It is a great time to be part of the cannabis industry. More and more states across the US are opening up to legalizing marijuana, with 11 now allowing adults to use weed for recreational purposes. Plus, with plenty more states allowing medical marijuana for certain patients, there is more demand than ever for cannabis services.
Market research reports estimate that the cannabis industry will be worth $39.4 billion by 2034, so any cannabis entrepreneur would be smart to take advantage of the wave. But as high as the demand for cannabis right now is, it is important to know how to build a cannabis marketing plan.
While opening a dispensary has its challenges, marketing your business is often the toughest obstacle. Creating a digital marketing plan for your dispensary requires extensive knowledge of search, social media, and mobile technologies. A successful marketing plan can help generate traffic and influence sales.
However, because the industry is still new and not yet legal under federal law, many traditional platforms do not allow cannabis-related advertisements. Big advertising services like Facebook and Google have certain terms against cannabis marketing.
Luckily, there are still clever ways around this, and there are many impactful digital and physical marketing methods that can help promote your cannabis business.
Restrictions on cannabis marketing
Before you start marketing your dispensary, you should be aware of some of the limitations and restrictions that face companies in the cannabis industry when it comes to promotion and marketing.
When advertising in the United States, the rules on advertising vary from state to state. In some locations, you might have a hard time advertising physically through means like billboards and posters. However, most companies find ways around this, usually by utilizing the most effective digital marketing methods without using overt advertising.
Many cannabis businesses take to using digital marketing methods to market their services. Although you may be limited in how you can promote your business in comparison to other industries, there are still many ways around it.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Google all have tight restrictions or outright bar the promotion of cannabis-related products. Often those restrictions also include legal CBD products and ancillary companies that do not actually sell or touch the plant. Reports have shown that
Facebook had internally considered loosening restrictions on cannabis advertising but ultimately decided against it. Some businesses hire the services of a lawyer to help ensure their marketing methods will not cause them any trouble.
Who should you market to?
When you build a cannabis marketing plan, it helps to know exactly who you are trying to sell to. Cannabis can appeal to all kinds of different demographics. College students and young adults often use marijuana for recreational use, but there is also a huge market of medical users and even senior citizens who rely on cannabis and CBD to help with their health problems.
Some businesses might find it more effective to focus on a specific demographic. For instance, some dispensaries may want to market themselves specifically to medical users as opposed to those looking to use cannabis for recreational purposes.
Appealing to a niche or a target demographic can help you position yourself ahead of the competition. For instance, you could focus your marketing efforts on attracting young people via social media and smartphone app marketing. You could also have success by marketing medical CBD products to elderly patients using targeted content and word-of-mouth marketing.
Social media presence
Just because you cannot pay for advertisements on social media, does not mean that you cannot maintain a social media presence as a cannabis brand. In fact, when it comes to digital marketing, social media may give you the most effective and direct way to speak to your audience.
No matter what you post on your social accounts, make sure that you are following the terms of service for whatever platform that you post on. Each social network may have different rules regarding the types of materials that you can share.
Social media also gives you the opportunity to source and collect user-generated content. When fans share pictures of your products, you can reshare them on your own pages to grow awareness and create third-party validation.
Marketing with PPC ads
One of the most impactful ways to market your business online is via PPC (pay-per-click) ads. These are online advertisements displayed via various online platforms to your target customers. Each time someone clicks on one of these ads, you will have to pay a small cost, but it is often worth it for the profit you can make out of it.
There are plenty of websites out there where you can legally advertise your business. Advertising your site via large cannabis networks is an even more impactful approach as your ads will be seen by people looking specifically to buy your products.
The best way to launch a PPC ad campaign for your weed business is with a service offering weed-friendly PPC advertising such as Taboola. That way, you can start a successful ad campaign targeted at potential customers without your ads getting disapproved or removed.
Search engine optimization (SEO), also known as search engine marketing, is another one of the best ways to attract customers online. There are over 3.5 billion Google searches a day, and many consumers search for businesses online before they buy. Ensuring that your cannabis business is visible on the front page of Google is a huge key to success.
