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How to Make Your Dispensary A Success in a Sea of Competitors

We’ve talked a lot about standing out; standing apart from your competition. Differentiating your business is crucial in certain states and cities where licenses are being issued and you know it’s only a matter of time before your competitors are popping up in droves.

That’s why catching the eye of clients is always the first goal. Keeping them and transitioning them into long term, loyal brand snobs who bring their friends and tell their families. That’s the end goal!

So How Do You Make the Magic Happen?

Some questions you may be asking yourself: Why should a customer choose your dispensary over another? How can you stand out when you can’t even get fair banking or access to normal advertising space? How can you compete with the big box MSO types, when you only have one location and four employees?

Here’s the answer….

1. Be Unique. Are you all about wellness and education? Or the working class with a focus on farm to body? Party scene with a bold voice on social reform? It doesn’t matter what your WHY is. What matters is that you say who you are in everything you do. Every. Single. Time.

From the ever-important social media to packaging your store design. It should all look like a mirror of who you are and what your brand represents.

I frequently hear the term “Apple Store” when talking with potential clients about what they envisioned for their space. The Apple Store-inspired space used to be the gold standard of cannabis dispensary design, because it seemed fresh, new and the complete opposite of the shady shops of the past. But in a sea of “Apple Stores,” you have the opportunity to make your dispensary stand out. Be Unique.

Sungrown Studio is a great example of this. We are a 100% virtual cannabis retail interior design firm. This is where we excel, what we do best, and we’ve built an impeccable reputation and brand for ourselves. We love our clients and we stay true to who we are – a badass, women-led design firm. 

2. Hire a Brand Manager who can give you solid direction and establish your brand voice. A good branding professional will listen closely to you, take your cocktail napkin doodles and work up a plan to make sure all your assets align with your vision. Instead of randomly picking a pre-designed logo and website theme,  hire a professional who’s invested in helping you connect with the customers you wish to attract. 

3. Look forward. Huge changes have taken place in the last few years as far as how customers shop, what states will allow, and which products are taking over. So if you want to stand out over other dispensaries, be prepared to adjust to new trends in the industry.

For example, cannabis beverages are huge now, largely in part to the shift in people no longer drinking alcohol. Psilocybin, microdosing, and boomer-care are all coming fast down the pipeline as well. If you’re already the BEST psilocybin dispensary in the area and you can educate soccer moms on dosage and wellness, you’re set! Home delivery? Hospice delivery? It’s these types of crystal ball ideas that will set your dispensary up for long-term success.

However, looking forward doesn’t just mean keeping an eye on strains and consumption methods. Looking forward also means finding a new way for customers to shop. It could even be tech or AI platforms in which products are saved and rated for future purchases and recommendations. 

Looking forward is providing enough value to your customers that it builds lasting relationships that grow your brand.

4. Check Out The Competition. When I have a kickoff call with a new client, I gauge whether or not they know who their competition really is and how much diligence they’ve done understanding what they’re doing in the cannabis space. Googling is a minimal effort. I highly recommend making a purchase at the competitor’s store. Get an inside look at how the budtender interacts, what was good about the experience, and what could be better. Anything you see that needs work is exactly what your store should blow out of the water. Think of the experience from your first step in the door all the way to the product quality. 

When I first started designing dispensaries in 2019, I went to a big name dispensary – supposedly the best there is. I waited outside in the freezing cold for 15 minutes to have my ID scanned by a security officer. Then, I stood in a line and had my order taken on an iPad. Where was the product info? Good question. They had branded shirts on the wall, but no product information.

The employee could only recommend what they had in stock at the time, and did not have a clue what an insomniac needed. Afterwards, I was pushed through a metal door into a small room where I paid for my purchase, was handed a child proof zip-lock bag and sent out the door onto the sidewalk. There was a man on crutches in front of me who went through exactly the same experience as me. 

This was the best dispensary in the neighborhood?? Whoa.

From this point forward, I’ve always done my homework to ensure I design not only for sales and traffic, but for comfort of the guests, employees, and, people of varying abilities – always. You have to look at your competition. If you don’t know where they fall short, you’re never going to be the best. 

5. Market Yourself. Stop being afraid of being shadow-banned on Instagram. Get out there and make some noise about your business. Sponsor a cause you care about, talk about cannabis, and share what you know. Get on a speaking panel at conventions and make connections. Cannabis is a social industry, so passively sitting behind your counter isn’t going to increase brand-awareness.

You want to stand out, so you’re going to need to stand up.  

Some of my favorite brands have a beautiful store, but also a beautiful voice. They speak to me through their fun and unique content, images and reels. Not to mention, they’re pounding the pavement for social equity and other causes I’m passionate about. I love when I buy a product from someone who shares their knowledge and the science behind the process. It’s not about having the biggest square footage or the best window display. Do you have a special family-owned grower? A grandma and auntie making amazing edibles? Are you partnered with 40 Tons? Does a portion of your sales go to epilepsy research?  Well – shout it from the rooftops and market the hell out of your dispensary! 

Sungrown Studio creates beautiful cannabis dispensaries that drive revenue and customer loyalty for female and minority-led businesses. If you’re ready to take your branding to the next level and stand out from the competition, schedule a call with our team. We’ll be happy to help!