Best Practices

Positioning Your Dispensary for Greater Profit

Your brand position is how people know your business and distinguish it from others

Before you can position your business for greater profit, you need to create a brand position in the marketplace. Developing a brand position is part of the marketing plan you need to go to market effectively. A brand position is the essence of and defines your business. It is your business’ competitive standing within the sector as perceived by your customers and would-be customers.

That means that when someone sees your business name they automatically recall what your business stands for. It could be excellent customer service, a friendly and welcoming atmosphere, the best variety of products, a satisfaction guarantee, or something else that uniquely sets your business apart from your competition.

Your brand position is how people know your business and distinguish it from others. This understanding should resonate with your customers and contribute to why people do business with you.


What is Your Unique Selling Proposition?

First, figure out your point of difference. What are your business’ unique attributes and what sets it apart from your competitors? What is it that attracts customers to your store? The attributes you provide must be those that the customer wants or needs and that they can only  get when doing business with your store.

Assume for a moment that you and your competitors carry approximately the same kinds of products – that makes the in-store experience the chief differentiating factor. What are you going to do differently in your store to attract people to your store and keep them coming back?



Target Audience

Not all customers are created equal. Do analysis to determine what attributes your really good customers have. Then focus on marketing to that group. Brands tend to please certain customers, so nurturing those with the highest rate of return are those on which you should focus.



Get to know your competition in order to see how you stack up against their in-store experience. It is important to understand what your customers are seeing and what choices they have beside what you are offering.


Brand Positioning Examples

For instance, Nordstrom originally built their business on superior personalized service. They offered personal sales assistants, would ship recommended clothing regularly for consideration, did not charge for shipping and took product back without complaint. Home Depot positioned its business on the extraordinary warehouse full of a variety of products coupled with available training to enable do-it-yourselfers and expand their market beyond professional contractors. Domino’s Pizza put itself on the map initially by promising immediacy – delivery within 30 minutes or the product was free.



Superior Service Position

As a consumer yourself, you have undoubtedly had your share of good and bad customer service experiences. In a good experience, you either encountered no problem or, if such a circumstance arose, your interests or concerns were promptly acknowledged. Someone took the time to really listen and then made a strong effort to resolve the issue to your satisfaction.

A bad experience feels like something akin to a betrayal or a broken trust. Plus, news of a bad customer service experience reaches twice as many ears as praise for a good service experience. And it takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one bad one. While it’s not possible to resolve each and every situation, making the extra effort to try is what makes customers believe in you.

According to a 2011 American Express Survey, 78% of consumers have bailed on a transaction or not made an intended purchase because of a poor service experience.

Clearly offering a good customer service experience is important, if not critical to business success.

That means there is a huge opportunity to offer great customer service, the kind that attracts people to your store and helps to develop loyalty. But great customer service shouldn’t always be reactive – it can and should also be proactive.


If considering gaining a competitive edge through superior personalized service, you may wish to explore an option designed to encourage your good customers to become your “best” customers by creating a “concierge” service that assists customers and automatically recommends products on a regular basis based on what has been purchased to date. Amazon has done this with great success across product categories simply by recommending additional purchases based on recent purchase history.

Building a database that contains all customer information, including their purchase history makes this possible, which is why it should tie in with your POS system and enable you to address “new” or “featured” product to the appropriate people.

Because superior service also means standing behind your product, that is why it is important to have return arrangements with manufacturers and even growers/distributors if a product fails to live up to or perform in the way in which it was represented to you.


Friendly & Welcoming

A number of businesses now require employees to “welcome” each customer on arrival with the goal of making them feel more comfortable in the store. But often, this can come across as a hollow gesture. For instance, Staples employees do this, but the effort falls short of making customers “feel” welcome because there is no follow up. Customers are left to fend for themselves. There is no proactive sales associate/customer engagement.

Conversely, to improve the customer experience and prevent an overwhelming number of customers from walking out without having made purchases, Home Depot has positioned a greeter at each store entrance whose job it is to identify the purpose of the customer visit and immediately provide directions to find what the customer is looking for. This is a bona fide welcome, engages the customer immediately and improves the shopping experience.


And, up until the recent kerfuffle in one of its Pennsylvania stores, which has subsequently damaged their brand position, Starbucks had successfully made “friendly and welcoming” synonymous with its brand. Customers were not only welcomed upon entry, but, tacitly invited to stay at their leisure with their electronic devices to take advantage of charging stations built right into the furniture, or positioned nearby.

What happened at Starbucks is a real life lesson in the need for a consistent approach in order to support a brand position. Expelling customers who were waiting for someone to join them was not only at odds with their position, but undermined the long-standing investment the company had made in its position.

You know from your own experience that getting to know customers and welcoming them by name makes an even better impression when asking what product you can help them find today.


Best Variety of Products

One of the most successful marketing strategies used across retail categories, to showcase product variety, (e.g., books, records, food, etc.), is the creation of a “product of the month club.” This strategy is a great way other retailers have found to encourage customers to sample different “featured” products. Such a program also ensures a continuous revenue stream by offering a perceived value for what is essentially a pre-fixe menu of products paid for monthly. Not only does such an offer educate customers about the different products you carry, it brings them back to the store regularly, and can be a wonderful idea for gift giving.

Categorizing products by solution is another way to present product variety and allows customers to see at a glance which products are relevant to their needs. Taking this a step further and actually packaging entire solutions, (e.g., oils or leaves, along with the delivery system), enables customer to better envision what a purchase should entail – and usually means a higher average sale.



About the Author

Phil Cohen

Philip M. Cohen is CEO of CMN Holdings, Inc. and their subsidiaries, Cannabis Medical Network, a digital media network airing in cannabis doctors waiting rooms and Cannabis Lifestyle Network, airing in dispensary waiting rooms. Phil has operated a dozen ad supported digital signage networks in doctor offices and at retail since 1985 and is a past Chairman of the Digital Signage Federation. 


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