Updated: Mar 5
Legalization of recreational cannabis is less than a decade old, but already so much of the landscape has changed since weed became legally available in Colorado and Washington. We're hard at work on our Complete Guide To Cannabis Marketing for 2022, but in the meantime, here's a pretty thorough preview of the information it will contain.
This marketing overview will be especially useful for cannabis growers and processors, as well as dispensary owners in legal states throughout the US. Please note that this information offers general guidelines, rather than specific state-by-state rules and regulations, since these can change rapidly and may not be up to date by the time you are reading this. It's highly recommended that every cannabis business appoint a compliance officer whose job is to stay abreast of all local and national regulations.
Step One Of Any Marketing Plan Is Actually Formulating A Plan
One of the biggest challenges facing a small to medium sized cannabis business is identifying what the best platforms and avenues are for advertising their products and services. When you don't have the budget to plaster your name, image, and content absolutely everywhere, it's imperative that you choose where and when to spend money wisely.
Before you actually start paying for ads and such, you should take the time to work out a cohesive strategy. Identify who your customers are, what's the best way to connect with them, and how best to frame your products and services in a way that they will be engaged.
What too many business owners do when they are just starting out (especially growers and sellers who have spent a long time on the black market) is spending a little bit of money here, some money there, without having a plan in place. While it's great to experiment and see what works, the reality is marketing yourself before you have a clear strategy is a great way to waste money.
What's The Difference Between Advertising And Marketing?
So what do we mean by the terms advertising and marketing, in particular in the cannabis industry? Is there a meaningful difference between the two? At the most basic level, advertising is when you promote your products and services through paid advertising channels, such as television commercials or magazine ads. Marketing, on the other hand, is the action of promoting your business by a variety of means, whether paid or not. This means that advertising is one form of marketing.
So when we talk about cannabis marketing, that includes cannabis advertising. Of course, because the cannabis industry is so heavily regulated, and is still very much illegal at the federal level, there are many traditional advertising channels that are not open to most cannabis businesses. You won't be seeing your neighborhood dispensary advertising during the Super Bowl, for instance, though maybe that time is not too far off in the future.
What Types Of Cannabis Marketing Are Relevant In 2022?
So let's talk about the specific types of marketing and advertising that are most relevant to cannabis businesses. For what I hope are obvious reasons, we won't be discussing commercial ad buys, radio spots, or (for the most part) PPC advertisements. Bear in mind that not all businesses in the cannabis space are created equal. There's a huge difference between a licensed cannabis producer or retailer and an ancillary business, such as an accountant or a marketing company.
That's not to mention hemp and CBD. Whereas cannabis is a Schedule I drug at the federal level, hemp (cannabis plants with less than .3 percent THC) is now federally protected thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill. This means there's a grey area for many hemp and CBD products. It also means policies and enforcement around hemp and CBD are spotty at best, and there's no telling what is permissible from any moment to the next.
With that said, the following are the most popular forms of advertising and marketing for cannabis companies:
Let's take each one in turn, and explain what they are and what types of businesses will most benefit from them.
Cannabis Marketing Option #1: Digital Ad Buys
When we think about advertising for a small business in the 21st century, online banner ads and digital display ads will probably be near the top of the list, especially in the cannabis industry. But there are two significant barriers that must be considered before you launch a digital ad campaign.
First, in most states, there are rules in place the restrict licensed cannabis businesses from marketing themselves in a way that might appeal to minors. This usually includes wording that you cannot advertise in any kind of content or format that might include a significant audience of people under 18 or 21. While this would obviously forbid advertising on websites for Nickelodeon or the Cartoon Network, there's a lot of gray area as to how this standard should be applied and enforced.
If you have a compliance officer on your team, it's their job to mitigate risk, and they will probably advise you to be extremely cautious about advertising through any web portal that might be interpreted as appealing to an underage audience. Complicating the matter is that many digital ad networks will populate across a myriad of websites, so it would be imperative that you have some control over where your specific ads show up, and preferably the ability to target specific age groups.
On the other end of the spectrum, the most popular digital advertising platforms are closed off to cannabis companies anyway. For most small (and medium and large for that matter) businesses, the go to choice is Google when it comes to serving up digital ads across the internet. Google doesn't allow cannabis companies to advertise on their display platform, nor does the Facebook Audience Network, so the options become severely limited.
