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Building Your Toolkit: Scaling for success in a regulated industry

May 3, 2023

Financial statements. Healthcare brochures. Energy promotions. Cannabis packaging. All these communications have one thing in common: They’re produced within tightly regulated industries, where rigorous oversight can seem to stifle growth, and exacerbate factors like rising costs, compressed margins, and delayed realization of revenue.

Regulations mean marketing complexity: In addition to regional branding, language preferences, and price variations, there are often multiple versions of terms and conditions. One error can result in hefty fines and lost business.

Navigating these obstacles tends to eat up time and resources: Consider manually producing and marketing different products, each with a different package, in different languages, with different fine print. In addition to being more error-prone, it requires more people to manage, and takes longer to get to market, all of which drives up costs as well as regulatory risk.


The tools needed to grow


Companies in tightly regulated sectors need to carefully consider the processes and technology they need to grow. One of the first priorities in their scalability toolkit should be workflow automation and content creation—in particular, dynamic templates that hard-code regulatory content (e.g., at the provincial or state level) while allowing for local customization. Users make changes once, and they’re cascaded (compliantly) across all necessary assets. Built-in approvals ensure content is reviewed by all relevant stakeholders.

A digital asset management (DAM) system is another priority. Digital assets are today’s marketing and communications currency, and a robust DAM not only makes them easier to store, search, and share, but it also automates version control—a huge benefit for a sector like cannabis, for example, where markets and packaging vary from one province to another.

Another priority: API-driven functionality, so that platforms easily connect to external partners and integrate with your tech stack, rather than adding to it.

It’s also important that your solution partner has deep, proven experience in regulated sectors. Marketing and communicating in financial services, healthcare or cannabis is not like marketing in a space like retail or tech. The rules are different, and they’re complicated.


The complexity of cannabis


Cannabis may be the best example of an industry for which scalability is a constant challenge. In Canada, while it’s regulated federally, each province has its own supply chain, making for a complex mix of provincial crown corporations, retail dispensaries, licensed producers, and processors.

Compounding that complexity is the fact that cannabis is an agricultural product; its attributes therefore change with each batch. Consequently, packaging can’t be produced in advance, but instead must be batch-labelled. This takes time, and if done incorrectly, can result in fines, recalls, lost licenses and listings, and refused shipments.

Amidst this landscape, opportunities emerge: Products are developed; lines are extended. But with every addition and innovation comes the requirement for new assets, from strain cards to in-store displays. This dizzying array of variables can become overwhelming and stop growth in its tracks, especially given today’s smaller, thinly stretched teams.

Automation, on the other hand, can reduce the strain, lower costs, and generally help teams do more with less—as in the case with DCM clients who’ve been able to reduce their total cost of ownership significantly through technology-driven process improvements.


A compliance self-audit


While these challenges are somewhat similar right across sectors like cannabis, it’s important to keep in mind that every company operates differently, and is at a different stage in their journey. A relatively simple process for one organization may be a daunting challenge for another. The first step is a deep-dive discovery—call it a self-audit—in which you consider factors such as:


Your business model: Is it an outsourced model, or vertically integrated? Or a hybrid of both? And how financially resilient is the business in terms of its ability to manage fines, delays, or a potential loss of license?
Processes: Are your workflows largely manual or automated? How much time is being spent on non-revenue-generating tasks?
Growth targets: Are they exceeding available resources capacity, but with no hiring budget?
Products: What are your current categories? What’s ahead for product development, marketing, and packaging?
Excess waste: Are you wasting resources from miscalculations, errors, and changes?


Are you in a tightly regulated sector in which daily marketing operations continually trump strategic planning? Get help kick-starting your discovery: Reach out to Lewissa Stewart at [email protected].

This article was first published by the National Cannabis Business Coalition.

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