October 24, 2019

How this B2B Brand Went Vertical into a “Budding” Industry

A major CRM company, Springbig, is blazing a trail. They’ve become a go-to provider in the industry they focus on, they’ve got a 98% customer retention rate, and have their entire staff supporting a brand purpose: Help retailers accomplish their goals, every day. On this episode, co-founder and CEO Jeffrey Harris explains how they managed to come into a new industry and quickly establish themselves as key players. The kicker? The area that Springbig pivoted to focus on is the rapidly flowering, marijuana dispensary industry.

The cannabis tech industry—think martech, but specifically for cannabis companies—is booming. Updated legislature and an overall cultural shift in perception are two especially large factors in this market’s rapid growth, and as such, a massive new marketplace is opening up, meaning companies have huge opportunities, but need to move quickly. Springbig recognized this and set to work identifying and understanding their target. Now, they’re sought out at industry conferences, expanding their vast clientele, and helping dispensaries optimize customer messaging with advanced metrics—After 4 visits, Springbig can actually predict with 90% accuracy what time a dispensary’s customers will have their 5th visit!

Tune in to this week’s episode to hear more about their rapid ascent in dispensary circles, their approach to quickly gaining an accurate understanding of the market, how they use marketing to foster loyalty, and more.

Full Transcription: Drew Neisser in conversation with Jeff Harris

Drew Neisser: Hello, Renegade Thinkers! Our guest today is Jeff Harris, founder of Springbig, a software company that is lighting up the cannabis industry. Yes, I want to warn you right now, you may be the victim of some bad pot puns, but this episode is really interesting and I think you’re going to enjoy it because it turns out that the “cannatech”—that’s like Martech but for the cannabis industry—is growing like a weed. It really is.

Jeffery’s company Springbig I think has raised $7.6 million in funding, it’s sent out over 90 million SMS messages on behalf of the retailers that Springbig works with to help them build loyalty among their customers. So we’re going to talk about loyalty. We’re going to talk about CRM and we’ll probably talk a little bit about cannabis. So, Jeff, welcome to Renegade Thinker’s Unite.

Jeffrey Harris: Thank you. Excited to be here.

Drew Neisser: I was on a podcast the other day and Dov Barron has amazing applause when the guest comes on and I’m really feeling the need of that, so I want you to imagine that throngs of listeners are now clapping and excited to hear what you have to say.

Jeffrey Harris: That just makes me a little bit more nervous but we’re good.

Drew Neisser: No need. I’ve seen you on other podcasts. You’ve got this down. Now, I have to ask. I listened to one of the shows you talked about how Springbig wasn’t initially in the cannabis business but you noticed that you were making some progress in that area and you decided to go all in and make this company CRM focused for this specific vertical. Which of your friends said, “What are you crazy?” and which of your friend’s friends said, “Hey, how do I get in on this?”

Jeffrey Harris: It was really interesting, actually, because when we had created Springbig initially to support small businesses, pizza shops, yogurt shops, the nail salons, the hair salons, we said, “Wow, how can you miss? There are millions of these small businesses out there.”

What we found is that it was really difficult to get to the owner of that business because the owner of the yogurt shop is not in the shop that often. They’re not there scooping and serving yogurt, they’re coming in a couple of hours a day to take care of things that they have to take care of, so from a business development standpoint, we found it a bit challenging.

At the end of 2016, we looked at our portfolio of customers and we had two dispensaries, two cannabis dispensaries, both of them medical. We looked at them, and they were spending a lot more money than the non-cannabis customers that we had. The company did some more research and we said, “You know what, we think we got something here because there’s a real need in this market.” So actually, we came back from Christmas break and we said, “Okay, we’re now just totally focusing on cannabis.”

The first thing I had to do is I had to tell our investors because we had some investors before that $7.6 that invested the old Springbig. Some of them were like, “Oh, that’s super cool” and some of them said, “Buy me out, please. I want out of this deal.” You know, it was an unknown for them, it was really new, they didn’t understand it. Some of them may have had their own personal reasons why they wanted to buy out. So we had two groups of investors, some of them like, “Oh, this is great, let’s go,” and some of them were like, “Get me out of here.”

