Cannabis marketing is still a very new endeavor. It wasn't that long ago that the only way to market your cannabis business was through word of mouth. Legacy growers and sellers were actively trying to avoid attention. With legalization happening in state after state, the industry is maturing quickly, meaning there is a huge window of opportunity for businesses to seize market share and establish themselves as a leader in their area.
But at the same time, the rules and regulations with regards to what types of advertising and marketing are allowed are in a constant state of flux. In fact, many of the traditional approaches aren't an option for cannabis businesses, meaning that you'll have to get creative with your marketing.
As your cannabis company struggles to grow, and you face stiff competition from all sides, a proactive and well-thought out marketing strategy is one of the best ways to ensure you can stand out in the marketplace. But before you hire a cannabis marketing company, take careful stock of what your ambitions are and find the cannabis marketing agency that matches your needs. The following is a guide for deciding which marketing company is the right partner for your business.
Figure Our Your Marketing Budget
Ideally, every cannabis entrepreneur would build a comprehensive marketing approach into their budget before they even launch. This is the best way to ensure that you hit the ground running and have built in name recognition the moment your products hit the market. Unfortunately, in my experience this is rarely the case, and many cannabis companies only begin to think about marketing after they have already started selling.
However, it’s also true that it’s never too late to right the ship. No matter where you are at as a company, partnering with a cannabis marketing agency offers a great opportunity to improve your position with clients and customers and grow your business. But in order to find the right company to oversee your marketing journey, you need to have a budget in mind. There’s no point in interviewing marketers and digging into their services if you aren’t going to be able to afford them.
From the marketers perspective, many agencies have the ability to work with clients at different price points, adjusting the services offered to fit the budget involved. Knowing how much a client is ready to spend let’s us craft a strategy that will be both effective and affordable. Before you start reaching out to cannabis marketing companies, figure out what your monthly budget is, or if you need a specific job done, decide how much you are willing to pay first.
Have A General Marketing Strategy Already
Just like with a budget, we find that many companies in the space have no plan formulated for how they will connect with their potential customers. In a way, this is understandable, because for a lot of legacy growers they have never needed to incorporate marketing into their cannabis business before. But it also leaves them vulnerable to well-funded competition that’s treating cannabis no differently than any other legal industry.
Failing to have a strategy already formulated often leads to a haphazard marketing approach similar to throwing a bunch of darts at a wall and seeing what sticks. When a business starts their marketing off in this way, without a cohesive plan, a lot of money and time tends to get wasted as they try and figure out what’s going to work and what won’t. Likewise, in our experience, working with clients who haven’t carefully charted what their goals and expectations are, these campaigns are much more likely to fail than those clients who come in with a clear strategy already in place.
The more planning you do prior to hiring a marketing specialist, the more effective they will be. There are plenty of resources out there to help you formulate a marketing strategy, including on our blog (ex: here and here). But if you find that you don’t have the bandwidth or resources to put a strategy in place yourself, than that will indicate you need to hire a full-fledged marketing agency that not only can execute a marketing plan, but help you come up with the plan to begin with.
Find The Right Specialty Agency
Now that you have a plan for what kind of marketing you need, and how extensive your approach will be, it’s time to hunt for a cannabis marketing agency that matches your requirements. With the possible exception of the biggest agencies, most marketing companies specialize in specific areas.
Especially in the beginning of your business journey, you’ll likely be focused on specific tasks, rather than a comprehensive approach that covers every aspect of marketing. For instance, prior to opening a new dispensary, you’ll want to find a cannabis branding agency that has strong experience with logo design and crafting a brand style. If you’re looking to build a new website for your business, don’t get distracted by a company that has a great video production team. Along those same lines, if you want to upgrade your website to include a commerce or registration functionality, then you need to work with a web developer who does more than just layout and design.
If you need help with multiple aspects of your marketing, then you have an important decision to make. You might divide up the tasks you need help with and hire a specialty company for each one individually. While this will hopefully lead to the highest quality for every piece of content you produce, the price tag will likely be steep. On the other hand, it will probably save both time and money if you partner with a full service agency that handles everything you need well.
Make Sure They Have Cannabis Experience
If there’s any industry that requires particular knowledge and expertise to succeed, it’s cannabis. Cultivators and dispensaries that hire a general marketing firm do so at their own peril. One of the most likely results is that their designs and messaging will probably lean into cannabis stereotypes that your business really should be trying to shed.
