Welcome to the New Video Age
In early-March Google and Apple issued some of the first work from home orders in corporate America. This was soon followed by announcements that the biggest conferences and festivals of the year, SXSW, Coachella, E3, were canceling or indefinitely postponing dates. The business world found itself, suddenly and unexpectedly, faced with figuring out two major issues: how to keep employees motivated and focused from home and how to reach consumers, vendors and other essential relationships necessary to survive.
For marketers, it signaled a dynamic shift into a space they’ve been advocating for years – Video. Video conferencing, live streaming, and on demand are powerful tools to reach an endless audience, around the world, 24/7. Marketing professionals have been preparing for this explosion of use for years.
Video platforms like Zoom and Skype have been tools for marketers for nearly a decade but failed to replace the in person experiences for most companies. From in house meetings to conferences and networking events, companies have relied heavily on these interactions to conduct their business. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic they’re now forced to pivot and find ways to integrate video into all human contact required touchpoints of the business.
How The Cannabis Industry is Using Video
The plant-touching part of the cannabis industry requires 100% person to person contact to survive. The products cannot be digitized. Fortunately it has been determined to be an essential business for most legal states enabling farmers, manufacturers, testing and retailers to continue conducting business.
However, precautionary measures will need to be taken for an indefinite period of time in all aspects of the business. Cannabis will need to pivot to using video tools and platforms for training staff, connecting with suppliers, networking and consumer education. For an industry reluctant to invest too heavily in technology or reaching an audience that extends beyond city or state lines, the transition to video will be a challenge to execute but promises, for those who do it right, to catapult their brand recognition and reach.
Times of great change require nimble and creative thinking and the cannabis industry is proving to be innovators in the multiple ways to employ video to stay connected and solve new business problems that are arising with social distancing and limits on gathering size.
California Central Valley Cannabis sales rep Amanda Soens realized she needed to find a way to stay in front of customers to keep her brands top of mind so she conceived the idea of a “Virtual Demo.” A laptop sits on the demo table streaming Amanda from her living room. Products are laid out near the computer for customers to examine and discuss with her, on the spot. She can answer technical questions, educate on the benefits of the products and hold the customers hand through the selection process. The customers have found it to be a fun way to engage and the dispensaries willing to give it a try are thrilled with the results so far.
Hemp seed company Kayagene found themselves at a critical point when the COVID shutdown happened. It was time to put seed in the ground and potential customers weren’t returning calls. The Head of Product Portfolio, George Workman, took everything the company learned in the field last year and turned it into webinars to educate farmers interested in growing hemp. He was blown away by the number of attendees, their questions and their interest in learning more about how to grow a high yield hemp crop.
The State of Cannabis Conference, a mainstay California conference for policy updates, idea exchange and networking, has created two virtual experiences to keep their audience engaged. Susan Sores, CEO and Founder of The State of Cannabis describes the event as a Full Spectrum Conference Experience. She was quick to transition not only the conference online, which had over 700 attendees, but she’s also launched a weekly happy hour/sesh via Zoom. Susan believes online experiences will ultimately provide better ROI for sponsors and content for attendees.
A popular networking event for women, Haus of Jane, had several parties planned at conferences around the country. When it was clear the events would be canceled they had to rethink their entire strategy. Co Founder Samantha Montanaro discovered that there was a real need for women to connect with one another and keep the business contacts flowing. They found a technology that allows them to host a range of dynamic events and have been able to expand their reach around the world. Haus of Jane has built a series of speed networking events for women and is planning an International Women’s summit for July of 2020. Their first two events brought over 250 women and they have expect to double that with their next event.
How to Produce a Successful Cannabis Virtual Event
Video has the potential to revolutionize the way we do business but it must be executed on the appropriate platform (venue) with a professional approach. Lisa Caperello-Snyder, a digital event producer and Co Founder of Tokeativity, provided insight on how to choose where to host an online event. “Finding the right digital venue is as important online as it is in the real world. It’s ridiculous to host a fancy 200 person wedding in a dive bar. The same is true when it comes to choosing a platform for your virtual experience.” She provided this list to keep at hand to help sort through all the options:
- Is the event Free or Paid?
- Is it for the public or invite only?
- How many tickets/attendees?
- Will guests be on screen, if so how many?
- Is group interaction part of the event? (Will people talk one on one or many listening to one or more?)
- Is a chat function for questions required?
- Will there be VIPs?
[Curious what event tool might work best for you? Take the quiz at howtohostavirtualevent.com]
The rules of professional engagement are different with video and require more attention to detail than an in person exchange. Kendra Losee, CEO of Mota Marketing, recommends being very strategic in how you approach video. “The content needs to be well thought out with a clear message and outcome for the audience. It’s easy for a video conference to turn into a free for all without the proper guidelines. Once the content is nailed down the next thing necessary for a really smooth experience is the environment where you are broadcasting. Good lighting, sound and background are all critical for your viewers to see and hear you and not get distracted by lighting or sound issues.”
Video will never replace human interaction but it provides the cannabis industry an invaluable tool to continue business as usual in highly unusual circumstances. Brands that are nervous about jumping in can start small with inter office meetings via Zoom or Skype. Get comfortable in the environment and hire a professional who can help with a plan and make sure that simple missteps that can lead to disaster – can be averted.
This is just the beginning of the video age and the innovative cannabis businesses who are willing to experiment with the technology will be better equipped to deal with the times ahead.