For cannabis marketers, entrepreneurs and professionals.
The right cannabis marketing strategy sustains your business, draws in new customers, and helps you take hold of the market. In a rapid-growth industry, your cannabis company needs direction or your product or service may get lost in the shuffle while you waste time and money chasing marketing tactics that might not be appropriate for your brand, product or audience. Even the best ideas in the cannabis sector most likely will not succeed unless there is a well-thought marketing plan in place and directed to the right audience.
Let’s dive into the world of cannabis marketing
What is Cannabis Marketing?
Think about companies you have heard of throughout the years. Was it word of mouth? Did you see an ad on your social feed? Did you read a post and see it in person? Coming into contact with any brand was likely made possible through marketing efforts. This applies in all sectors, including marijuana marketing. With a sector that is booming with expanding legalization and social acceptance, now is the time to hone your marijuana marketing strategies.
Cannabis marketing is the promotion and strategic advertising of a marijuana business (i.e., dispensary, grower, edible producer, cannabis concentrate manufacturer or cannabis accessory producer) to a target audience, whether that audience be consumers or other businesses. In order to start building your cannabis brand, you first need to understand cannabis marketing laws in your area.
Understand Cannabis Marketing Laws in Your Jurisdiction
The rules for cannabis marketing very vastly vary vastly across the United States. In states with medical and recreational legalization, it is typical for there to be regulations about your target market, placement of your advertisements, and the content of your advertisements. Just like alcohol has regulations around marketing towards children, you cannot target marijuana marketing efforts to younger audiences. This translates to cartoon characters being generally avoided, ad placements in publications only for specific age brackets, and more.
Advertising is allowed in states where marijuana is legal but since it is federally illegal, you can only place ads in states with legalized use. You’ll need to brush up on the laws for your specific state because they range from no paraphernalia being visible from a storefront (Connecticut) to no illustrations that appeal specifically to children (Washington).
Why You Need a Cannabis Marketing Plan
The cannabis industry is experiencing booming growth, report sales were over $14 billion in 2019 and is projected to reach $25 billion by 2021. This sounds amazing but it also means there is increased competition in the marketplace. To make your voice heard through all of the other brands and competitors you’ll need a plan – a marketing plan.
A marketing plan includes a significant amount of detail including research on the market, identification of the target market, as well as your competitors tactics. Part of the plan should be the messaging you’ll have in ads, what platforms you’ll use to reach leads, and metrics to measure success. A marketing plan lays out exactly what types of outreach and press campaigns you will take on in a specific period of time. It also covers how effectiveness of efforts will be measured. We understand this might all seem overwhelming this is why we created the following plan for you.
How to Build Your Cannabis Marketing Plan
A big part of your company’s success grows out of a good marketing plan. Your Marketing plan should describe your company’s brand marketing and promotional strategies. It outlines who you are, what you do, who your customers are, and how you plan to market to them. Your plan should cover a 12-month period. Here are the 5 basics of the marketing plan:
1. Make a Market Situation Analysis and Analysis of Your Company’s Current Situation
The Market Situation Analysis is not part of your marketing plan itself as it is part of your whole business planning but it is essential to be done right before the marketing plan.
This analysis serves to determine your business’s strengths and weaknesses, and any opportunities and threats (SWOT) that can affect its health, future development and the marketing strategies you need to plan.
Here are some of the basic questions that you need to include in this Analysis:
- What are your products/services or product/service?
- How big is your market opportunity?
- What is your sales and distribution setup?
- What geographic area do you sell to?
- What competitors exist in this marketplace? What is your market share relative to them?
- How well have your products sold in the last year? How about the last few years?
2.Build Your Customer Avatar
Your customer avatar is your target audience but expressed in a more personal way. This avatar or persona is a breakdown of the type of person in your target audience.
Using data about your current customers or about the audience at large if you have not yet launched, you can build your target persona or, better yet, personas. Here are some questions to consider when creating your avatar for your cannabis marketing plan:
- What is their gender? Does it matter?
- How old are they?
- Where do they live?
- Where do they work?
- What is their job title?
- What is their education level?
- Why would they be looking for your product or service? What problems or needs do they have that might be resolved or met with your product or service?
- What competitors would your customer consider?
- Where might they go for information?
- What events or conferences might they attend?