I think that’s probably the same reaction I had from some of my friends when I said, “Oh, by the way, we’re pivoting this business to go into cannabis.” I think people that were a little bit in the industry and knew what was going on said, “Oh, that’s such a great move, that’s awesome.” The other people, it’s not like they were against it, they just said, “Oh, really interesting. I never would have thought you would have gone there.” We definitely got a mix of reactions for sure

Drew Neisser: Excellent. Well, you committed to the vertical market and I think that’s such an interesting thing. It’s funny I tell this story often, but I love telling it again, it’s one of my favorite stories. When I was on a co-op board for our building, we had to redesign the hallways and none of the seven members on the hallway committee had ever gone through this process.

The three construction companies were brought in and the first one we asked, “Hey, what do you guys do?” And they said, “Oh, we do buildings of all sizes and restaurants and so forth and co-ops and condos. We do hallways and we do all sorts of stuff.” Second one says the same thing. Third one comes in and says, “We only do co-ops and condos.” We went, “Really?” And then they said, “Yeah, we only do hallways for co-ops and condos and by the way, here are the 10 emails that you’re going to need to send to your tenants because they really care about a few things, one of which is dust, so we put 10% of our dollars in to clean up every single day.”

Well, obviously it was the easiest decision we had ever made. But I asked the guy afterward, what happened? How did you get this decision? How was it at first? He said, “It was really hard because we had turned business away. We had to ignore it. But, eventually, when we now win 70% of our RFPs, we know the business better, we’re more profitable, and we’re never underbid.”

I’m imagining, and I’m projecting some of this on you but, once you went all in, it might have been hard at first, but then you just learned the particulars of your marketplace.

Jeffrey Harris: Well, yes and yes. I think when we got into it, we didn’t realize what pent up demand there was in this space for a service like ours. When we got into the space there was one competitor that had gotten in before us and they were doing very well. They were well known, right? We were basically the other guys when we got into it, but still, there was enough of an opportunity, there were enough prospects out there that we saw some immediate traction, which was really encouraging.

How often do you get into a new vertical and all of the sudden sales start happening? We looked for that and then as we got more into it and we learned more about what was happening and how to address the market, we became more and more successful. We’re now at the point where there are probably three other players besides us doing similar things in this space, in this vertical, and we probably are the most well-known now and probably have the most customers partly because we really delved into it.

As you mentioned in your example with the co-op, we really got to understand not only the general market, but the state by state market, because every state has its own market in this industry and we can talk about that in a minute. Then there were the nuances of each state, and then we had to make sure that we were addressing the customers in each state a little bit differently to address their needs. We found success pretty quickly but obviously the success continued to ramp up. Success builds on success. You continue those cycles of learning to try to get to a place where you can accelerate your success.

Drew Neisser: When you look at this in this way, it’s only been three years now since you went all-in on cannabis, were there some things that you did to help market your organization that you realized were, in retrospect, particularly effective?

Jeffrey Harris: Yeah, this industry is now more of an industry, but when we got into it close to three years ago, I would call it more of a community than it was an industry. There was like this “cause” that was going on. Phase 1 of this industry, we probably got in at the end of Phase 1, early Phase 2, but Phase 1 of this industry were people that just had this mission to make cannabis legal and to make cannabis available to patients and customers that wanted it for the right reasons. It was really like this cause going on.

Jeffrey Harris: When there’s this cause going on, there’s a community that’s built around the cause. Where does a community meet and get together? At conferences. That’s where they all got together. In other industries that I’ve participated in, you go to a conference and you may see the marketing managers or the marketing directors of these companies. In cannabis, the owners were there. All of them were there, so that was probably the place where we wanted to spend the most dollars and the most time from a marketing standpoint. PR is huge in this industry and conferences are huge in this industry.

Prior to this industry, I really wasn’t a big PR fan. I felt like you would be spending some money and what did you really get for it? In this industry, you could tell that you get value out of it and you definitely get value out of the conferences. Being part of the community was important. They wanted to see that we were part of the community. We were investing in the community. We were going to be there. And then as you were there, you got more information.

Drew Neisser: I want to break it down. Let’s talk about your approach to conferences. I think it’s interesting, one, I would assume they would want you to be with them in the trenches as these folks are pioneers and really passionately believe in it. What did you do at conferences that you think helped you— other than being there—that helped distinguish your firm from a competitor who already had a lead?