Therefore, cannabis companies that want to run digital ad campaigns have two options. They can secure the services of a programmatic advertising platform that caters directly to cannabis companies (two specific examples include MediaJel and Safe-Reach), who will populate your ads using targeting data to help reach your potential customers in a more effective manner while ensuring that your ads are legal and compliant. Or, they can advertise directly on cannabis specific platforms. These can include weed directories (WeedMaps, Leafly) or cannabis magazines (High Times, Cannabis Now).
While digital ad buys can be extremely effective in terms of allowing cannabis companies to reach targeted audiences and actually achieve a good ROI, it's also easy to waste a lot of money without seeing any appreciable results, or worse yet, not knowing whether the amount you spent was worth it. Digital ad buys have a major advantage in that they allow for excellent, in depth analytics regarding who has seen the ads and how effective they were at achieving the desired results. But if you're a cannabis business owner who doesn't have a degree in marketing or data analytics, then you can often feel like you are being bombarded by meaningless numbers with no way of understanding what it all means.
The best way to avoid this is to go in with a plan, and to partner with a company that is transparent and takes the time to explain exactly what they are doing, how to connect the dots between the amount that's being spent and how it's impacting your bottom line. This is a lot easier said then done. So while there are tremendous opportunities that come with digital ad buys, it's not the best option for the inexperienced.
What cannabis businesses can most benefit from digital advertising? Companies with a specific geographic region, and with a specific desired outcome (either an increase in sales or foot traffic, for example). If that sounds like dispensaries and online product retailers, you'd be correct. Digital ad buys especially make sense for dispensaries that are able to take online orders, making it much easier to keep track of an ad's effectiveness. Digital ad buys also make sense for CBD and hemp retailers who have a national footprint, as there are more options open to you when it comes to programmatic advertising. But you would be best served having a full time marketing person on your staff who understands digital marketing before you jump in.
Cannabis Marketing Option #2: Print Ad Buys
When it comes to print ad buys, many cannabis marketers encounter a Catch-22. They want to target consumers who may be cannabis curious or casual consumers, but the main option that will accept ad buys for cannabis companies are the dedicated cannabis magazines, that tend to appeal to the most dedicated consumers. What's not to like about marketing directly to the heaviest weed consumers? Well, all your competition is going to be targeting the same small subset of consumers, meaning you really need to have a strong grasp on your branding and value proposition if you want to be noticed.
Another hurdle when it comes to advertising in print publications is that when compared to digital marketing, there's a dearth of reliable information regarding how effective your ads are. You have no idea how many people have even seen your ad, let along how many took action because they saw it. With digital advertising, you know exactly how many times your ad was served up, and how many people clicked on it, and how many of those clicks led to a desired outcome, such as a sale or email signup. With print advertising, you get none of that information, which is why the magazine industry is in such dire straights.
But if you do want to directly reach cannabis consumers, weed-specific publications are one of the best options. Magazine ads are a great way to accentuate your brand and get your name out there, especially if you stick to the most prominent publications. Of course, running ads in a premium magazine can be expensive, not to mention the cost of designing the ad, so for many smaller cannabis businesses, this option is out of reach.
A cheaper option is to target boutique publications. These are usually local magazines that are distributed in a specific state or city. The audiences are smaller, so ads are cheaper. And you've likely noticed that a lot of the ads that run in these publications are simply not very good. In this environment, it doesn't take a lot of investment to stand out in a positive way.
Just keep in mind that even if these ads are working, it's hard to know for sure. One growing trend to overcome this obstacle is to include a QR code in your ad, that will allow readers to directly link to your website simply by pointing their phone at your ad. This will allow you to directly track an ad's effectiveness, in particular if you use different QR codes for different ad runs.
Print ad buys make the most sense for companies that have a monthly marketing budget and who are specifically interested in boosting or reinforcing their brand image. Individual farms or dispensaries should probably look elsewhere, but dispensary chains or vertically integrated growers and retailers can effectively rely on magazine ads to build name recognition in their region.
Cannabis Marketing Option #3: Search Engine Optimization
Everybody talks about SEO but very few people are doing it right. Your web designer probably talked about making your website SEO friendly. You're probably getting bombarded by people talking about keywords and metadata and SERP results. There are all kinds of people willing to tell you how they are going to help you rank better on Google to increase your organic reach. It all likely sounds fantastic and extremely confusing.
