“The customer is always right” is a slogan that has been around since the days of Harry Selfridge . It’s the foundation of customer service, and a fundamental building block in maximizing customer Life Time Value, or LTV. Entrepreneurs who recognize this, and go out of their way to cater to their customer base are in a much better position to generate the type of traction so coveted by investors. But who exactly are the customers in today’s rapidly changing Cannabis landscape?
My first ever experience with a marijuana retailer might shed some light on this question.
As regular readers might know, I used to be a very straight-laced law enforcement officer, until I was injured on the job and retired out on a service-connected disability. After decades of prescription drugs and their unpleasant side effects, I discovered how effective Cannabis was for the treatment of intractable pain. In 2013, however, I couldn’t find a doctor in my area to make a recommendation for a reasonable consultation fee. So, to make my very first, ever, purchase of Cannabis, I took advantage of Colorado’s (at the time quite new) adult use laws. I was traveling through the state on business, and found myself in Colorado Springs, which does not allow dispensaries, but did have cannabis social clubs that found loopholes in order to do business in the city.
Determined to secure some medicine, I pulled into the parking lot. I stared at the Hippyesque, Aggro-Xtreem neon graffiti covering the exterior of the building, and felt my heart sink. On top of the already stressful idea of doing something that I had always been told was wrong, my social anxiety disorder was all sorts of upset at the idea of confronting a social group that might reject me. I was an older woman with a slight limp and bad back. While not exactly grey-haired, I was clearly not hip, nor was I a spring chicken like the two twenty-something stoners who went inside ahead of me.
I almost didn’t enter. I had a very real fear of being treated poorly by the people at the club. But, since it had taken me so much time to locate and drive to the place, I screwed up my courage and went inside. It was the middle of the afternoon, and I am quite sure if I had arrived after dark I would have driven away without ever going inside. Despite a polite and friendly receptionist at the check-in counter, my anxiety heightened during the check-in process, because all the plexiglas, security bars, and armed security made me feel like I was entering prison.
When the door to the actual club finally clicked open, I entered a dark, chaotic environment with black lights, loud music, and a few couches. The place was relatively empty, aside from the aforementioned two men in their early twenties, and two gray-haired women in their mid-sixties. One of the two budtenders lavished all sorts of attention on the young stoners, showing them all the coolest new dabs. I and the other two women were utterly ignored by the other budtender. The women seemed even more frightened and clueless than I was, and told me they’d been waiting for about twenty minutes to try and buy something, but weren’t sure what to do. They were about to leave when I demanded that the idle budtender help them. Those two little old ladies shot me such grateful looks, it makes me sad, even now.
I made my very first ever Cannabis purchase in spite of this facility, not because of it.
This is a textbook case of making incorrect assumptions about who your customers are. With all the medical benefits of cannabis, the most rapidly growing demographic in this industry is likely to be the over-fifty crowd, yet I see very few products, packaging and marketing targeted at customers like me and those two little old ladies. What kind of business ignores three-fifths of their customers?
A bankrupt one.