Ryan Smith has always loved selling things. In grade school, he smuggled contraband candy into the cafeteria to sell to other students during lunch. In sixth grade, his world changed when he learned that you can sell things online. He opened an eBay account and sold random items around the house, such as old ski clothing. One time, he even sold a single shoe. Smith is now onto his third company, LeafLink, the largest online marketplace for wholesale cannabis. With several companies under his belt by the age of 25, it’s clear that Smith can identify a gap in an industry and develop a solution to fix it. So, it’s no surprise that, when it comes to developing a successful go-to market strategy, Smith has first-rate advice.
How did you figure out your go-to market strategy for the cannabis industry?
In general, we knew what we were interested in working on. But we didn’t know what the problem was we needed to solve for the industry. And when it comes to a go-to market strategy, that’s where you want to start—with what you need to fix, not the services you want to provide.
To figure this out, we reached out cold to some cannabis companies and asked them to meet with us. We asked the same ten questions to each company we met with and started to see similarities in the answers. And, luckily, those answers ended up validating the direction we’d been thinking about going in anyway.
What happened as a result of some of those first meetings you had?
Some of those people actually became our first clients. We started working with them in their facilities, going on their sales calls, collaborating with their marketing team, and working with their C-suites to understand how their business ran. What we discovered is that the cannabis industry wasn’t operating very efficiently. All of the intel we gathered from this experience ended up dictating new features we developed. It also validated our general hunch that, “We need to build a marketplace for the cannabis space.”
Why should founders have these meetings while developing their go-to market strategy?
Your first idea—whatever it is—is probably wrong. There’s probably some version of it that works, but you have to work with those already in the industry to figure out what that version is.
What do you believe is the secret behind a successful go-to market strategy?
Your go-to market strategy needs to tie into a community. It needs to revolve around a collective goal that everyone in that community has. In our case, the goal is growing the cannabis industry—getting it legalized in more states, securing more capital, encouraging more professionals to enter the space, and so forth.
Take Rover, the dog-walking company, as another example. The collective goal of Rover’s community is loving and taking care of dogs. Tying your marketplace to a pre-existing community is huge. It’s sort of the only way to open up a marketplace right now.
No matter how great you believe your idea is, reaching out to and talking to prospective clients is key when developing your go-to market strategy. Gather as much information as you can before you move too far forward.
This interview was conducted by Aastha Jain and condensed by Abby Wolfe.