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Millennials are a big market, but don’t ignore their parents and grandparents.
6 min read
Opinions expressed by Green Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Jack, a 78-year old retired Italian chef, is one of my favorite customers. During his first visit to our store he looked a bit apprehensive and unsure if he was in the right place. He instead browsed the vast supply of cannabis products surrounding the interior of the store but didn’t approach the budtenders at the bar.
Knowing he likely would appreciate being waited upon, I went out on the floor to engage with him in the same manner that a shoe salesperson might engage with a potential shoe-buying customer. “Can I help you find something?” I asked.
He smiled and his dark, brown eyes twinkled before he said, “Well, I guess I’m looking for some pot, but there’s so much stuff to choose from that I don’t even know what to look for.”
This is a familiar scenario for legal cannabis retailers. Almost 20 percent of my customers are senior citizens. They represent a huge audience for both THC and CBD products, and it is an audience that will grow much larger over the next few years. According to a report published by the Washington Post, “compared with older Americans 30 years ago, Americans age 50 to 59 and 60 and older today are a remarkable 20 times more likely to use marijuana.”
Nonetheless, few of my peers in the cannabis industry market to seniors. Rather, they are still trying to reign in the diverse and complicated, 22 – 32 year old millennial, who seldom shows much brand affection or loyalty. For the most part, they don’t want to be bothered with a hand-holding style of customer service. They buy their shoes online.
Seniors like Jack seek a familiar customer service experience. That’s why I didn’t wait for him from behind a counter. Rather, I served him personally with an extra kindness, compassion and education as to what is on the shelves. He has repaid me with brand loyalty — in fact, he doesn’t shop anywhere else. Jack lives in a nearby senior center. He happily gossips with his peers about the good experience he has working with us and how good his back feels from the CDB products he is taking.
In my book, that’s a huge business win because we took the time upfront to create senior citizen personas in our marketing book. There are myriad reasons for creating senior citizen personas early on in the lifecycle of your business, but here are the top four:
Let’s not assume our industry is “out of the woods” from a legal standpoint. Mistakes can lead to big legal problems. Mishandling a senior citizen’s marijuana needs represents one of those seemingly small mistakes with outsized consequences.
Many of the seniors I engage with are looking for relief from cancer and painful chemotherapy, rather than a recreational outlet. Knowing how to specifically target an actual solution for that person, rather than just getting them high, takes a lot more education than most would assume. Your average budtender, however, is mostly guessing when it comes to wellness. Some of those guesses could wind up getting you sued. Know your customer.
See above, but also consider that, aside from millennials, the baby boomers are the largest generation on this planet and they have buying power that millennials don’t have (at least yet). They are loyal to brands that they identify with and which treat them well. Ignoring them in your marketing budget is, at best, shortsighted. There is a reason why AARP Magazine has one of the largest subscription bases in the media world — it owns access to a huge population of wealthy people to advertise to!
It is not all about aches and pains. It is wise to be careful here, but let’s not kid ourselves — many of these senior citizens have been smoking weed a lot longer than we have — they are the Cheech & Chong generation! When you start building out these profiles, make sure your marketing team talks to multiple audiences within each demographic segment. For example, lot of older men and women play tennis, and a good percentage of them smoke pot for recreational purposes. How would you target this audience?
Start first by building a persona of Susan, the 76-year old, retired, former aerospace engineer, country club member, tennis player and grandmother. Learn not only what she likes to do, but also how she likes to go about it. Engage with her in the traditional ways she is used to. I speak at local senior centers, for example, because only there will I receive that essential ‘’how’’ feedback from the audience.
In Susan’s case, it makes sense to speak directly to the members of her country club, and specifically her women’s tennis club, about the benefits of certain cannabis products as they relate to tennis. Make it easy for your potential customers to know you.
This is a largely ignored consideration in business, but for some of us ethos really matters. Doing good in the world matters. Part of doing good involves helping our elders in their golden years, but the cannabis industry (and American media in general) has turned a subtle cold shoulder that excludes seniors from their storytelling.
For example, the media is going crazy right now about the potential CBD plays…for pets! Personally, I’d also like to read an article about a retreat in Sedona involving seniors, yoga and ganja, just to learn more about how I can help provide for their needs. Part of our business ethos is to provide our customers the best education possible about our unique products. We are a servant to our community, which includes revering our elders.
Here’s the litmus test. If you are a retail business owner and have a free moment, check out some of the other retail pot shops in your neighborhood. Would you feel comfortable bringing your grandmother to shop in any of them? Would she feel comfortable in your shop? Would the budtenders feel comfortable with her? Chances are, if a shop has outfitted itself solely to make millennials feel good, then the likelihood is low that store will truly meet her needs. She might walk out with some ill-advised weed, but will she ever return or say nice things about your store to her friends? Not likely. Acquisition failure.
December 4, 2018 at 10:03AM