Don’t be afraid to build out detailed profiles with imaginary personal or work life to get a better handle on who you are trying to reach and who your customer really is.
3. Set Your Marketing Objectives and Marketing Goals
So now you have a lay of the land, and you have an idea about who your customers are, the next thing you will need to understand is what you hope to achieve or what your marketing objectives and goals are. You couldn’t very well plan a road trip without first knowing where you want to go, right? So, start your plan by stating, in a measurable way, what your marketing objectives and goals are.
The marketing objectives are where you set the bigger picture for your marketing. The objectives should be describing what your company is aiming to achieve in the course of the next 12 months in a narrative. Also, the objectives you choose to focus on must be concrete and in order to make it measurable – use numbers in your objective.
One easy way to think about your objectives and then goals would be to break up the year into quarters and think about what you would like to accomplish the next three months and the three months after that, and the three months after that… Remember the goals should be easy to measure and relatively hard to accomplish. If you are currently growing your paying customers base month over month by 20%, it would make little sense to set a goal to grow your paying customers month over month by only 21%. Make it hard to accomplish, but possibly doable. For example, you could increase your base by 50% and make your goal 30% growth. This might be a great challenge or easy to hit based on your current efforts, resources and team. Regardless, aim big!
Here is an example of how a marketing objective should sound:
Objective 1: Introduce CBD delivering options for paying customers on the west side of San Francisco and grow the company revenue by 30% by June 1.
Objective 2: Market a new (second) location of your dispensary in Portland. Create a pre-launch campaign. Capture 500 leads for the grand opening and secure 100 RSVPs for the live event.
To repeat, make your objectives simple, concrete, countable, ambitious and achievable.
How many objectives to set? You should make it a point to limit the number of marketing objectives you set on in a year. The number should be well aligned with your resources, team and the budget you have. Keep your objectives challenging but achievable. You can start with 2 to 3 objectives per quarter and have from 5 to 10 for the whole given year. Some objectives can take up to a whole year to accomplish, where others can be more simple to achieve and may span one or couple of Quarters.
Here are some typical marketing objective categories:
- Promote New Products or Services
- Grow Digital Presence
- Lead Generation
- Target New Customers
- Retain Existing Customers
- Develop Brand Loyalty
- Increase Sales and/or Revenue
- Increase Profit
Your goals are what you hope to achieve with your marketing objectives in the plan. This is where you should get into the details. Setting specific goals in your marketing plan helps you stay focused and better plan your marketing strategies in order to accomplish your objectives.
The key task is to take each objective and lay out the steps you intend to take to reach it. After you know the steps you can plan the activities – which are part of your strategies and tactics. As an example, let’s take the second marketing objective mentioned
Objective 2: Market a new (second) location of your dispensary in Portland. Create a pre-launch campaign. Capture 500 leads for the grand opening and secure 100 rsvps for the live event.
Goal 1: Create a lead capture landing page asking the users to sign up for the pre-launch and win prizes if they come on the event.
Goal 2: Create an email marketing sequence to send to your existing audience of 1250 customers with sending them the landing page and the invitation to the event.
Goal 3: Create a display advertisement on a local radio site or local version of Time Out for the Grand opening and advertise your lead capture page.
Goal 4: Contact 10 local influencers on Instagram and create at least 2 campaigns to capture more leads from their audience.
Goal 5: Send all the leads who registered a few reminder emails before the event emphasising the prizes and activities of the day.
Goal 6: Print brochures with the new location of your dispensary and the lead capture landing page. Hand out 2 000 brochures in the new location 1 month before the event.
4. Define Your Marketing Tactics
The strategies that you will use are the next logical step of your marketing plan. They consist of all the efforts and activities that you will plant in order to achieve your marketing goals and objectives. In our case with the above example in order to start giving away brochures on your physical location you will first have to create the copy for those brochures, find a designer, assemble the brochure and lastly print it out.
In this example it is pretty straight forward, whereas for some goals there might be several ways of achieving them and those have to be planned and later on evaluated.
As you can imagine, this whole plan with all details is made based on our resources the company has and how and where we use them
5. Set Your Marketing Budget
Your marketing plan needs to have a section in which you allocate budgets for each activity planned. The teams and individuals responsible for portions of the marketing activity should know exactly what funds are available to them. In fact, a great way to involve your team will be to have them on the team with you to plan those budgets.
