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cannabis marketing guide

How do you market a cannabis business?

The cannabis industry isn’t for the faint of heart. Beginning with its legal requirements, growing in the cannabis market is full of challenges. From cannabis-specific laws that differ state to state to general regulations like the HIPAA, TCPA, CCPA, you will need to ensure that you’re ready to navigate the legal obstacle course ahead.

Cannabis marketing in 2021 comes with its own regulations beyond the law because many advertising channels that are traditionally available in other spaces are unavailable to the cannabis industry, and even the CBD industry.

In this guide, learn how to set up an effective digital marketing strategy to advertise your cannabis business through a strategic marketing approach conducive to continued growth and development, all without the need for a third-party cannabis marketing agency. For information specific to COVID-19, check this article out.

We begin by discussing some of the industry’s laws and restrictions that you’ll face in the industry. We then discuss a number of different marketing channels, namely:

The legal challenges in cannabis marketing


Operating in the cannabis space comes with various legal challenges. But luckily, with the right help, you can handle them all with ease.

Social media and general advertising restrictions

social media apps

One of the biggest challenges of cannabis marketing is the wide variety of advertising restrictions.

Social media platforms often have harsh policies regarding the advertisement of cannabis products even CBD.

  • On Facebook, “Ads must not promote the sale or use of illegal, prescription, or recreational drugs.”
  • According to Instagram, “Our policy prohibits any marijuana seller, including dispensaries, from promoting their business by providing contact information like phone numbers, email addresses, street addresses, or by using the ‘contact us’ tab in Instagram Business Accounts.”
  • Twitter “prohibits the promotion of drugs and drug paraphernalia.”
  • On LinkedIn, “Ads related to illegal, prescription, over-the-counter or recreational drugs are prohibited.” (think CBD here too)

Similar policies exist with TV or other mass cannabis marketing tactics and typically apply to the entire industry, including medical marijuana companies and even CBD.

Luckily, savvy cannabis marketing online isn’t impossible, and there are great ways for a cannabis brand to evolve and prioritize its social media management tools despite the regulations. Organic posts could go a long way in generating affinity for your branding and style, even on the most restrictive sites like Facebook.

Legal issues and compliance

Possibly the biggest challenge that comes with cannabis retail is legal issues and ensuring that you are compliant. Laws can target everything from data storage, as with the FCC’s TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act) and the HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). Make sure you are well aware of all the state and municipal laws in your area.

legal compliance

Facing the challenges of the cannabis industry head-on

We’ve have spent years building and perfecting cannabis product marketing tools specifically designed for the cannabis industry. Our full toolkit of compliance solutions ensures your dispensary is compliant no matter your location.

Springbig’s 360 Permissions™

Our most powerful feature for keeping cannabis companies out of legal trouble and focused on development and growth of their company is 360 permissions™.

Springbig Inc 5000 #99

With 360 permissions, you’ll have access to a full suite of intuitive compliance tools designed specifically for the cannabis industry and all relevant laws. From a customizable join form that can be accessed on your website or used for in-store enrollments, to the ability to join by texting a dedicated number, tapping an NFC chip, and or scanning a QR code. Most importantly our e-sig app for collecting digital signatures and consent to market to your audience through whichever channel they choose.

Now, it’s time to talk about which channels to prioritize in your digital marketing strategy, especially in the wake of COVID-19, which has had drastic effects on the cannabis market and consumer behavior.

Approaches to cannabis marketing can vary. We’ll start by talking about one of the most effective marketing tactics in the cannabis industry: loyalty marketing.

Customer retention marketing with a cannabis loyalty program

As a cannabis dispensary, you should be focused not only on bringing in new customers, you must retain the ones you already have. You will need a dynamic and creative effort to distinguish your company services from the rest of the crowded market.

That’s our specialty. Keeping an existing customer is 5 to 25 times less expensive than marketing to a new one. But how? With a loyalty program tailored to your cannabis brand and target audience.

Loyalty programs

customer purchase

Loyalty programs are a vital part of any effective cannabis marketing plan. Effective cannabis loyalty program work due to the 80/20 rule.

Unfortunately, many loyalty programs fall short – one study found that 53% of customers have abandoned a loyalty program in the past year. So how can you prevent this?

  • Create a tiered system so that customers are encouraged to try to move up your loyalty program’s ladder
  • Use a points-per-dollar reward system to proportionally reward your VIPs
  • Automate your loyalty program’s operations using autoconnects™.

Text message marketing – the most effective digital marketing channel in cannabis

This should be another staple in your cannabis advertising strategy because it allows you to communicate with your loyal members in the fastest and most cost-effective way possible. SMS messaging is the preferred method of business communication for 90% of people.

influencer marketingWith customer journey mapping, for instance, springbig enables you to use dozens of behavior-based automated triggers to create a demographic segmentation of your customer base.