Here's the truth about cannabis SEO: It's extremely hard to do well. And it's extremely important, because it's one of the most reliable options for advertising a cannabis business while there's still so much ambiguity at the federal level as to what's allowed and what isn't allowed in cannabis advertising. Both these things can be true at the same time.
That means you want to be extremely discerning about who you partner with, not only for your SEO specifically, but everything that is SEO adjacent, such as blog writing, web design, social media, and more.
Here's the conundrum. In order to have effective SEO, you need to be showing up on the first page of first returns. That means at most ten businesses are going to be first page ranking of any given keyword. And Google has gotten very good at learning how to interpret searcher intent and returning sites that are both highly relevant and highly respected. So you're competing against the biggest names in your industry, most of whom probably have a huge head start in establishing themselves in the cannabis space. And while the difference between ranking number 1 and number 2 is significant in terms of traffic, the difference between ranking on the first page and second page is like competing for customers in Times Square when your store location is on the moon.
SEO is a brute force problem. The more time, effort, and money you put into it, the more results you'll get back. If you're competing for the first page of a popular term like Seattle Dispensary, it's going to be extremely hard and require a concentrated effort with significant financial investment. But you can bet the pay off will be worth it. That's why it's so competitive.
And the good news that a lot of companies aren't investing in SEO, or they are going about it the wrong way. That means there are opportunities for the cannabis companies that approach it in the right way.
First, let's take a look at keywords. If you only focus on the most popular keywords, you're going to have a tough go of it. Instead, concentrate on ranking for less popular keywords that won't be as competitive, and therefore easier to gain traction in. Take a broad approach, especially in the beginning, and look at keywords that your more well established competitors may be ignoring because by themselves, these keywords aren't worth much. But in the aggregate, they can quickly add up, and over time, the effort will also help your ranking in more lucrative keywords you eventually want to target.
For instance, go ahead and check out Cannabis Event Photography. Guess who ranks number one? Yours truly! This was one of the first keywords we ranked number one in. Of course, not a lot of people are searching for Cannabis Event Photography, but when they do, the first business they see is The Hood Collective. And we can point to a lot of other similar keywords, such as Cannabis Event Videographer and Cannabis Video Production, that we have focused on and now rank first page on.
This has allowed us to relatively quickly increase are search ranking for more lucrative terms, such as Cannabis Graphic Design, Cannabis Product Photography, and Cannabis SEO Marketing. But this begs the question: how to increase your ranking in the first place?
I'm going to make this very easy for you. There are two main aspects to SEO. First of all, effective SEO is based on content marketing. High quality, relevant content on your website that is regularly updated and added to is how the Google algorithm knows what your site is about and how it judges how worthy your site is of attention. Google wants to know that you are an authority on the subject. If someone is searching for information about CBD for instance, the more pages and blog post you have that discuss various aspects of CBD, the more of an authority they will judge you to be.
This means, the more content you have, the better your SEO. See below for our tips concerning how to approach content marketing for your cannabis business.
The other important aspect of SEO is how many links are pointing to your website. Google assumes, correctly, that the more links you have coming in, the more of an authority you are on the topic. Of course, these links need to be from relevant websites and pages. Spammy links won't work, as Google has long ago been able to figure out the difference. So while it might be tempting to purchases link packages from some of the companies that offer to build links to your website, the reality is there's no quick fix to this problem.
This means that link building is largely out of your hands, other than to generate content that people will view as valuable and want to link to (again, see below). What you can do (and what should definitely be a part of your overall marketing strategy) is looking for partners in the industry that have complementary businesses or services and might be interested in doing blog exchanges or co-sponsor an event with you. If you're a farm, look to create marketing partnerships with the dispensaries where you sell your products. Likewise, a dispensary should be working with all the farms it sources from to help built up it's digital reputation. It can be as simple as reaching out to your peers in the industry and saying you'll include a link on your website to them if they reciprocate.
Thinking even bigger, do whatever you can to get digital stories or positive reviews about your business. This may be hard in the beginning, but as you put more effort into your branding and creating a reputation in the industry, the easier it's going to be to get the kinds of relevant links that will build up your SEO. The best strategy is to incorporate this kind of thinking into all of your marketing, so that you are focused on the kind of brand building and partnerships that will bear fruit in a number of different ways.