When planning the expenses, be as objective as you can about those costs. For things with which you have no budget experience, add 20-25 percent to your best estimate. Make sure to enter the budget on spreadsheet so you can manipulate it during its construction to see which variant works best. A shared document is also a great way to work together with your team on your budget.
6.Create an Executive Summary
Create a brief summary at the front of your marketing plan. On a single page, sum up (with key financial numbers) all the key contents of your marketing plan. Use the right formatting to make it easier to read – bullet points, short sentences and bold type for major points. It is important to stay focused on the big issues and the big picture.
This summary gives plan readers a concise description of what your company plans to do in the coming year. It also forces you to boil your thoughts down to their rich and flavorful essence, which is always a good thing.
Marketing Strategies and Tactics for Cannabusinesses
Marketing matters for every cannabusiness, and if your customers are online (and who isn’t nowadays), then you need to reach them there. When it comes to digital, you have a few channels you can use to reach existing customers and leads. Your cannabis marketing strategy needs to set your foundation with an optimized website. After that, it is about building your presence with search engine marketing, local SEO marketing, and content marketing. Then, you’ll follow up with other channels of reaching the audience via email marketing, social media marketing and advertising, and maybe Pay-per-click (PPC), display advertising, and even podcasts and YouTube videos.
Set your Foundation Right – Build an Optimized Website
Think of your website like your hub for marketing activities. Yes, if you are a brick and mortar store, you want people to visit, but often, your website will be the first point of contact or the place that your potential customer might go before visiting your store or picking up the phone to call your company about your service. And, if you do sales online, well, your website became that much more important to your overall marketing plan.
But you can’t just build any website and expect them to come. You have to build a search-engine-optimized (SEO) website. SEO is a very specialized field of marketing and it is quite complex. It is as complex as the algorithm that Google and Bing and other search engines use to “rank” your website and the content within it.
If you have a well-made, SEO website that is an established source of information, it will drive leads more than you realize. People search for things that they are in need of constantly, and you want to show up near the top when they are searching. The first page of Google captures 71% of search traffic clicks and has been reported to be as high as 92% in recent years. In this research, you can see what is the CTR (click-through-rate) for each position on the first Google page. Second-page results are far from a close second coming in at below 6% of all website clicks.
So where do you start? There are many things to consider, but let’s deal with two main areas – the technical aspects of your website and the content of your website. Let’s start with the more technical elements.
The metadata on your website is made up of the page title and meta description. For every page on your website, the title and meta description are a chance to make the content of your page known to both users and search engines. This information is used to help search engines determine the relevancy of your website in the results.
HTTPS vs HTTP
Websites with HTTPS are more secure, they have an extra layer of encryption in comparison to HTTP. Google has confirmed that websites with an active SSL certificate and HTTPS do rank better than just HTTP sites.
A schema markup involves tags and microdata included in the HTML code of your website. This improves the way search engines read your pages, so they can better match your content with what is being searched. When developing a website, schema markup has a peripheral impact on your cannabis marketing.
Why Your Site Needs Schema
This tool helps search engines to better categorize and understand all types of data on the internet. It could be dates and venues for events, addresses, phone numbers, working hours for businesses, etc. With schema markup, your site gets better ranking in search results and looks more informative to users.
Let’s use a small example to see how it works. Let’s say you own a dispensary in Denver and your potential customer searches “dispensaries in Denver” or, if in Denver, “dispensaries near me”. Google displays a carousel of results with location, phone, ratings, working hours, and the like on the top of the regular results. The only difference between the carousel results and the regular ones is that the schema is installed on these sites and the information is inputted correctly.
How It Works
Schema is a set of code markers specific for just about everything on the internet, including businesses and events, products and even the general category of things. The first thing you should do is pick a relevant markup type (see all the types on this complete Full Hierarchy List), and implement it in the HTML code of a web page.
For Cannabis Stack and our business listings and events, we use the types local business and events. A search engine will index the content and see what it means, not just what it says. For example, if you add a map schema to your dispensary website, Google reads the page as “dispensary, 2509 Blake Street, Denver” and saves this result for the future queries. Each time the user looks for “dispensary in Denver”, your site will show up on the top.
