In legal states (and illegal ones) marijuana is popular: millions of people smoke up and the others pretend that they don’t (and then, I suppose, there are those who say they don’t and truly don’t). But, as popular as weed has become, opening a dispensary isn’t a guarantee of success. People are going to buy marijuana, but they might buy from your competition rather than you.

It’s important to know your competition:

who they are, what they’re doing, how they’re successfully reeling in customers, and what they’re selling

There’s lots of ways to go about espionage, with some ways considered more covert operations than others. Each has benefits, but you’ll have to do decide what type of spying is best suited for you.

Social Media: Most of us know that social media was made so we can stalk our ex-flames and relish when they’ve lost all the hair on their heads (if male) or gotten much more hair on their face (if female). But social media is also a good way to stalk neighboring dispensaries.Social Media, Spy on the competition

Visit their Facebook page or Twitter and see what kind of deals they’re offering or what kind of marketing tricks they’re employing. You shouldn’t steal their ideas, but their ideas may help you develop ideas of your own – better ideas!

If there’s a certain type of status to which people are extra receptive (information about health or cannabis trends), make note and emulate it if possible

If your competition has a website (and they should (as should you)), spend some time looking around and getting a feel for their corporate culture. What works? What doesn’t work? What’s so appealing that you want to lick the computer screen when no one’s looking?

Setup Google Alerts: You might have a Google alert setup for yourself; set one up for your competition as well. A Google alert sends you an email whenever it finds any kinds of new results (blogs, webpages, news pieces) that involve your competition. If the dispensary down the street won an award for Small Business of the Year, you’re going to want to know. And you’re going to want to take your spy-game to the next level: Bong. James Bong.

Ask your customers: There’s a good chance that even your most loyal customers have patronized other dispensaries – they might have gone to someone before they knew about you or they might cheat on you in the name of gas money. Use this to your advantage! Customers offer a wealth of information and allow you to discover the little things that people find attractive. Maybe the dispensary across town offers a referral program. Maybe you should too.

Become a customer: Of course, you could take the whole customer thing to another level and become one yourself…..a fake one. This only works if the dispensary doesn’t know who you are – lose the Groucho Glasses (you’re not fooling anyone).

Going under the radar and into enemy territory offers you all kinds of chances to gather information from the point of view you want to understand: that of the shopper

Pay special attention to how the budtenders treat you. To gather even more intel, play the role of a difficult customer and see how they react: Do you have a strain that matches my eyes?

Go to a Trade Show: Marijuana trade shows are becoming increasingly popular and for good reason: the industry is booming and there’s lots and lots to talk about. Attendance at one of these conferences is a great way to build connections and network, but it’s also a good way to learn about what your competitors are doing. Stop by their booth under the guise that you want a free pen; stay for the company secrets that are sure to spill out.Spy on competition, cannabis trade show

Poach Employees: Sure, poaching another company’s employee is a little sketchy, but all is far in love, in war, and in business. If your competitor has a budtender who’s a rock star or a marketer that could sell a joint to Jeff Sessions, explore the possibility of hiring them. Some employees jump at the opportunity to leave their jobs; others can be lured by money, perks, or more flexibility.

Know their Reputation: Every company has a reputation (and, yes, no reputation speaks volumes). Knowing the reputation of your competitors allows you to come up with a better business plan. If the hottest dispensary has a reputation for going above and beyond for their patrons or offering free samples of new products, mimic them.

Figure out what works for others and make it work for you too

Naturally, be aware of poor reputations as well. If you know of a nearby pot shop with a reputation for never having medicinal patches in stock, call your supplier and double your order.

Keep an Eye on Trends: The pot industry is a particular potent one, constantly evolving and changing with the times. Trends are important – without them edibles, dabs, tinctures, topicals, etc. may have never found their day in the sun. People are always working to figure out how to deliver the highest level of cannabinoids to the bloodstream in the least time possible. And that means times change rapidly.

Since cannabis is so reliant on trends, you must be a trend setter. But, if you can’t do that, at least be a trend follower: do your research, figure out what’s hot, and make sure you’re offering it to your patrons. It’s likely that your competition already is.

Jenn Keeler

About the author: Jenn Keeler is a freelance writer and illustrator specializing in humorous lifestyle articles. She is one of the few people on earth actually using an English degree. Her heart belongs to the Denver Broncos and her husband. In that order.