The cannabis industry isn’t for the faint of heart. It comes with a multitude of challenges and complications that you’ll have to wade through before you reach success.
First and foremost are the legal restrictions that come with the industry that you’ll be forced to deal with. From cannabis-specific laws that differ state to state, to general regulations like the HIPAA and the TCPA that regulate all businesses, you’ll want to make sure that you’re ready to tackle all the legal challenges ahead of you.
The next challenge: Marketing. Cannabis marketing in 2021, which will come with its own regulations outside of the law because many advertising channels that are traditionally available are not available to those in the cannabis industry. This means that you might have to get a bit more creative with your marketing tactics if you want to market it as effectively as possible.
In this comprehensive, omnichannel guide to cannabis marketing in 2021, we’ll be talking about how to face all of these challenges head-on and set up your dispensary for success. We’ll first begin by discussing some of the laws and restrictions that you’ll face in the industry and how to handle them. We’ll then move to the bulk of the guide where we’ll discuss a number of different marketing channels, namely:
Each of these sections will give you a broad overview of the tactic, and many will have links to external resources that can help you get an even more in-depth understanding of the specific strategies best practices.
In this feel, free to jump around the article and read about specific marketing strategies that are most relevant to you, or read the whole thing top to bottom. The choice is yours.
With that being said, let’s begin by discussing the main laws and restrictions you’ll be facing.
An industry like the cannabis industry has a lot of legal challenges and regulations that come with being a part of it. But luckily, with the right help, you can handle them all with ease. Here, we’ll be discussing things like social media and general advertising restrictions, as well as legal issues and general restrictions that come with being in the cannabis industry.
Another one of the biggest challenges in the cannabis industry is social media restrictions and general advertising restrictions.
Social media platforms especially have extremely harsh policies regarding the advertisement of cannabis products. Just take a look at these top social media platform’s policies:
According to Facebook’s Terms and Conditions, “Ads must not promote the sale or use of illegal, prescription, or recreational drugs.” They even give the example of recreational marijuana as not being allowed.
According to Instagram’s, “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.
According to Twitter’s advertising policies, “Twitter prohibits the promotion of drugs and drug paraphernalia.” The policy goes on to cite recreational and herbal drugs specifically as being against their advertisement policies.
According to LinkedIn’s advertising policies, “Ads related to illegal, prescription, over-the-counter or recreational drugs are prohibited.”
Things don’t get any better when it comes to advertising through TV or with other general marketing tactics, as many usually bar the advertisement of cannabis outright.
Luckily, cannabis product marketing isn’t impossible and there are great ways to market cannabis with a social media strategy.
Possibly the biggest challenge in the cannabis industry are legal issues and ensuring that your business is compliant.
The cannabis industry is rife with laws and regulations that are complicated even further due to the fact that laws differ from state to state. As more and more states legalize cannabis, it will only get even more complicated
In this comes restrictions on storage and managing customer data such as the TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act) and the HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). Utilizing customer data is essential for any business in the digital age, but doing so is made difficult by laws and restrictions like the ones above.
Even things such as where your dispensary can be located and how you can package your products are regulated strictly, so making sure you are aware of all the laws and regulations in your state is key to avoiding trouble.
While all of this may seem pretty daunting, we’re here to help you wade through this swamp of challenges.
At springbig, we have spent years building and perfecting cannabis product marketing tools specifically designed for the cannabis industry. Not only that, but we also have a full toolkit of compliance solutions to make sure your dispensary is compliant regardless of the state that you’re in.
One of our most powerful platforms that keeps cannabis companies out of legal trouble and focused on bettering their business is Springbig’s 360 solutions.
With 360 permissions you’ll have access to springbig’s full suite of intuitive and customizable compliance tools. Not only do you get access to a customizable join form that can be accessed on your website or used for in-store enrollments, but you also get text-to-join, tap-to-join, and scan-to-join abilities via join codes, an NFC chip, and custom QR codes. You even receive access to multichoice join flyers and an electronic signature color app for collecting signatures from customers.
Now that you’re aware of the challenges that come with cannabis marketing in 2021, and now that you know who can help you face these challenges, especially legal ones, it’s time to talk about the channels you’ll want to be prioritizing in you marketing strategy including loyalty marketing, text message marketing, referral marketing, organic social media marketing, native and display ads, and local advertising. There’s a lot to talk about, so feel free to jump around to sections that interest you most, or read it in order. We’ll start with talking about one of the most effective marijuana dispensary marketing tactics: loyalty marketing.
As a cannabis dispensary, or any business for that matter, you should be focused on more than just bringing new customers in: You have to make sure to keep the ones you already have as well. Luckily here at springbig, that’s our specialty. Did you know, keeping an existing customer is 5 to 25 times less expensive than marketing to a new one? It’s true, but how do you go about keeping customers? Customer retention marketing (CRM). And what is the most effective CRM strategy? Cannabis dispensary loyalty programs.
