This week’s Trailblazer is Nicholas Paschal, CEO of Alpine IQ, a company that develops internal tools to facilitate everything from SMS campaigns to business analytics and enterprise M&A diligence instruments for cannabis companies.
Questions with a Cannabis Marketing Trailblazer
When did you first become involved in the cannabis industry and why?
I was in the midst of selling another business and my brother was working at Tilray. I had been exposed to the space in the past through ancillary partners but not directly. I started asking questions about data compliance at LP’s and how they would manage cross-provincial problems in the marketing world. We found a lucrative gap and we engaged our engineering teams.
What has been the biggest marketing challenge you have faced when working with cannabis companies/brands?
Getting retailers and brands up to speed with bleeding-edge strategies. When we first entered the market I felt like we were competing against Windows 95, I don’t even care to look at our competitors at this point. Everyone just took junk they couldn’t make work in blue-chip industries, relabeled it cannabis tech, and started selling. That or they waited three years and bought up a bunch of companies with exhausted investors, smashed the products together, overfunded, and now they have little to no innovation and are running out of capital. That’s just not going to fly anymore, we are mainstream and the flood gates are opening.
”Recently with COVID a lot of these physical store retail experts had to become overnight internet gods with little to no experience.
On one end of the spectrum you’ve got guys like Andy Palalas from HighTide running a clinic on his competitors and then you have the mom and pop shops that need someone to trust so they don’t get left behind. It’s sort of like training your grandma how to be a successful TikTok influencer.
If you could change one of the current Canadian or American marketing restrictions on cannabis, which would it be?
The obvious answer is to allow loyalty programs, online, delivery for every province but I would also have to say for provinces to step up their game to shut down black market retail shops. The fact that taxed law-abiding retailers are getting pushed off of the block by individuals completely ignoring the rules and even running Instagram ads with zero enforcement blows my mind.
In your observation, what marketing techniques or channels have been most effective for cannabis companies looking to connect with consumers?
As a blanket statement I would say that using proper intelligence tools to discern your ideal physical world locations for influence is key. You can be successful with billboards, banner ads, SMS, print, email, and SEO like any other industry. But how you do it is where you separate yourself from the pack.
”The most effective strategy right now is to not waste capital by doing blanket cookie-cutter marketing campaigns.
Don’t blast out promos to your entire customer base twice a month. That makes zero sense in 2020. This industry isn’t in the wild west anymore. You have to decide if you’re going to be Blockbuster and stick to your OG lazy strategies or if you’re going to adapt to compete in the new world. You need experienced individuals leveraging data to position you exactly where your customers need you to be.
What is one tip or piece of advice you would give to marketers looking to enter the cannabis industry?
When you’re interviewing, make sure the current tech stack allows you maximum flexibility to do your job effectively. If they don’t have a tech stack or it’s a retail operation, make sure the POS has an open API so you can at least automate and power one. You wouldn’t believe how many people are trapped in long term contracts with junk POS systems just because there wasn’t another option at the time.
A big thank you to Nicholas for participating as this week’s Trailblazer! Stay tuned for another interview with a cannabis marketing Trailblazer next Thursday in the ADCANN blog.
Interested in working with one of these talented cannabis marketers? Check out our Agency Directory for a list of all the agencies that specialize in working with cannabis companies.