shop online and through specific social platforms (Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook) and do most of their
shopping in the evening from 10 pm to 1 am.
Now using a tool, such as Nielsen, and using the zip code look-up feature you can identify if that zip
code would have your target audience. Now, you have your target audience, their attributes and where
they are more likely to live and shop. This will help immensely when you are launching any public
relations, marketing or advertising campaigns.
Beyond the end-user, the other target audiences may include distributors, retail shops and online
distributors. Research and prepare a list of contacts beginning with retailers, then moving to
distributors and then online distributors. That list will be utilized in the sales strategy.
Instructions for Worksheet
Worksheet notes: Write down your target audience(s). This is a very important section and the value
will help further down the line when identifying advertising channels and other marketing activities.
Imagine your customer sitting in the room when designing campaigns, it may sound peculiar but it does
help to deliver great messaging.
Identify Brand Advocates
Brand advocates, as defined here, applies to people that will positively speak of, report to others and
publish articles about the business and product(s). For adding validation, trust and increasing web
traffic brand advocates are essential. They are non-vested participants that are endorsing or spreading
the word about the business for no or limited compensation. These four types of advocates will give the
business the most value.
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• Testimonials-Testimonials are quotes from consumers of your product. Testimonials should
include the person’s name, title, picture and any additional collateral e.g. before and after
pictures, videos or other visual evidence of their experience with your product.
• Online Buzz-Use the speed of internet to be the “digital word-of-mouth” for the business. There
are multiple angles for spreading the word of your business via advocates, here are some
options and examples.
o Send out your products for review by others. Search online video sites for people that
regularly try products in return for free product. In turn, they are producing content for
their site and it will be collateral that can be highlighted on the business’s website.
Included is an example letter that can be emailed or sent physically. After introduction,
the letter should be concise and humble asking for them to review the product and post
their results online.
o Create and send out content for bloggers. Another avenue is to create content
for other bloggers that puts your name out there and can be referenced. An
example of this would be a “Top 10 List of New Clubs in Downtown Denver”.
When you send out to bloggers ask for a plug on their social media channels in
return for use of the content and to reference the business’s website.
• Certifications or Official Endorsements – Professional and semi-professional
organizations enjoy products that identify with their core values and common goals. For
example, if you have a product that saves water, send a sample to a local water
conservation group for trial. Have them use the product and give you a letter of
endorsement. Include hashtags and the groups handle when announcing the
achievement via social media. See below for fillable request.
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• Press Release Agents – Press releases are one of the quickest methods of creating buzz
about your product. Contact local business clubs announcing a new business in the
community along with websites/blogs/social media pages that are part of the same
industry. The secret of a good press release is that it is complete and “cut and paste”
ready for the author. They are very busy people and don’t have time to ask for correct
format, correct grammar and spelling errors or go searching for images. When emailing
a press release kindly as for them to add the press release and deliver the prepared
press release to them along with product images and logo.
Instructions for Worksheet
Worksheet notes: Complete this research by using internet searches and through existing networks. This
will take some time but complete a thorough for each sub-group.
Complete Preliminary Sales Strategy
To be prepared for the launch of your business and product, a preliminary plan should be organized
which will be initiated after the other milestones, which will be covered in the next section. The
strategy should reflect the expected business mix and each target audience will have a unique approach.
The business mix is expected percentages of product or business will be channeling through the
different target audiences. An example would be; 20% direct purchase via website, 20% direct purchase
through other selling platforms (Amazon, EBay, and Etsy), 40% direct purchase via trade shows and 20%
via wholesale. Normally, the business mix will shift with time because as the product becomes more
popular, others will want to make money on it so it will be picked up by new distribution channels. Now
taking each of these customers in mind and what research shows of where they live, how they shop,
what triggers them to committing to a purchase use that to put together your timeline of sales events
and activities. Some ideas of sales activities can include:
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• Sales calls to individuals or businesses.
• Email campaigns to individuals or businesses.
• Attending events with like-minded people and organizations either direct selling or networking
for referrals or leads for direct sales.
• Partnering with similar but non-competitive products or other businesses to share costs on
marketing/advertising campaigns.
• Using a referral marketing to drive traffic and convert with special offer or free with purchase
offering. Also, reward referrers with discounted or free product.
Note: Keep costs on sales activities low and increase with sales revenue. Persistence and patience
cannot be replaced with costly sales activities. And don’t be afraid to “hit the streets” and
physically get out and sell and market your business.
As for distributors, retailers and online distributors the best method is to contact the buyers for the
organization, pitch the product and send samples. Follow-up with email and phone calls and keep in
mind this is a longer sales cycle. Any organization that is adding a product to the portfolio needs to have
proof and believe in the product. It can be expensive in terms of money, time and space to take on a
new product that may not move off the shelves. If there are sales records, show that the product has
traction and can improve their organizations revenue. Here’s an example sales strategy a growing
product which will help. Use this as a general template and note the detail for each target audience.
Cannabis hobbyist growers: When the initial website is completed brand awareness and traffic
activities will commence inclusive of the following activities and to the geo locations mentioned above:
• Online marketplace (Amazon, EBay) goes live.
• Send out press releases to growing forums, blogs, and publications (online and print).
• Announce via social media inclusive of channels frequented by cannabis growers and users.
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• Run banner ads on channels that are primarily focused on cannabis growers.
• Request and arrange interviews on growing podcasts and media. Example:
https://www.dfzradio.com/
• Begin social media activities and interaction aimed at cannabis growers.
• The cannabis suppliers i.e. grow shops are the primary retail channel to the cannabis growers
thus these activities will coincide with the sales strategy of cannabis suppliers.
• Send out samples to committed growers for use in online video testimonials and journals.
Results will be posted on growing forums.
• Video(s) including one minute commercial and video with expansion of how the Wicked Bud Pot
benefits growers and quick instructional will be filmed and added to site when completed.
• Study analytics and other data to increase CTR and online sales. Start reproducing what is
working and omitting what is not.
Growing Suppliers: When the website is complete the following sales activities will begin:
• Mass email campaign to grow shops in the U.S. The email will consist of valuable information
about increasing their business and the announcement of the launch of the Wicked Bud Pot and
the upcoming Indoor Grow Show attendance.
• Contact distributors before show to set appointment times at the show. Mail samples as
requested.
