Cannabis businesses will live or die based on whether they can build consumer trust. If customers don’t trust what you’re selling or aren’t sure about your brand, they’re not going to buy from you. But if you can establish a strong baseline of brand trust, you may be able to develop flourishing customer relationships that last indefinitely.
Why is trust so important, and how can you achieve higher levels of trust in your cannabis business?
The power of brand trust
In a broader context, brand trust is all about consumer faith that a company is going to deliver a high-quality product or service, and stand by that product or service if things go wrong in any way. The most trusted brands in the world, like Amazon and Google, have established their reputation with incredible consistency and reliability. Chances are, you’ve never had an Amazon order slip through the cracks, and you’ve never had to go more than a few seconds with Google Search being unavailable.
For cannabis businesses, trust is especially important for several reasons:
Cannabis is new. It wasn’t until 1996 that states in the United States began to legalize cannabis for medical purposes, and recreational legalization only emerged in 2012 in Colorado and Washington. In many states, recreational cannabis is still illegal, and in states where it’s legalized, it’s still a novelty. People are unfamiliar with the drug; this is a new industry, so consumers aren’t sure what to expect, and because cannabis still carries a stigma, consumers are especially skeptical.
Quality is both vital and opaque. The quality of cannabis makes a huge difference in its effects—but at the same time, you can’t easily see or judge the quality of cannabis, especially as a new consumer. This isn’t like buying a musical instrument, whose quality you can judge by its visible craftsmanship or playability. Accordingly, consumers need to trust their vendors before making a purchase.
Competition is fierce. Cannabis is a hot industry, which means you’re facing a ton of competition. There are dozens, if not hundreds of businesses like yours competing for space. If your customers don't find you trustworthy, you’re going to have a hard time winning over your market share.
The consequences of violated trust are high. Though cannabis is a relatively safe substance, the consequences of a “bad” purchase can be high. Bad cannabis experiences can be very stressful, and low-quality cannabis can keep someone from getting the medical effects they need. Accordingly, consumers can’t affordably “gamble” with an unknown or unreliable brand.
How important is trust?
It’s hard to compare trust to other components of a business. For example, is it fair to ask whether consumer trust is more important than profit margins? We can’t compare these factors apples to apples.
However, we can consider trust as an influencing variable in the development of the business in other areas; and explore how trust supports other business functions. For example, trust is necessary for customer retention: If you violate a customer’s trust, they’re never going to buy from you again. If you help them solve a problem and provide them with high-quality products, they’ll keep buying from you. Therefore, if you want to keep customer retention high and maintain your revenue streams, trust is essential.
Because trust is related to almost every other factor for business success, it’s a mandatory consideration for cannabis business development. You can consider it a prerequisite, which if absent could jeopardize everything else you’re trying to create.
How to build trust
Now that we’ve established just how important trust is, we have to figure out how to build trust. This is a tricky subject since trust is subjective (and hard to measure).
However, you can build trust with the following six strategies:
1. Offer high-quality products and services. Give customers the best products and services you can. Identify bad products and remove them before it’s too late.
2. Be as consistent as possible. Remain consistent in your offerings, whenever possible in this somewhat volatile industry. The more consistent you are in your product lineup, the more reliable you’ll be seen to be.
3. Provide guarantees. Consider offering some kind of guarantee to make customers feel more assured when they buy from you.
4. Answer questions openly. When new people explore your business, they may have lots of questions for you. Make sure you answer these questions directly and openly to build their trust. Transparency is a good thing.
5. Address problems quickly and take accountability. Inevitably, you’ll face some customer complaints and concerns. When they arise, take full accountability for them and try to make up for them; for example, you can apologize for a mistake and offer to replace the product entirely.
6. Measure trust and get to know your customers. Finally, measure customer trust through surveys and get to know your customers. What do they want to see in brands like yours? Are there changes you could make that would increase their trust? What are they currently unsatisfied with, in regard to your competitors?
It’s hard to establish brand trust in an industry with limited marketing and advertising potential, especially hard in an industry that’s so new and unfamiliar to most of the population. However, with the right strategies and a flexible approach, you should be able to establish the trust you need to become successful.