Jeffrey Harris: We tried to get as many speaking engagements as we could. It was a little difficult at the beginning because we were not that well-known. We basically brought people and we were walking those conferences, we were advertising beforehand to let people know we were there. We were trying to do everything that we could to get the exposure that we needed so people would actually come to our booth and talk to us.

The first couple of conferences, you could tell. Who are you? What do you guys do? How can you help us? This past year, just to fast forward like a year and a half, this past November at the big conference in Las Vegas, it’s called MJBizCon, we had people seeking us out. Coming up saying, “OH I was looking for you guys. I heard about you guys and I was looking for you guys.”

I don’t think it’s anything unique that we did that was so special other than doing the best we could to let people know who we were, to try to leverage our clients to gain exposure because it’s a community. Here in this environment, competitive retailers talk to each other all the time and they wanted to make sure and we wanted to leverage those people to say, “Hey, Springbig’s doing great for us, you could use them for you.” So we leveraged them a lot as well.

Drew Neisser: You mentioned PR. Let’s talk about that. You were a skeptic about it. What did you do that turned you around?

Jeffrey Harris: Because in this industry, what we’re finding is that people actually read this stuff and they comment on it and they respond to us. What turned me around was, we’d do a PR piece, and we would say inbound traffic into our website, inbound leads, like literally within a day or two. In other industries that I’ve worked on, and I still am a majority shareholder of a loyalty company outside of cannabis so we do PR there, too., the results of our PR activities there are not necessarily as immediate as they are here.

You get a PR piece in new cannabis ventures or you get a PR piece in some of the leading publications in this industry, and you get reaction and you get response. You get people emailing you, you get people calling you, you get people responding to leads, and it’s both potential customers and a lot of potential investors, believe it or not, that read this stuff. I know within three or four days or a week after we send out a piece, I’m going to get an email from two to three potential investors that are looking to learn more about what we’re doing.

Drew Neisser: I think one of the things that folks forget about vertical marketing is that what’s tricky is you want to get it as narrow as you possibly can. David C. Baker talks about the business of expertise in his book and he talks about how it’s got to be larger than 500, but maybe smaller than 10,000 in terms of the names that you could buy in order to market those folks. The idea being that you could know more about this—he calls it “drop and give me 20″—20 insights about marketing and building loyalty in this industry.

This is where expertise and vertical marketing really come together. I want to take a break, because we’ve covered some ground, but I want to come back and talk about some of the expertise and things that you’ve learned about building loyalty in this particular segment. Stay with us. 


Drew Neisser: All right, we’re back, and my guest is Jeff Harris, the founder and CEO of Springbig. We haven’t talked specifically about what the company does. It’s actually a CRM software company for cannabis retailers. First of all, give us a sense of the size of the market. I think I heard you say there were 6,000 current cannabis retailers out there?

Jeffrey Harris: I think there are probably about 6,000 locations. They aren’t necessarily 6,000 companies that you can call. Now what’s happening in this industry is it’s moving from what I’ll call a pure mom-and-pop industry to more of a corporate industry where companies that have gone public are either buying existing retailers and merging them into their organization or they’re getting licenses. You’re seeing more and more now of companies that may have 20 stores, 30 stores, 50 stores. You still have your mom-and-pops, you still have your single store chains and your two, three, four, five-store chains, but the industry is definitely evolving where you’re going to have more companies that have a higher store count.

There are probably about, I would say, about 3,000 potential prospects to call. There’s definitely enough prospects to call, and what’s unique about this industry is literally every day, and when people ask me about it, I say, “How many industries do you know of where every day there’s a new prospect to call?” Every day, because every day another store is opening somewhere. Whether it be a new state that turned legal a few months ago and they’re opening up stores, states issue more licenses and now they have new stores opening up. There are various methods of data that you can purchase to let you know that, oh, today these stores are open for business or they got a new license.

We’re not the only ones, obviously, that use that data but we’re hitting that data as soon as we get it to understand that. We have about 3,000 prospects, and we have about 800 customers on our platform right now.

Specifically, what our platform does is it does two things for the retailer. It provides them with the software support and the software platform to design and manage their customer loyalty program. We give them the ability to create and manage a customer loyalty program with a high level of sophistication. The second thing it does is it helps them build their customer database through that loyalty program and then leverage the database to communicate with customers about anything and everything they want to relating to the program, relating to other deals they have, specials, information, announcements, things of that nature, primarily through text messaging and e-mail.