• Indoor Grow Show booth. The booth is for awareness but primarily as a sales channel to retail
grow shops and distributors.
• Beginning the week after the show, telesales and follow-up calls will focus on introductory
special for retailers.
• Follow up calls and push on orders from distributors.
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• Mass email is to be sent to emails collected at the show.
• Phone sales will continue until exhausted.
Cannabis Retail: Follow-up calls to dispensary owners and dispensary consulting companies met
through networking events.
Cannabis users: Sales activities for the Wicked Bud Pot is isolated to online social marketing.
Cannabis Commercial Growers: Telesales to commercial growers in Colorado to introduce and show
advantages of using Wicked Bud Pot for indoor and greenhouse commercial grow operations.
So who is your target audience? Use the above as a template aimed at the target audience(s) for your
product. Try to keep geo locations minimal to really “work” those areas before moving on to the next
area.
Instructions for Worksheet
Worksheet notes: Keep it simple! Sales is a numbers game so the name of the game is to talk to as
many people and organizations as possible. Don’t be too passive and always follow-up.
Organize, Plan, and Engage Via Social Media Channels
The story of how Lady Gaga grew her fan-base is a case study of how much impact social media can
have on a product or business launch. After only four years of her debut album she had millions of fans
via social media channels. Social media is not necessarily a direct line to top-line revenue but more so
about building and engaging a community about the company’s products or services. It is also a means
of ongoing communication of new products, promotions and events to your customers and people that
promote your business. To make social media manageable and effective, follow these steps.
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1. Identify three social media platforms that you will use i.e. Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Try
to match the social media with your audience and which channels they use. For instance, if
your customers are younger 20s, early 30s you may substitute one of these channels with
Instagram. Either way, decide which ones best fit and open your accounts.
2. Content, content and more content! Identify sources for content you will be able to grab
anytime and share on your social media channels. For example, I use Reddit with a search of
the genre of product I am working with at the time. There are also other sites that are similar
and others that specialize in interesting images. Adding in original content is very important
also and this can include blog posts, videos, pictures of the product in use and even some
personal content to add to the human element.
3. Match the content to your audience. For example, if the product is the eco-friendly paper
products your customers are probably interested environmental news, nature pictures, articles
regarding sustainable business practices and the like. Build a library of links for quick access.
4. Assign responsibility, build a schedule and follow a formula of content for posting to social
media platforms. For instance, the schedule may consist of posting once a day, twice a day, and
five days a week. As for content, 80% of content should be useful and interesting to the
audience. Posts regarding the business’s products or service should be limited to the remaining
20% of posts.
5. Referral marketing is a process of encouraging ambassadors of promoting your product for
incentives. You can use website plug-ins and then promote via social media or email
campaigns. There are also online software available that help with tracking and promoting the
referral marketing campaign. This aspect will take research on the business’s part to see what
fits best with their platforms and industry.
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6. Engage, engage and engage more. Use hashtags of trending events to gain a larger audience,
keep information relevant to the audience and engage the audience. Using others usernames
in posts will alert them of those posts which leads to them reciprocating by mentioning your
business. Case studies show that social media leads to increased brand recognition, improved
brand loyalty and lower marketing costs and that just the tip of the iceberg.
Instructions for Worksheet
Worksheet notes: Research which social media platforms the target audience use on a regular
basis and then research how to gain traffic from each of those platforms. Then engage!!!
Complete the Business’s Website
A website is how the public will view the business and related products. It’s advised to use a
professional if financially feasible. At the same time, there are a lot of user-friendly web designing
services that are available to help create the website. Whichever the avenue the company decides
there are some essential pieces that need to be completed before the launch of the business. If the
website is an internal effort, use others for editing and readability. Wordiness and/or spelling mistakes
can turn customers off quickly. These should not be overlooked and are the difference between a site
being complete and not complete. Besides the obvious pages that cover the products and/or services
the business offers, include these pages:
• A company information page. This will include a brief description of the company which should
include the mission statement. Also included should be the upper management team and brief
humble biographies of each person. Photos of each team member will increase effectiveness.
• A terms and conditions page. This is page of disclosure discussing privacy, the use of cookies,
how collected information is used and protected and disclosure of acceptance of those terms if
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a person is using the website. This is a legal protection for the company and is often overlooked
by smaller businesses.
• Return and cancellation policies. A page can be dedicated to this information or it is allowable
to add this to the terms and conditions page also. The preference is a separate page for easier
access by the customer.
• Wholesale inquiry page with a contact form. If you will be accepting wholesale purchases
through your website a password protected shopping page for wholesale customers is advised
to protect from end-users getting through and discount buying products.
• A media page is a page specifically designed for materials for anyone with the media, online or
other. This will include prepared press release statements, product descriptions, instructions,
product and other images that are high-resolution and can be downloaded quickly. This allows
anyone from the media to have a toolbox of collateral at their disposal which will lead to more
content being distributed.
• Press and News pages. Press is for what others are releasing about the business and products
while news is what the company is putting out as news about the company.
• Blogs and Social Plug-Ins. A dedicated page is not required but the website is living and
breathing and needs to have interaction and involvement. Verify each page has buttons for the
social media channels you have chosen.
• Testimonials page. Customers follow the same steps when online shopping; awareness,
research, look for alternatives and finally commit to purchase or not to purchase. When
testimonials are included in the website the research aspect is very accessible without leaving
the website. The more the better and from sincere, real sources. Fake testimonials are easy to
spot and may turn customers away from the product.
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Instructions for Worksheet
Worksheet notes: Look over the website and verify all of these pages and links are complete.
Use the worksheet to create a checklist of what is missing and check it off as they are completed.
Fulfillment Process Overview
Fulfillment is one link in the chain that is sometimes overlooked until the first order arrives and then it’s
too late. The fulfillment process should be outlined before the first order. Follow these steps and
ordering and shipping process will be smooth and get your product to your customer quickly.
1. Identify the packaging to be used and get some supplies. Dependent on the size, weight and
durability of the product make sure the packaging protects the product sufficiently.
2. Identify which carrier will be used for different quantities. It may discovered that if one product
is ordered the post office may be the most economical choice while if a 100 are ordered, a
private shipping company should be used. Use the carrier’s website to get quotes of different
shipping scenarios and record the findings in a spreadsheet for future use.
