Despite the rapid growth of the cannabis industry cannabis shops and dispensaries remain small businesses and small business is personal.

As a small business owner you have a unique connection with each customer and it is maintaining and nurturing this connection that keeps your customers coming back even as new dispensaries seem to be popping up all around. In addition to competition, having employees is something new to many dispensaries and in the chaos of managing people, we often forget that employees are the most powerful (and economic) marketing tool at our disposal. Think of it this way: if there are five people in your shop serving customers and one person is off-message; 20 percent of your marketing efforts are being wasted.

Think about the reasons you frequent a small business over a big-box: a local coffee-shop instead of Starbucks, a neighborhood nursery rather than picking up plants at Lowe’s or Home Depot, the bar, pub, restaurant, auto-repair. It could be that they offer a superior product, but more likely you chose a small business because they offer you a personal connection.

According to Gerry Lantz of Stories That Work, human relationships are essential to marketing and to building your brand. You are energetic and passionate about your business. You know your story. Do your employees know your story? Can they communicate that story? Your employees are going to engage with your customers. Do they know what to say and how to say it? Don’t assume so. You want your employees to engage with customers in authentic conversations. You want them to listen and respond. But they need to be telling the right story. A consistent story. Your story that conveys your business, your brand.

Think of the businesses you frequent. Is there one that every time you visit them, no matter who waits on you, you leave feeling good about your experience, your purchase, yourself? It’s not by accident. It is unlikely that shopkeeper just got lucky and hired all those nice engaging people. They are marketing to you. They want you to return and you feel good about doing so.

When your employees interact with customers you want them to create a positive experience for that customer. Retailers talk in terms of “delighting” the customer. This can be as simple as saying “Good Morning!” It can be asking “How are you today?” and listening to your customer’s response. It can be showing a genuine interest in your customer’s well-being. It can be in the form of introducing a customer to a product that is new to them. By engaging with your customers, listening to them and addressing their wants and needs you and your employees are marketing. In a dispensary, every conversation is personal. Helping your employees to understand the importance of their interactions with customers, telling your employees your story, the story you want to convey to customers, means that every conversation will contribute to your marketing message.