Those are the tools that we use. SMS or text messaging is used a lot more than email. It gets a much better response and a much faster response and the reason why it’s so popular and so effective is that cannabis is not federally legal yet.

Some of the other tools that non-cannabis industries would use, like Facebook and Instagram and other tools that they would use to market are not available to the cannabis retailers because Facebook doesn’t allow cannabis content, Instagram doesn’t allow cannabis content. Also, within text messaging, you have to be very careful about how you present. You can get the content through but you have to be nuanced about how you present it.

Drew Neisser: Let’s go back to the question: what do you think have learned about your industry so that when you sit down with a new retailer, you can tell them the things that they hadn’t even thought about yet that you’ve learned as a result of working with all the retailers that you have so far?

Jeffrey Harris: I think it mostly comes down to how to best structure their loyalty program, because, if you think about it, anyone can create a loyalty program. It doesn’t mean it’s smart or going to work, but they can create it. One of the things we now are much better at is, because we see so many of these loyalty programs, we see the ones that work, we see the ones that don’t work, and there are two aspects of what it means to work or not work.

One is, are you getting the reaction from the customer base that you were expecting? Are you getting the response and the reaction? And the second thing, from an economic standpoint is, is it paying off for you? Meaning are you generating a return on investment?

There’s a balancing act there because if I give away the store, I’ll get a great reaction from the customer but it doesn’t mean I’m going to make any money. If I give away too little, I may not be giving away too much, but I’m not getting a great reaction. I’m not seeing an increase in visits and spend and things like that. There’s a balancing act to find the right balance between what is the offer to the customer and how does that offer generate, number one, response and loyalty from your customer, but how does it do it in a way that’s profitable for the store?

That’s one thing we see clear as day and we see it by state. We know in the state of Florida what’s working better than not, we see in the state of California or Washington or Nevada, because we have stores all over. Every state we have stores. That’s one thing we see.

The other thing I think that we’re able to help our clients with is to better understand what to say in those messages that they send out to their customers to, number one, get the response they’re looking for. They’re really looking for two things. They’re looking for the customer to come to visit more often and they’re looking when they do come to visit for them to spend more money. Those are the two things they’re looking for. And how do we help them do that most effectively? We also can see the stores that are doing it well and the stores that are not doing it well, and we can guide stores on how to do it better.

Drew Neisser: When you look at the stores that are doing it well, what are they doing?

Jeffrey Harris: The first thing they’re doing is they’re not necessarily blasting all their customers every day. We still have a lot of clients that will send a message and we have some that send two messages a day. That’s a lot and they’re very promotionally driven, meaning they’re very discount driven, and, yes, it does bring in sales. I don’t want to say it doesn’t bring in sales, but it’s very expensive to be sending out one, two messages a day. And that’s not even the expensive part. The more expensive part is the offers that they’re making, the discounts that they’re offering.

The way to do it right is to figure out the cadence of your customer visits. When are they coming in? When are they not coming in? What they’re interested in, what categories of product they’re buying, and then how do we create a marketing plan or a communications plan for the store that hits the customers at the right cadence level and also communicates about things that the customer would be interested in.

If they have 10,000 customers on their database and they send out a general offer, X percent are going to be interested in that but a larger percentage won’t because it’s just not what they’re interested in. But if I get the store to send out four offers: one for the flower guys, one for the edible guys, one for the concentrate guys, a larger percentage of the customers that receive that message will be interested in it and the response will be way better.

We make money when they send text messages so it sounds a little nuts when we say, “Hey, don’t send so many.” We’re interested in the long term viability of what our platform does and we’re interested in long term relationships so we’re willing to give up a little bit in terms of not necessarily maxing out what they could do for them being smarter about how they do it.

Drew Neisser: Interesting. I think these would apply to pretty much any retailer trying to build customer loyalty. Obviously, the cadence, frequency of communications, the types of communications you send. But ultimately there’s an opportunity today for personalization. We’ve all been trained by Amazon that people who like this book, like this book, or by Netflix that people who like this movie, like that movie, and to not bring that level of sophistication to any marketing seems like a lost opportunity.

Is it something that in your system, it’s just built right in? How specific can they get, how personalized? And what is the state of the art of personalization right now?

