One of the elements of a good business plan is performing market research to determine your target customers. Pricing, marketing, and product selection all depend on who your key consumer groups are – and what they’re interested in purchasing in the adult-use legal cannabis market.
In some ways, consumer data is extremely limited due to the government’s classification of cannabis as a Schedule I drug. Government research that is typical of other industries is simply not performed on the cannabis market. As a result, most data we have about cannabis consumers is limited to gender, residence, and spending amounts. This can be useful in valuing your cannabis business for investors, but is less helpful for cannabis marketers hoping to build a customer persona.
While the demographics vary among cities and districts, some early trends have emerged that can help inform your cannabis business offering. Here’s what you need to know about the key cannabis consumer groups in 2018.
Who is the typical cannabis customer?
In a survey conducted by the Cannabis Consumers Coalition, the majority of respondents were between ages 21 - 35, which is not necessarily surprising. Interestingly, the second biggest group of cannabis consumers was 45 years or older, meaning cannabis consumers are likely to be professional adults. In fact, the study discovered that more than 58% of cannabis consumers are between the ages of 21 and 55. The perception that cannabis consumers are college age, unmotivated stoners is likely misguided. Cannabis customers are more likely to be working professionals, parents, and with some level of disposable income.
Aligned with the shift in age toward older cannabis consumers, the average household income of a cannabis customer has also risen. The Cannabis Consumers Coalition research indicates that cannabis consumption transcends economic class, with customers at all income levels partaking in cannabis consumption on some level. Inform your product pricing with the following data from their survey: the majority of cannabis customers have combined household incomes of $26,000 - $55,000.
What do we know about the gender of cannabis consumers? While movies like Dazed and Confused have widely popularized the impression that most cannabis consumers are male, this survey suggests the gender gap is much more narrow. Companies like Whoopi & Maya have popularized cannabis as an alternative therapy for women. Women hold nearly 30% of executive leadership positions in the cannabis industry – a significantly higher percentage than the nationwide average. When designing your marketing material, take into consideration that women make the majority of household purchasing decisions, and in the cannabis market, they will be a powerful consumer group.
Medical v. Adult-Use Cannabis Users
Though recreational cannabis is only legal in about half of the states, it’s an important trend to track for new cannabis entrepreneurs interested in entering the market. This statistic can help you understand the deeper motivation behind your customer: are they making a purchase because it’s a medical necessity, or for recreation? How frequently can you expect someone to make a repeat purchase? Diving into your customer behavior has implications for inventory management, loyalty programs, and pricing.
Data from the National Institute of Health reveals that the majority of customers partake in cannabis use for recreational reasons. Their national sample showed that among those consumers who lived in states with medical cannabis legislation, 17% used cannabis for medical reasons and 83% used it recreationally. However, those who do use cannabis medically do so with more frequency and regularity than those customers who purchase cannabis for recreational use. A good business practice would be to take medical consumers’ needs into your marketing plan, even if your primary target customer is a recreational user.
California’s Key Cannabis Consumer Groups
California has the potential to become the world’s largest cannabis market, making it a good bellwether for understanding developing consumer trends. Early studies by market research firm BDS Analytics indicates there are three key consumer groups across the state. Primary consumers in California are 39 years old and have used cannabis or cannabinoids in the past six months. A secondary group deemed “acceptors” by the study are 49 years old, and while they haven’t recently used cannabis, they would do so in the future. California’s “rejecter” group is an average of 56-years-old and are not likely to consider cannabis use.
It’s worthwhile to note that while rejecters and acceptors aren’t recent users of cannabis, that doesn’t correlate with disapproval of legal adult-use cannabis. The study showed that tolerance and acceptance of cannabis is becoming more common, and in fact, Californians are becoming more interested in the potential health benefits of cannabis use. This further reinforces the case for continuing to include medical-use customers as part of your business plan and marketing strategy.
For more insight into how to build your cannabis company, get in touch with one of the experts at GreenGrowth CPAs.
Starting a cannabis company can be a tough sell when trying to raise capital from traditional funding sources. The newness of California’s industry combined with the unknown of funding a new (drug!) business leads to a level of risk unappealing to many investors. In a previous post, we’ve covered different ways you can find an injection of cash for your business. And this week, our experts have a new way to make your business more attractive: real estate.
Use Real Estate as an Investment Opportunity
There are two instances where purchasing real estate can be leveraged as an investment opportunity.