3. If the product is large and/or the business will be soliciting retailers and distributors, open an
account with a freight broker. This will save a lot of money and when the large orders do come
in the company will be prepared.
4. Set a shipping schedule. It is recommended to ship the same day of an order, that is the
expectation of today’s customers and they will appreciate the fast delivery.
5. Keep your customer in the loop. Most shopping cart web services allow for automatic emails to be
sent when the order is received and processed that will include the package’s tracking information.
Make sure to add a personal note thanking the customer for their business and to engage with the
company via social media channels.
See the following page for an example fulfillment process overview:
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Instructions for Worksheet
Worksheet notes: Using the above format, sketch out the process from when a customer makes
an order until it is received. You may also add a 30 day follow-up with a coupon code for another
purchase for this or another product and feedback.
Formulate Budget and Identify Advertising Channels
Many times the advertising budget, or lack thereof, for a start-up will define the channels available
for advertising. With a small business, especially a start-up, it is a safe assumption that the majority of
the advertising expenses at the beginning of any campaign will not generate more money than is spent.
Waiting a few months after launch before advertising gives the company time to engage customers via
social channels to build brand recognition and brand value which will result in a higher return-on-
investment (ROI) on advertising expenses. That being said, the channels that will be used should be
identified before the launch so a budget can be finalized and that money is reserved for allocation to
advertising campaigns, which is crucial in the growth stage of the business cycle. When looking at the
advertising options keep in mind your identified target audience and making sure that the advertising
channel option is laser-focused on that target audience. Again, laser-focused. Channels that are too
broad or only skirt on the fringe of target audience will not produce an acceptable ROI. If you hear from
the advertiser the saying, “you have to spend money to make money”, kick them to the curb. That is a
one-size-fits-all statement produced by advertisers that have never actually owned their own business.
Order
Placed
Email
Notification
Received
Email
Notification
Sent to
Customer
that order is
in process
Order to
fulfillment
Order Sent
Tracking
Inputted
and emailed
to customer
Page | 22 Business Strategy for Cannabis Products Courtesy of CMN
In a small business or start-up, advertising dollars need to be attached to campaigns that produce
revenue. Be diligent and do a lot of research.
One means of research is asking for an advertiser’s media package to explore the demographics their
publication or website serve. That along with speaking to current customers and looking at the
companies that have been successful advertising in that publication or website will also help. The
cannabisindustry can be divided into two different advertising genres for the different target audiences.
• Cannabis lifestyle publications, websites and the like. These are for cannabis users. They
celebrate the use of cannabisand will be better for products designed for using marijuana.
• Cannabis growing publications, websites, forums and the like. These are for cannabis growers,
commercial growers and cannabis growing suppliers. This is the advertisers for products
designed to help cannabis cultivation.
Instructions for Worksheet
Worksheet notes: Research and request pricing and media packages from the advertising
channels that would best suit the business. With this information, the team can begin to
formulate a plan inclusive of a budget and timeline.
Stay Organized and Stay Healthy
This cannot be emphasized enough. If the business and products do take off, the last thing the
business needs is its team members to be unorganized and not contributing as needed. Here are some
best practices to keep the company organized and moving forward.
• Communication: All team members should be able to communicate via a clean channel such as
dedicated email addresses. Use folders and flags to keep messages organized if it is information
that will be needed in the future. Set up a weekly conference call or meeting (virtual or face to
face) for the first 90 days with all team members for sales updates, business news,
Page | 23 Business Strategy for Cannabis Products Courtesy of CMN
• Calendars, tasks and time blocking: Most email services offer a calendar that can be shared with
team members and used for organizing meetings, tasks and time-blocking. As a best practice,
complete week tasks at the end of the previous week and end each day with the next day’s task
with blocked time. This will allow your mind to rest at night.
• Keep all receipts and hire an accountant: Partner with an accountant to keep the company’s
finances in order. Make sure all receipts, purchase orders and the like filed and available for the
accountant’s quarterly and annual reports.
• Exercise, take breaks and get adequate rest. With the nerves that accompany a business launch
it’s easy to find comfort at the local pub instead of the local gym. This is not a good practice for
it will add stress to your body, lead to irregular sleeping patterns and pull energy from the
business. New businesses should be worked 60 hours a week and with a clear mind and full of
energy so keep the lifestyle clean and in good balance. This includes taking a day for fun so you
can remember why you are working so many hours.
Instructions for Worksheet
Worksheet notes: Be specific on how the team will communicate and how each person will keep
themselves organized with list of tasks and staying on point with deliverables. Outline a
communication plan on frequency and what will be covered. Find and contact an accountant or
alternative method of keeping up quarterly and annual reports along with tax reports.
Prepare a Work Breakdown and Timeline Inclusive of Dates, Tasks
and Milestones
So that now that you have all of your information and are ready to translate the tasks into a plan. In
project management, this is a called a work breakdown structure (WBS). At the top of the hierarchy is a
deliverable and the tasks are what needs to be completed for achieving the deliverable. When all of the
deliverables are completed, you have achieved a milestone. A perfect example of this would be the
Page | 24 Business Strategy for Cannabis Products Courtesy of CMN
website. Each of the web pages, creating a shopping cart, making revisions and verifying links are
accurate, are all tasks which when all completed, produce the deliverable. Completing the worksheet is
a deliverable in this business/product launch and finishing the worksheet sections are the tasks. When
all of those sections are completed, you have achieved the milestone of “market ready” which is when
the plan can be initiated. But if there is a critical date, such as trade show, the WBS will have to include
“due dates” so the project stays on schedule. Although the timeline can be slightly modified it should
like the illustration below. Tasks will be organized according to either dates or milestones. Although
milestones have dates of completion, many times those are pushed back or forward dependent on
many factors. At the same time, tasks such as sending out press releases cannot take place until the
website has been completed. Using sticky notes is a great way to organize the tasks in order, see this
video for a quick tutorial https://youtu.be/80c-LRRJ0W8 . After the tasks in regards to dates and
milestones is mapped out, sketch it out on paper or use software to display the visual chart of events
and tasks.
Page | 25 Business Strategy for Cannabis Products Courtesy of CMN
Example:
Page | 26 Business Strategy for Cannabis Products Courtesy of CMN
Final Thoughts
This concludes the strategy. There’s no way to say this easy, this is going to be a lot of work and with
a very competitive industry the key is persistence and patience. But with this guide, you are off to a
great start and will be light years in front of your competition and give current products a run for their
money. Best of luck in your ventures and have fun with it, it’s the best industry!

