Cannabis Marketing 101: My Competitors are Speaking at MJBizCon and NCIA. How Does that Happen?

Cannabis industry speakers are able to elevate their brand and grow their business when they share their insights with the right audience

Grassland's office where they help clients get speaking engagements

Editor’s note: Curious about Cannabis Marketing, Public Relations and Thought Leadership? We’re sharing intel about what works and what doesn’t in this special Grasslands video series. Get the inside story about the best ways to deliver messaging that resonates with B2B and B2C audiences, as well as getting the right media placements for your brand.

John Svoboda:

Hello, and welcome to “Cannabis Marketing 101,” a show where we take your questions about cannabis marketing and marijuana PR and break them down with the experts. I’m John Svoboda of Grasslands, and, as always, feel free to send your cannabis marketing and PR questions to me directly at john@mygrasslands.com. And, of course, I’m here with my colleague and friend Ricardo Baca, a.k.a. AdCann’s Marketer of the Year, as well as the CEO of Grasslands: A Journalism-Minded Agency.

John Svoboda:

Ricardo, what’s new?

Ricardo Baca:

Excited to be here for another episode with you, John.

John Svoboda:

Me, too. So, as always, we are gathering and answering questions from our friends and colleagues in the cannabis industry from across the country. These are questions that we’ve gathered that have to do with cannabis marketing and PR. We’re hoping to spread a little knowledge, and so let’s just jump into today’s question. How about it?

Ricardo Baca:
Perfect. Perfect.

John Svoboda:

Awesome. Today’s question is coming from Jen in Oregon. She is asking, “All right, all of my competitors are out there speaking at MJBizCon and NCIA events. How does that happen? How does that work? How do you get on those panels, Ricardo?

Ricardo Baca:

Wow, that’s a great question. We get this one a lot at Grasslands, as you might imagine. First of all, let’s talk about relationships and the power of relationships. So, maybe you might know somebody who handles the programming for one of these big conferences and expos, and they know you’re reliable. They know your skill set and your expertise, and they reach out to you. If you don’t have that relationship with the programmers — which there’s a lot of programmers all over the world at these many conferences now that are happening as far away as Japan — you need to generally fill out what they call a speaker abstract.

And so when these conferences and expos open up the ability to apply to speak, you fill out a speaker abstract, and you’re like, “This is my idea. It’s a solo presentation or a panel. Here’s some other suggested panelists, and here are the actionable takeaways that people could walk away with,” because you’re there to provide value. Conferences exist, of course, to make money. But on the education side, (they exist) to educate people on new things happening in the markets and bring people up to date. And so, you need to fill out that speaker abstract and that’s how you do that.

One advantage, of course, working with an agency like Grasslands, because, John, you can do this by yourself. You can maintain these relationships with people all over the globe, or you can hire an agency that already is maintaining these relationships, making sure that our clients are front and center for a lot of these important expos. Same thing with the abstracts. You can go on and write your own. I know many people who have been successful — and props to them, love the DIY spirit — but Grasslands can also hop in there, help you create compelling ideas. Ideas that will grab that conference programmer’s eye and hopefully recognize that “I definitely want this idea. I definitely want this speaker on my stage.” So that’s kind of how you get on that stage, whether you’re doing it yourself or employing an agency partner like Grasslands to help you do that.

Cannabis Industry Speakers Get Big ROI for Their Efforts

John Svoboda:

That makes total sense. Now, I’m curious, you fill out the abstract, I’m assuming some of the other work that you could potentially do in PR, which is building up your thought leadership and getting yourself in bylines. Does that influence some of these programmers’ decisions on who to accept on panels?

Ricardo Baca:

A very common question on those speaker abstracts is “Have you spoken before in public? Have you spoken on a panel? And if so, can you tell us what conference, what dates?” And if there’s a photo or video evidence, they oftentimes ask for that because they want to make sure that when you’re on that stage in front of 10 people or 500 people, that you’re not going to clam up. They want to make sure that you’re going to be able to express your expertise and have a thoughtful conversation with your fellow panelists to help educate people in the room.

John Svoboda:

Fantastic. Now, I, as well as you, have been to a number of industry events. There’s always panels. There’s always roundtable discussions. Many times, I’ve noticed it could be the same people from event to event on these panels, and that’s obviously super valuable for them. What is the value there? What’s the value of being front and center and being on all of these panels and being recognized at these events from one to the next?

Ricardo Baca:

Well, the value is immense. I mean, for one, you are up there and you’re seen as an educator, you’re seen as a thought leader. So your peers are out there and they’re looking to you to share your expertise with us. And that’s just immensely valuable because, of course, it’s good for your personal brand. Heck, yes, take that every day, but it’s also good for the brand that you’re there representing because, John, you’ve spoken at some of these panels, too. When you get off that stage, oftentimes people have follow-up questions. And how good does it feel when there’s a crowd of two or 10 people waiting to ask you their question, to exchange business cards, to tell you, “Hey, I don’t have my license yet, but I’ve applied for one. And when I get one, I’m calling you because I want to talk about how I can be up here on the stage doing the same thing.”

Ricardo Baca:

So, it’s immensely valuable. The last thing I’ll add is, sure enough, conference programmers, especially in 2020 and moving forward, they’re recognizing that they need to diversify. There are some folks who are seen as “Oh, they’re always on the stage. Why are they always on the stage? Why am I paying $500, $600, $700 for this conference badge to see the same people speak? And so we are seeing a legitimate push across the board, across the industry, across all of these events, which are currently virtual only, but they’re moving back into physical spaces as we’re allowed to open up. And they’re seeing the need to get new faces on there, and that’s great news for developing thought leaders and new brands who have something compelling to say. My colleagues and I at Grasslands, as you know, we have a unique expertise of getting people heard, elevating their messaging and making sure that message is in front of these target audiences.

John Svoboda:

Absolutely. Absolutely. Well, thanks so much again for your insights, Ricardo. As Ricardo mentioned, you can learn much more about this topic and so, so much more at our website, which is mygrasslands.com. Please follow us on LinkedIn. You can find us at Grasslands Agency. I’m John Svoboda. Feel free to email all of your cannabis marketing and PR questions directly to me at john@mygrasslands.com. And we will see you again tomorrow for another episode of “Cannabis Marketing 101.” Thanks so much, Ricardo, again. Have a great afternoon.

Ricardo Baca:

Thanks so much, John. I’ll see you later.

Got a question of your own? We’d love to hear from you, and are happy to talk shop anytime about cannabis marketing, thought leadership and PR. Drop us a line: hello@mygrasslands.com

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