How to Install Schema
Though you don’t need to have super skills in coding, the schema markup you’re using must meet Google’s guidelines, so it makes sense to ask a developer to assist. If you do it on your own, Structured Data Markup Helper from Google may be a good help, a complete guide for simple web pages. Once you’re done with implementing the schema, you can then test it with another Google tool – Structured Data Testing Tool which shows you the final look of the page. Remember: the more pages you markup, the better ranking your website will get.
Mobile Friendly (a.k.a. Responsive)
Internet traffic via mobile devices is only increasing. According to Statista, 52.2 percent of all web traffic in 2020 worldwide came from mobile phones, which was a 50.3 increase from the previous year. There are many brands running with 90% or more of their web traffic comes from mobile. A lot of people do not use computers for surfing the web because they have a computer in their pocket. Your website needs to work on mobile devices even better than on desktop nowadays in order to stay competitive. Register on Google Search Console and run a fast and easy report of your website mobile version and a lot more.
Your website should load in less than five seconds or it will drop in search rankings. A fast website keeps users on the page, the amount of time a user gives you can be as small as milliseconds. What is more, speed is now a landing page factor for Google Search and Ads. Every application, image, and post you add to your website can impact its speed. You can also control, track, and optimize your website speed with Google Search Console.
A schema markup involves tags and microdata included in the HTML code of your website. This improves the way search engines read your pages, so they can better match your content with what is being searched. When developing a website, schema markup has a peripheral impact on your cannabis marketing.
SEO and SEM for Cannabis
We talked about the more technical aspects of creating an SEO Website in the previous section. There is another aspect to SEO that involves the content you put on the site itself. Now, we mentioned SEM, which is Search Engine Marketing. And if you are wondering what the difference is, it used to be that SEM was a paid strategy and SEO was an organic one. Nowadays, many people see SEM as the general bucket that both organic and paid strategies (Pay Per Click, Display Advertising, etc…). Regardless of which you see it, both start with a foundation: keywords.
What Are Keywords?
In terms of cannabis SEO, your keywords are the words and phrases that searchers (your users) enter into search engines, also called “search queries.” The keywords will define what your content on every page of your website is about. If you do your job right — all the images, video, copy, etc. — down to simple words and phrases, those are your primary keywords.
As a website owner and content creator, you want the keywords on your page to be relevant to what people are searching for so they have a better chance of finding your content among the results. This is why you have to conduct keyword research.
Keyword research can be done on a number of free and paid tools. Using most any of these tools, you enter search terms related to your business and see which keywords have the highest search frequency among users. For example, if you have an accounting firm that specializes in accounting for cannabis businesses, you might think your customers would be searching for “cannabis accountant.” If you enter “cannabis accountant” in Google’s keyword search tool, It will present you with related keywords and their search frequency, so you know which words to focus on and include on your website.
The logic behind this is when you include keywords people are searching for, the search engines will ‘read’ your website and mark it as relevant content. As clicks go up and content is proven to be relevant, you go up in the rankings. Without knowing the relevant keywords your target audience is using to find your business or type of business, you will not be able to build your SEO strategy well.
Picking the right keyword for the search intention of your customers is the foundation.
Easy steps to find your keywords:
- Think of the terms/phrases/sentences your customer avatars will be searching for.
- Make a list of them
- Check their KW difficulty and their search volume. You can do that with some free tools, or with some paid premium services with freemium options as Ahrefs or Moz
- Pick keywords that are relatively easy and have higher volume. The different tools metrics will vary, but what you should know is that KW difficulty under 50 is considered good. The lower this metric goes the better. With the volume it is vise-versa. The more volume the better.
- The best combination will be low KW difficulty and high volume.
For example, you are a dispensary owner in the area of Sun City, Arizona. You have to think about what your customers will be searching for online when they will be in need of services like yours.
A great idea will be to start with trending keywords like “dispensaries near me”, “best dispensaries in Phoenix” and everything around that (keyword research tools will have ideas for you). An addition approach would be to rank for the products that you sell in your dispensary. For example, different edibles, vaporizers or CBD oils.