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CMN CANNABIS BUSINESS LAUNCH GUIDE

  • 1. Page | 1 Business Strategy for Cannabis Products Courtesy of CMN
  • 2. Page | 2 Business Strategy for Cannabis Products Courtesy of CMN Contents Introduction............................................................................................3 Industry Analysis ....................................................................................4 Legal Disclosure......................................................................................5 Create an Elevator Pitch.........................................................................6 Create a Mission Statement for the Business ........................................7 Complete a SWOT Analysis ....................................................................8 Identify and Define Target Audience .....................................................9 Identify Brand Advocates.....................................................................11 Complete Preliminary Sales Strategy...................................................13 Organize, Plan, and Engage Via Social Media Channels .....................16 Complete the Business’s Website.........................................................18 Fulfillment Process Overview...............................................................20 Formulate Budget and Identify Advertising Channels.........................21 Stay Organized and Stay Healthy ........................................................22 Prepare a Work Breakdown and Timeline Inclusive of Dates, Tasks and Milestones............................................................................................23 Final Thoughts......................................................................................26
  • 3. Page | 3 Business Strategy for Cannabis Products Courtesy of CMN Introduction Welcome. This guide is specific to launching a product in the cannabis industry. The cannabis industry is expanding at an exponential rate in the United States. What first started as a medicinal market is shifting to a recreational market across the United States and Canada. These public policies are predicted to spread to other states most likely AZ, CA, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada will become recreational states in 2016. In the majority of medicinal and recreational legal states if someone is allowed to partake they are also allowed to grow plants for their personal use or to share with others. In that, there are two different groups that products can be pointed at for products, those for consumers and those that are growers. This strategy is a tool that will help you organize, research, plan and initiate a strategy to launch your product into a very competitive market. Brand awareness, brand recognition are not created overnight but this plan will get you through the most crucial first 90 days of launch and put the business on the correct path for success. This strategy is a result a multiple product and business launches that I have either led or been a part of over the past several years. Using others and my own mistakes, missteps and successes I have ironed out this game plan that will help immensely. This is not as much advice but more of a “recipe” to follow but with your input since you know your business and product/service best. Take time and try not to skip any steps because there is a method to the madness. Let’s keep going. As a best practice, read through the entire strategy first and then start over while researching and filling out your worksheet on the second round. The second round should take you several hours for completion but will empower you and your team on knowing your business inside and out and mentally prepare you and your team for the launch. As you make your way through the strategy, at the end of each section there will be instructions of how to fill out the worksheet. From there, that information can be used on your timeline and then in your business plan.
  • 4. Page | 4 Business Strategy for Cannabis Products Courtesy of CMN Here’s the flow: Although this will take you some time to complete, as said before, you and others involved will have a firm understanding of what is happening, when it is happening and why it is happening. After the completion of the 90-day strategy, it’s time to roll. Although the first 90-days are the most crucial to get on track, that work will continue. Brand recognition and loyalty take time but keep steadily moving forward with persistence and patience, you are bound to get there. And although sometimes the sales don’t come in as fast as you want or in the quantity you were expecting, never lose faith and realize that you are doing something that only others dream about doing. And lastly, have fun with this, launching a new brand, product or business is a rare experience so enjoy it! Now, game on! Industry Analysis The cannabis industry is served by wholesale, retail and online channels. The industry is broken into two main groups which includes cannabis growers and cannabis users. Normally growers are also users but most users are not growers. Growers usually operate under state laws that protect cannabis for Read Section Complete Research Add information to worksheet If tasks need to be completed add to timeline Use information from worksheet in business plan
  • 5. Page | 5 Business Strategy for Cannabis Products Courtesy of CMN medicinal or in a growing trends, for recreational use. In most states that allow recreational use of cannabis, residents are also allowed to grow plants for their personal use. The existing recreational and medical cannabis industry is large and in 2006 it is estimated that 11.7 million plants were being grown indoors in the U.S. (DrugScience.org). And if the revenues for the recreational state of CO are scaled to the U.S. population the cannabis industry is estimated to be worth 40 billion dollars annually. That only includes the sale of flower and edibles but does not include the indoor growing supply market. In time, more statistics will be accessible but the preliminary numbers show the true size of this industry. In short, the cannabis industry is a strong, growing industry with large margins and plenty of potential. Legal Disclosure The cannabis movement/industry is expanding but the use of cannabis is still federally illegal (at least when this was written). Being that, selling a product for to grow or consume an illegal product is on the fringe of legality. Although the risk is much less than in the past there are areas of the country where this is a more sensitive item than other states, where it may be completely illegal. If the product is only being sold for medicinal or recreational uses in states that have adopted those laws, it’s extreme low risk. But if the product is being shipped over state lines, that falls into inter-state commerce which is federal jurisdiction, which still says cannabisis illegal. That is why you will note hydroponic/indoor growing stores normally don’t advertise that the equipment is for growing cannabis and why smoke shop bongs are for “smoking tobacco”. This is part of a game and a “code” if you will, for the industry. No one gets in trouble, everyone is making money but at the same time, everyone knows what the products are truly for, and that’s fine. So when designing marketing materials, selling to wholesalers and distributors and advertising, keep this in mind. Be creative, there are some fun ways to get around this caveat of the industry.
