Thursday, May 19, 2016

10 Advocacy Ideas for Vape Businesses

As a person who spends a lot of time in a shop, I am often amazed at how many shops and customers do not participate when the need for advocates arise. At first this frustrated me, until I realized that a lot of people don't know how to advocate, or what to do, or even that something needs to be done. If we want to encourage advocacy, we must teach others how to be advocates, make sure we are communicating that there is a need for advocacy, and then make it quick and easy to complete advocacy tasks.

Businesses in the vaping industry can help get the advocacy ball rolling by making their customers aware of when action needs to be taken. They can put information and calls to action on their websites. They can include flyers in shipments. They can share info via social media, or tell customers about current events when speaking face to face with them. They can also use the tools they use to market their businesses as a tool to reach out to customers - text, email, or rewards programs with messages like 5 stars, can all be used to send out a Call To Action to consumers.

Momma Vape would like to encourage all members of the vaping industry to be a trend setter, be a leader and teach by example. Put together an advocacy action plan and get ready to arm your local army with the resources they need to become advocacy ninjas. I'll share some ideas below. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments.

Idea #1 - Reaching Out To Smokers!

Most of us started vaping as a tool to help us quit smoking. Let's remember we advocate, not to have cloud comps but to preserve our right to vape, to keep us from returning to smoking, and to preserve the right to vape for all those smokers out there who need our help so they can quit smoking. We advocate because we believe that vaping saves lives!

As members of the vaping community, let's make sure we have employees who are good with people, who are knowledgeable about vaping, who are good teachers and excellent cheerleaders. Even though we'd like to send each new customer out the door with a fancy $200 setup, let's remember that most newbies to vaping are going to start with a basic starter set. Let's keep those batteries charged so we can send the soon to be ex-smoker out the door vaping, ready to take on this new challenge in their lives. Let's send them out motivated to quit and motivated to join us in our efforts to help more people quit. Let's make sure we teach them all about safety so we don't see them on the 6 o'clock news as a "vaping victim".

Batteries charging for a quit smoking event

Let's keep those new vapers motivated to keep vaping. Start a quit smoking program, do a free starter set if they throw away their cigarettes at your shop. Sign them up for a daily e-mail that offers encouragement / ideas. Recognize their quit smoking date!

#IMPROOF wall at Infinite Vapor. Each customer grabs a sticker
and puts their name and quit day on it.

Help your customers celebrate their Vapeversaries!

Welcome vaping newbies into the vape family. Make them feel a part of the community. Make them comfortable so they come back and ask questions. Each person who quits smoking is potentially another life saved. Running a vape business is much more than just making a buck!

Want to do more? Check out Sponsor A Smoker - you can find them (click here) on facebook.
Another great organization is Vape A Vet.

These programs can use your donations! 

Idea #2 - Be a Team Player In YOUR Community!

A great way to be an advocate for vaping is to be an ambassador for the vaping community. Participate in community events and fundraisers. Remember that the other shops in your area are your competitors, not your enemy. There are going to be times when you will need to work WITH the other shops. It is great PR for the shops to work together for a fund raiser or to gather petition signatures to fight a local ordinance.

Fundraiser in MN to help victims of a huge storm

4 shops worked together to fight a local anti-vaping ordinance

Be polite about where you vape and where you blow your vapor. Encourage your customers to be polite vapers. Sure, it may be LEGAL for you to vape in certain area businesses, but that doesn't mean you always SHOULD - or that you should blow a big cloud around a family who is not vaping. As an ambassador, don't be bad mouthing other vape businesses. If a customer needs something you don't have, help them find what they need - work to keep them vaping so they don't go back to smoking.

Idea # 3 - Put It In Writing!

Start a letter writing campaign. In this day and age of electronics, we often forget the impact that a hand written letter can make. A mountain of papers to touch and file is a bigger visual than an inbox full of e-mails. Make a basic form with space for customers to write in their own comments and room to include their name, address, phone number & e-mail. If you make a generic form and save it, when an issue comes to your attention, you can quickly edit it to pertain to the issue at hand (city / county ordinance, a bill at the state or federal level), print them off and you're ready to go. Some customers will wonder why they need to include their personal information, and the reason is to prove it is a real letter from a real person (who is hopefully a registered voter). A great example of this is the project chronicled by Fig Ramsey and the fine folks at Feels Good Vapor in Oceanside, California. It began with one customer agreeing to sit down for a minute and express a few thoughts against lots of nasty bills in the 2015 California Special Session....

Photo by Fig Ramsey - 2015 California Special Session

It became over 50 letters in a day....

Photo by Fig Ramsey - 2015 California Special Session

And grew to a table PILED with letters in a few days!...

