“Networking is an investment in your business. It takes time and when done correctly can yield great results for years to come.” — Diane Helbig
Networking is an essential key to your cannabis business success. The following discusses some of the best things you can do while networking in the industry to ensure your advancement and reputation moving forward. While we will go over the basics of networking in any industry. We also will deep dive into the nuances that make networking in the cannabis industry different compared to others. Following the age-old saying: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” The potential of your business and confidence in its success won’t mean much unless it’s presented in front of the right people. While establishing your brand and the face of your company, networking can create connections that can have lasting impacts on your business.
How to Find Cannabis Networking Events
With the past years’ lack of in-person events, finding and connecting with people can be difficult. Knowing where to look and how comfortable you are with interacting with people in person is an essential first step in recognizing how you want to approach your networking strategy.
If you don’t feel comfortable being in person there are still plenty of options for attending expos and conferences online. The key is to actively participate. It isn’t enough to just log on and watch different speakers. While you’ll learn the knowledge from watching a speaker. Actively posting comments and asking questions makes you stand out in the virtual crowd and lead to connections. Connections through LinkedIn and email can be just as transformative in the future of your business.
If you do feel comfortable networking in person make sure to attend as many local events as you can. Growing your network from home and continuing outward is one of the bests ways to go. Happy hours, meetups, and promotional events are a great way to meet many in your area that have great connections and knowledge of the industry. Join newsletters and Facebook and LinkedIn groups like ours (shameless plug) to keep up to date with events and local happenings.
Conferences and Trade Shows
If you are ready to expand beyond your local happy hours to Expos and beyond the state, lines make sure to check out some cannabis conferences. Depending on the type of business you are in, it can be more advantageous to simply walk the floor and listen to different speakers versus requiring a booth to display your product. Generally speaking, if you sell straight to consumers a booth to display your product is the way to go. Being able to demonstrate and let consumers have an in-person interaction with your product is invaluable. While being able to speak one on one with a customer can make the sale. Keep in mind if you have a booth you should always always have a person present if a passerby has questions. Seeing an empty booth on the show floor can appear careless and reflect badly on your business and brand.
However, if you’re an ancillary business or sell a service, it can be more cost-effective to walk the floor and make personal connections. Handing out reading material on your service or giving out cards to establish an initial connection can be more valuable to your brand and company. Really take time with your team to think about what will be the most beneficial to your business and how you can make attending the show worth buying the ticket or booth.
Networking Best Practices
Networking in person has its pros and cons. While the use of masks is still a reality in this day and age. It is important to make connections through the mask. Be aware of what people are comfortable with and how much interaction they are willing to have. I.e. handshake, interacting with no masks, etc. If you are back to normal wherever you may be. Always make sure to always have business cards on hand and maintain eye contact. Remember to use the person’s name in conversation. Individuals tend to feel more connected to a person when they hear their name more often and therefore will be more memorable when they go back through the business cards they acquired.
Do your homework. While it may be tough to know exactly who will be attending happy hour events. Conferences will provide maps and lists of speakers that will be presenting. Make sure to be aware of who you want to meet and connect with. While still remembering to interact with anyone who is willing to have a meaningful conversation. Writing off a solid connection just to maybe get a few minutes with the head honcho comes off as rude and you could also disregard someone just as important. Be mindful and authentic to who you are. Being in sales is essentially selling who you are! Coming off as pretentious or fake can create an immediate negative appearance with the person you are connecting with.
What Makes Cannabis Networking Different Than Other Industries
One of the biggest differences between cannabis and other industries is the legality of cannabis wherever you are networking. As many of you know hemp is federally legal under the Farm Bill of 2018. While certain different synthetically derived cannabinoids (Delta-8, Delta-10, THC-O-acetate) are technically legal being a hemp-derived product. It is important to know what is legal wherever you are. Delta-8 has become illegal in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, Idaho, Iowa, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, and Washington. But still remains legal in 30 other states. Having the knowledge of what is legal on the federal and state level is essential knowledge to have in your back pocket when networking at cannabis events.
It is also important to note that the cannabis industry is still a highly male-dominated field. Being a woman in cannabis means having to assert yourself to become a part of the “boys club”. While the landscape is constantly changing; the kinship and connections you might make networking with a fellow woman will help and make a big difference in the long run. While it can be incredibly intimidating to join different groups, go to networking events, and put yourself out there. 9 times out of 10 it will turn into meaningful connections that will help you and your business to succeed, regardless of the ratio of men to women.
Be true to who you are and stand tall. As this industry continues to grow and move toward federal legalization it is incredibly important to have multiple perspectives and input from those other than the majority in Washington DC. Working on the best way to create a solid system for cannabis legalization.
Best Industry To Network
In my personal experience, networking within the cannabis industry means becoming a part of a group that is personable and accepting. Following networking best practices while understanding the difference in cannabis networking vs. more established industries can ensure you create your own network of people. Each with the knowledge to continually set you and your business up for fully compliant success. Whether you are starting local or expanding out to a nationally recognized conference the size of the event doesn’t matter. It is staying authentic and making meaningful connections that can happen anywhere. The best way to network in the cannabis industry is to continue to show up and meet people throughout the entire supply chain of the industry. Whether ancillary or consumer-facing, understanding that everyone you meet in this industry is working to instill a strong sense of legitimacy and compliance to build a solid industry.
Teagan is the Communications and Engagement Manager for 710Spirits® and Rocky Mountain Reagents. While continually learning about the cannabis industry and all the possibilities it has to offer she creates content for The Canna Consortium both for blog posts and social media. Make sure to check out @thecannaconsortium for all industry updates and news.