SEO involves a lot of complicated processes to ensure that your content is Google-friendly and visible to as many people as possible. One of the best ways to boost your SEO is by adding a blog to your website.
Creating niche content targeted at your customers based on what they are likely to search will help significantly. For instance, blogs such as “10 Best Indica Strains for Arthritis Patients” or “Best Ways to Use CBD for Anxiety” are likely to stand out to your target market. The more specific your titles are, the better, as these will have less competition on Google.
You can use free SEO tools such as Google Keyword Planner and KeywordTool.io to find information on what people search for. Creating pages targeted at specific search terms and keywords is a good way to start attracting potential customers and selling to them.
Link building is also important. The more other websites link to your content, the better it will perform on Google.
Develop a mobile-friendly website
It is estimated that more than 5 billion people have mobile devices and approximately 48 percent use these devices to search queries. This includes searching for local services, such as dispensaries.
When someone searches for a dispensary in your area, you want your name to appear at the top of the search engine results page. This means having a mobile-friendly website that is easy to use and provides all of the critical details needed by consumers to find your business.
Mobile websites should be responsive, use large font sizes that are easy to see, and have compressed images. You also want to avoid software like Flash which can slow down your mobile site.The more browsers and devices you optimize your dispensary’s site for, the better chance you will have of capturing more sales.
Customer loyalty programs
Dispensaries face a lot of limitations on how they can engage potential new customers. This makes it even more essential to retain and upsell the ones you have already got. A loyalty or rewards program can foster long-term relationships with your dispensary.
Examples of loyalty programs can include::
- Give customers points with every purchase that they can put towards free products.
- Create a discount card with incentives that kick in after a set number of purchases.
- Offer memberships with access to special promotions or sales (and freebies on their birthday).
On-site lead capture is critical to your success at nurturing an ongoing relationship with your customers. Ask for an email address in the checkout line for an e-receipt, and allow them to opt-in for promotional emails, newsletters, product updates, and tips.
A great, low-friction strategy is to install tablets that let customers complete orders and fill in information themselves, right at the register.
Word-of-mouth is one of the strongest dispensary marketing channels available. Satisfied customers can become brand advocates who will do your marketing for you.
Nielsen surveyed more than 28,000 internet respondents and found that 92% of consumers trust the recommendations of friends and family over all other forms of brand information and messaging.
Take advantage of the power of personal referrals by incentivizing them. Offer customers a discount or a bit of free product in exchange for referring their friends and family. Not only will this give you more opportunities to nurture new relationships with people who are predisposed to trust you, but it can also create some positive buzz in your community that will encourage even more people to come in and give your products a try.
Similar to loyalty programs, creating promotional events allows you to make a personal connection while engaging new customers on your own terms. This could mean going out with merch, handouts, swag, and freebies to spread the word at a cannabis convention like MJBizCon or a trade show in your local market.
It could also mean a hyped-up in-house event, like a cannabis-themed workshop or educational seminar, right at your dispensary. You could spearhead something interesting and practical that is sure to draw a crowd.
Try setting it up through Eventbrite or Facebook Events, as well as spreading the word to customers when they come through the store. Live events are a critical strategy for raising awareness and interest in a local business.
The optimal way to connect with your customers is through email marketing. Dispensaries can showcase new products, promotions, and brand updates knowing that the recipients are captured and invested.
Take advantage of this effective solution and collect customer information upfront and with permission; Zero-Party Data is going to be increasingly valuable as data concerns create stricter privacy policies. Having the upper hand on an already competitive market will position your brand for the greatest success.
Unfortunately, due to restrictions on advertising cannabis, major email-marketing platforms such as MailChimp and Constant Contact strictly reject any form of marketing via their platform, this goes with many other leading Email Marketing Services.
If your dispensary is interested in using email as a part of your marketing plan, consult your preferred agency, and review their rules and policies. Alternatively, you can consider using a service like Reefer Mail, which offers full-service options for dispensaries.