In a previous post, we looked at the overall marketing approach that dispensary owners should take when trying to create buzz (pun intended!) around their retail cannabis business. Today we’ll expand on that, and examine some specific, actionable items that your dispensary can engage in to drive foot traffic and boost customer loyalty.
No matter what state you’re in, as a dispensary owner or manager it’s likely that you are faced with stiff competition from other nearby shops. While you may be challenged by razor thin margins, it’s imperative that you enact a marketing strategy to increase the size of your clientele. A properly formulated and executed marketing plan should pay for itself, but it’s also true that if you don’t have a good plan, you can waste your money on tactics that are ineffective or, in the worst instances, that are counter productive and actually drive your customers away.
A properly formulated and executed marketing plan should pay for itself
Let’s take a look at tried and true marketing endeavors that will help you grow your cannabis business, strengthen your brand, and perhaps even allow you to expand to multiple locations or attract outside investment.
Remain Compliant At All Times
The first consideration you want to make when marketing your dispensary is to ensure that you are following all relevant laws regarding advertising in your state and municipality. As a legal cannabis retail shop, you likely are already quite familiar with the need to follow the rules regarding the storage and handling of your product, selling to customers, and so on.
But there are also laws in every state concerning what is and isn’t allowed in the marketing of your cannabis products. Because cannabis is a new industry, and there is still a heavy stigma associated with it, state regulators are likely to be extremely strict in terms of enforcement.
This is why we recommend that every dispensary has a full time staff member who is tasked with ensuring their business’s compliance. This includes marketing and advertising. Every state has its own rules, which are changing all the time, and so we can’t give specific guidelines without knowing what state you’re in (though we have started a helpful state by state overview of cannabis rules that might point you in the right direction). But there are a few obvious no-nos that should be avoided at all costs.
This includes refraining from any kind of marketing that could reasonably be interpreted as targeting minors, such as the use of cartoon characters. It’s also important that you not engage in any marketing that is false, deceptive, or purposefully misleading.
Consider Your Signage Carefully
The starting point for any retail location in terms of announcing your presence is with your store sign(s). I’m sure you spent a lot of time debating the size and location of your signs before they were put in place. But some business owners do not properly consider the branding implications of their signs.
Whether it’s the design of sign’s imagery, or even the actual material and lighting, your sign will often be the first thing your customers see before deciding whether they visit your business. It might be the only thing they see in fact, and if your sign is of poor quality, tacky, or somehow conveys a negative impression, you’ll lose more customers than you gain. You want to have a clean, attractive, eye-catching sign that suggests your dispensary is a reputable establishment with top-shelf weed.
Your sign, and for that matter, your entire store, is a physical extension of your brand. Consulting with a brand expert on how to create a sign that will attract customers, and even better, draw them away from nearby competition, will easily be worth all the time and expense you put into it. It’s amazing to me how many tattered, shady, or just downright ugly signs I’ve seen outside dispensaries in my years in the industry. The good news is it’s never to late to fix this problem and get your store pointed in the right direction.
Promote Your Cannabis Store On Social Media
Although we offer social media management services to our clients, we typically recommend that single location dispensaries handle their own social media. A management team probably isn’t a good investment. Instead, they can assign their social media management to one of their budtenders, preferably someone who’s young, is enthusiastic about social media, and has some skill with a camera.
What is very important is that, just like with your sign, every item you post online is a reflection of your brand. It’s important to remember this at all times, and to always err on the side of caution when deciding whether something is worth posting. Not only is it best to avoid controversy, but stay away from putting up images that are poorly shot, have inadequate lighting, or the like. Focus on putting up only high quality content that shows off your products, location, and staff in the best possible light.
Of course, another negative when it comes to social media is that it can be challenging to navigate their content rules and know what is and isn’t allowed. Sites like Facebook and Instagram offer ambiguous at best guidelines and cannabis accounts are constantly in danger of being taken down, especially on Instagram. While we can’t offer any concrete advice that is fail safe, we do recommend not depicting consumption, and to avoid advertising prices, sales, or special offers (Learn more).
Finally, try to maintain a consistent brand aesthetic across all of your social media channels. Don’t post memes just for the sake of being funny. Even if memes or funny posts might attract more engagement, people won’t associate it with your brand and so it’s not really doing you any good. The exception is if you incorporate the memes into your brand image somehow. For an example, I know of one successful dispensary in Central Oregon that markets itself with a 50’s sci-fi type theme, and they are constantly posting still shots and clips from old movies. This had the double benefit of being entertaining and tying into their aesthetic in a memorable way.