Jeffrey Harris: In our platform, they can get pretty granular in who they want to message. For example, they can message customers based on the categories of product that they purchase, they can message customers based on the brands that they purchase. They can message customers based on the average spend that the customer spends in the store. They can message customers based on how much they’ve spent. They can message customers based on how frequently they visit and how many times they’ve visited.

They could actually even message customers based on the time of day that they shop. You have morning shoppers, you have afternoon shoppers, you have evening shoppers, and they can actually communicate with these customers based on when they’re most apt to come into the store and purchase. There’s a lot of segmentation and a lot of personalization opportunity and our goal is to get more and more of our customers to use it.

Drew Neisser: Have you seen any patterns where certain things overall that were surprising to you initially? Time of day is an interesting one. What have you seen universally from a loyalty-building standpoint? Now, I use the term loyalty-building, but really they’re just thinking about driving sales, so from a sales-driving standpoint, have you seen some types of personalization that have really worked?

Jeffrey Harris: I was actually shocked about the time of day. Our product team put in a segment called Next Visit Time, and I went to them and said, “What is this next visit time?” And they said, “You won’t believe it. After four visits, we can predict for the store, with over 90% accuracy, not necessarily the day a customer is going to come into the store, but if they’re going to come in, what time.”

I said, “Is anybody even going to use that?” I didn’t even imagine anyone would even use it. And they said, “Well, we think they’re going to use it” and then all of a sudden, we have an amazing client in Washington and—sometimes you have like the perfect client where the relationship is a great, the vibe between you and the client is great, they’re willing to try some things, they basically know how to use the platform—this guy has about a 35,000 person or 40,000 person database. He started using this Next Visit Time.

What we were able to see was shocking to me. On average a text message campaign generates between $1-$2 in revenue per text message sent. If I send out a message to 20,000 people, it’s going to generate something between $20,000 and $40,000 in sales for that campaign, which is great. When you think about that, a text message costs about a penny, so it’s a nice return.

When they were using Next Visit Time, that $1-$2 went up to $5-$6.

Drew Neisser: Wow. That’s 3x.

Jeffrey Harris: Wow is right. As soon as I saw that, I said, “Woah, we better get this Next Visit Time segment out to everybody.” You know when you have your product team and they’re there for a reason because they know that stuff better than you know that stuff? This was a perfect example of when they really nailed it. It was really great. And now we have a lot of people using it, which is nice.

When you incorporate emojis, when you incorporate images, MMS images into the text messages, they also get better response, too, because they make the text message more fun, more engaging, it’s less bland. The more exciting they can make the marketing communication, the more response you’re gonna get as well.

Drew Neisser: Very cool. All right. We’re going to take a quick break and we’ll be right back.


Drew Neisser: We’re back, and we’re going to wrap up this episode and we’re going to just figure out some of the lessons that you’ve learned that are going to be relevant to other B2B marketers.

I want to talk a little bit about texting in general. I find that when I get a text from an airline that says, “Hey, Drew, the plane’s been delayed or your gates changed,” it’s very helpful. Same way with the rental car company when they say, “Hey, your car is in this space.” That’s awesome. But I do occasionally get a message, “Hey, we’re having a deal on this.” More often than not, it just rubs me the wrong way because it’s so clear that they just want to sell me stuff. How have you worked with your retailers to make sure that that SMS is not annoying, but is beneficial to the customer?

Jeffrey Harris: I look at the cannabis industry and you have a lot of customers that are buying cannabis that are buying it regularly. It’s not like you’re buying something four times a year and that company that you purchase from four times a year is texting on a regular basis.

You have customers that are buying two, three times a week in many cases so the analogy I would use is that it’s like a supermarket. People go to the supermarket all the time. If I would get a text message from a supermarket saying, “Hey, we have this deal coming up” and I know that we’re shopping at the supermarket once, twice a week, then it’s a more relevant communication to me than it is if I’m buying golf shoes and I buy golf shoes twice a year.

Cannabis is more relevant as a supermarket experience than it is a golf shoe purchase experience. We do see opt-outs, by the way, that’s the way we measure. If a retailer is texting too often, their opt-out rate will go up higher. We watch that every campaign. Our account managers watch that with our clients to see what the opt-out rates are and if we’re seeing that the opt-out rates go beyond what we would think is the normal range, we will alert them and say, “Hey, I think you guys gotta scale it back a little bit so you don’t upset your customers so they leave your database.”