Whether you’re looking for a new logo, a new website, or a new social media manager, we highly recommend that you hire a company that specializes in cannabis, or at least has a cannabis department. Such a company will be able to help you navigate the murky waters of cannabis advertising and will be better positioned to craft a unique and compelling brand style that is both fresh and evocative of your mission as a business.
The bottom line is that a cannabis-specific marketer will be best positioned to help you compete in the industry.
Make Sure They Have Non-Cannabis Experience Too
With all that being said, we also recommend that you work with a team that has experience outside the industry as well. When you realize that the recreational cannabis industry only has a five-year history, that means a cannabis-specific marketing agency that’s four or five years old is a veteran. If I were a small or medium-sized business looking for a marketing pro to help me take my company and brand to the next level, I’d want to partner with a company that has a lot more than five years of experience.
That’s why you want to find out what kind of experience your potential partner has previous to entering the cannabis industry. Were the founders in other industries, and pivoted into cannabis when it became legal? Has the team hired experts, whether it’s photographers, web designers, graphic designers, drone pilots, or videographers, who have built up their expertise working in other areas prior to cannabis? This will tell you a lot about the quality of their content and consulting.
Your best bet is looking for a team that has a good balance of experience both inside and outside the industry.
Dig Into Their Previous Cannabis Client Work
A flashy website is great and all, but the best way you can learn what kind of expertise a company has is by examining their past client work. Is this a company that has a specific style they bring to all of their content? There’s nothing wrong with that, but you need to know that before hiring them. Likewise, if you have a unique brand style you want your marketing team to match, then you need to know they are capable of adapting to various client needs.
Going through their portfolio should be the first thing that you do, but not the last. Look to see if they have any customer testimonials. Do they have an active list of clients they are currently working for? If all of their best client work is older than a year or two, that could be a red flag. Maybe that great designer that did all of that content has moved on and their current quality of work no longer matches.
If possible, talk to your peers in the industry to see what kind of reputation they have in your area. Are they involved in local industry events? Have you met them at conventions and trade shows? Are they members of the area chamber of commerce or cannabis lobbying association? The more you can find out about who they are as a company and what they represent, both in terms of the quality of product they put out and the values they stand for, the better.
If a company has a strong presence in your local cannabis community, than that’s a good sign they aren’t some fly-by-night company looking to make a quick score and move on to the next sucker.
Ask A Lot Of Questions About Their Process
Finally, make sure you ask a lot of questions before signing on the bottom line. First of all, you obviously want to get a good idea of what their process is like, and what you can expect when you are working together. Will they be attentive to your needs and listen to your feedback before delivering the final product? What kind of communication style do they have? Will they keep track of analytics for you and do a good job of figuring out what is working and what isn’t, and adjust accordingly?
However, there’s another aspect to the questioning that may be even more important. You want to use this getting to know you period as a way to feel out whether this is a company you will enjoy working with. Are they responsive to your questions and quick to get back to you? If they have trouble being prompt when they are trying to convince you to hire them, what do you think’s going to happen after you have signed a contract?
You want to partner with a team that makes customer service a top priority. Are they going to go the extra mile for you, or are you just another client. You may be tempted to work with a big marketing company because you figure they have more resources and a better track record, but it’s often the smaller companies that will go above and beyond for you because they value you so much as a client.
Take all of these things into consideration when trying to pick out a cannabis marketing agency. In the end, you have to make a decision based on what your specific needs are, and you will prioritize certain things more than other companies might. It’s up to you to decide what is most important to you, but if you take your time and do your homework, you should end up making the right call.
Partner With The Hood Collective
When you’ve made the decision to hire a professional marketing agency, The Hood Collective makes for an accomplished and seasoned partner for your cannabis business. Our leadership team offers more than 20 years of combined experience in marketing, branding, PR, and content creation, meaning we have the expertise and follow through to help you reach your goals. In addition, our company is exclusively focused on the cannabis industry, meaning we have a unique understanding of your pain points and deep practical knowledge navigating the obstacles and pitfalls unique to cannabis.
At The Hood Collective, our philosophy is that the best way to win the attention of your audience and potential customers is by creating value for them. Our team specializes in producing high-end photography, video, and graphic design at a price point that fits your budget. Best of all, our packages are conveniently structured to make it easy for you to scale up as your business grows. Let us handle the marketing chores so you can concentrate on what you really love.
Contact us today to learn more.