Published on November 17, 2020 By Sasha Aksenov

An inside look: knowing your audience and staying ahead of the innovation curve

It seems virtually everyone I meet in the cannabis space think that they got a good beat on the industry and their target audience. Anyone that has spent more than a month in the industry feels himself an OG and knows their customer wants cannabis in one form or another. The truth is there are no OG’s in this industry due to the simple fact that as an industry we haven't even gotten out of the gate and have barely crossed the starting line. We are at the tip of the iceberg and those few who are humble enough to recognize this also recognize there is so much room for innovation in perfecting the cannabis consumption experience, that the possibilities are literally endless.

Unfortunately for those of us planning more than a month ahead, the data is quite scarce, segmented by state and influenced by sponsored content. So how do you find out where the market is heading and what people want. Well, traditionally there’s the trade shows and conferences where everyone always tries to one up each other in a desperate race to differentiate in a very noisy marketplace. Now during the COVID time, that's gone out the window, and we are left with scattered pieces of research and public opinion we can gather through proprietary initiatives.


Market analysis is always important, but being in NYC and working with every rec and medical state and country in the world, for me the validity of our on-the-ground surveys is always under question. So what do we have left while stuck in the travel bans?

Social Listening, Watching & Stalking

I truly hope the people I follow on social don’t have analytics on me, because I am sure they’d label me some sort of mad stalker and an order of protection wouldn’t be out of question. Every morning I start my day with my social routine; I follow a few dozen regular accounts from around the globe, not the so-called paid “influencers”, but rather passionate cannabis consumers across numerous segments - from novice to medical users to avid cannabis vaping connoisseurs. I also check out all the most popular hashtags across all platforms. This gives me a clear outlook on what people like, what they want, what they expect and what they dislike about their cannabis consumption experience. If you do this consistently, the trends become apparent and if you do the groundwork of staying on top of the business end of the industry news flow - you have a clear foundation on product and brand strategy, no matter what segment of the cannabis industry you’re seeking to address. Trust me, this is the best 30-60 minutes a day you can spend to be up to speed on what’s next.


“Patent Pending”, “Paradigm Shifting”, “New And Improved”, Products From China

Many of us in the cannabis hardware segment get bombarded by offers and “the new and upcoming” device ads from China, also 99% of us simply delete or spam block that outreach. I took another approach; if you figure the need to innovate and differentiate in a superbly dense marketplace like Shenzhen, you realize that that may be simply the absolute best “incubator” of ideas.

Now regardless how off the wall or often on the rare side of cooked they may be, one of every few dozen does have some type of legs and someone on the other end that may be passionate about it. This creates an opportunity dismissed by 99% of our industry, and that is why I have gone out of my way to be in touch with pretty much everyone who's worth a damn in China, and I spend at least 20-30 minutes every morning reviewing the “new and improved pitches” across multiple platforms - from email, to LinkedIn to WeChat.


Spread The Love, Get The Data

At any given time you will find at least a dozen “new” products on my desk. Whether these are samples from my China comms initiatives or something we’ve gotten to a functional prototype stage, the only real way of knowing if you have a potential home run is feedback from real humans. We put these devices into the hands of a select group of team members, friends, family and clients across North America - all with different levels of expertise, tolerance and expectations. While most devices are targeted to specific niche groups, this process gives us insight not only into the device functionality but also on what other segments or audiences it may be applicable to and what set of universal parameters it must meet to presumably reach commercial success.


Now you have my personal playbook to staying on top of your product game, not rocket science, but does require consistency and commitment. Miss a few weeks and you will find yourself scrambling to get back up to speed, been done… Once you take a deep dive into this strategy you will quickly realize how rapidly our industry is developing, it's truly remarkable. We live in super exciting times when everyone, literally everyone, is on equal footing and as long as you are willing to put in the work, you will undoubtedly get to harvest the fruit of your labor. #notjustvapor



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