Event marketing is an effective way for cannabis businesses to reach new audiences and build loyalty among existing customers. Whether you’d like to attend and have a booth at an event, sponsor or even host your own cannabis event, these tips will help guide you through the event planning process and execution.
If you’re new to cannabis event marketing, you may think that opportunities for cannabis businesses to participate in events are limited. In reality, there are many opportunities...and this article will help you find them. This blog will guide you through the best practices of planning and running an event as a dispensary or cannabis business. From how to use a customer relationship management (CRM) software to boost your event’s success to frequently missed considerations, these tips will help you run a more successful event. If you’re a medical dispensary, I also highly recommend you read, “Why Events Are Crucial For Medical Dispensary Marketing.”
Step 1: Finding Event Opportunities
Whether you’re interested in attending or sponsoring an event, the first question you may have is, “What events can I get involved in as a cannabis business...and how?” In any case, you’ll likely need to start out with some research. A good place to start your research is, of course, within the cannabis industry. Look into what events cannabis publications like High Times or Sensi have planned. You can also look for cannabis events or tourism companies, such as My 420 Tours.
Other industries to consider are entertainment, food and beverage, and the music industry. Sponsorship spots are also abound in the event industry – such as for club parties, concerts, or fashion shows. Any festivals or local events that target an adult audience are worth looking into. You can often identify these if there will be alcohol served. When you reach out to a representative for the event, just be sure you’re transparent and ask them right off the bat if it’s a problem at all that you’re a cannabis business. In more cases than you'd think, this is completely fine...as long as you assure them you will not be bringing any product on-site.
Once you’ve identified some opportunities, you’ll next want to compare them. Some will be more expensive but may target a better audience, or give you more exposure. So you just need to ask yourself, “Is it worth the investment?” It’s usually a good idea to establish what your budget is early on in the process, as this will help you compare events and select which ones you’d like to get involved in.
Hosting an Event
If instead, you’re interested in hosting an event, your first step will be to figure out what exactly that event is, and how it will benefit your businesses. Examples of events to host include a grand opening or launch party, customer appreciation days, philanthropic events and patient education days. One downside is that in some cases hosting an event can be quite expensive. Therefore, before you start your deep-dive into planning, lay out your budget. The major costs that will come into play are venue (if it’s needed), marketing and promotion of the event, and staffing. On the plus side, you have complete control over your audience.
Step 2: Planning a Successful Event
Organizing all necessary tasks into a checklist is a best practice in event planning. This will help you keep track of all the little odds and ends that can easily be forgotten. You can divide your checklist into four categories: materials and resources, staffing, promotion and other logistics.
Starting with materials, some items to add to your list are swag, booth or table materials, collateral, and activities. Swag is something you will definitely want to have at your booth. It will help increase traffic to your booth and build brand awareness. I would advise you to order more swag than you think you need. After all, you can always use anything that’s left over at a future event.
Depending on the venue and your setup, some things you’ll likely need to set up your booth are tablecloths, banners, a prize wheel or other game, and an iPad for Checkin. At your booth, your Checkin tablet will allow you to collect contact information from event attendees. If you plan to have music at your booth, prepare that playlist ahead of time. Make sure it’s ‘on brand’ and fits the vibe you’re going for, as music can have a big impact on mood. Another way to lure people to your booth is with food! Just make sure to coordinate this ahead of time with the event staff. Once all materials have been accounted for, you can then focus on staffing.
Create a staff schedule in advance to make sure you have enough staff manning your booth at all times. Not only will you need staff to run the booth or event, you’ll also need them to help you with setup and cleanup. Don’t forget that if you have heavy materials or too much stuff to fit in your car, you’ll need to coordinate assistance with transporting these materials to the venue and back. Another important element to staff is training. Coordinate a training session to review the staff schedule, responsibilities and expectations.
Finally, plan out all logistics ahead of time. While these are often the small things that could be configured last-minute, they can pile up and cause unnecessary chaos. Make sure that all team members are registered and have transportation to and from the venue. Two other important logistics to plan for are electricity and wifi needs. If you will need an electrical outlet, make sure to coordinate this with your event representative. Also plan to bring an extra extension cord because they always seem to be in short supply! While the venue likely has wifi, crowded events can impact the performance, so prepare a backup plan such as a hotspot.
