The New Kid, Taking On The Giants In The Crowded Cannabis Industry

By Amar Singh, CEO, Elevated Signals

When I founded Elevated Signals, I was fully aware that I was about to step into a situation where we would be dwarfed by larger, more established competitors. Technologists often talk about entering a “green field” market with few players in the space, but in the cannabis industry there were already a number of established companies providing software solutions. So how can an ambitious young company survive as a newbie in a crowded market? Here are some of the things we’ve learned along the way.

The first thing to understand is that crowded markets are crowded because many intelligent people see opportunities there. Think about a restaurant with an hour-long waiting line versus an eatery next door that is completely empty. Chances are that the food is a lot better at the first place – which is why people are willing to queue up. It’s no different in the technology world: do you want to serve an industry that actually has traction, or a vertical that no one cares about? In my view, it’s better to be a small fish in a big pond than a big fish flopping around on the beach.

Of course, having the right approach is no guarantee of success. Larger companies have a lot of advantages, primarily because they have the resources to be a one-stop shop for customers across all sorts of verticals. However, this can actually be a disadvantage for them, because their products can be overly generalized and unable to meet the specific needs of a specific vertical. It’s one thing to have a point-of-sale solution that works across all industries, but one that is purpose-built for a specific vertical is going to be a lot more useful to customers in that industry. That’s why we put all of our efforts into the cannabis industry rather than trying to be all things to all people.

Another major advantage that smaller companies have is agility. Whenever a customer or prospect calls and asks us to add or improve a feature, we can usually do it in a matter of days. Larger companies simply don’t have the flexibility to be that responsive. As a result, we built up a loyal base of early customers very quickly. Because my company competes with much larger business software companies, we knew that we had to provide a far better customer experience than our established competitors could. For all their resources and name recognition, larger brands simply can’t boast the same specialization and devotion to solving the unique problems that cannabis entrepreneurs face. And if you are having problem with your Oracle solution, good luck getting Larry Ellison on the phone!

Rather than try to ape the big guys, we recommend doubling down on your company’s specificity, its potential for specialization, and its exact appeal to potential customers. Identify the key pain points that affect your customers, and then tweak your products to address these issues. Really get into the weeds when solving them, because bigger companies just can’t narrow their focus that directly. Instead of offering a product that services many industries, make a product that maps exclusively to the target’s needs. Become the most trusted name in your industry.

Once your small company becomes a trusted brand in its vertical, scaling up becomes fairly manageable, even when you’re surrounded by larger competitors. Simply identify more problems that a company dedicated to your target industry can solve and keep moving the needle for yourself. As soon as you solve problem A, fix problem B. There’s no time to rest on your laurels! And make sure that your product can integrate with all of your previous products. This lets you become the one-stop shop for the one industry your company was built to service. Scaling up simply becomes a matter of finding more problems to solve and addressing them with the specialized care that makes your firm the name to trust in its vertical. 

By starting out as new blood in a crowded arena, SaaS companies can zero in on the specific problems in an industry. By broadening and deepening your expertise, it is possible to continue leveraging the same advantages that differentiated your firm in the first place. Just because a market is crowded doesn’t mean the ideal product is already out there. Build the right solution for your field, and your field will choose agile David over lumbering Goliath every time.

Posted In: CannabisSuccess StoriesMarketsAmar SinghCannabis ContributorscontributorsElevated Signals
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