Photo by Fig Ramsey - 2015 California Special Session

That is a beautiful sight to see!!!!! They then rallied the troops to start stuffing envelopes and found they could fit about 80 letters per envelope. A trip to the post office and they over nighted their bounty. Look at all the envelopes. WOW, that is some Kick Ass advocating in Momma Vape's book!!!!!

Photo by Fig Ramsey - 2015 California Special Session

Other shops in California followed the lead. It wouldn't surprise me if they set a record for number of letters sent to the California capitol on a single issue. I nominate these folks to be inducted into the Vaping Advocacy Rock Star Hall of Fame!

In the little hick town that Momma Vape lives in, we don't have as many people that vape as how many wrote letters in this shop in Cali. But that's OK, every letter matters, and we will follow the example of these California Advocates when Minnesota goes back in session in 2016, if they introduce any bills with anti-vaping language.

Idea # 4 - Set Up a Kiosk / Command Center

Make it EASY for your customers to participate in advocacy efforts. When there is a Call To Action, have a computer / tablet available so they can complete the call to action right at your shop. By having them complete the call to action before leaving the shop, MORE people will complete them. People are busy, they forget.

Have advocacy videos playing on a TV in the shop to help educate people.

Have flyers at your point of sale area and hand one to each customer. Talk to them, educate them. If you google QR Code generator, you can put a QR code right on your flyers for customers to scan and complete Calls To Action.  Share your flyers with area shops, put them online so others can print them. Many advocacy groups have flyers and brochures you can order. Some also have files you can download and print your own.

"Decorate" your walls with advocacy materials.

Smokeless Smoking - May 2016
CASAA poster and countdown to the FDA Deeming Regs starting

Idea # 5 - Use The Internet

Use profile pictures on facebook, twitter, google +, etc. to promote a pro-vaping message, or something advocacy related. Encourage others to use the picture, too.

Photo By Fig Ramsey - 2015 California Special Session

Having a sale? Use the banner space on your facebook page  (or other sites) to not only promote your sale, but to promote advocacy or quitting smoking.

Many of you use facebook, twitter, instagram, e-mails, and websites as a way to market your companies. It is also a great way to "market advocacy". They make valuable tools to get the word out to customers and make them aware that their help is needed. Online resources can help us educate our customers about not only advocacy, but safety, new studies and other interesting things that can help our customers become more informed consumers.

Some businesses are afraid to push advocacy. Momma Vape encourages them to think about this. If our industry dies, our future customers die, our businesses die. We must fight to be able to do what we do, and the more soldiers in our army, the better chance of winning the war.

Idea # 6 - Host an "Event"

Register to vote campaign
Fundraiser for an Advocacy organization
Letters to the editor campaign
Advocacy Day
Advocacy Speaker
Petition Signing
Call To Action
Submit Testimonials to CASAA
"Bump It Up For Advocacy" offer to round up each sale to the next even $$ and
               donate the spare change to an advocacy organization
Have a sale as a way to get customers in the door to participate in an advocacy activity

Idea # 7 - Hand out Promotional Materials

Bumper stickers

Jan 2016 - Baxter, MN
A group of advocates at a city council meeting wearing Vaping Advocacy T-shirts

Idea # 8 - Online businesses

Businesses who sell online are also very important to advocacy. They can use their websites to share information. They can enclose flyers in each package they mail out. Their sales people should be up to date on current vaping issues so they can talk about advocacy with customers.

Photo Courtesy of Chase Richardson /

Idea # 9 - Keep your eyes and ears open

Put together some type of online document that lists businesses and consumers willing to help with advocacy issues for each county / city in your state. These groups are responsible for monitoring City / county agendas to watch for vaping on the agenda of meetings. They should be willing to attend meetings, help communicate to others when something is on the agenda, etc.

Idea # 10 - Advocate Every Day - Join & Donate

Get in the habit of doing an advocacy activity every day. Read, learn, share, and educate. Be a team player and teach by example. Invite vendors, competitors, consumers, and the public to join you in your efforts.

Join advocacy organizations - both trade and consumer. Yes, some require dues to be a member. Find one you can stand behind. New or very small business and dues are not yet affordable? Then do what you can. Work up to a membership. Set goals, any day you do over $X you donate ___%. Volunteer to help organizations. Lobbyists, lawyers, websites, travel, etc. are not cheap. These groups can not do what they do without financial support. Give what you can, it will make a difference!


Looking the other way will not make the challenges our industry faces go away. We need to get off our duffs and be involved advocates if our industry wants to see a bright future! Please feel free to share your advocacy ideas. 

~ Momma Vape

P.S. - Hopefully someday soon a movie called "A Billion Lives" will be available for viewing and we can all add watching the movie together to the activity list! A Billion Lives on Facebook


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