There's one last thing with regards to SEO you need to keep in mind. If you have a physical location that is visited by customers on a regular basis (ie a dispensary or cafe) then you MUST be focused on local SEO. This is a specific form of SEO that is tied to your geographic location and is particularly relevant when someone is doing a search for local services. The most common example is someone searching on their phone for "dispensary near me." There are a lot of actions you can be taking to boost your SEO, starting with hiring us to perform a Local SEO blast.
The bottom line is that no matter what kind of cannabis business you are, if you have a website, you will want to invest heavily in cannabis SEO.
Cannabis Marketing Option #4: Content Marketing
In pretty much every industry, more and more companies are turning to content marketing as a core part of their marketing strategy. While a big reason for this has to do with SEO (as explained above) it is far from the only benefit of creating great content. It is becoming increasingly attractive to use meaningful, high value content to create a lasting connection with your customers. Whether this is via regular posting to social media, in depth educational content, entertaining or funny memes, or an all of the above approach, content shifts the focus away from trying to convince potential customers to pay attention to you, towards a more customer-centric paradigm where the goal is to grab as much as your audience's attention as possible.
That's what people mean when they talk about the attention economy. Your customers only have so much time to spend in the their day, and the more of that time they spend interacting with your content, the deeper the bonds are.
Now that's all well and good if your a content company, such as Warner Brothers or ESPN. But why would a cannabis company invest in creating content?
One reason is there's a huge need for high quality educational and informative content in the cannabis space. Cannabis has lived in the shadows for so many years that many people still have a negative opinion of the plant and its consumers. Even people who are life long consumers cling to outdated and incorrect information and stereotypes about cannabis. The most obvious is the extremely prevalent belief in the Indica/Sativa dichotomy, which research is starting to disprove, but which is still readily promoted in dispensaries around the country.
In such an environment, brands that invest in educating their customers will have a leg up over the competition. Not only will you have the opportunity to create brand loyalty, but you'll be able to reach entirely new segments of the consumer base. Or that weren't even part of the consumer base because of hesitation or a lack of reliable, trustworthy information. This kind of content will benefit pretty much any kind of cannabis business, but is obviously extremely beneficial to companies that deal with CBD, medical marijuana, lifestyle products, and the like.
B2B businesses, on the other hand, will want to focus on educating their customers about the types of services they provide. Again, there is a real knowledge gap in the industry because of the legacy of the black market. In this case, it's because cannabis growers and sellers never had the ability to run a legal business out in the open, and so they may not be familiar with basic business principles and concepts, particular when it comes to accounting, payroll, compliance, law, human resources, and yes, marketing. Businesses the offer these services can build trust and attract customers by taking the trouble to answer questions and provide useful information, whether via social media or a blog.
So what kind of content is best for content marketing? There's no one answer to that. The primary categories revolve around written content, video, and infographics. If you can manage to combine all three, even better. The main thing to keep in mind is that you should develop a strategy around how you will disseminate that content. The best, most exciting, most valuable video or blog post in the world is useless if nobody sees it. That means an integral aspect of any content marketing strategy is how to get your content in front of the right people, ie your prospective customers.
Cannabis Marketing Option #5: Email Marketing
Email marketing, while popular in many other industries, is an often overlooked option for cannabis organizations. This is likely to change, as more and more business owners realize the tremendous benefit of having an active, thriving list of potential customers who have chosen to opt in to receive your communications.
The first thing that needs to be stated is that we strongly discourage companies from simply purchasing an email list. I'm sure your inbox is filled with people looking to sell you their 'valuable' list of cannabis contacts. You probably get annoyed by such emails, which is exactly why you should not purchase said list, as the vast majority of people on it have no interest in what you have to say, or sell, to them. The only exception is for businesses that are invested in direct sales, who are comfortable with conducing high volume cold calls. In that case, you may be able to profit from having a high quality list of cannabis contacts in a new market, such as a state that has recently come online.
For most businesses, email marketing starts with convincing your customers, website visitors, or people curious about your company to opt-in to your mailing list. It might be possible to incentivize people to do so, with discounts or some kind of free giveaway. Others rely on cleverly places Call-To-Actions on their website. However you do it, getting your customers to sign up for your mailing list is only half the battle.
Anyone who has run a mailing list knows that one of the biggest issues is attrition. Invariably, some people will opt out again as soon as the first message hits their inbox. This is to be expected. But it puts a major onus on you and your content creator(s) to generate meaningful, relevant messages that your followers will actually want to receive. Many of the same principles apply that we discussed with regards to content marketing.
