When it comes to developing cannabis-infused products, manufacturers and brand owners should keep two customers in mind: the retail buyer and the end user.
That’s according to Rebecca Maestas, a 14-year cannabis industry veteran who got her start developing glycerine-based tinctures and helped Dixie Brands run its first retail channel for its hemp-derived CBD products before becoming director of marketing.
Maestas now serves as brand development manager for LivWell Enlightened Health, a vertically integrated cannabis retailer based in Colorado. She presented her expertise in understanding customer needs — for both the business-to-business and business-to-consumer channels — during Cannabis Products Exchange, hosted virtually April 27-28.
Maestas recommended developing “buyer personas” for potential retail customers — semi-fictional representations based on market research and real data about existing customers. She suggested including demographic information, behavior patterns, motivations and goals.
For example, Maestas proposed asking the following questions:
- What is their job title? Are they decision makers for their organizations?
- Which topics or products interest them?
- How often do they purchase?
- What are their business goals?
- What is preventing them from achieving their goals?
“The more detailed, the better,” she said. “That way you can really drill down into those segments.”
Maestas also pointed to the importance of winning over budtenders. During her tenure with Dixie Brands, she developed the Secret Society of Budtenders to endear them to Dixie Brands products. The initiative drew in more than 4,000 budtenders across five states.
“(Budtenders) are some of the most influential people in the cannabis space because they truly do call the shots at the point of sale, and they will make or break a brand or product,” Maestas said.
Though direct-to-consumer isn’t available for THC-infused products, customers can buy CBD products anywhere across the U.S. Additionally, delivery services are gaining traction in developing
To be successful in this channel, Maestas recommended framing their interests, goals, and motivations in a similar way. Specifically, how do they get information during product searches? What drives their decision-making process?
Whether customers buy products online or in dispensaries, they typically fall into one of several categories. Maestas provided nine buyer personas under the umbrellas of light, moderate, and heavy cannabis use.
- Social opportunists (17%): Use a few times or less per year, usually in a social setting
- Silver dabblers (14%): Typically men, who live alone and use a couple times per month or less to relax or in social settings. They’re typically long-time smokers
- Infrequent conservatives (9%): Older, recreational consumers who use a few times or less per year,. They’re typically married, retired, and prefer joints/flower.
- Medical purists (12%): These consumers often use CBD, particularly edibles, on a daily basis for medical and wellness purposes, such as pain management, anxiety and sleep.
- Weekend enthusiasts (11%): In their early 40s, these consumers are parents who consume frequently to decompress, chill out, and enjoy their free time.
- Discreet undwinders (8%): Typically women and mothers of adult children, these consumers turn to CBD for relaxation, stress relief and pain management.
- Traditional lifestylers (14%): As older millennials and young professionals, this diverse group of consumers are usually single and use cannabis daily. They’re often high spenders.
- Modern lifestylers (10%): These young consumers have large incomes and use a variety of products for many reasons
- Functional dependents (5%): These consumers are young but are legacy cannabis consumers. Often hard partiers, they spend at least $100 per month on cannabis products.
Maestas also pointed to the importance of considering the four Ps: product, price, place, and promotion.
The product, or the solution, Maestas said, is intended to fulfill a customer demand or “may be compelling enough to create a new demand.” She added it’s critical that sales drive production so manufacturers and brand owners aren’t left with unsold products, and by extension, expensive ingredients, sitting in warehouses.
“You want to work really closely with your sales organization to ensure that they are driving the sales and the production is coming up to meet those needs,” Maestas said.
Meanwhile, price should reflect real and perceived value, but it should also also consider supply costs, seasonal discounts, and competitors’ prices. In terms of place, the goal is to get products in front of consumers where they’re most likely to purchase them, Maestas said.
Promotions, including advertising and public relations, should highlight why consumers need the products and why they should pay for it.
Maestas also noted developing relationships with data partners such as BDSA, Headset, and Leaflink is key to keeping a pulse on the market.
“Make sure the data sources that you’re using are really accurate and provide a holistic picture,” she said. “In cannabis you can quickly become irrelevant, where you’re here today and gone tomorrow. You really want to make sure you stay on top of all these trends.”