The cannabis industry is flooded with SaaS tech providers – from compliance software, to point-of-sale systems, to messaging platforms, and more.
With all this Cannatech available, how do you vet all the available vendors? How do you ensure that the technology solutions you buy actually help you scale your cannabis business and don’t end up becoming liabilities?
Well, your search for the best technology providers for your dispensary won’t end in regret if you keep a few tips in mind. Here’s a handy checklist with all the points you should consider to ensure the best buy. For a full set of questions to ask for each dispensary software type, you can download the free ebook "The Ultimate Dispensary Software Guide."
Cannabis retail involves several legalities – taxing, compliance, banking and others. Therefore a good business or software solution does the following: 1) understands the cannabis industry legalities, 2) is designed around them, and 3) operates by taking them into account.
A solution that treats a dispensary just like any other business is typically not your best option. For example, a software solution for a pizza restaurant would likely cause compliance legalities for your marijuana business. Cannabis retail is different and solutions that are not built exclusively for cannabis retail should be cautioned. Instead, search for providers that will provide tools tailored to dispensaries, or the cannabis industry.
Before investing in a new technology solution, dig deeper into the provider's website and review "trust signs" like testimonials and case studies.
Things to look for are:
- Number of similar clients the company has served
- How long the company has been in business
- Reviews from past and current customers (if possible, try to find reviews on a third-party site such as Google)
If you’re having trouble finding the items on this list, it could be a red flag. Don’t hesitate to ask for these if you can’t find them on the website.
A technology solution can only be as good as the team behind it. Look for providers who have a strong technical team with expertise to develop, maintain, and continue improving their product.
If your company relies on its outsourced development, the solution’s future (and your business) could be left in jeopardy.
Also consider narrowing the search to providers that have founders or employees with strong technical backgrounds. If you notice a solution provider that just has a 3-person team with little to no technical skills, consider continuing your search.
4. Onboarding and Customer Success Management
Software solution providers that are dedicated to your success will provide a customer success manager. This dedicated team member not only ensures that you understand how to use the solution, but helps you leverage it to maximize your output.
For each solution you consider, find out if you’d be given a dedicated person who will ensure your success with the solution... or if you’ll be left on your own to "figure things out." A dedicated customer success manager will be your right-hand man for implementation and onboarding, and any questions that come up along the way.
Timely support is the most critical factor when choosing a solution provider for a dispensary retailer. Just imagine the damage that could be caused if your software stopped working and support turns out to be unresponsive.
Make sure to check out the support options (chat, email, self-help, etc) and support operational hours of the solution provider. Does the company maintain updated support docs and a thriving knowledge base? Is their support staff active in support forums? In addition, we recommend you ask the company directly how long it takes to hear back from support. If it is longer than 48 hours... move on.
Dispensaries and cannabis retailers have different business needs and challenges that can result in unknown pricing volatility. You should only consider companies that provide you with upfront pricing options, or tiers.
Each pricing tier should list out everything that is included within that pricing option or package. These of course can be customized, but make sure there is at least some sort of base cost. This will protect you from being overcharged.
It is very important to understand what products and services are included in this price tag. For example at first glance, the hypothetical Solution A seems like the better buy at $100, compared to the $200 price tag on Solution B. However, Solution A only includes sales software, while Solution B provides sales and marketing software, integrates with your existing solutions and provides a customer success manager.
A quick, online demo is great, but the best test drive for you is through a personalized demo. After all, the best way to know if a solution is right for your dispensary business is to try it out. Luckily, most solution providers offer personalized demos to show you all the features and functionalities. Take advantage of these demos and come prepared.
Prepare any questions that you may have. This includes any of the questions we have included in this list. A primary inquiry should be about how the company onboards and treats its customers.
8. Future Compatibility
If you have a technology solution that checks off on all above, there’s one last box to check before you sign on the dotted line.
Consider more than just your immediate needs. Think about your business needs over the next year, and beyond. Make a list of the features and capabilities you will need in the future. Now, compare your list with the solution’s current features and capabilities. Are they still a good match?
This exercise will help you understand if the provider you’re considering matches your short-term and long-term needs. Being locked in or tied down to a solution that does not meet both sets of needs will soon limit your ability to scale your business.
If future needs are not met, you may need to purchase future solutions. Which brings on an entirely new set of problems with integrating data and solutions.
This tip alone will save you from locking-in with a service that’s just not right for you.