  • 6. Page | 6 Business Strategy for Cannabis Products Courtesy of CMN Create an Elevator Pitch This is essential because any team member needs to be able to pitch the business in a manner that is concise, powerful and will leave a lasting impression. The nine C’s for an elevator pitch are: • Concise. Keep the pitch succinct and clear, with as few words as possible. • Clear. The pitch should be easily understood by a layman, rather than filled with acronyms and industry terminology. • Compelling. What problem does your business solve, and what can you do for your target audience? • Credible. Spell out what makes you qualified to do what you do, without using buzzwords like "outside the box" or "synergy." Using credibility-driven words like "certified" will help sell you. • Conceptual. Keep your pitch broad; don't go into too many details. • Concrete. The pitch should be tangible and easily grasped by your audience. • Customized. Each target audience is different. The pitch should be tailored to the listeners. • Consistent. No matter how many versions of your pitch you have, they should all convey the same basic message. • Conversational. Start the conversation, and hook your target. Keep it casual, and don't try to close a deal in the pitch. Here’s an example: The Wicked Bud Pot is a revolutionary product that gives the urban farmer the ability to grow beautiful and lush plants without the time commitment and without the worry of over or under- watering their plants. For many, growing is alluring but the time commitment and complexity is
  • 7. Page | 7 Business Strategy for Cannabis Products Courtesy of CMN intimidating and for existing growers there are times when hectic schedules and other commitments may inhibit their ability to properly care for their plants. For both the novice and experienced, the Wicked Bud Pot delivers freedom, reliability and consistency that cannot be achieved by any other pot on the market. For retailers, the Wicked Bud Pot can be seen a retention tool in keeping customers that may fail and be disappointed in their growing experiences in the past. The Wicked Bud Pot is a product that can be offered as an alternative to the standard methods that consume more time with less consistency. Create a Mission Statement for the Business A company’s mission and mission statement is an enduring statement of purpose that distinguishes its business and products from competitors, identifies the scope of operations, exemplifies the business philosophy, and how the business image is to be portrayed to the public. The mission statement answers the first question of any business venture: What business is it in and what is the reason for being? The mission statement is the first step of identifying the direction of the company. Here’s an example: The Trusty Paper Products Co. is dedicated to providing quality, eco-friendly and dependable products to our customers. This is done by following strict requirements for material product sourcing to be environmentally friendly and our business to be conducted fairly, responsibly and with the highest level of integrity. We realize that our customers have choices but with our selection, outstanding service and responsible and high quality product sourcing practices we feel confident we will be their vendor of choice for all of their office equipment needs. STOP-Instructions for Worksheet Worksheet notes: Go to your worksheet and create a mission statement. This section can be skipped until the end if preferred but keep this in the back of your mind while moving forward.
  • 8. Page | 8 Business Strategy for Cannabis Products Courtesy of CMN Complete a SWOT Analysis A SWOT analysis is a brainstorm activity that requires an objective viewpoint that will be helpful with the business launch. This helps the business members understand and aware of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the business and product(s). It’s a good practice to do this exercise with each product if there is a major differentiation between products in your portfolio. Here’s some further guidance on each aspect of a SWOT analysis: • Strengths- The strengths has more to do with the internal strengths of the business and products versus external strengths of the product(s). Strengths can include superior product quality and price point compared to competitors, strengths relating to the leaders within the business and resources available. Avoid vagueness or embellishment to keep this specific and realistic. • Weaknesses- Just as with strengths, weaknesses are relating to the internal threats to the business and product rollout. This could include lack of resources in capital, marketing expertise or knowledge of the market the business is expanding into in the future. • Opportunities- Opportunities are also external as in the business being first-to-market, new changes in regulation that open markets, technological advantages of product, marketing campaign capital or having a niche in current markets to exploit. • Threats-Threats are external. These are threats for the business externally from other factors such as a saturated market, declining economy or new products that out-perform or are priced lower than the company’s product or service.
  • 9. Page | 9 Business Strategy for Cannabis Products Courtesy of CMN Instructions for Worksheet Worksheet notes: This is a brainstorming activity and it is recommended to complete with others, whether they are part of the business or just observers and looking at the business objectionably. Identify and Define Target Audience For marketing, advertising, messaging and merchandising it’s important to know who the audience is for the business and product(s). While this includes the final consumer, which is most important, the distributors, wholesalers and retailers are also included as the target audience. For the cannabisindustry in regards to products the target audiences are the following: Cannabis Users: This includes users of cannabis that do not grow cannabis. These individuals frequent cannabis lifestyle websites and social media channels. The cannabis users will be the primary focus of products that are for using cannabis. Example of genre of sites: www.hightimes.com; www.leafly.com • Geo locations of high concentrations of cannabis users: California (L.A. area, San Jose, San Francisco), Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Connecticut. Cannabis Retail: Dispensaries or similarly structured retail operations i.e. collectives, that dispense cannabis, inclusive of flower and edibles, to patients and/or legal residents. Smoke shops. Dispensary consulting companies. Cannabis Commercial Growers: Growers associated with legal commercial growing operations normally associated with a legal dispensary. Normally these operations take place in large greenhouses and warehouses that have been outfitted for large grow operations. Cannabis “home-based growers”/hobbyist growers: Growers that grow in their personal spaces for themselves and/or others. Normal plant counts are less than two dozen. This group frequents websites and forums that center on education, techniques, grow journals and new products strictly about
  • 10. Page | 10 Business Strategy for Cannabis Products Courtesy of CMN growing cannabis. This makes up the vast majority of growers and does not include commercial growers. Examples: http://www.rollitup.org/ http://www.growweedeasy.com/cannabis-grow-journals • Geo location to target: Entire U.S. but emphasis on California, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Connecticut, Michigan, Arizona, Montana, Maine, Rhode Island…states that allow patients/residents to grow. Growing Suppliers: Retail indoor and organic grow shops, both brick and mortar and online, and the distributors that supply those grow shops. The audience comprises of shop owners, managers and purchasing agents for distributors. • Primary geo location to target: Entire U.S. through distributors especially California, Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Michigan. • Secondary will be states that allow growing of plants by patients/residents limited to Connecticut, Arizona, Montana, Maine and Rhode Island. After identifying the target audience various criteria include purchasing behavior, levels of involvement, media consumption, lifestyle, and personality traits. Using stock images of your target audience as visual aids will help in designing marketing approaches, advertising and selecting content for your social media postings. Advertising and marketing needs to be laser-focused to be effective in this noisy world. So after the ideal customer is in mind, go into more detail of who they are including; age, lifestyle, living situations, married/single, hobbies, shopping patterns, frequented social media platforms and where they live. For example, if you have a smoking product you may identify your target audience as 18-25 men and women, living in high-density urban areas that regularly visit nightclubs and vape lounges, are in college,
  • 11. Page | 11 Business Strategy for Cannabis Products Courtesy of CMN shop online and through specific social platforms (Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook) and do most of their shopping in the evening from 10 pm to 1 am. Now using a tool, such as Nielsen, and using the zip code look-up feature you can identify if that zip code would have your target audience. Now, you have your target audience, their attributes and where they are more likely to live and shop. This will help immensely when you are launching any public relations, marketing or advertising campaigns. Beyond the end-user, the other target audiences may include distributors, retail shops and online distributors. Research and prepare a list of contacts beginning with retailers, then moving to distributors and then online distributors. That list will be utilized in the sales strategy. Instructions for Worksheet Worksheet notes: Write down your target audience(s). This is a very important section and the value will help further down the line when identifying advertising channels and other marketing activities. Imagine your customer sitting in the room when designing campaigns, it may sound peculiar but it does help to deliver great messaging. Identify Brand Advocates Brand advocates, as defined here, applies to people that will positively speak of, report to others and publish articles about the business and product(s). For adding validation, trust and increasing web traffic brand advocates are essential. They are non-vested participants that are endorsing or spreading the word about the business for no or limited compensation. These four types of advocates will give the business the most value.
