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8 Steps To Making Your Brand Stand Out

Despite being a nascent market, the cannabis industry is already overcrowded. Here are some ways to differentiate yourself.

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Sure the cannabis industry is new and “sexy” to entrepreneurs and customers alike. But there’s also a problem with its surging popularity: Competition is intense.

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If you launch a new dispensary or other types of cannabis businesses in a state that has recently legalized cannabis for recreational or medical purposes, you’ll likely deal with dozens of other similar businesses in the same area. How can you remain competitive and win over your shared target audience?

There are obviously many potential answers to this, but almost all of them have to do with brand differentiation.

Related: Cannabis Branding Strategy Do's And Don'ts

Branding in cannabis is infinitely more complicated than any other industry. Here are some tips on how to navigate its

What Is brand differentiation?

Brand differentiation is the process of making your brand distinguished when compared to other brands. In this scenario, when customers see your brand, they shouldn’t think that it’s “just another” cannabis dispensary. They should see it as something different, and preferably, something better.

Without brand differentiation, brands blend together creating a kind of white noise. All businesses within a certain industry would seem the same; for example, there would be no real difference in eating at a McDonald’s versus an Arby’s. Of course, each of these brands offers a slightly different food experience, with different marketing messages and a different overall “feel.” This is because of brand differentiation. So instead of seeing every restaurant as variations of the same structure, we might pass up a Subway specifically to get to an Arby’s across town.

In the cannabis world, this can be incredibly powerful. You’ll stand out from other competitors, and hopefully, attract a consistent stream of customers because of it.

While brand differentiation is a complex and nuanced topic, we can think of it as a two-step process.

Step #1: Be different

A simple name for your company like “Good Cannabis Company” might be easy to think of and straightforward to build around, but it’s neither unique nor memorable. Instead, when creating your business plan, spend some time figuring out what your brand stands for. What name do you want? How do you want to be seen? There’s room for expansion and experimentation here, but you have to start with a solid foundation.

Step #2: Identify your audience

Who are your customers? Sometimes, you can easily distinguish your brand by capitalizing on a different audience segment. Some brands are targeted exclusively at women. Other brands market themselves to the baby boomer generation. Pick a demographic. Sometimes it's better to target than to be everything for everybody. 

Step #3: Research your competitors

You’ll need to undergo competitive research to see who your competitors are (and how they’re billing themselves). Once you know how the competition is operating, you can try to make your brand unique in one or more of these dimensions:

One straightforward approach is to adjust your pricing to be more competitive. Consider offering lower rates than your competitors, or packaging your products and services in a way that allows you to set more appealing prices. Obviously, this may cut into your profit margins, and may not be

Related: The Hottest Cannabis Brands Of The Week (4/4 - 4/10)

Step #4: Offer a quality product or a unique location

You can make a name for yourself by offering higher-quality products. If you offer a wider selection of strains; or employ more quality checks, you can ensure your customers get exactly the type of product they’re looking for.

If you're opening a dispensary, your location also plays a role in how your brand is differentiated. Can you offer small locations throughout the city to improve convenience and accessibility? Can you build a location somewhere nobody else is currently competing?

Step #5: Ace your customer service

Customer service is another meaningful way you can distinguish your brand. When customers shop with your business, do they feel a connection to your brand? Do they feel like they’re getting the assistance and support they need to make the right decisions?

Step #6: Become experts

With so much regulation and restrictions in the cannabis industry, it's difficult for customers to get the information they need. That's why some brands choose to differentiate themselves via expertise. They become authorities in their field, building trust by offering customers the best, most detailed education.

Step #7: Innovate

Ask yourself: Is there a way you can build on the formula of your business and innovate. Can you offer a new product, a new service, or a different way of doing things?

Step #8: Identify your voice

Though marketing in the cannabis industry is somewhat restricted, you can convey a unique brand tone or voice in your customer messaging that sets you apart. You can also create a public personality that is both recognizable and trustworthy—like an old friend.  

Make sure you back up all your brainstorming and conceptual work with real data. For example, you can survey your customers and measure their responses to different angles taken by your brand, and figure out which approaches they like most. Eventually, you’ll end up with a unique blend of qualities that no other competitor can match—and your cannabis business will have a fantastic chance of standing out from the crowd.