With autoconnects™, integrate your CRM and marketing automation to drive more leads and reach your target audience at all the perfect moments. Automated marketing communications allow more personalization in cannabis marketing messages.

Tools like Brands by springing can help you most out of each text marketing campaign. Brands by springbig is an especially powerful feature of springbig which allows cannabis brands to pivot from their B2B marketing efforts to a direct-to-consumer cannabis marketing strategy by connecting brands with springbig’s community of over 30 million consumers. Forget B2B, true D2C for cannabis companies is here.

cannabis brand

Referral programs to leverage word-of-mouth

Referral programs are another extremely important marketing strategy for any company. They allow you to tap into the value of trusted word-of-mouth marketing channels between both current and potential customers.

Referral programs boast the highest ROI of any other marketing strategy. With a referral program, you can enable your customers to work for you by bringing in new ones through trackable links they can share anywhere to promote your cannabis brand. According to Wharton, referred customers are 25% more profitable.

budz referral program

Springbig creates a digital referral program for your dispensary with Budz. Customers turn into influencers with unique referral links. With intuitive analytics to help you track the effectiveness of your referral program, Budz is an essential addition to any cannabis retail dispensary.

Marketing a Cannabis brand on Social Media

Social media marketing is one of the cannabis marketing strategies that is truly optimized for today’s world but too often slips through the cracks.

However, social media marketing for a cannabis dispensary can be difficult. Many platforms, especially Facebook and Facebook-owned Instagram, have extremely harsh policies regarding what can be advertised on their platforms – and often outright target cannabis companies for bans.

brand graphic

Cannabis dispensaries can still benefit greatly from social media activity. The most important platforms for cannabis dispensaries to have in today’s world are Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin.

While it is important that your customers are able to find you on whatever platform they frequent, Instagram has emerged as the most effective.

The following will go into depth about organic cannabis marketing on Instagram since ads are not allowed.

Marketing with Instagram

phone users

Instagram allows you to grow your community and develop a distinct voice for your cannabis brand with an interactive comment section and eye-catching graphics, visuals, and video. It’s important to note here that your goal isn’t to increase sales on Instagram but to build awareness. With more awareness (and some patience) the sales will come.

While it holds huge potential, social media cannabis marketing is risky because of all the aforementioned restrictions. So keep up with the latest news on policies towards cannabis companies.

How to safely navigate marketing on Instagram

Building cannabis brands on Instagram can be difficult but can have huge pay-offs. As much as Facebook tries to keep the cannabis industry out, here are some tips to help you stay in:

1) Don’t mention cannabis directly in your bio

Your bio will be the first introduction people have to your page, it should stand out and adhere to the voice you choose for your brand, but you want to make sure you don’t mention cannabis, weed, marijuana, or any other variant.

Your bio should also mention that your material is for users 21+ to adhere to Instagram’s guidelines.

2) Turn subscribers into email or text recipients

If your account somehow gets deleted, you lose all of those followers and your entire investment – so it is best to try to take your subscribers off of Instagram and make them text or email marketing recipients.

3) Engage with the comment section

Audience engagement is crucial, so it is always good practice to try to respond to as many as possible and keep customers informed of the latest news.

4) Be consistent

Your followers or subscribers won’t stick around if you aren’t consistent or relevant. Make a plan to stay on top of your social media strategy, including posting regularly. Again, you don’t need a marketing agency to accomplish this. There are a variety of tools like sprout social that will enable you to plan and automate your posting schedule far into the future.

5) Don’t list prices or push sales

Instagram specifically states that selling or attempting to sell drugs (including CBD) on the platform is against it’s terms of service.

6) Don’t publish product pictures or pictures of cannabis use

To be safe, we suggest focusing on pictures of your team, storefront, and events.

So, what types of creative should you be publishing on your pages?

  • Educational articles
  • Loyalty member highlights
  • Weekly newsletters
  • Behind the scenes video
  • Pools and other interactive content on Instagram Live

Try recruiting influencers to help you grow your platform. An influencer can be extremely effective at driving people into your store, whether it’s through a simple post, video (reel), or better yet – meet-and-greet events.

Ecommerce Remarketing

As we’ve written about before, e-commerce must be prioritized, especially in 2021. As the cannabis industry has matured, demand for online ordering and delivery options has skyrocketed.

So, how do you meet these demands? First, make sure you’re easily found on all of the cannabis industry’s biggest e-commerce websites. including Jane, Dutchie, IHeartJane, and Weedmaps. These may slightly differ from state to state, so when doing this, make sure you’re prioritizing the right platforms. Perform a marketing analysis of whichever platform you choose to monitor conversion events so you can measure the success of your campaigns.

dutchie logoweedmaps logoiheartjane logo

With springbig, your loyalty program rewards and points can be redeemed directly on the industry’s biggest online ordering platforms. This way you can send cart abandonment texts and many other remarketing options (these are examples of analytics events that we will discuss further).