  • 12. Page | 12 Business Strategy for Cannabis Products Courtesy of CMN • Testimonials-Testimonials are quotes from consumers of your product. Testimonials should include the person’s name, title, picture and any additional collateral e.g. before and after pictures, videos or other visual evidence of their experience with your product. • Online Buzz-Use the speed of internet to be the “digital word-of-mouth” for the business. There are multiple angles for spreading the word of your business via advocates, here are some options and examples. o Send out your products for review by others. Search online video sites for people that regularly try products in return for free product. In turn, they are producing content for their site and it will be collateral that can be highlighted on the business’s website. Included is an example letter that can be emailed or sent physically. After introduction, the letter should be concise and humble asking for them to review the product and post their results online. o Create and send out content for bloggers. Another avenue is to create content for other bloggers that puts your name out there and can be referenced. An example of this would be a “Top 10 List of New Clubs in Downtown Denver”. When you send out to bloggers ask for a plug on their social media channels in return for use of the content and to reference the business’s website. • Certifications or Official Endorsements – Professional and semi-professional organizations enjoy products that identify with their core values and common goals. For example, if you have a product that saves water, send a sample to a local water conservation group for trial. Have them use the product and give you a letter of endorsement. Include hashtags and the groups handle when announcing the achievement via social media. See below for fillable request.
  • 13. Page | 13 Business Strategy for Cannabis Products Courtesy of CMN • Press Release Agents – Press releases are one of the quickest methods of creating buzz about your product. Contact local business clubs announcing a new business in the community along with websites/blogs/social media pages that are part of the same industry. The secret of a good press release is that it is complete and “cut and paste” ready for the author. They are very busy people and don’t have time to ask for correct format, correct grammar and spelling errors or go searching for images. When emailing a press release kindly as for them to add the press release and deliver the prepared press release to them along with product images and logo. Instructions for Worksheet Worksheet notes: Complete this research by using internet searches and through existing networks. This will take some time but complete a thorough for each sub-group. Complete Preliminary Sales Strategy To be prepared for the launch of your business and product, a preliminary plan should be organized which will be initiated after the other milestones, which will be covered in the next section. The strategy should reflect the expected business mix and each target audience will have a unique approach. The business mix is expected percentages of product or business will be channeling through the different target audiences. An example would be; 20% direct purchase via website, 20% direct purchase through other selling platforms (Amazon, EBay, and Etsy), 40% direct purchase via trade shows and 20% via wholesale. Normally, the business mix will shift with time because as the product becomes more popular, others will want to make money on it so it will be picked up by new distribution channels. Now taking each of these customers in mind and what research shows of where they live, how they shop, what triggers them to committing to a purchase use that to put together your timeline of sales events and activities. Some ideas of sales activities can include:
  • 14. Page | 14 Business Strategy for Cannabis Products Courtesy of CMN • Sales calls to individuals or businesses. • Email campaigns to individuals or businesses. • Attending events with like-minded people and organizations either direct selling or networking for referrals or leads for direct sales. • Partnering with similar but non-competitive products or other businesses to share costs on marketing/advertising campaigns. • Using a referral marketing to drive traffic and convert with special offer or free with purchase offering. Also, reward referrers with discounted or free product. Note: Keep costs on sales activities low and increase with sales revenue. Persistence and patience cannot be replaced with costly sales activities. And don’t be afraid to “hit the streets” and physically get out and sell and market your business. As for distributors, retailers and online distributors the best method is to contact the buyers for the organization, pitch the product and send samples. Follow-up with email and phone calls and keep in mind this is a longer sales cycle. Any organization that is adding a product to the portfolio needs to have proof and believe in the product. It can be expensive in terms of money, time and space to take on a new product that may not move off the shelves. If there are sales records, show that the product has traction and can improve their organizations revenue. Here’s an example sales strategy a growing product which will help. Use this as a general template and note the detail for each target audience. Cannabis hobbyist growers: When the initial website is completed brand awareness and traffic activities will commence inclusive of the following activities and to the geo locations mentioned above: • Online marketplace (Amazon, EBay) goes live. • Send out press releases to growing forums, blogs, and publications (online and print). • Announce via social media inclusive of channels frequented by cannabis growers and users.
  • 15. Page | 15 Business Strategy for Cannabis Products Courtesy of CMN • Run banner ads on channels that are primarily focused on cannabis growers. • Request and arrange interviews on growing podcasts and media. Example: https://www.dfzradio.com/ • Begin social media activities and interaction aimed at cannabis growers. • The cannabis suppliers i.e. grow shops are the primary retail channel to the cannabis growers thus these activities will coincide with the sales strategy of cannabis suppliers. • Send out samples to committed growers for use in online video testimonials and journals. Results will be posted on growing forums. • Video(s) including one minute commercial and video with expansion of how the Wicked Bud Pot benefits growers and quick instructional will be filmed and added to site when completed. • Study analytics and other data to increase CTR and online sales. Start reproducing what is working and omitting what is not. Growing Suppliers: When the website is complete the following sales activities will begin: • Mass email campaign to grow shops in the U.S. The email will consist of valuable information about increasing their business and the announcement of the launch of the Wicked Bud Pot and the upcoming Indoor Grow Show attendance. • Contact distributors before show to set appointment times at the show. Mail samples as requested. • Indoor Grow Show booth. The booth is for awareness but primarily as a sales channel to retail grow shops and distributors. • Beginning the week after the show, telesales and follow-up calls will focus on introductory special for retailers. • Follow up calls and push on orders from distributors.
