No matter how brilliant a retail or marketing plan may be, it is important to always remember one thing—you are not your customer. Consumers are not going to view your business through the same lens and customer feedback is essential to ensure the right products and services are being offered. Resuming mg‘s monthly column about the habits of successful cannabis executives, we spoke with Hervé Co-founder Sebastien Centner, PLUS Products co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Jake Heimark, and Ammonite co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Mike McDonald to learn about one of the most essential areas upon which managers should focus: customer input.
At Hervé, Centner utilizes social media platforms to interact with customers. While engaging through the often chaotic realm of social media networks may seem daunting, he believes it is an excellent place to field honest feedback.
“We have noticed that cannabis customers generally are more outspoken and more passionate about their feelings toward products and brands,” Centner said. “This to us is frankly a welcome change since while sometimes it can result in very strong negative feedback, for us it almost exclusively represents itself in a positive way with customers taking the time to give honest opinions and provide encouragement to keep us focused.”
Dispensary operators and staff also serve as great resources for feedback. After all, they are on the front lines of cannabis sales to the public and are speaking with and making recommendations to customers daily.
“The dispensary buyers, owners, and of course budtenders make up the single most important tool we have to reach the customer and their feedback to us is critical in ensuring we are meeting the needs of their clients,” Centner said.
Customer feedback has directly influenced product line expansion at Hervé. Customers and dispensary buyers regularly requested additional flavors of the company’s cannabis-infused macarons.
“This is of course thrilling that our customers want more products from us, but we need to carefully balance our excitement to expand our product lines with our ability to maintain consistency and quality across the brand,” Centner said. “Since we originally launched three flavors of Hervé macarons in February 2020 in Las Vegas we have added two more flavors based entirely on customer demand.”
Jake Heimark is excited to field customer feedback wherever possible. He relies on his team members interacting with budtenders and dispensary management, feedback on social media, inbound emails, and contact forms submitted by website visitors. Heimark values feedback at every step of the product journey.
“We focus on both early feedback for new products and ongoing feedback for more mature products to make sure we are keeping quality high,” Heimark said. “For example, we host focus groups with budtenders and buyers with every product launch. And in conjunction with the focus groups, we also produce undosed samples to test early-stage concepts with buyers, budtenders, and consumers.”
Like Centner, Heimark values the insight he and his team can gain from interactions with dispensary management and budtenders.
“Our trade marketing managers and sales representatives also engage on a regular basis with both dispensary managers and budtenders working the floors to collect real-time consumer feedback and input,” Heimark said. “Actionable insights are then immediately shared with our marketing, innovation, and production/operations teams. We try to understand not just what cannabis people are using, but why, where, and with whom they are using cannabis to make sure we can make products that are just right for that moment.”
Mike McDonald is not only CEO at Ammonite, but also an advisor for Jetty Extracts where he previously served as corporate development officer. Both he and Jetty use customer feedback to help drive product design decisions, and in one particular instance, this feedback came from a single source.
“The Dablicator™ oil applicator was literally invented out of a need from a specific customer,” McDonald explained.
The founders of Jetty Extracts invented the oil applicator for a friend who was undergoing treatments for brain cancer. The cancer patient was experiencing a lack of appetite and found relief through directly ingesting cannabis since smoking was not a safe option. Cannabis also provided relief for the patient’s nausea, anxiety, and pain.
“At the time, the only way to ingest cannabis oil was via a syringe, which was messy and sketchy-looking,” said McDonald. “So the Jetty guys decided to invent a better oil applicator. One that was portable, discreet, dosed with superior precision, and easier to use.”
The cannabis market and consumer preferences constantly are evolving. A fact McDonald said makes the implementation of customer feedback essential for both the current oil applicator and future products. “The [oil applicator] has gone through a multitude of upgrades,” he said. “We have several new products and [intellectual property patents] in the works that have been directly due to customer feedback.”