Loyalty programs are a vital part of any effective cannabis marketing plan. The first step in creating an effective CRM strategy is to establish an effective marijuana loyalty marketing tactic at your dispensary with a loyalty program. They’re great for keeping people around, encouraging loyalty, and fostering a community around your business – but they must be done right in order for them to be effective. Unfortunately, many loyalty programs fall short – in fact, a study found that 53% of customers have abandoned a loyalty program in the past year. So how do you prevent this and create an effective loyalty program?
For a more in depth read on loyalty programs and how springbig can help you set up, automate, and run one of your own, read our other article here!
This should be another staple in your CRM strategy because it allows you to communicate with your loyalty members in the fastest and most effective way possible. Communicating with your customers is extremely important because it allows you to keep customers in the loop and advertise to them on a daily basis if you choose to do so.
What makes text message marketing so powerful through springbig is the slew of different features we have that allow you to get the most out of your text message marketing campaigns – from automation, to autoconnects that help you reach your customers at all the perfect moments, to Brands by spring where you can get your text message campaigns paid for by the brands that you carry in store, you’ll be getting the absolute most out of each text message campaign.
Brands by springbig is an especially powerful feature of springbig which allows brands to pivot from their B2B marketing efforts to a direct-to-consumer marketing strategy by connecting brands with over 20 million customers who shop at dispensaries using springbig. These aren’t just any customers either, they’re the top 20% of our clients’ customers who have shown tremendous buyers intent – on top of this Brands gives brands the power to segment customers and target them in that way, so you’ll be sure that you’re reaching your target market.
Referral programs are another extremely important marketing strategy that you’ll want to integrate into your business’s everyday practices because they allow you to tap into valuable and trusted word-of-mouth marketing channels between your customers and potential customers. With hardly any investment and the possibility of huge return, referral programs boast the highest ROI of any other marketing strategy according to Forbes. With a referral program, you can enable your customers to work for you by bringing you new customers. Referral programs are so effective because each referral is accompanied with the trust the individual has with the referrer. Because of this additional trust factor, customers referred by a friend are five times more likely to actually make a purchase, according to a study at the Wharton School of Business.
What’s more is that springbig can help you create a referral program at your dispensary with springbig’s Budz – With unique referral links for each customer that you can use to turn customers into influencers, and easy to understand analytics to help you track the effectiveness of your referral program, Budz is an essential addition to any dispensary marketing platform.
In its soft launch at Clear Choice dispensary, they generated 105 new customers from the 335 people who made a referral in just 2 months!. Those customers’ ensuing purchases resulted in a 9x return on investment!
Interested in learning more about Budz? Read our other article here!
While there are many social media platforms in which cannabis dispensaries can build a following on and make a name for themselves, there is one social media platform that stands out above the others: Instagram. That’s not to say the others aren’t important, because it is important that your customers are able to find you on whatever platform they frequent. But instagram is especially important for dispensaries because it allows you to grow your social presence by leveraging the two most effective forms of media, photo and video.
Instagram is special because it allows you to grab your audience with eye-catching pictures while also connecting with them through captions and keeping in touch with them in the comments. What makes it even more powerful are instagram’s stories where you can give your customers a special behind the scenes look into your dispensary. All of this allows you to not only build brand awareness but to also build a voice and personality for your dispensary which will ultimately lead to customers or potential customers identifying with you, following your business, and hopefully purchasing your products. It’s important to note here that your goal isn’t to increase sales on instagram, but to build awareness. With more brand awareness (and some patience) the sales will come.
While it holds huge potential, social media marketing is risky business because of all the restrictions we mentioned above, and one thing you’ll want to avoid is trying to sell anything directly through social media – so yes, hopefully they are purchasing your products, just not through a link on your instagram. This isn’t the only thing you should watch out for.
How to safely navigate social media marketing on Instagram
Building your brand on social media can be hard as a cannabis dispensary, but it can be done and can have huge pay-offs given you can do the following:
Your bio will be the first introduction people have to you page, so you’ll want it to 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 of the name in it. You’ll also want to make sure that your bio mentions that your content is for users 21+ to make sure you are adhering to Instagram’s guidelines.
What is dangerous about investing in and building a following on instagram is that if your account gets deleted, you lose all of those followers and your entire investment – so it is best try to take your subscribers off of instagram and make them text or email recipients. That way, you can more directly market to them and give yourself a safety net just in case your account does get deleted.
Customer engagement is crucial, but too often you see businesses failing to respond to comments on their posts. While at some points there may be too many to respond to, it is always good practice to try to respond to as many as possible. In this way, you are showing your customers you care and making a good impression on them so that they will then spread the work about your dispensary.
You subscribers won’t stick around if you aren’t consistent with your post. If you fail to post for weeks or months at a time, your subscribers will more than likely go find a dispensary or page that does post weekly and puts out content regularly. Making sure you have a social media plan that includes a post schedule for every month or quarter can help you and your dispensary stay on top of your posts and keep your customers engaged.
Instagram specifically states that selling or attempting to sell drugs on the platform is against policy. While cannabis is widely accepted by many, it is still a schedule-1 drug federally and thus it is against policy to attempt to sell cannabis on instagram or even to link to your dispensary’s inventory page.