On-page SEO is when incorporating relevant keywords into your website and optimizing your page and content for it. Now that you have done the keyword research, you can now add that keyword to all the areas of your site. This includes adding keywords to the meta descriptions, meta titles, headers, copy, and alt text of your images. Keywords should be consistently placed on your website’s pages so you can rank in search engines.
If you want to rank in Google you have to consider and implement on-page SEO. Even though it sounds complex, it can easily be done by anyone with a basic understanding of SEO. On-page-optimization consists of these main things:
- Pick a keyword or keywords that you will be focusing on. We will continue with our example with a dispensary in Sun City, Arizona, named All Green. Every page can be optimized for 1 main keyword and more secondary relevant keywords. So, in this case, will be choosing 2 keywords – dispensary and our brand name – All Green
- Create an SEO-friendly URL. You should include your keyword in your URL. Also try to keep it short. An example of the chosen keywords above for URL ideally will be www.allgreen-dispensary.com. This can be the homepage of your business.
- Include your keyword in the Title Tag. Your title tag is what the users will see as the title of your page just like this:
Besides your main keywords, you should make it appealing to the users and give them the main information about your page.
4. Add your keyword to your Meta Description, make it compelling and add a Call-to-Action to it. Your Meta Description should be less than 160 characters
5. Add your keyword to your H1 tag, and make sure to only use the H1 style on each page once!
6. Use your keyword in the content of your page. You have to make sure that your text is easy to read, give the customers the value they are looking for so they don’t quickly leave your page (this can increase your bounce rate and that can work against you in our overall page rank) and lastly, use your keywords at least 3 to 6 times in the body of your page (depending on the length).
- Optimize the pictures on each page. Add alt text to each picture and descriptions with your keyword in order to help Google crawlers “read” your pictures.
Domain Authority and Backlinks Profile
A strong cannabis website strategy should involve consistent backlinks throughout the site. This also blends with your marketing plan because it involves a bit of outreach. Backlinks are links from one website to another website, these boost your authority because if another site is going to reference your content and your website, then the assumption by Google and the other search engines considers that reference material (your website) is likely legitimate. More backlinks (without stuffing or linking to substandard sites) boost your domain authority and this adds value to your brand..
Local SEO Marketing
Local SEO marketing is how you boost your ranking in search engines for searches done at the local level. Just like when someone searches for a ‘Dispensary in ’, people will also search for terms for your business. Getting yourself listed on search engines means you show up in the results which will result in more clients. Local SEO is vital to local businesses as dispensaries and vape shops. One thing to note is that you will need to implement schema on your website.
Google My Business
This is your online business profile through Google. If you keep your profile updated, the people searching for you will also see the right information. Google My Business controls your Business Profile on Google. This manages your information on both Search and Maps. According to Google, businesses that verify their information with Google My Business are twice as likely to be considered reputable by consumers.
All you need to do is to claim your business, verify your listing (Google will send a postcard to your business address), and flesh out your profile. Both off- and online companies can get listed. If your business has no physical location, you’ll need to click on “I deliver goods and services to my customers” and then check the box “Hide my address (it’s not a store)”. If you have a storefront, add your address and make it visible on Google Maps.
Note: Don’t hesitate to give your home address when verifying business, it will not go public.
Add a store locator on both Google My Business and to your website. If added to your site, ou can actually bring in your store locator directly from Google My Business’ listings for your locations. Not only is this a great tool for your customers, this feature also helps search engines better understand your location and can boost you in the rankings.
Content marketing is the cornerstone of a strong marketing plan. Your content can be a blog or channel where you put out information to the public. The right content will attract readers to your site and draw them in to your product or service offerings. A content marketing plan is built from keyword research, cornerstone (evergreen) content, and shareable content.
Content Plan Based on the Keyword Research
Building a content plan starts off with your keyword research. The keywords you’ve identified earlier in your plan should influence your content plan. You can also research new keyword trends to plan for future content. For example, if a new strain hits the market and everyone is talking about it and subsequently searching for it, you can review search terms and see what changes or new content you can apply in your content marketing plan. All of your articles and topics should relate directly to keywords. Choose the keywords, then the topics, not the other way around.
According to Danny Keith, founder of Cannabis Club TV, “There are more new customers in the cannabis space than in any other space in recent history…without education of product, customers are ignorant and the lack of education is a white-hot space.” Cornerstone content should be long-form content (2000+ words) that will be relevant a year or more from now and that relates to your keyword research plan. Release articles consistently and watch yourself go up in the rankings. Organic traffic that comes to your site from your articles has the power to not only raise your domain authority and page rank, but can take those visitors and convert them into customers.