But especially on the West Coast and especially in the Rec states where it’s a more frequent purchase, we’ve done surveys, and customers love these text messages.

Drew Neisser: See, there you go. So they must be of some service and of value. This is an interesting opportunity. You may not be able to answer that question, but I’m going to talk to you about this guy, Byron Sharp, and how brands grow.

 One of the things that his research suggests is that marketers have loyalty all backward and they focus on the heavy user who was going to buy anyway. They give discounts to the heavy user. It’s going to drive their margins down. Volume up, margins down. The real folks to focus on are those infrequent purchasers who are that 20%, if you can get them to purchase one more time. Now, this is primarily packaged goods. I’m curious if any of your customers have looked at their low volume, low user, and just tried to get them to do it. Is any of this relevant in your world? Are you seeing that your customers are mainly rewarding the people they would have bought from anyway?

Jeffrey Harris: He’s 100% correct. Basically, in loyalty, you break down your database into three buckets: your top 10-20%, meaning your really regular shoppers; your middle 60%; and your bottom 20%. When we’re developing loyalty programs—and this is from my experience outside of cannabis, not inside of cannabis—what you’re focused on is that middle 60% that you could influence to get another visit or two out of those people.

The bottom 20%, it’s hard because they’re not really engaged with your brand. The top group, you want to protect them, you want to put a fence around them, but they’re definitely, to his point, your most expensive group to market to from a loyalty standpoint because they’re coming in all the time anyway, so I’m giving away a lot of stuff to people. But the brands are always nervous because if they don’t do something for them, they’re worried they’re going to lose them. It’s more of a fence protecting process, but that middle 60% is what they want to focus on.

We actually have a number of automated triggers in our platform that address these particular needs. We have a set of automated triggers for that top group to not give them as much stuff for free or discount, but to make them feel special. When they visited for the 10th time or the 20th time or the 30th time or when they spent $1,000 or $2500, there is certain messaging that you can create that makes Jeff feel like, “Oh, wow, they really know I’m visiting a lot and they appreciate it and I’m feeling good.” Like when you go to a restaurant or the maître d’ recognizes you, it feels good.

The middle 60% though, to your point, we have win-back strategies, so we have automated win-back. If I haven’t seen a customer in a period of time, I can create a win-back to get him back in. I have different triggers that I could send out based on when they join the program, so at a 30-day mark, at a 90-day mark, at a 180 day mark there are various triggers to address that group, too. But a loyalty program will not address every customer. The bottom 20% is something we actually tell our clients don’t spend a lot of money on. They’re very infrequent shoppers. They may have come in for a reason, but you’re not going to get the return on investment that you’re looking for from that group. So we focus on the top two groups.

Drew Neisser: From your research, can you tell are these folks loyal to the store or are they loyal to a particular product that the store sells? It’s like, I’m not loyal to HBO, but I am loyal to Game of Thrones.

Jeffrey Harris: I think it’s yes and yes right now. I think the industry is too new. Brands are still being curated and cultivated. Right now I think there are some brands that have some real brand recognition so when a customer walks in, they say, “Hey, you have XYZ brand?” and I think they’re looking for the brand. But a lot of times they’re loyal to the store because they know, when they’ve gone to that store before, they’ve received quality products at a fair price with good service.

So the answer is yes and yes. I think over time, as this industry matures, I think it’s going to shift more to the brands. As brands get more recognition and more experience and they build their differentiators compared to cereals. Kellogs and Post and people have an affinity to one or the other. That will take some time, but I think that’s where this industry is going to go.

Drew Neisser: And then it’ll be about the brands that particular retailer carries. Do you think Springbig has a purpose?

Jeffrey Harris: Yeah, I think it does. The purpose of Springbig is to support retailers in accomplishing their goals. That is far and away what we’re here to do. We are here to help retailers be more successful and that’s our mission every day. When we get up in the morning and we come to work, I feel like our job is to help a retailer be more successful today than they were yesterday. That’s our job.

That’s with the platform, that’s what the support we give them, that’s with the ideas we give them to help them. As you said, we’re learning across the spectrum, so we have the ability to communicate what we’re learning and help them get better every day, so that’s our purpose and what we’re trying to do.