While it's tempting to blast out an email every time you have something you want to share, you should always consider your mailing list from the perspective of your customers first. What value are you providing them when you hit send? If you aren't giving them a reason to read your messages, at best they'll just let your email go unread. At worst, they'll unsubscribe and stop buying your products.
On the plus side, direct email marketing is one of the best ways to circumvent all of the restrictions placed on cannabis marketing. You aren't restricted by rules like you are on social media, and you can actually promote your sales and specials without fear of repercussion. The kinds of images or promotions that aren't allowed on banner ads or in magazines are fair game.
What types of businesses can make best use of email marketing? Pretty much any type of cannabis business, but any company that is selling products or services, whether in a B2B or B2C capacity, should definitely explore email marketing. There are a lot of options when it comes to platforms, with MailChimp being among the most well known. Whichever one you chose, it should be a platform that doesn't charge out of the gate, but only starts asking for a fee when you reach a certain threshold in terms of your subscriber base.
One growing platform is Substack, which even makes it easy to monetize your actual mailing list. With Substack, you can charge a monthly subscription fee for people to receive your emails. Obviously, this will only apply to educational companies or advocacy organizations that are providing extremely rich content or using their mailing list as a way to raise funds.
Cannabis Marketing Option #6: SMS And Geofencing
The future is mobile. We've been hearing it for years, but the future is now. I can probably cram some more cliches into this paragraph, but I think you get the point. If you need a little bit more convincing, here's some data on the growth of mobile in recent years:
The United States currently has almost 300 million active internet users. (Link)
As of 2019, there were nearly 270 million active mobile users, and almost 450 million wireless mobile subscribers in the United States. (Link)
In 2021, 84% of all Americans (280 million) used their phones to access the internet, with that number to increase by ten million by 2025. (same as above)
With that in mind, it's no wonder that mobile advertising and SMS advertising are crucial to any forward looking cannabis marketing strategy. But the state of SMS advertising is still very much in its infancy, and as mobile users yourselves, you probably know how annoying it can be to receive intrusive, unwanted notifications on your phone that you haven't opted in for. That's why it's important to tread carefully in this space.
First of all, no matter what kind of cannabis business you are, you need to ensure that your website is mobile friendly. In fact, when we design websites, our first consideration is always mobile, and desktop design is second. Fortunately, the Wix platform we build most of our websites on is extremely mobile friendly and makes it easy to build a website that will look good on any device. But we make sure any websites we build in WordPress perform just as well, if not better, on mobile.
When it comes to SMS marketing, the approach should be similar to email marketing, with a focus on creating an opt in list of customers that have agreed to receive your content. You should respect your customers and strive to always serve them highly valuable content that will be useful for them. When done correctly, SMS marketing can boost customer loyalty and encourage repeat business.
Geofencing is a new kind of digital marketing that relies on a virtual fence that is put in place around a physical location. Whenever a consumer enters that space, an action is triggered, such as a notification being sent to their phone. The technology depends on GPS or RFID location data. The action that gets triggered is up to you. Possibilities include collecting data, serving up an ad, offering a reminder, and more.
One of the most common ways to utilize geofencing technology is via a dedicated mobile app, but it's not required. Remember, if you are targeting mobile users with geofencing ads, privacy can be a big concern, so don't be overly aggressive or intrusive. There are a number of companies you can work with for geofencing, with Sprout being one of the best known examples.
While SMS and geofencing marketing won't be for every cannabis business, if you are a dispensary, it is definitely something to look into.
Cannabis Marketing Option #7: OOH
OOH stands for Out-Of-Home advertising. In the cannabis industry, this basically means billboards. Of course, depending on the state you're based in, it may also include ads on taxi cubs, buses, public benches, and more. Or, you may not be allowed to advertise cannabis on any of the above.
With so many traditional advertising channels, such as television and radio spots, off limits to cannabis businesses, OOH is a huge category in places where it is allowed. For instance, here in Oregon, cannabis billboards can be seen pretty much every where, from along side major interstates to downtown Portland.
If OOH advertising is allowed in your location, there are some additional guidelines you'll need to follow (even if it isn't specifically spelled out in your state code). Be very careful to make sure that the location you're posting isn't near a school, park, or other place frequented by minors. Absolutely don't depict consumption anywhere in your ad, and don't make any kind of health claims or statements about the efficacy of your products, especially as it pertains to medical issues. And make sure to add your state's required disclaimer so that it's in plain view.