Statistics, Infographics and Shareable Content
On top of your long-form articles, another opportunity to educate your audience while you spread the word about your business is via shareable content. These can be educational tidbits that are hard-hitting, snappy graphics with powerful quotes, or statistics worth highlighting and sharing. Infographics like comparing different strains, for example, make some of the best shareable content. You can take a look at previous content and think of ways to represent the same ideas in a more shareable, graphic manner.
The average expected return on investment for email is $42 for every $1 spent. This statistic alone proves the value of email marketing, so no, email marketing is NOT dead. Unlike many other marketing tactics, you own this audience. If someone signs up to receive emails from your company, they have agreed to hear from you. A big part of your marketing plan should be devoted to building and nurturing your email marketing list.
Build your List
Growing your email list isn’t hard, you just need to give your customers a chance to sign up. Best practices are adding a prompt at checkout; making sure your website has a popup to collect emails usually with an incentive for special offers; and a static email signup in the footer. Always add email signup opportunities on your long-form articles and collect addresses at in-person events or in your store. Consider offering discounts if they sign up for email or special offers. Run ad campaigns to push people to sign up for your email list.
It is not recommended that you buy emails and send cold email campaigns, as this is against the terms of the CAN-SPAM Act and violates the terms of the GDPR. However, you can partner with other businesses that have an email relationship with their subscribers and they could send emails.
Types of Email Campaigns and Email Lifecycle
All of your email campaigns will be falling in one of the 4 categories:
- Onboarding Campaigns
- Engagement Campaigns
- Win-Back Campaigns
- Sunset Campaigns
Your email marketing efforts will be following a lifecycle based on the interest of the users and what part of the sales funnel they are. Let’s break all that into pieces with examples.
This campaign is part of the middle of the funnel for your product or service. The users have shown interest in your product by signing up for a newsletter or have downloaded a valuable document. They have given you their contact information. Now it is your responsibility to show them why they need your product or service.
The Onboarding Campaign can consist of 1 to 3 or even 4 emails with practical information for your product or service. Don’t make the emails all about you. Show the users how what you are offering can help them with their problem. While doing that you can also have them give you more valuable information: like specify a problem they have or complete their profile on your website in order to use a tool you have.
The goal of an onboarding campaign is to help the users complete the first action on your website or app valuable to your business.
Take a look at this first email from Zapier after you register that is part of their onboarding campaign:
Most of the marketing emails that you will be sending will be part of your engagement campaign. Basically, as soon as you are done with the onboarding campaign you should start engaging with your users. This moment can be something as simple as your users filling out their profile.
This campaign is closer to the bottom of the funnel and now it is time to make sure that the users will buy. The goal here is to make the users engage with your brand and have your products stay on top of their minds and if you do it right at the end they will become your customers. Finally, with your engagement campaign you should turn your customers into loyal ones and into advocates of your brand. You should define what engagement looks like for your business and create multiple scenarios for different levels of engagement.
The win-back campaign is used after no interaction on a set period of time with your engagement emails. Usually, the goal of this stage of your email lifecycle is to bring back the users to your engagement campaign and spark their interest and engagement again. You will have to make your own rules within your business goals, but usually, the trigger to send a user to the win-back campaign is no action on your engagement campaigns. No opens of your emails, no clicks, no visits to your website.
An example of a win-back campaign can be a special offer and what new features you have for that user. Here is an example of Skillshare:
The sunset campaign goal is to help you segment your list better and take out of your email lifecycle the users that are no longer interested in hearing from you. It is of your best interest to leave alone the users who never open an email and never show any interest in what you are offering. If you are segmenting well, in time this will help your deliverability since your emails will be highly relevant to the users.
After you take a user out of your list you can still keep their email and send them only very valuable information like a launch of a new product or opening a dispensary in a new location.
So, after you have sent your win-back and the users never took any action you can send them one last email, which is part of your sunset campaign. This can be as simple as:
Do you still want to hear from us? Type of email. If the user interacts, send them back to your engagement campaign. If they don’t segment them out and email them only the big things about your business that potentially can spark their interest back to your product or services.
