I was recently reading a respected cannabis news magazine and it struck me the number of advertisements that looked really cool but did nothing whatsoever to state the value of the product or service. Some ads didn’t even say what service the company provided! 

How is a prospective client supposed to know how they can best be helped? When value is spoken to, the audience is much more receptive. I have come to learn is that it’s not hard to determine value. There are a lot of tools out there to do it. One of the best that I have found is Alexander Osterwalder’s Value Proposition Canvas.  This helps me quickly determine the value of the product or service I have to offer. It helps to put together an understanding of the customers, their needs and how my product helps those needs. It also helps build internal motivation and team alignment. This process is simple and can be applied to employees as well as customers.

An example of what I am writing about is the pictures of vaporizers with the only words being the brand names. If I was a buyer for a shop that carried vapes, how would I know what sets each apart?  How would I know what’s going to best sell to my customers? Why is that not made clear and simple to understand?

Determine the product or service you want to focus on  

Pick something that is immediately relevant to your business.  It can be broad or narrow. Just make it something that you offer that is a key moneymaker. You can also do this for a new product or service that you wish to offer.

Get your team together  

Make sure to mix your team up with people who work directly with the product and decision makers in the business.  Multiple perspectives help. Get some key customers involved. Remember you can always speak to target audiences later after doing the exercise.  It’s really super important to find out the perspective of who you’re doing this for.

Get your supplies  

Download the Value Proposition Canvas from Strategyzer and either print it up nice and big or draw it out and put it up on a wall.  Be sure you have some post-its and markers available. Get your snacks. Get your head on. Turn on some Fela Kuti and let’s do this.

Start with what you offer  

Write out the key products or services that you are focusing on.  You may have to deliberate on this for a minute. Put one per sticky note and place the notes in the far left triangle.  Narrow it down to just a few key items if you have a lot. So, if you are a wholesale distributor of paraphernalia then you might write down “largest selection of paraphernalia in the US” or “next day delivery”.

Determine the “customer jobs”

Pick a key customer type, or if this is internal, a key employee type.  Put one job per sticky note. Don’t beat yourselves up over this. Dig in and get messy.  You can correct it later. Write out what you think are their key responsibilities are. Put these in the far right section. Again, if you are a wholesale distributor, your customers would be smoke shops.  Their jobs might be “to sell a product to customers” or “keep products in stock that sell”.


In the upper section of the circle on the right, put in what the customer’s wins are.  I’ll use the term customer from now on but remember that this can be applied to almost anyone.  Where are they winning? What makes them smile? Again, put one per note. Examples of wins for a headshop might be “a loyal customer base” or “doing $500K in sales last year”.


Now go to the section below and do the same for their pains and problems.  What keeps them up at night? Where are they challenged? Consider what really affects their profits.

Examples could be “products that just sit on a shelf” and “low sales”.

Gain Maker  

Now think of how your product or service creates value for the customer.  How do the products or services that you listed create more gains for the customer’s wins? How is what you do increasing their income?  If you are supplying headshops that do over $500k in sales annually then you might offer a better line of credit or a dedicated sales rep.

Headache Fixer

Along the same lines as gain maker, think how what you offer solves your customer’s pain.  This is value, too! How does what you offer to fix what you have determined are their chief issues that are important to them. An example of a pain solver might be to offer coaching to help shops learn to develop more repeat business.

Tell Everyone  

Now put all that great information into play.  Let everyone know what value you provide. Practice talking about it amongst your team.  Share it in your email newsletters. Put it in your ads. Use it strategically. An example being if you offer next day delivery on large quantities of small price point items then be sure that you mention that in any marketing and sales material that those customers that sell lots of small price-point items would be exposed to.  

It is really important to reach out and talk with your customers and learn what they value, what their pains are, what sort of jobs they have so you can better determine how what you do helps them. Sometimes I start off and do a Value Proposition Canvas with assumptions and then later learn through conversations and research that I had it wrong. I readjust and go back through the process.

A value proposition canvas is a tool to help your business focus its efforts and its language. You may find that you do several. There can be internally focused ones built around employee needs and externally focused ones for each customer type. Remember, if you don’t tell them how you help them, then don’t expect them to know.  With the help of the right tools, it’s easy to figure out and leverage.

I am excited to hear from companies that haven’t taken the time to work out their value and are just now doing so. Share your story on Twitter and attach the hashtag #businesssmokebreak.

Meet Robert Grossman, founder, and chief service designer at Grappling Hook, the cannabis industry’s first service design consultancy. In each Monthly Morning Smoke Break, he shares with DCN readers a tool that they can use to stay focused, strategic, and adaptable in the evolving cannabis market. To learn more about Grappling Hook, Click here.

To stay updated on the latest tech, entrepreneurs and innovative companies in the cannabis industry, click here.

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