  • 16. Page | 16 Business Strategy for Cannabis Products Courtesy of CMN • Mass email is to be sent to emails collected at the show. • Phone sales will continue until exhausted. Cannabis Retail: Follow-up calls to dispensary owners and dispensary consulting companies met through networking events. Cannabis users: Sales activities for the Wicked Bud Pot is isolated to online social marketing. Cannabis Commercial Growers: Telesales to commercial growers in Colorado to introduce and show advantages of using Wicked Bud Pot for indoor and greenhouse commercial grow operations. So who is your target audience? Use the above as a template aimed at the target audience(s) for your product. Try to keep geo locations minimal to really “work” those areas before moving on to the next area. Instructions for Worksheet Worksheet notes: Keep it simple! Sales is a numbers game so the name of the game is to talk to as many people and organizations as possible. Don’t be too passive and always follow-up. Organize, Plan, and Engage Via Social Media Channels The story of how Lady Gaga grew her fan-base is a case study of how much impact social media can have on a product or business launch. After only four years of her debut album she had millions of fans via social media channels. Social media is not necessarily a direct line to top-line revenue but more so about building and engaging a community about the company’s products or services. It is also a means of ongoing communication of new products, promotions and events to your customers and people that promote your business. To make social media manageable and effective, follow these steps.
  • 17. Page | 17 Business Strategy for Cannabis Products Courtesy of CMN 1. Identify three social media platforms that you will use i.e. Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Try to match the social media with your audience and which channels they use. For instance, if your customers are younger 20s, early 30s you may substitute one of these channels with Instagram. Either way, decide which ones best fit and open your accounts. 2. Content, content and more content! Identify sources for content you will be able to grab anytime and share on your social media channels. For example, I use Reddit with a search of the genre of product I am working with at the time. There are also other sites that are similar and others that specialize in interesting images. Adding in original content is very important also and this can include blog posts, videos, pictures of the product in use and even some personal content to add to the human element. 3. Match the content to your audience. For example, if the product is the eco-friendly paper products your customers are probably interested environmental news, nature pictures, articles regarding sustainable business practices and the like. Build a library of links for quick access. 4. Assign responsibility, build a schedule and follow a formula of content for posting to social media platforms. For instance, the schedule may consist of posting once a day, twice a day, and five days a week. As for content, 80% of content should be useful and interesting to the audience. Posts regarding the business’s products or service should be limited to the remaining 20% of posts. 5. Referral marketing is a process of encouraging ambassadors of promoting your product for incentives. You can use website plug-ins and then promote via social media or email campaigns. There are also online software available that help with tracking and promoting the referral marketing campaign. This aspect will take research on the business’s part to see what fits best with their platforms and industry.
  • 18. Page | 18 Business Strategy for Cannabis Products Courtesy of CMN 6. Engage, engage and engage more. Use hashtags of trending events to gain a larger audience, keep information relevant to the audience and engage the audience. Using others usernames in posts will alert them of those posts which leads to them reciprocating by mentioning your business. Case studies show that social media leads to increased brand recognition, improved brand loyalty and lower marketing costs and that just the tip of the iceberg. Instructions for Worksheet Worksheet notes: Research which social media platforms the target audience use on a regular basis and then research how to gain traffic from each of those platforms. Then engage!!! Complete the Business’s Website A website is how the public will view the business and related products. It’s advised to use a professional if financially feasible. At the same time, there are a lot of user-friendly web designing services that are available to help create the website. Whichever the avenue the company decides there are some essential pieces that need to be completed before the launch of the business. If the website is an internal effort, use others for editing and readability. Wordiness and/or spelling mistakes can turn customers off quickly. These should not be overlooked and are the difference between a site being complete and not complete. Besides the obvious pages that cover the products and/or services the business offers, include these pages: • A company information page. This will include a brief description of the company which should include the mission statement. Also included should be the upper management team and brief humble biographies of each person. Photos of each team member will increase effectiveness. • A terms and conditions page. This is page of disclosure discussing privacy, the use of cookies, how collected information is used and protected and disclosure of acceptance of those terms if
  • 19. Page | 19 Business Strategy for Cannabis Products Courtesy of CMN a person is using the website. This is a legal protection for the company and is often overlooked by smaller businesses. • Return and cancellation policies. A page can be dedicated to this information or it is allowable to add this to the terms and conditions page also. The preference is a separate page for easier access by the customer. • Wholesale inquiry page with a contact form. If you will be accepting wholesale purchases through your website a password protected shopping page for wholesale customers is advised to protect from end-users getting through and discount buying products. • A media page is a page specifically designed for materials for anyone with the media, online or other. This will include prepared press release statements, product descriptions, instructions, product and other images that are high-resolution and can be downloaded quickly. This allows anyone from the media to have a toolbox of collateral at their disposal which will lead to more content being distributed. • Press and News pages. Press is for what others are releasing about the business and products while news is what the company is putting out as news about the company. • Blogs and Social Plug-Ins. A dedicated page is not required but the website is living and breathing and needs to have interaction and involvement. Verify each page has buttons for the social media channels you have chosen. • Testimonials page. Customers follow the same steps when online shopping; awareness, research, look for alternatives and finally commit to purchase or not to purchase. When testimonials are included in the website the research aspect is very accessible without leaving the website. The more the better and from sincere, real sources. Fake testimonials are easy to spot and may turn customers away from the product.