Social Media Marketing
The time spent by users on Social Media platforms is consistently growing in the last decade and the trend is this time spent will continue to go up. You want to be where your users are spending time. This way your brand and your services will stay on top of their minds and it is important to know that Social Media platforms are a great place for you to interact with your current and future customers.
Social media marketing for cannabis should be creative, engaging and totally out of the box in order to bring success. There are tons of fresh strategies you can implement to bring customers and attention to your brand. Depending on your business you can share different content and start a conversation with your users about it. If you are a big player in the cannabis industry you can post daily news, legalization updates, and investing and investments opportunities. If you are a greenhouse owner you can educate users about new trends with growing and strains. Owners of a retail store or a dispensary can share updates on their products, educate the users about cannabis and much more. Have in mind that all the social media platforms have the power to remove your profile. Because marijuana is still not legal at a federal level they have the right to remove business pages they feel violate the terms of their platform.
Running your brand page on Facebook can bring a serious following and revenue with every new product or service you add to your offer. With offers like VIP access, discounts, inside information, and more, you can attract customers to your social media profiles. A Facebook brand page can be invaluable in staying connected with your audience, it can also be used to build your email subscriber list by adding signup on your page, and it can do wonders to drive traffic to your site. The content on your page should not appeal to minors and shouldn’t directly reference marijuana use. Before posting, you should visit Facebook’s guidelines.
When you post on Facebook, you should also be active on Twitter. Just a quick tweet that shows off your brand’s personality can make a difference in keeping your account active. Link to articles or blog posts, spark conversations and connect with customers on Twitter.
People’s profiles have better engagement on Twitter rather than brands. You might want to build your personal profile well enough to be able to promote your business content. People like to hear from people and not so much from brands. Here is a great example from Ahrefs. They share the same content on the twitter page of their CMO – Tim Soulo and their brand Twitter page and they get better results with the personal account. You have to consider tweeting at least a few times a day to show your brand is active and gain followers.
Lately, lots of brands are getting great engagement by creating Twitter polls. Like this German brand asking their customers How much a gram of weed cost them got over 680 answers in less than 18 hrs.
Depending on the type of business you operate, LinkedIn can be a great social media channel for your business, especially if your customers are other businesses. LinkedIn is promoting native content better than anything else. The best practice to engage with your audience and bring brand awareness will be to keep the users on the LinkedIn platform with what you are offering. An idea that we are testing and getting good results with is creating inspiring posts for our users.
You can also offer your followers some of your content in the form of longer articles that will bring the value straight to them. What you have to do is adapt your existing content for LinkedIn and post it with a link at the end to go to your website and read the rest of the content.
If you are a B2B business you might consider joining professional groups with your personal account and distribute your content across those groups.
According to research by Facebook (which owns Instagram), 83% of users say they’ve discovered new products or services on Instagram. Similarly, 81% have researched products or services on Instagram, and 80% have decided whether or not to buy a product or services by using Instagram. So, this is a good reason to start off your Instagram business account.
First, you have to make sure that your profile looks professional and appealing. Add a representative photo of your business, if you are a service-oriented company use your logo. Add an actionable description and your company website. It is vital to use hashtags in your Instagram. Using hashtags for Instagram makes your content more discoverable since this is one of the ways to search and find content that you are interested in. Users can also follow hashtags they like. There are great hashtags generators that can help you with ideas and evaluation of the hashtags.
There are really good Instagram company profiles that are part of the industry to follow and get ideas for your own business. For some inspiration you can check out and follow: @chewberto420, @stigmaandstyle_ and @shopjanewest
Advertising Cannabis Businesses and Products
Advertising opportunities are limited when mentioning cannabis, marijuana, weed or most things that allude to cannabis. When it comes to the larger companies (Google, Facebook, etc…), you will likely not be able to place ads unless you are educating about an ancillary product, like grow kits, or a legal product like CBD or Hemp.
Google ads cannot mention marijuana products as they fall under the “dangerous products or services” category. This means your ads cannot be placed to show up in Google searches or on the ad network. Disobeying this regulation can get you an automatic removal from Google and all of your account work would be deleted.
You will not be able to conduct direct cannabis advertising on Facebook even if your brand has nothing to do with the plant itself.