Planning Required for Sponsoring
Sponsoring an event? Your event rep will let you know anything that is required from you. Almost always this will include a high-quality version of your logo. Some other things you may need to provide as a sponsor are branded banners or standees, giveaway items for gift bags, or other collateral pieces such as postcards, flyers, and stickers.
The best logo formats to send are a high-quality PNG with a transparent background, or a vector file. A vector file can often be provided to you by the graphic designer that did your logo.
Although sponsoring an event is more hands-off, you’ll likely still want to have staff attend the event. They will be responsible for representing your brand, networking and ensuring that you receive everything that was promised in your contract. Promotion will be covered by the event itself, but you should also promote your presence on social media, in a customer newsletter or through a text message to customers.
Planning Required to Host an Event
Planning your own event is a whole different playing field and will require more from the planning process than attending or sponsoring. The things you’ll want to plan out are your event’s agenda and activities, staffing, resources and promotion. Make sure you make a ‘Plan A’ and a ‘Plan B’ for each of these because when it comes to events, you can always expect the unexpected.
Plan to arrange for seating or ‘rest areas' at any event, even if it's activity-oriented. This will encourage attendees to engage with one another, and often times makes people feel more comfortable.
The promotion of your self-hosted event will be a major part of your planning process. Some ways to promote your own event are to invite influencers, through social media, on in-store signage, collateral and word of mouth. Direct communication and word of mouth is often the most effective, so have your budtenders get the conversation going! For more tips on how to ensure your dispensary event is a success, you can read Leafly’s “7 Ways to Make Your Dispensary Event a Success.”
Step 3: Event Setup
In the majority of cases, you’ll start setting up the day of the event. If your event rep tells you that can access the venue to begin setting up between 10 and 11...always plan on arriving at 10. Make sure to bring all needed materials with you, at this time.
The first thing to do when you arrive is to check in with your rep or another event staff member. They should provide you with information such as booth location, wifi passwords and any other important information. If you requested access to an electrical outlet, make sure you check on this as soon as you get to your booth. You might find that your extra extension cord will come in handy!
In crowded events, wifi may not always work very well, so be sure to set up a hotspot as a backup.
After these logistics are out of the way, you can starting setting up your event space with materials such as banners, tablecloths and swag. If you're unable to store all the swag and collateral you need, you can look for alternative storage rooms in the facility, or even stash it in your car until you need it.
Once all your staff arrives, you’ll want to have a quick pow-wow to remind everyone what you discussed in your previous training. And don’t forget to remind your staff to have fun!
Create a group chat for staff communication during the event. This will be extremely helpful when it gets really busy.
Step 4: At the Event
You’ve done everything needed to set yourself up for success...and this should give you some peace of mind! But no matter how much planning you have done, or how prepared you are, things will always come up that are unplanned. With event marketing, you can always expect the unexpected, so be prepared to make decisions on the fly.
It’s important to remember not to let the stress show – even when things don’t go as planned, or it gets busy and things get chaotic. You’ll need to be aware of how things look to the attendees at all times. To help protect your brand reputation, be sure to keep everything at your booth looking tidy!
Make sure everything is happening on schedule and take note of things that are not working well or could be improved at future events.
Step 5: After the Event
You made it! Now what? This part is equally important to the event planning process and the event itself. First are foremost, thank your staff for their diligence and recognize those team members that worked especially hard.
It’s also imperative to not let all your new contacts and connections go to waste. If you ran a raffle or drawing and did not provide the winner with their prize at the event, then you’ll want to reach out to the winners now. Send them an SMS message announcing they’ve won! It’s also a good idea to send a message to the other entrants letting them know that you’ve completed the drawing. Regardless of whether you ran a raffle or not, it’s still important to follow up with a text message thanking everyone for coming by your booth. For those that are brand new subscribers to your list, try offering them a discount or incentive to purchase from you.
Re-evaluate the performance of the event. Did you bring in any new customers from the event? Did social media engagement spike after the event? Did you meet your goals? You should also meet with your team and get feedback. What went well? And what didn't? These are all questions that should be evaluated to help shape and improve future events.
Learn more about how the Baker platform can help you build your list at events with event Checkin. The Baker CRM was engineered specifically for cannabis businesses and helps build customer relationships at events, in-store and online.