This may all be spelled out by the advertising company that owns the billboards, but it may not, especially if your located in a more rural area where commerce tends to be less regulated.
Another thing to bear in mind when using OOH advertising, in particular billboards, is that you'll want to design an ad specifically to be seen from a distance. There shouldn't be a lot of detail or fine print (other than the disclaimer) and one bold image should be enough. Absolutely do not simply reproduce an ad you've created for digital or print and think it will work just as well on a billboard or the side of a bus. These are completely different media and need to be treated as such. Partner with a graphic designer who understands the demands of creating billboard ads.
Other than that, the most important thing to pay attention to is ROI. It's tough to measure exactly how effective cannabis billboard advertising is. Some companies prefer to mention a specific URL on their OOH ad, so they can track how many people visit their website. Another option is to have your customers fill out a survey and ask where they heard about you, with a billboard as one of the options. This is a great way to learn more about your customers and to gain more data on the efficacy of your advertising, but it can also be viewed as an annoying chore and should only be used in the right circumstances.
If nothing else, keep track of your sales before and after the billboard is live. And then if you discontinue the ad, how do your sales react after it's gone? While this kind of information is not to be treated as gospel, it does help you have some idea if you're seeing any benefits from you OOH advertising.
When it comes to OOH advertising, for the most part, it's particularly tied to location. If you're a dispensary with a billboard nearby, it probably makes a lot of sense to advertise on it. Or if you're a product manufacturer or farm who has products for sale in that dispensary, that billboard has a lot of value for you compared to other billboards. But before advertising on prime real estate near a dispensary, check in with them first to make sure they are OK with it. They may even be willing to split the cost if you run a promotion that highlights both your products and their dispensary.
Cannabis Marketing Option #8: Event Marketing
While event marketing could refer to the marketing of an event or series of events, in this case we're talking about the practice of marketing your cannabis business at or during an event. This can be as simple buying a ticket to a local trade show and walking from booth to booth handing out business cards. This can be a great way to connect with lots of cannabis businesses in a short period of time, and is a great place to start when you're an up and coming B2B company.
But there's a certain measure of authority that automatically inferred upon businesses that have a dedicated booth at a cannabis event. This might be participating in a vendor day at a local dispensary you sell your goods in (and in some cases you may be the only outside business presenting your products on a given day), or could be a national trade show like MJ Biz Con that brings prominent cannabis executives and celebrities together from all over the world. Depending on the scale of your business, either or both types of events may be appropriate for your consideration.
Taking event marketing one step further, you might consider sponsoring an event. This can have an even more profound effect on your branding and draw more attention, but make sure that your prospective customer base matches well with the event you are sponsoring. If you are a farm looking to get your weed into dispensaries around the state, you probably don't want to sponsor an event that's targeting hemp farmers and ancillary businesses. While this is an obvious example, make sure you do your homework about an event and who will be attending before you agree to a sponsorship deal.
If you do choose to attend a trade show, either at a booth or as a sponsor, think about how you can leave an impression on attendees and draw people to your booth. This starts with investing in signage that is quality and on brand (not just a black and white print out with your company name on it). Another tried and true approach is to offer free swag. Everybody likes to get free stuff, but if you want your freebies to stand out with attendees, think beyond stickers or buttons. Give away something people will actually have a use for, whether it's stationary, t-shirts, or a grinder.
But the best event booths usually have some kind of interactive element. Giving away grinders or t-shirts can get expensive quickly, but if you have some kind of raffle or contest element to the giveaway, you can create engagement with people walking by and ensure that you won't have to buy hundreds of whatever your top prize is. Examples I'm seen include spinning a wheel, trivia questions, rolling dice, or other games of chance. I've also seen booths with fun activities such as photo booths, or even a karaoke machine. Be creative, and make the event experience fun for everyone involved. It will definitely make it easier to leave a positive impression.
Another way to increase your visibility at a cannabis event is to get invited to be a speaker. Whether you are a grower, a retailer, a marketer, or other type of service provider, being able to lend your expertise as a keynote speaker or as a member of a panel is a great way to establish your thought leadership in the industry and generate positive word of mouth about your brand.
Along those same lines, when participating in a cannabis event, whether as a speaker, a sponsor, or by renting a booth, remember to leverage your involvement for future marketing endeavors. This means you might consider hiring a photographer or videographer to document your interactions with customers or your panel talk. This will allow you to amplify your participation and increase the value of your investment in the event.