Just like Facebook, Twitter advertising is very limited. To get your brand on their ad platform, you’ll have to be selling something other than marijuana. Some CBD ads and related products are allowed on the platform.
Instagram’s Community Guidelines state, “buying or selling firearms and illegal or prescription drugs (even if it’s legal in your region) is not allowed.” So selling cannabis or cannabis-related products () is not allowed, however there are ways to have a successful Instagram account without advertising on the platform.
YouTube is owned by Google, so it is not open to marijuana companies on their platform and has similar policies in place as Google.
An advertising network represents many Web sites that sell advertising space on their site so they can monetize traffic. These sites are called publishers. Instead of the publisher going out and finding direct advertisers, many will join a network. There are two advertising networks in the cannabis space.
Mantis Ad Network
The Mantis ad network functions like the Google ad network but it connects cannabis brands with websites and companies that will display their ads. For example, in certain regions publications like Thrillist will allow placements from cannabis companies. There are marijuana publications, cannabis blogs, lifestyle sites, and more, so they will accept your ads on their pages. The Mantis ad network should be in your marketing plan.
Another popular display ad platform is Traffic Roots. They work with cannabis brands, from business software solutions to growers, Traffic Roots is a hub for alternative ad placement options. THere is no spending minimum on their network.
Other Promotional Tactics
Influencer marketing is a type of marketing that focuses on using influencers (think those that have large followings on sites like Instagram) to promote your product or brand to a larger audience. With this type of marketing, you persuade or pay influencers to market for you. For most influencer marketing, the influencers would spread the word about your brand or product through their social media channel. This type of marketing is a creative way for you to get around the social media and other advertising restrictions when marketing your cannabis-related product or business.
Smaller brands do well working with micro influencers, who are people with a smaller following but a higher level of engagement in a niche audience. If you are a smaller brand, a strategic partnership with a local influencer could bring in some serious sales.
Native Ads on Local Cannasites
Native advertising is an article on a third-party website that looks like a post that would normally be found on the site, but is paid for by the advertiser and promotes the advertiser’s product. This is an approach can be effective, but there is a lot of leg work involved in identifying the sites, brokering a deal and authoring the content.
Because these are individually owned channels this can be a great way to reach your audience on podcasts or YouTube channels. Podcasts of all types will run cannabis ads, from Howard Stern to business podcasts, so you can get yourself in front of the age group you want to reach.
Events can be a very effective way for you to engage directly with your potential customers. While producing an event can be a successful form or marketing, it is costly and time consuming. Another approach is to sponsor or participate in other Cannabis events and non-cannabis events that target your customer avatar. Consider sponsoring local events that are welcome to cannabis advertisers. This relates back to your target persona. If your key demographic also attends a local music festival, you may want to consider sponsoring that event, or at the very least, perhaps paying for a booth at the event.
Local Print Advertising
There is considerable value in local advertising for your cannabusiness. Because of restrictions on ads in nationwide publications, a local publication might be less costly and more flexible in their policies when at the local level. You should target your money at certain publications that match your target persona. Whether it is a local publication about restaurants, an offbeat news magazine, or the Sunday paper, local ads reach your customers where you (and they) are.
Referral and Affiliate Marketing for Cannabis
According to Nielsen, over 92% of consumers believe recommendations of family and friends over other forms of advertising. Word-of-mouth is nearly priceless, because it comes with a great deal of trust associated with it. It is backed by a preexisting relationship, one you do not have with the customer. One of the best ways to boost word-of-mouth marketing locally and digitally is via a referral program. Existing customers get a discount if their friends use their referral code.
You can also implement an affiliate program where other businesses and bloggers can be paid a commission by promoting your brand, product or service.
A well-thought, marketing strategy and plan will be invaluable to the future success of your business. If you build a marketing foundation and carefully implement tactics that are right for your budget and audience, you can develop a solid base of customers to nurture while you work to expand your base. Your marketing strategy and plan will allow you to better understand your marketplace, your customer, get more precise with your efforts, and allow you to grow your business.
Ed is a writer and marketer who has been involved with the cannabis industry since 2017. He is particularly passionate about helping small businesses succeed in the increasingly corporate-takeover environment of the cannabis industry, as well as helping people get started working with cannabis.