Take Advantage Of Local Buying Guides (Google My Business, Yelp)
Retail businesses obviously have a very different set of parameters when it comes to their marketing approaches compared with other businesses. This is true regardless of the industry, and is certainly not unique to cannabis. When you own a cannabis dispensary, your number one concern should be getting customers into your store, and that’s going to center your marketing activities on the people who are actually near your location, whether that’s nearby residents, patrons of neighboring businesses, or people walking or driving by.
Thankfully, new online platforms are popping up to address this. Some of the most prominent are Google My Business, Yelp, and Leafly. These are services that allow people to view all of the nearby dispensaries and quickly compare which is right for them. Every service is unique, but most of them allow for public reviews, photos of your location, and basic information such as phone numbers and store hours.
While the ones I already mentioned are among the most famous, if you do some digging, there are dozens more. Utilize as many as possible. Each one increases the chances that a prospective customer will find your shop. They are also an excellent way to boost your SEO (see below). For many of them, the more you engage with posting content, whether it’s pictures, videos, graphics, or updates, the more likely you are to be promoted organically.
Make The Most Of Your SEO
Going hand in hand with local review sites, SEO will help you do better when people search for cannabis in their browsers. For the uninitiated, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, but I have a feeling that lots of you already know that, thanks to all the marketing “experts” you likely encounter on a daily basis trying to sell you their services. As someone who got his start in SEO more than twenty years ago, I can confidently tell you that most of what they are telling you is useless.
That’s not to say that SEO isn’t important. It's just that, to do SEO correctly, it takes a lot more than just wording your metadata in the right way and hoping the traffic starts pouring in. Google is constantly evolving, and their algorithm has gotten very good at prioritizing authoritative content that is relevant to their users.
The good news is that your local dispensary website is exactly the kind of content that a person in your neighborhood has in mind when they type “Dispensary near me” into their browser. The key therefore is letting Google know that you are a well respected business. This starts with the location-based platforms mentioned above, especially Google My Business. But there are a number of other actions you should be taking as well.
While there are a lot of things you can do to optimize your online presence, the best methods all revolve around creating high quality content on a regular basis. This could be as simple posting decent images of your location, and naming the images things like “Your Neighborhood” dispensary or weed retailer. Other good content options include educational videos, useful blog posts, event announcements, weekly newsletters, community alerts, and more. The most important thing is that the content will be useful to your customers, and that it makes it clear to Google where you are located and what your store has to offer.
Work With A Professional Cannabis Marketer
There comes a time when your dispensary is going to need to hire a professional. The key is to identify exactly those tasks that are best left to the experts and finding an individual or business that is able to execute on your needs at an affordable price point.
Before you even open, you’ll need to consult with a professional marketer on a number of things. This will include creating the right ambiance for your store, as well as coming up with an effective logo and branding for your dispensary. You might have one person who handles all of this, or more likely, turn to a different marketer for each task.
As your business grows, you might be tempted to think you don’t need any marketing, but this is a mistake. You’ll realize this when that well-funded chain dispensary opens down the street. By then it will probably be too late to start marketing.
I recommend working with a marketing agency on a job-by-job basis, at least at first. Things you might partner with them on could be creating a landing page video for your website, taking photos of all your staff members, or creating some high quality ads for local magazines or newspapers. Each of the above is an example of the kind of content that you want to be as professional as possible, as a poor effort at any of these examples would do more harm than good.
Over time, it’s likely you will grow to rely on professional marketing more and more. This is all to the good. Hopefully, it’s a sign that your store is thriving, and you’ve been able to maintain healthy growth over time.
Market Your Dispensary With The Hood Collective
When it’s time to partner with a professional marketing agency, The Hood Collective is here to help. Our affordable service packages are specifically structured to allow businesses to choose exactly what they need, and we’re able to scale what we offer to grow with your dispensary. Moreover, because we are exclusively focused on the cannabis industry, we understand your pain points in a way that those unfamiliar with the industry could never grasp.
The Hood Collective specializes in creating professional, eye-catching photography, video, and graphic design at a price you can afford. We handle the challenges of marketing your business so you can concentrate on what you love to do.
Contact us today to learn more.