There is some wiggle room here – while to be safe we would suggest that you don’t post pictures of your products and instead post pictures of your team, business, customers, and events, you may be able to post pictures of your products. But if you do, it is at your own discretion. That being said, you can avoid your post being flagged if you are going to post your products by making sure that your caption doesn’t mention anything about cannabis, marijuana, or any other variants of the name. At the end of the day, it’s completely up to you and you can build a substantial following no matter which way you go.
With these general guidelines under your belt, you’re ready to start posting. So, what types of posts should you be posting on your social media pages? Examples of content you can put up on you social media include:
With this, you should also be doing things such as recruiting influencers to help you grow your platform. An influencer, regardless of their size, can be extremely effective at driving customers into your dispensary. But if you want to learn more about this, and about organic social media marketing as a cannabis dispensary, check out our article about all of that and more here.
While as a cannabis marketer, you and many others in the industry may have cast this popular advertising tactic out due to the plethora of restrictions, digital advertising is actually an extremely open and beneficial channel of advertisement that cannabis marketers should be taking advantage of. In fact, according to recent studies, by 2020 businesses will have spent 110 billion on digital advertising in the US, which is more than TV and print ads combined. Clearly, this is something that you won’t want to miss out on.
When it comes to digital advertising, general display ads on Google and Facebook are off limits like we said, but they aren’t off limits everywhere. In fact, if you look at the other parts of the digital ad pool, there are tons of options in which to place your digital ads that are CBD and cannabis friendly including Huffington Post, Newsweek, Barstool Sports, the Chive, ESPN, Politico, Complex, and USA Today.
Native advertising can also be difficult as a cannabis business due to restrictions. But luckily there are advertising networks that are 4/20 friendly and that are willing to advertise your business.
Native ads are great because they raise brand awareness in audiences that are within your target market. A great way to do this is through native advertising companies that are 420 friendly like digital marketing agency Mantis. Mantis’s ad network currently consists of over 500 websites that have niche audiences looking for cannabis and wellness content. While some paid advertising companies like Mantis tip-toe around explicitly advertising THC containing products, Mantis explicitly mentions their ability to advertise cannabis content, so you won’t have to worry about dealing with pesky restrictions.
If you’re looking for an inexpensive and organic way of marketing and getting exposure, then you should consider ramping up the content-marketing portion of your online-marketing strategy. For those who aren’t familiar, content marketing is a marketing approach focused on creating and putting out content that is targeted towards a specific audience. The goal of this is to increase brand awareness and promote profitable customer action. What’s great about content marketing is the fact that your content strategy doesn’t have to put a dent in your marketing budget. As one of the cheapest online marketing techniques, content marketing is a perfect marketing strategy for a marketer on a budget. That’s right, in many cases content marketing is extremely cheap if not free. But just as important as answering the question,“What is it?” is answering the question, “how effective is it?”
According to recent studies, it is extremely effective. One study found that content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing strategies all while generating 3x as many leads. Another study found that conversion rates are nearly 6x higher for marketers who put an emphasis on content marketing vs. those who didn’t put a focus on content marketing or put out the wrong content.With numbers like this, you won’t want to overlook content marketing.
There are 4 types of content you can start putting out today that can help you generate leads and increase your brand awareness. These include:
Each piece of content you put out for each of these categories will work for you in creating possible leads and spreading brand awareness. But, in order for these to be effective, they have to show up in front of your audience, which is where search engine optimization comes in. This is especially important for your blogs, who’s exposure will rely heavily on search-engine optimization. Search engine optimization, simply refers to the process of ensuring that your content has the keywords in it that will allow it to appear at the top of people’s search results who search for things related to those keywords.
To learn more about content marketing click here!
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 channels 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 restrictions.
From billboards, to the side of cars and even flyers, local advertising is what really helps to build a local community around your business. Not only that, but loyalty programs also help bring in more locals and spread brand awareness. Pair this with your text message marketing, educating your customers, and the rest of what we are about to discuss, and you’re likely to develop a desiccated customer base that drives the majority of your businesses’ sales.
With this, Something that has worked since the beginning of businesses is local advertising and word-of-mouth. Here, you’ll get your best leads while also not having to worry about too many rules or regulations.
There are multiple ways to do this, but one of the best ways is to partner with other local 420 friendly businesses who already have a good local customer base such as restaurants, bars, or clubs.
You can also do things such as putting your ad on a billboard and getting on the local list of businesses on Google MyBusiness. Having a comprehensive account made on Google MyBusiness is especially important because a large majority of customers will be finding information about your dispensary, or at least finding your dispensary’s locations, on Google MyBusiness.
You’ll also want to make sure that your business is easy to find on popular ecommerce sites such as WeedMaps and Dutchie, as more and more people each day turn to these sites to meet their cannabis needs.
There’s a lot to digest here, but if you’ve taken anything from this article, it should be this: The cannabis industry comes with a multitude of challenges making running your business and marketing difficult, but not impossible. With the right strategies, and the right help (especially with the cannabis dispensary marketing software and compliance tools from your friends here at springbig you can grow your business and reach your goals.