  • 20. Page | 20 Business Strategy for Cannabis Products Courtesy of CMN Instructions for Worksheet Worksheet notes: Look over the website and verify all of these pages and links are complete. Use the worksheet to create a checklist of what is missing and check it off as they are completed. Fulfillment Process Overview Fulfillment is one link in the chain that is sometimes overlooked until the first order arrives and then it’s too late. The fulfillment process should be outlined before the first order. Follow these steps and ordering and shipping process will be smooth and get your product to your customer quickly. 1. Identify the packaging to be used and get some supplies. Dependent on the size, weight and durability of the product make sure the packaging protects the product sufficiently. 2. Identify which carrier will be used for different quantities. It may discovered that if one product is ordered the post office may be the most economical choice while if a 100 are ordered, a private shipping company should be used. Use the carrier’s website to get quotes of different shipping scenarios and record the findings in a spreadsheet for future use. 3. If the product is large and/or the business will be soliciting retailers and distributors, open an account with a freight broker. This will save a lot of money and when the large orders do come in the company will be prepared. 4. Set a shipping schedule. It is recommended to ship the same day of an order, that is the expectation of today’s customers and they will appreciate the fast delivery. 5. Keep your customer in the loop. Most shopping cart web services allow for automatic emails to be sent when the order is received and processed that will include the package’s tracking information. Make sure to add a personal note thanking the customer for their business and to engage with the company via social media channels. See the following page for an example fulfillment process overview:
  • 21. Page | 21 Business Strategy for Cannabis Products Courtesy of CMN Instructions for Worksheet Worksheet notes: Using the above format, sketch out the process from when a customer makes an order until it is received. You may also add a 30 day follow-up with a coupon code for another purchase for this or another product and feedback. Formulate Budget and Identify Advertising Channels Many times the advertising budget, or lack thereof, for a start-up will define the channels available for advertising. With a small business, especially a start-up, it is a safe assumption that the majority of the advertising expenses at the beginning of any campaign will not generate more money than is spent. Waiting a few months after launch before advertising gives the company time to engage customers via social channels to build brand recognition and brand value which will result in a higher return-on- investment (ROI) on advertising expenses. That being said, the channels that will be used should be identified before the launch so a budget can be finalized and that money is reserved for allocation to advertising campaigns, which is crucial in the growth stage of the business cycle. When looking at the advertising options keep in mind your identified target audience and making sure that the advertising channel option is laser-focused on that target audience. Again, laser-focused. Channels that are too broad or only skirt on the fringe of target audience will not produce an acceptable ROI. If you hear from the advertiser the saying, “you have to spend money to make money”, kick them to the curb. That is a one-size-fits-all statement produced by advertisers that have never actually owned their own business. Order Placed Email Notification Received Email Notification Sent to Customer that order is in process Order to fulfillment Order Sent Tracking Inputted and emailed to customer
  • 22. Page | 22 Business Strategy for Cannabis Products Courtesy of CMN In a small business or start-up, advertising dollars need to be attached to campaigns that produce revenue. Be diligent and do a lot of research. One means of research is asking for an advertiser’s media package to explore the demographics their publication or website serve. That along with speaking to current customers and looking at the companies that have been successful advertising in that publication or website will also help. The cannabisindustry can be divided into two different advertising genres for the different target audiences. • Cannabis lifestyle publications, websites and the like. These are for cannabis users. They celebrate the use of cannabisand will be better for products designed for using marijuana. • Cannabis growing publications, websites, forums and the like. These are for cannabis growers, commercial growers and cannabis growing suppliers. This is the advertisers for products designed to help cannabis cultivation. Instructions for Worksheet Worksheet notes: Research and request pricing and media packages from the advertising channels that would best suit the business. With this information, the team can begin to formulate a plan inclusive of a budget and timeline. Stay Organized and Stay Healthy This cannot be emphasized enough. If the business and products do take off, the last thing the business needs is its team members to be unorganized and not contributing as needed. Here are some best practices to keep the company organized and moving forward. • Communication: All team members should be able to communicate via a clean channel such as dedicated email addresses. Use folders and flags to keep messages organized if it is information that will be needed in the future. Set up a weekly conference call or meeting (virtual or face to face) for the first 90 days with all team members for sales updates, business news,
  • 23. Page | 23 Business Strategy for Cannabis Products Courtesy of CMN • Calendars, tasks and time blocking: Most email services offer a calendar that can be shared with team members and used for organizing meetings, tasks and time-blocking. As a best practice, complete week tasks at the end of the previous week and end each day with the next day’s task with blocked time. This will allow your mind to rest at night. • Keep all receipts and hire an accountant: Partner with an accountant to keep the company’s finances in order. Make sure all receipts, purchase orders and the like filed and available for the accountant’s quarterly and annual reports. • Exercise, take breaks and get adequate rest. With the nerves that accompany a business launch it’s easy to find comfort at the local pub instead of the local gym. This is not a good practice for it will add stress to your body, lead to irregular sleeping patterns and pull energy from the business. New businesses should be worked 60 hours a week and with a clear mind and full of energy so keep the lifestyle clean and in good balance. This includes taking a day for fun so you can remember why you are working so many hours. Instructions for Worksheet Worksheet notes: Be specific on how the team will communicate and how each person will keep themselves organized with list of tasks and staying on point with deliverables. Outline a communication plan on frequency and what will be covered. Find and contact an accountant or alternative method of keeping up quarterly and annual reports along with tax reports. Prepare a Work Breakdown and Timeline Inclusive of Dates, Tasks and Milestones So that now that you have all of your information and are ready to translate the tasks into a plan. In project management, this is a called a work breakdown structure (WBS). At the top of the hierarchy is a deliverable and the tasks are what needs to be completed for achieving the deliverable. When all of the deliverables are completed, you have achieved a milestone. A perfect example of this would be the
  • 24. Page | 24 Business Strategy for Cannabis Products Courtesy of CMN website. Each of the web pages, creating a shopping cart, making revisions and verifying links are accurate, are all tasks which when all completed, produce the deliverable. Completing the worksheet is a deliverable in this business/product launch and finishing the worksheet sections are the tasks. When all of those sections are completed, you have achieved the milestone of “market ready” which is when the plan can be initiated. But if there is a critical date, such as trade show, the WBS will have to include “due dates” so the project stays on schedule. Although the timeline can be slightly modified it should like the illustration below. Tasks will be organized according to either dates or milestones. Although milestones have dates of completion, many times those are pushed back or forward dependent on many factors. At the same time, tasks such as sending out press releases cannot take place until the website has been completed. Using sticky notes is a great way to organize the tasks in order, see this video for a quick tutorial https://youtu.be/80c-LRRJ0W8 . After the tasks in regards to dates and milestones is mapped out, sketch it out on paper or use software to display the visual chart of events and tasks.
  • 25. Page | 25 Business Strategy for Cannabis Products Courtesy of CMN Example:
  • 26. Page | 26 Business Strategy for Cannabis Products Courtesy of CMN Final Thoughts This concludes the strategy. There’s no way to say this easy, this is going to be a lot of work and with a very competitive industry the key is persistence and patience. But with this guide, you are off to a great start and will be light years in front of your competition and give current products a run for their money. Best of luck in your ventures and have fun with it, it’s the best industry!