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Social Responsibility Is the Heart of the Cannabis Business

In most industries doing good is a choice or perhaps a marketing tactic. In the cannabis business it is what your customers demand.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Having a positive impact is an absolute prerequisite for running a successful cannabis business.

Chen Li | EyeEm | Getty Images

When policy moves too slowly to catch up to the problems we face in society, I believe that companies have a humanitarian duty to affect change. Those that do will see the benefits of an engaged customer base. Those that don’t will fade into irrelevance.

After my brother passed away from an overdose in 2016, I felt compelled and motivated to do something about the opioid crisis. There is a lot of promise for cannabis-derived products to treat both the physical and mental side effects of addiction. I had a gut feeling at the time that cannabis and CBD would change the way the world thinks about self-care and recovery. I ran with it. So far, the journey has taught me so much about what it means to give back.

Far from being just another trend, the opioid epidemic is something real and tangible that has touched the lives of millions. Mine and my brother’s story belongs not only to us, but to so many others out there searching for solutions. The same is true for most of the big issues of our time. Everywhere you find problems, you will also find people in solidarity with one another.

Today’s breakout brands have an opportunity, and a responsibility, to help others. Here’s how it all ties together to boost a bottom line that you can be proud of.

Related: Why These Teenage Girls Started a CBD Lifestyle Brand

Purpose defines your brand.

Integrating social impact into your business is more than just charity. It helps create a timeless story. For better or worse, it gives you something to talk about as a brand, besides yourself.

The age of social media has given rise to the narcissistic brand identity. To sell a product or service, it’s assumed that a company has to post constantly on social media - oozing cool and confidence while playing to what’s popular in the moment.

Rather than going around in circles with what your competitors are all scrambling to accomplish, design your brand around the benefit it creates. Have a real story. Share the unique thought process, philosophy and ultimate mission behind the business. This can be done through blog posts and articles, social media, videos and other art forms to proudly and robustly put your purpose on display.

Your story may not click with every reader or viewer, but for those who relate, it can strike an emotional chord and form the kind of relationship that businesses thrive on.

Related: The Particulars of Marketing Your Cannabis Business: Experts Share Their Secrets

The best customers care

As a new brand just starting up, it’s vital to build not only a fan base, but a community. Cultivating a devoted group of supporters is easier when you align with them psychologically, not just aesthetically.

People may become fans of your brand, products or services early on, but what happens when a competitor comes along with a cheaper or more attractive offer? How do you build true loyalty beyond that initial “like” or follow?

More than ever, consumers are searching for ways to be ethical with their purchases to support people and causes they care about. The best way to turn latent observers into brand evangelists is to show that your brand cares about those causes, too.

This isn’t to say that you should hop on all the bandwagons to earn relevance with customers. Seek an issue that not only affects your core audience, but something that your company can tangibly help with, either through education and awareness, or monetary donation.

How you go about it also counts. Will you donate a percentage of sales to the cause, support specific organizations, or sell special edition products to create awareness as well as donations? Whatever you choose, it should resonate with your customers’ values and habits.

It’s simple: customers are more likely to switch to, and stay with, a brand that gives back. As entrepreneurs, our stories and solutions are meant to be shared.