How To Successfully Throw A Cannabis Launch Event
The medical cannabis industry is booming with new businesses, entrepreneurs and products as the ‘Green Rush’ continues to evolve and expand into new territories. This is leading to a new trend in the industry, the ‘Launch Event’. Companies throughout the medical cannabis space are throwing events every weekend that could end up making or breaking their success in the cannabis space. That being said, when should you throw a launch event? Why? Who should you invite? What will you get out of it? To help us answer all of these questions we’ve enlisted the help of Hugo Aviles, Editor, CDO and Co-Founder of Cannavoices and event planner extraordinaire. Cannavoices is getting set to launch their newest venture ‘Cannavoices Lifestyle Magazine’, a quarterly publication poised to become a juggernaut in the legal medical cannabis industry. Let’s pick his brain and figure out when and how to throw a successful launch party.
First off, what is Cannavoices?
Cannavoices is a social community where legal medical cannabis advocates and visionary entrepreneurs communicate via the web. It has become a digital media ecosystem for the medical cannabis community and it attracting the attention of big name advocates all across America.
“Cannavoices covers the best that the legal medical cannabis community has to offer in the worlds of medicine, business, investing, entertainment, technology, culture and travel.” – Hugo Aviles – Editor, CDO, Co-Founder of Cannavoices, Inc.
What is the goal of a launch event?
The goal of a launch is to successfully and strategically interact with the public, media, investors or influential professionals within whichever market is most applicable to your product. When constructed properly, launch parties provide a venue where you can build upon existing relationships or cultivate new strategic partnerships. Additionally, events like these serve to provide added exposure to your brand and company image. However, launch events need to be thrown responsibly, with goals and strategy in place.
Hugo – You don’t want to throw an event just to have an event. Using profits to throw a party is not a sustainable practice. Successful event planners will look to gain more value than they spend, typically hoping for a 10x-100x return on their investment.
Private or Public
Should your event be VIP/Invite only or should you make it an open invitation on Facebook so everyone can come? There are merits to choosing either one of these options. The key is to figure out what your overall goals and budgets are ahead of time. While a public event might net you more live eyes and ears, perhaps a private event would more effectively serve your brand.
Pros – The benefit to hosting a private event is better control of the event’s variables. You can strategically plan your PR, control overall media strategy and perhaps most importantly, you can be sure that you personally cultivate strategic relationships. Furthermore, invite only, VIP style events are just cool. They provide the allure of exclusivity and, when covered properly, can appear as a much larger event than your budget allows.
Cons – The negative to hosting a private event is less contact with the general public. Reserve private events for strategic product releases or partnership building. If you are trying to hit the masses with your message, a private event is likely not for you unless you can blow it up through pre and post event media coverage. Furthermore, a private event will likely generate little pre-show buzz, as the majority of media coverage will come after the event, through video, media coverage and photos. This can be a ‘pro’ if effectively planned and executed.
“There are pro’s and con’s to having a private event vs a public event. Of course the public will likely involve more guests, which is great, but it will also give you less control over the image of the event. Smaller, more exclusive parties allow for more control and strategic planning.” – Hugo Aviles – Editor, CDO, Co-Founder of Cannavoices, Inc.
Pros – If you need to reach a lot of people, the fact is, opening your launch party to the public provides greater accessibility to a larger number of potential consumers, especially if you can put them in a position of action while in attendance. Consumers are much more likely to purchase a product or buy into an idea if they can see, touch or taste it. In addition, you will also be able to publicize your public event more before it takes place because anyone can go. You wouldn’t want to mass market a private event. The majority of that press comes afterwards as previously mentioned.
Cons – Public events take much more time to plan, especially if they involve a large group of people. Vendors, sponsorships and other factors all need to be considered in order to have a successful public launch event. Also, since there will be so many attendees and other moving parts throughout the event, it is much more difficult to control the entire process. Often times you will lose the ability to effectively brand and control media content with that many variables in place. However, if you’re launching a product of an already established brand, perhaps your history in the space can control that for you.
Most Important Consideration
“Time is the most important asset to leverage when it comes to event planning. A general rule of thumb in promotions is to give yourself at least 30 days to promote an event.” – Hugo Aviles – Editor, CDO, Co-Founder of Cannavoices, Inc.
Time can affect your event in many different ways. If you do not have ample time to prepare and promote your event, then making it a private, invite only party will allow you to specifically target and control your guest list without having to worry about a poor public turnout. If you do have at least 30 days to prepare, you should feel more comfortable shooting for a bigger launch event, provided it fits your budget and company goals.
Weather and Location
No matter where your event is going to take place, weather and location are two important factors to consider when throwing a launch party. Be sure to scout locations with weather in mind. If you are considering an outdoor event, check weather patterns for the time of the year in which your event will be held. Also, be sure to have at least one back up venue in mind. Weather can be unpredictable. If bad weather hits, you don’t want to be left out in the rain without a back-up plan. Remember, if you fail to plan, then plan to fail.