This leads me to latest trend in event marketing, which is experiential marketing. Also known as engagement marketing, an experiential approach to cannabis marketing is designed to give your prospective customers a more immersive and intimate experience that will leave a more lasting impression. The most common example, related to events, is hosting your own event, such as a product launch party or 420 music show. Rather than participating in someone else's event, this gives you full control of the experience and ensures that attendees will directly connect your brand to the occasion.
There are many benefits to experiential marketing, including more personalized engagement, a deep bond with your customers, and increased sharability of your event and the potential to go viral. As just one possible example, if you are a edibles company that produces infused oils and condiments, you might consider hosting a cannabis cooking competition. Even if you need to make sure all the infusions are CBD based, it will a memorable (and hopefully tasty) experience that will allow you to reach all new customers in a more authentic way.
Cannabis Marketing Option #9: Paid Search Or Paid Social
Google and Facebook are the biggest names in digital advertising. Google Ad Words and the Facebook Audience Network (now the Meta Audience Network) are pretty much ubiquitous and you'd be hard pressed to find an owner of a small or medium sized business who doesn't have a deep understand of what they are and how they work. But in the cannabis industry, these two platform goliaths are pretty much off limits.
According to Google’s ad policy, you're not allowed to create “ads for substances that alter mental state for the purpose of recreation or otherwise include ‘highs’.” The same goes for ads on Facebook and Instagram, though cannabis businesses are seeming to have more luck running ads on LinkedIn.
However, when it comes to CBD, there is much more of a gray area as to what is and what isn't allowed. This means you might be able to get away with marketing your CBD products on Google or Facebook. Or you might not. It really does seem like they make decisions on a case by case basis.
We won't get into all of the things you need to know about running a PPC campaign via search or social here, because in this ever-shifting environment, it's really difficult to advise anyone on best practices. But it is something that hemp and CBD businesses should look into, especially if you are looking to market at a national level.
What About Cannabis Branding?
No matter what type of business you have, branding is one most important elements of your marketing strategy. In fact, it should be the first thing you consider. Your brand is the face of your company, what people will associate with you when they think about what you do and how you compare with your competitors. Having a brand that helps you stand out is invaluable, especially in the cannabis space where everything is so new and fluid.
When setting out to establish a new brand, whether at the very start of your company's inception, or when considering a rebrand, the number one goal is to ensure that your customers will recognize your products, or in the case of a services company, will remember your reputation. An effective branding campaign will increase sales and add value to your overall business. When it comes time to seek new investors or sell your company, having a well recognized brand with a strong and loyal customer base is one of the most valuable things you can have.
A lot of different elements goes into a good brand. Of course, your logo, your company colors, your typefaces, and your overall aesthetic are a big part of your brand. But it's also the values you project out into the world. If you're a dispensary, having well trained, friendly budtenders that make people feel comfortable is an aspect of your brand, just like having a non-responsive budtenders who offer ill informed advice and seem uninterested in serving your customers might also reflect strongly (in a heavily negative way) on how people view your store.
Having a strong brand makes all of the above marketing and advertising strategies easier to pull off successfully. If on the other hand your brand identity is unclear, contradictory, or non-existent, it will be significantly harder to have an impact in the heavily crowded cannabis marketplace.
Before you start down the path of cannabis advertising and marketing, it's highly recommended that you take the time to establish your brand. Understanding your company and how you want to be project your image makes it so much easier to craft effective market strategies. It helps you identify your desired customers and craft messaging that will resonate with them while ringing true to who you are as a company.
Plus, when your customers have a clear impression of what values you stand for, it becomes much less work to form a meaningful connection. While establishing a brand can seem daunting at the beginning, taking the time to decide what type of brand you want to have is a great place to start.
Partner With The Hood Collective For Your Cannabis Digital Marketing
Did you make it all the way to the end of this massive blog post? We're so proud of you. Of course, most likely you've skimmed the parts that were most relevant to your business, and that's totally OK. But the truth is, when you're running a successful business, you don't have time to do everything. Your job is to create the best possible cannabis products or experience. Our job is to help you reach more customers and grow your business.
We've taken years to learn about all the various aspects of cannabis marketing so that you can do what you do best. If you want help with any aspect of marketing or branding your cannabis business, let's schedule a time to chat.
Contact us today for a free consultation.