Programmatic Display Advertising

While, as a cannabis marketer, you may have cast this popular advertising tactic out due to its restrictions, display advertising is actually an extremely open and beneficial channel of quality advertisement that cannabis marketers should be taking advantage of.

tv display

According to recent studies, by 2020 businesses will have spent 110 billion on digital advertising in the US, more than TV and print ads combined.

When it comes to digital advertising, general pay-per-click display ads on Google and Facebook are often inaccessible. But there are plenty of sites ranging from sports news to cannabis culture that are CBD and cannabis-friendly, including Huffington Post, Newsweek, Barstool Sports, the Chive, ESPN, Politico, Complex, and USA Today.

Thought Leadership Through Organic Content Marketing


If you’re looking for a great example inexpensive yet high value, organic way of marketing and reaching potential customers, then you should consider ramping up content creation, including articles, how-to’s, faqs, and infographics on your blog.

For those who aren’t familiar, content marketing is a search engine optimization (SEO) approach focused on putting out content like blog posts that focus on the relevant keyword searches your audience will search for.

As one of the most inexpensive yet valuable online marketing techniques, content creation is a perfect marketing strategy for anyone on a tight budget. One study found that content marketing costs 62% less than traditional paid content marketing strategies all while generating 3x as many leads. Another study found that conversion rates are nearly 6x higher for marketers who employ content marketing versus those who haven’t.

There are 4 types of content you can start putting out today that can help you generate leads and increase your cannabis brand equity.

Search Engine Marketing & SEO

SEO (search engine optimization), simply refers to the process of ensuring that your content has the relevant keywords in it that will make your website appear at the top of people’s SERP when they search for topics related to those keywords.

Keep in mind, however, that search engines make their money from paid posts that will appear before any organic content no matter the quality. So if you have the budget for SEM (search engine marketing) go for it!. The general rule of thumb is the higher the quality and relevancy of your ad copy the less you pay-per-click.

Measuring your website’s KPIs


To make the most of your online cannabis marketing strategy, you should be regularly tracking the analytics of your website. That means paying attention to website traffic, making sure all content is search engine optimized (SEO), and tracking the analytics of various links you might be sending your base or posting online. Do you need a paid service to accomplish this? Not necessarily.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a great tool for measuring the success of your website and business development in general. Google Analytics provides actionable insights into your websites’ performance and could help you adapt to the latest marketing trends. With Google Analytics, you’ll be able to analyze your site’s traffic, see where it’s coming from, and see who’s visiting. All for free!

There many paid services, agency, and analytics tools in the space that will provide a simpler easier to understand the view of your site performance, but take the time to learn the intricacies of GA and it will surely pay off.

One key example of a GA tracking feature is events. You can get creative on deciding which events are most important to track for your company. It doesn’t just have to be actual purchase events, sharing your site on social media, or an abandoned cart event are just a few examples of valuable secondary events.

UTMs (Urchin Tracking Modules) are another important part of measuring your success online. They essentially help you track traffic driven to your site from all across all of your marketing funnels. By using a URL builder, available free from google. you can create UTMs to track links across the internet.

Local advertising

Last but not least is local advertising. While it’s old-school, cannabis businesses have reignited the flame on local and outdoor advertising. This is largely due to the fact that many other traditional advertising methods of the 21st century have been made off-limits to companies advertising the sale of cannabis.

Fortunately, local advertising offers a great way to reach your local audience and increase word-of-mouth referrals without having to worry about pesky advertisement regulations. From billboards to the side of cars and flyers, local advertising is what really helps to build a local community around your marijuana brand.

billboard ad

Pair this with efforts like text message marketing and customer education events and you’re likely to develop a dedicated customer base that drives the majority of your business’s sales. Try partnering with other local 420 friendly businesses or local influencers that already have a good local base, such as restaurants, bars, or clubs to throw can’t miss events. Hosting events, whether it be a growing seminar or sampling session or really anything related to getting to know cannabis better, is a great way to market yourself to the local community by showing you value their opinion and experiences.

Having a comprehensive account made on Google My Business is important because a large portion of customers will be finding information about your dispensary through google search.

Importantly, when it comes to promotional material for your marijuana brand, you should try and leave a lasting impression on those who see it. Brand awareness starts with branding, and a picture says 1000 words.

brand graphic

Not only should you have your logo designed and stamped on almost everything you do, but you should also be making graphics for your individual pieces of content. Adobe Photoshop and Canva are both great options depending on your experience and goals.

These beautiful promotional content can be optimized for mobile and sent via MMS.


The cannabis industry comes with a multitude of challenges that may make running your medical or retail cannabis business and marketing difficult, but not impossible. With the right strategies, and the right help you can grow your business and reach your goals.

If you’re looking for a central place to find cannabis companies that can provide these services, Check out the Cannabis Marketing Association!

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