“We’re going to prepare by solidifying 2-3 backup locations just in case weather doesn’t permit. You need to plan for all possible scenarios.” – Hugo Aviles – Editor, CDO, Co-Founder of Cannavoices, Inc.
When should a business throw a launch event?
The keyword throughout this article has been strategic. When deciding on the timing or decision to throw your launch event, strategy is once again the name of the game.
“Always be strategic. Reverse-engineer the strategy. Discuss the important issues. What is your company’s current situation? What you would want out of an event? Why are you throwing the event? Do you have the operating capital to throw the event? Maybe you can monetize your event to where you don’t even need the capital. “– Hugo Aviles – Editor, CDO, Co-Founder of Cannavoices, Inc.
So when should you throw a launch party? The true answer is that it varies from business to business, depending on each individual company’s goals and vision. Be that as it may, you don’t need a million dollars to throw a great event. Things like sponsorships, trade and advertising can actually generate revenue at your event. If you can successfully monetize your launch party before hand, often times you will cross the finish line with more money than you started.
“You don’t want to throw an event just to throw an event. You have to say to yourself, ‘Am I going to be able to get 10-100x return on my profit?’ ‘If I spend $1, can I get $10-$100 back?’ That result doesn’t necessarily have to be quantitative either. It might not be hard, green money. Dividends might come from new partnerships, investors or client relationships that you cultivate at your event. Bottom line is that a game plan needs to be in place.” – Hugo Aviles – Editor, CDO, Co-Founder of Cannavoices, Inc.
Rule of 10
Your budget plays the first role in who you are going to invite as well as how many people you can afford to host (if you are not monetizing your event). Once you determine your budget constraints, you can move on to the Rule of 10.
“The Rule of 10 is that you want to invite at least 10 authorities in the space. Most of whom will have a +1. That means that you have 20 authoritative, influential industry experts at your event. If you can tailor your event to the expertise of your attendees, then the law of exponential returns kicks in. Instead of inviting 1,000 random people to your event, you can get much more firepower through inviting at least 10 of these authorities. These authorities have the databases that can give you the dynamic exposure that you need to capitalize on your event.” – Hugo Aviles – Editor, CDO, Co-Founder of Cannavoices, Inc.
What makes a launch event successful?
Hugo Aviles has previously thrown successful events and launch parties, so who better to answer this question than the man himself. According to Hugo:
“Most people think that you receive all the exposure and monetization on the pre-side of the event. But it is actually the post-side that can net you the biggest return if done right. You need to be sure to have the right team of videographers, photographers and event hosts. Because of the media element of event coverage, you can take you event and present it in way that sends a bigger, more specific message that perhaps the actual event did not. An event with 20-30 people, if covered correctly, could appear like a million dollar event with thousands of attendees.”
“Don’t concentrate on an extravagant event if you don’t have the right media team in place. You could have the most expensive party, filled with an Ultra-VIP guest list, but if nobody’s there to record it then you lose all the momentum you could have gained. With social media, people can now post a video on Snapchat, Facebook or Instagram and get more exposure than the local news. The point being that the public thirst for media coverage clearly exists and accessible media solutions are out there for you to take advantage of, no matter what your budget might be.”
What industry specific challenges does a legal cannabis business face when throwing an event like a launch party?
Location and guest list are the two biggest issue for Cannavoices, due to the fact they operate out of Florida. According to Hugo:
“On the east-coast, especially in Florida, the cannabis industry is still evolving and is not as progressive as the west-coast as of yet. There remains a good deal of stigma surrounding cannabis, specifically on the recreational side. One of the main challenges is being able to educate the non-advocate and non-recreational user.”
“Furthermore, since those stigmas are still so prominent, influential public figures and closet advocates are harder to draw out because public perception in Florida is not yet as progressive as other areas of the country. While the industry is becoming less stigmatized by the day, there still remains enough to keep some attendees away that we would otherwise love to host at our event.”
“In regards to facilities, you have to be able to capitalize on strategic relationships. Luckily for us, we’ve built an elaborate rolodex that allows us to host and throw events while working in the cannabis space. However, during our due diligence process we discovered that not all venues would allow us to mention their name, location or film at the event. We eliminated those venues from contention because they clearly failed to value our long-term relationship potential. As advocates for the cannabis industry, we need to be fluid and flexible enough to seek out venues that are willing to host our events.”
Cannavoices will throw a private, VIP exclusive event this weekend in St. Petersburg, Florida’s ‘The Canopy Rooftop Lounge at The Birchwood’. Here they will launch the first edition of the ‘Cannavoices Lifestyle Magazine‘. The purpose of the event is to strategically launch the magazine to the public. By keeping the initial launch VIP only, they will control their content, build relationships and network with specific and strategic event attendees.
In the future, Cannavoices will host quarterly launch parties that will be marketed on a more macro scale and open to the public. They will encourage fans and advocates to attend and establish their own networking opportunities with an overall goal being the betterment of the legal medical cannabis industry as a whole.
What do you think is the most important thing to consider before throwing a launch event? What questions do you have for Hugo? Join the conversation and comment below!