By Melyssa Blucher
Senior Associate, Sales Development
If you’ve just launched your new recreational or medical cannabis dispensary, reaching your consumer base through marketing can be difficult. A combination of advertising and federal regulations makes it challenging for legal marijuana brands to share their message, limiting their growth potential. Fortunately, there are opportunities aside from these restricted marketing channels that cannabis dispensaries can utilize to reach their consumers. We’ve compiled the top five cannabis-friendly marketing initiatives to help your brand reach audiences and grow your business.
Marketing Tip #1: Local SEO and Content
SEO is one of the most important components of any digital marketing strategy, but in an industry as difficult to navigate as cannabis, a strong SEO strategy is crucial. Search pages, Google especially (88% of Americans use Google), are the first place people go when they want to learn something. This is even more true with cannabis as many consumers aren’t sure who to turn to for their questions, and with the ease of smartphone searching, there’s a high likelihood that your consumers are searching for information you can provide. What’s more, Google does not ban cannabis or cannabis-related content, meaning that you can share all your informative content without fear of censorship.
To drive awareness and sales via SEO, your dispensary should create quality content that provides value to those seeking cannabis-related information. Quality content refers to anything that is textually based, such as a webpage, blog post, video content, and so forth. The more quality content that your site provides, and the more consumers interact with it by visiting your blog, watching your videos, etc., the higher your website will be ranked in Google’s search results.
While growing your page, SEO can help bring in new customers, so working on your dispensary’s local SEO is even more important. When consumers in your area search for ‘dispensaries,’ and similar terms Google will display relevant stores that created and claimed a Google My Business profile, which you can further optimize with store information and images.
Google checks the consistency across each of these pages to ensure that your location is accurate and popular enough to promote. With enough growth on these pages, along with increased website SEO, your dispensary can garner one of the coveted map locations within Google’s search results, increasing awareness and foot-traffic.
Marketing Tip #2: Leverage Social Media
In today’s media-driven world, awareness and brand recognition are grown and cultivated on social media platforms. While most social platforms do not yet allow paid social placements for cannabis brands, self-promotion, user-generated content, and engaging posts will help any brand gain a foothold in their industry. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are viewed as the three most prominent platforms for cannabis companies to utilize.
• Twitter has the most relaxed stance toward cannabis brands but is generally viewed as a customer service platform for cannabis brands, so it should not be the primary source of a brand’s energy early in the awareness stages.
• Facebook is still a prominent platform but has the most restrictive guidelines for a cannabis brand of the big three platforms. Facebook’s business page can be helpful for a growing location to provide topline details such as address, business hours, etc. but awareness is not the platform’s strength for a new brand.
• Instagram is heralded as the primary social medium for a growing brand. Posts highlighting your store location, including mini store tour videos, and posts based on product education, will strengthen your brand’s value and help increase foot traffic in-store.
User-generated content showcasing your consumers in your storefront or with your product is also a powerful way to increase your awareness. Social media users love to grow their personal online brand and are enthusiastic about brands reposting their content.
This not only generates easy content for your brand, but also incorporates a sense of social community that will draw more followers and interactions on your accounts. While social networks are a necessary part of any brand’s growth, cannabis brands have a few more hoops to jump through to remain compliant with regulations. To safeguard your accounts from being frozen or deleted, ensure that all note that content is 21+ only. You’ll also want to avoid promoting eCommerce, including listing prices for items that are sold in-store.
Treat your social accounts as a place for education and lifestyle to stay within the guidelines in place for cannabis companies, and your brand can see promising growth. Many consumers are just beginning their cannabis journey and start with social media as a place to learn from reliable sources. Continue the education by driving consumers to sign-up for company newsletters, which brings us to tip three.
Marketing Tip #3: Email Marketing
Due to cannabis being federally illegal, online paid promotion can be limited and difficult. Email marketing, however, can reach a wide array of consumers without all the red tape. Email marketing is a perfect medium to create conversation with all consumers, from the curious to the cultivated, and boosts your CRM list. Not only does email marketing increase your reach, it provides an impressive ROI—for every $1 spent on email marketing they receive $42 in return—that stat alone proves how important this medium is to include in promoting your dispensary.
Use email to inform consumers about deals you’re having in-store, events that you’ll be participating in, thought-leader blog posts on your website, and more, to add value to your brand and create loyal consumers. As with any marketing message, you don’t want to berate your audiences with too many messages, but a consistent schedule is important to maintain the conversation and awareness with your audience.
Marketing Tip #4: Strategic Partnerships
Teaming up with other cannabis brands or brands that are cannabis-friendly can help improve your dispensary awareness and boost your brand’s perception. Aligning your dispensary with a partner such as a local ice cream shop located next door is a match made in heaven. Work together to offer a deal in which consumers get a discount when they shop at both stores on the same day, or any other limitless options that can be combined when working with a partner.
These partnerships can be promoted across both partners’ social accounts to increase the promotion awareness and drive consumers to both locations—increasing the value for both partners. As cannabis continues to be viewed in a more positive light, brands are more and more willing to partner up to help another local business, as well as their own profits.
Jeff Koz and his sister Roberta started a cannabis cookie brand called Dr. Norm’s, and discovered that their partners have been welcoming of strategic partnerships. “What both of us love about this industry is that it is very open, collaborative. The people that you meet are fantastic and really willing to share, and network, and help other people.”
Marketing Tip #5: Alternative Local and Industry Oriented Publications
Many mainstream publications, print and digital both, are still heavily restricted when it comes to cannabis advertising. Hemp and CBD products have begun to see opportunities within traditional channels as their products become FDA approved, but that time has not yet come for THC-oriented products and businesses. While mainstream publications may not be an open door yet, local, cannabis-specific, and complementary publications provide an outlet that has thus far not been tapped by many cannabis brands.
Local city magazines often do not have the same rigid advertisement restrictions that national publications have and offer the opportunity to reach people within your dispensary’s area. Similarly, local newspapers are also often likely to support local businesses and will provide a different audience base than other advertising channels.
Cannabis industry-specific titles with options to place locally targeted ads are great opportunities, as they already garner readership from the audiences dispensaries are interested in reaching. These publications are often available in medical cannabis waiting rooms and increase the likelihood that more eyes than just the subscriber will see your message through pass-along rates. However, keep in mind that your message may be lost among the other cannabis advertisements, especially if competitors are advertising in the same publication.
Complementary magazines can also provide a powerful platform to reach your audience while avoiding placement restrictions. Advertising in magazines about wine, cigars, beer, or other adult lifestyle-based publications, can provide additional reach and raise awareness among audiences you may not reach in other print publications.
Additionally, local city-specific websites and podcasts can provide another rarely tapped opportunity. As many of these are run by professionals focused on their city or town, you’re sure to reach consumers within your area and garner good will with other local small businesses.
Making the Most of Cannabis Marketing
The advertising world is still limited for cannabis brands, but with a little ingenuity, you can promote your dispensary to the local audiences who are searching for their go-to local shop. Before you know it, your location will be on a local ‘Best Of’ listicle, and you’ll be your town’s favorite cannabis retailer.