Best Tools & Resources

by Norm Bour

“When it comes to “tools” or “resources” for the industry, one of the best is a good sales rep!” And I agree with Ginny Saville from Botany Bay in Kentucky who said that when I asked her about what helps make her shop so successful.

“Well, aside from a good rep, we’ve been very happy with radio ads,” she said, which is always a tricky thing and one we’ll explore with her in a future edition. She is also happy with TapMango, a cloud-based customer loyalty platform that tracks rewards and promotions, and I have seen others who feel the same. 

But she did throw out what I rarely see in the smoke shop biz, and that’s Fred Pryor training, (or any type of training!), which has been around for half a century, but continually updated and modernized. What’s nice about most of these courses is that they are non-industry specific and can work with any market.

I have seen over the years that outside training programs and courses are shunned by many smoke, vape, CBD, and alternative shop owners.

AppCard is also a tool that came up several times, and since they have been around for a decade, that says a lot. 

Ryan Sin owns La Isla Vapor & Smoke Shop in Puerto Rico, and uses AppCard’s texting and email functions for tracking and communication with his customers. “It also allows us to advertise our THC products,” he said, “since we can’t do any of that with conventional channels or social media. We track our daily sales and can analyze all the details as closely as we want.”

Chasin’ Vapor in Pewaukee, WI, managers, Seth York and Rob Kara, are also fans of AppCard for the same reasons, but advises that the messaging feature used in moderation since some customers object to “excessive communication,” and consider it spam. Seth also likes Shopkeep for POS transactions since they are all electronic. 

“Our customers like paperless transactions, and so do we,” he shared, “but they have had some small issues adapting to new things like chip cards and electronic charges.”

Not all resources are technology oriented, and Chasin’ taps into Instagram and Facebook as best they can, and try to stay on top of the onerous maze of regulations and what they can do or not do. They confided, “These tobacco and CBD rules can be very complicated, but social media is still a great advantage for reaching potential customers. Aside from all that, it all comes back to interactions between staff and customers and word of mouth” and that comes up repeatedly since after all, it is still one on one service that makes it all work. 

To echo York’s comment, we should never forget that even with all this fancy tech, and bells and whistles, if your customers walk out unhappy, it is all for naught.

Paul Pitonyak with 710 Glass & Vapor in Erie, Pennsylvania, intentionally or otherwise relies on product knowledge from his staff and quality customer service rather than who hah.

“We don’t advertise,” he confided, which is not a common mindset and very old school. “But our five store chain was built on word of mouth.

Quitting smoking is a life accomplishment–people want to tell their loved ones, especially when they are misinformed about e-cigarettes! Selling affordable products which are based on the customers’ needs is the key,” he said, and even in writing I could feel the passion and commitment in his words.

So what are the “keys” to a successful shop? The answer is that there is no one thing, but there are a variety of things that do work, some better than others.

One of the shops I spoke with remains so mired in the same old-same old mindset that they acknowledge having no strategy. When I asked about growth or expansion she shrugged and confessed that she was happy with one store doing what I felt was a lower than normal gross volume.

In the world of business a lot of the old rules still work and entrepreneurs can come up with new tools and resources from now until forever, but unless they get used—properly—and applied to business 101, it’s all a waste.

Jose Garcia from West Pines, Florida, believes in the power of numbers and relies on QuickBooks, an old fave, rather than Square, to track and analyze. 

“But the real trick is to make sure you’re watching and reviewing your statistics of what’s selling,” he advised. “After all, what good is collecting data if you don’t review and learn from it?”

“Take advantage of all the charts and statistics they give you,” he added, “since numbers don’t lie.”

As old school as these resources are, Jose manages to balance that plus new resources equally, to the point of delivering flyers in his local area using data spit out by the USPS. “Use their data!” he implored, “since the post office can segregate their mail targets.”

At age 43 he taps into Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr, plus Snap and Tik Tok, so he’s covered most of the bases! 

He laughed and finished with “You need to always adapt or you become a dinosaur…and we all know what happened to the dinosaur…”

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