Drew Neisser: When you think—as we’re summarizing for other marketers, you have a group of folks here, primarily B2B listeners—what do you think is your biggest learning so far with the growth of your company and how you’ve not only taught loyalty, but built loyalty among your customers?

Jeffrey Harris: The learning that I have is, get involved in a business that you know how to do. We got into Springbig, but before that, I started a company called Inte Q that designs and manages loyalty programs. One thing I’ve learned is: do something that you are passionate about and that you know what you’re doing because your success will have a better shot if you know what you’re doing.

The second thing is stay to core principles of any business. Understand who your customer is. Understand what they’re looking for. What are they looking to buy? How do we provide what they’re looking for? How do we do that at a fair price for them and a fair price for us? Then, how do we support the heck out of them so they want to stay with us?

Our retention rate is over 98% customer retention. I think that that is specifically because of our customer service orientation here at the company. I always tell this to every associate. We have close to 50 people working here now, and yes, I may have the CEO title, but the customer pays the checks. They pay our checks. If we don’t have customers, we don’t have money to do all the things we want to do. So they’re number one and we’ve got to make sure that we take care of them and address their needs.

Retail is retail. Retail in cannabis is like retail somewhere else. It is a “now” business. It is not like, “Oh, if they submit a request, we can get back to them in a week.” That doesn’t fly in retail. Retail is a today and now thing and we’ve got to make sure that we address their needs when they come.

Drew Neisser: How do you stay agile? You’re 50 people. You were less than that, probably half of that two years ago.

Jeffrey Harris: We were 50 people a year ago.

Drew Neisser: How do you stay agile? How do you keep a company culture that’s agile?

Jeffrey Harris: We have a process that we put in place to make sure that the person or the people that we’re interviewing and hiring, we feel are going to be a good fit. We don’t hit it correctly all the time and we do have to make adjustments from time to time, but in terms of staying agile, what we try to do is we try to continue to reinforce to everybody, “Stay in your lane. You’re here for a reason. Do great work.” And then we come together as a company to communicate what’s happening and keep everybody engaged.

Every associate, every employee at this company, is an owner. Everybody has equity in this business. Therefore, we make sure that they feel that sense of ownership. It’s their ownership, it’s their equity on the line if we do well or don’t do well and we make sure to continue to communicate what we’re doing well and what we need to do better. We don’t have a lot of layers here, even though we have 50 people, and we try to get the job done for our clients every day.

Drew Neisser: Very cool. All right. I’m going to attempt to wrap this up and I think there’s some really interesting generalizations that we can make and take away from this conversation. One, and this is obvious: if you get into a vertical and you’re lucky enough to focus in a vertical that happens to be growing, go all in. You can’t pretend. You’ve got to go all in and that means showing up in that vertical. In this case, for Jeff, it was going to the conferences and being part of that community.

Two, as you get into that industry, obviously you need to learn it. It really helps. With each client, you get smarter. Now, how do you share that wisdom and help those those customers? Well, one is that you start with the mentality that this is about the customers and taking care of them. Again, not too much news, but always a good reminder, the power of customer centricity. A 98% retention rate would be the envy of almost anybody that I’ve talked to or who is listening.

We talked a little bit about building loyalty and finding the right way and the balance between messaging and value and humor and so forth. I thought it was really interesting, although it came back pretty quickly which was that when you include an emoji in an SMS, it’s a positive thing. That makes sense to me because that’s a very human thing to do and I certainly know that as I’m texting, it’s just part of that channel. Emojis.

Yes. If you’re obviously a retailer and you happen to be listening to this, think about your customer for a moment. I don’t want to hear from you 25 times a day, but if you know the time of day, that might be helpful. None of this happens without building a great team. Love the fact that your employees are equity shareholders in the company. That’s certainly a great way of getting employees on board.

Lastly, and this is really hard as you scale to try to get rid of layers. It’s very difficult as you become a bigger organization. But yeah, good luck with that. Anyway, I think that’s enough. Jeff, thank you so much for being on Renegade Thinkers Unite.

Jeffrey Harris: Thank you so much, really enjoyed it. And thanks for the time and thanks for the opportunity to share what we’re learning here.

Drew Neisser: Yeah. Awesome. All right. And to all the listeners, one, I want half of you to light up before you listen to this episode and maybe some of you will need to light up afterwards, just in case you want to get in the right mood for the show. Anyway, until next week, keep those Renegade Thinking Caps on and strong.