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Meeting cannabis professionals and building relationships with them is an essential part of establishing and expanding your own cannabis business and brand. Whether you want to find a job in the cannabis industry, launch a new entrepreneurial venture, find investors, or strengthen your business’ cannabis industry supply chain, effectively networking with other professionals can help you reach your goals.
Uncomfortable networking? You’re not alone. Networking doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but it is a skill that can be learned. It’s one of those things in life that adheres to the adage – the more you do it, the better you get at it.
To help you start networking in the cannabis industry, following are tips to set yourself up for success.
What do people find when they search for you online? What links come up on the first page of Google search results when they search for your name, your brand name, or your business name? Try it and see what you find about yourself.
What if someone searches for you on LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, or cannabis-specific social media sites? Do the results accurately reflect you, your brand, and your business? Are the results what you want people to find?
Here’s the truth. When someone wants to learn about another person, a brand, or a business, the first place they typically go is the internet. Specifically, they search for that person, brand, or business using Google or their preferred search engine. Another first-stop when trying to learn about a person is social media.
That means now is the time to start publishing content, updating your website, and creating a social media footprint so anyone who looks for you online finds what you want them to!
Imagine you’re at a cannabis industry conference and meet dozens of people. You won’t be able to remember all of them when you get home, and you won’t be able to follow up with them to further build relationships with them – unless they gave you a takeaway like a business card or brochure.
The same is true for the people who meet you at networking events. They may not remember you or know how to contact you after the event unless you give them a takeaway. Therefore, create business cards and/or a brochure – even if your cannabis business isn’t operational yet – so they can easily get in touch with you after the event.
And don’t forget to ask other people for their business cards and brochures as well. Use them to take notes about people so you don’t forget the details when it’s time to follow up.
What will you say to people when you start a conversation with them? You need to be prepared with an ice-breaker introduction and develop an elevator pitch that piques people’s interest.
This is not a one-size-fits-all situation. You need to craft multiple introductions and elevator pitches for different types of people who you may network with. For example, you wouldn’t say the same things to a potential investor that you would to a potential service provider for your business.
Always tailor your conversations to each event and person, and be mindful of presenting yourself as professionally as possible.
One of the biggest challenges for many people when it comes to networking is starting conversations with strangers. Here are some simple conversation starters that can help you feel more confident when you approach a new person:
Don’t forget that when you’re networking, you should try to build relationships through your conversations, not business opportunities. Try to be useful and helpful without focusing on closing a deal. In addition, think about your body language and actions while you’re networking. Ask questions, smile, and make eye contact. If name tags were given, wear yours, and use other people’s names when you speak to them.
Most importantly, don’t start networking until you’ve practiced your conversation starters, ice-breaker introduction, and elevator pitch for a variety of people and situations.
You should establish clear goals and develop a plan to reach those goals for every networking opportunity or event that you participate in. For example, you may set a goal to speak with a certain number of cultivation license holders or to meet a specific cannabis industry influencer.
In order to develop your goals and plans, you’ll need to research each event you attend in advance and get an idea of who will be there, what the focus of the event is, and who the event is for. This is crucial so you can tailor your goals, plan, ice-breaker introduction, and elevator pitch to be as relevant and useful as possible.
Use social media to enhance and expand your face-to-face networking efforts before, during, and after each event you attend. Connect with event organizers and key people on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and so on. Share content related to the event, use the event hashtags, and tag people in your posts. Also, publish pictures, videos, and messages from the event.
While you’re at a cannabis conference, be sure to attend any scheduled networking events, but don’t stop there. Talk to people at lunches and dinners, speak with people on the expo floor, and make yourself as accessible and approachable as possible.
At the end of each day at a networking event, take some time to debrief. Review the people you spoke with and make a plan to follow up with them. Make sure you follow and engage with them on social media and send personalized email messages to continue your conversations.
If you don’t have time to email everyone you connected with at a networking event right away, make sure you jot notes on the back of each business card or in a document so you remember who they were, what you talked about, and topics you want to discuss with them in the future.
Ideally, you should follow up with each person within a few days of meeting them or within a week at the most. In your follow-up messages, mention something to remind them who you are and then, try to set up phone calls or in-person meetings with important business connections.
The key to following up is to be personable and authentic. That means you shouldn’t send template messages to everyone you met through your email marketing software. Instead, send personalized messages directly to each person. This is a time for one-to-one outreach, not mass email blasts.
After you connect with each person on social media, start sharing and commenting on their posts. As the psychological theory known as the mere exposure effect shows, it’s important to repeatedly expose people to you and the value you bring in order to increase the chances that they’ll grow to like you.
Just be careful not to oversell too soon. You’ll get better results in the long run if you if focus on building relationships and adding value to conversations. The time to sell will come later.
Remember, the cannabis industry is just like other industries when it comes to business networking. Understand the industry, learn the challenges cannabis professionals face, and present yourself as a helpful resource. In time, you’ll build relationships through networking that turn into lucrative career and business opportunities.
To network successfully, follow the tips above and focus on preparing, setting goals, practicing, and following up. To learn even more, be sure to read 5 Ways to be Successful at Cannabis Business Meetings and Networking Events.
To connect with cannabis and hemp license holders, subscribe to the Cannabiz Media License Database. Schedule a demo to see how it can help you network and reach your goals.
Originally published 6/18/19. Updated 2/4/22.