The first, most simple way? Use your real estate as a business in and of itself. Purchase a property in a green zone-compliant area that you can use to operate your business. Then, approach investors with the chance to become part owners in the building, rather than your business.
The second way is to offer a similar investment opportunity on different locations owned by your business. If you plan to open multiple locations but need to raise the capital to purchase the locations, have an investor take ownership in individual properties.
Both examples are a win-win for investors and entrepreneurs. For investors who may be wary of the risk associated with the cannabis industry, real estate is a much safer investment option. For cannabis entrepreneurs, you maintain full ownership of your business. Making an investor a part owner in your real estate rather than your business lets you make decisions as you want and grow your company with more autonomy.
Leasing vs Buying: Green-Zone Property
Does this mean you should make an effort to buy a property rather than leasing it? There are pros and cons to both options. We’ve outlined some of the biggest points to finding real estate previously on the blog. Should you have more specific questions, we’re here to help.
This is a very specific instance where our experts have found ways to make your company successful. Get more advice on how to build your business and join California’s billion-dollar cannabis industry when you consult our experts.
Last week, we covered how to find an investor for your cannabis business. It can be hard to find a cash infusion in this industry – many banks won’t issue loans due to federal regulations against the legal sale of cannabis. Instead, look for private equity firms, crowdfunding, or non-specific business or personal loans you can use to get your business off to a running start.
Hopefully, this will lead many cannabis companies to connect with angel investors, private equity firms, or venture capitalists. If you fall into that category, how can you be prepared for the future influx of opportunities from cannabis companies?
There are a few things to seek when evaluating cannabis companies from an investor standpoint. Cannabis companies come with a lot of inherent risk: the industry is new, regulations are still evolving, and there is a lot of cash involved. Bad record-keeping, poor cash control, and outright fraud are just a few of the things many investors worry about. Ask these questions to determine if a cannabis enterprise is worthy of investment.
Does the company use a cloud-based accounting system?
What’s wrong with a traditional accounting system, like keeping track of your sales and purchases in an Excel spreadsheet? A few things:
Cloud-based systems are more secure, mobile-friendly, and easily auditable. Keep tabs on your investment with a cloud tool that lets you quickly review invoices and receipts. Cloud software is more secure: if a laptop is stolen, the data stays safe. A cannabis business can limit the actions an employee can take by deploying different user roles, and make sure that only certain people can enter cash flow transactions. Ask for transparency from a cannabis business to ensure that your money is being used as it should be.
Does the producer or extractor use a robust system of measurements?
Cannabis producers or extractors work with lots of raw material. The end product is like liquid gold: so throughout the process, it’s important to have controls in place to minimize waste. Ask to see evidence that the ratio of final product to raw material makes sense. Can the cannabis extractor/producer demonstrate tight production controls? Can they show the use of standardized measurements at multiple points throughout the process? Can they show that they have taken steps to safeguard against fraud? These are all things you can look for when at an onsite visit to a cannabis operation.
Have they done their due diligence on third-party vendors?
Make sure anyone you’re entering into a partnership with has cleared their third-party vendors. Cannabis businesses have lots of secondary partners – from suppliers to distributors, it’s important to make sure these vendors are fully licensed and aboveboard. Ask a cannabis company for copies of their partners’ California cannabis permits, records of vendors’ physical addresses, contact names and numbers, and any mutual business references that can be checked. See that the cannabis company keeps vendor agreements with every partner on file.
Does the canna-business use a system of checks and balances?
Checks and balances can be as simple as separating staff roles for different accounting functions. Fraud is easy when one person handles all the bookkeeping functions: things such as processing customer payments, managing petty cash, keeping accounting records, or paying invoices. The cannabis business should have at least two people to manage these functions, and keep their accounting and cash handling separated. It’s also recommended that they also keep separate systems for inventory and manufacturing accounting.
Some companies might find it helpful to use a tool like Clover or Xero to keep an eye on their employees. Tools like Clover Payments Plus can give you as the investor better insight into things like cash in and cash out, sales, employee management and scheduling, and inventory tracking, and more.
Do they have up-to-date records?
Keeping up-to-date records show that that the cannabis business is the real deal. Here are just a few things to ask for:
Depending on the unique cannabis operation, get specific on what other permits, records, and local licenses you need to see. Do they have municipal permits? Do they use a system of dual signatures to control cash flow? Does the cannabis company have the right insurance?
If you have any questions, we’re here to help. Don’t hesitate to reach out to California Cannabis CPAs!