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, TCPA, CCPA, and others 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. marketing in the cannabis industry in 2021 comes 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 guide, we’ll be talking about how to face all of these challenges head-on and set up an effective digital marketing strategy to promote your cannabis business online. This guide is meant to take a strategic marketing approach, it is meant to be suited for the cannabis industry specifically, Teaching you to use the right digital marketing tools to form and refine your marketing mix. For information that is more specific to COVID-19 check this article out
We 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.
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. These can make it hard for cannabis dispensaries and cannabis brands to exist on these platforms. 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, “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 marketing and advertising through TV or with other mass marketing tactics, as many usually bar the advertisement of cannabis outright. On top of this, if you’re a medical cannabis company, the restrictions still apply.
Luckily, savvy cannabis online marketing isn’t impossible and there are great ways to cannabis businesses can evolve with the regulations and still find ways to prioritize their social media management tools to reach business goals.
Possibly the biggest challenge that comes with cannabis retail 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 on managing customer data-driven software 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 due to 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.
Out of all of our products and services, arguably our most powerful platform 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 your digital marketing strategy, especially in the wake of COVID-19.
These include 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 by talking about one of the most effective marketing tactics for cannabis retail: 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. While providing the best customer services is important, it’s going to take more than that.
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 cannabis 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 loyal 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. Messaging specifically by SMS is also the preferred method of business communication for 90% of people.
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.
Using customer journey mapping, springbig enables your to use dozens of behavior-based automated triggers to create a demographic segmentation of your customer base.
Solutions like automation to autoconnects™ allow you to integrate your CRM and marketing automation to drive more leads and reach business objectives. that help you reach your customers at all the perfect moments. On top of this, tools like Brands by springing, where you can get your text message campaigns paid for by the brands that you carry in-store, can help you most out of each text message marketing campaign.
Automated marketing communications also allow you to enable more personalization in marketing messages.
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 28 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.
For more about how springbig can help your dispensary utilize text message marketing in the most effective and legally compliant way possible, check out our articles like this one on our website!
Referral programs are another extremely important marketing strategy that you’ll want to integrate into your business’s everyday practices. They allow you to tap into valuable and trusted word-of-mouth marketing channels between your customers and potential customers. This then allows you to increase sales and foot traffic at your dispensary.
With hardly any investment and the possibility of huge returns, 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 by 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, it 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!
While search engine optimization and content marketing are both great marketing tactics, one of the cannabis marketing strategies that is truly optimized for today’s world but too often slips through the cracks of many dispensary marketing plans is cannabis social media marketing.
This makes sense too because social media marketing for cannabis businesses can be hard. Many social media platforms have extremely harsh policies regarding what can be advertised on their platforms – especially when it comes to cannabis. If you want to learn more about these restrictions, check out our other article that goes more in-depth.
That being said, cannabis dispensaries can still benefit greatly from being active on social media. Specifically, the most important social media sites for cannabis dispensaries to have in today’s world are Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. YouTube is also a great place to be active, although it isn’t necessarily considered “social media.”
There are many social media platforms in which cannabis dispensaries can build a following and make a name for themselves, but 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.
The following will go into depth about cannabis dispensary marketing on Instagram, but the general principles can be applied to other platforms as well.
Instagram is special because it allows you to grab your target 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.
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 your 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 to try to take your subscribers off of Instagram and make them text or email marketing 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 word about your dispensary.
Your 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 your social media include:
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.
As we’ve spoken about before, Ecommerce is something you’ll want to prioritize, especially in 2021. As the cannabis industry has matured and the COVID-19 pandemic has made its own unique impact on the industry, demand for eCommerce and delivery options has skyrocketed.
ECommerce began to really skyrocket in popularity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But don’t think that when the pandemic ends, or at least eases up, these options won’t continue to grow in popularity.
So, how do you meet these demands? Simple: make sure you’re easily found on all of the cannabis industry’s biggest eCommerce sites. These may slightly differ from state to state, so when doing this, make sure you’re prioritizing the right eCommerce platforms. Marketing Analysis of whichever platform you choose to monitor conversion rates so you can measure the success of your campaigns.
So far, many cannabis dispensaries and Brands have turned to large cannabis eCommerce sites such as Jane, Dutchie, and Weedmaps to meet get to the top of the cannabis consumer funnel to drive traffic and conversions. If you haven’t already, 2021 is the year you’ll want to make sure your customers can easily find you on these ecommerce sites.
One last tip for utilizing cannabis eCommerce sites: With springbig, your loyalty program rewards and points can be redeemed by customers directly on some of the industry’s biggest eCommerce platforms like Dutchie, Weedmaps, and IHeartJane. This way you can send cart-abandonment texts and many other remarketing options. Make sure you put a retargeting tag on your website to enable remarketing.
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 pay-per-click 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 programmatic 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-creation like articles, how-tos, faqs and infographics on your blog For those who aren’t familiar, content marketing is a search engine marketing approach focused on creating and putting out content like blog posts that focus on the keyword searches you are targeting.
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 creation is a perfect marketing strategy for anyone on a tight 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, whose 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!
Internet marketing strategies like content marketing, you’ll want to make sure that all of your content is hitting on all of the keywords that give it the best chance to be found online. Including keywords in your content is crucial to its ability to be found and generate leads… but how do you identify keywords and optimize content? You’re going to need some Search Engine Optimization tools.
Text optimizer is a great tool for inbound marketing through targeted educational content because it is easy to use if you need to optimize your content quickly.
With Text Optimizer, all you have to do is copy and paste your content into the text box, identify your target keyword or key search, and Text Optimizer does the rest. After analyzing your piece of content, Text Optimizer will tell you exactly how optimized your content is as well as suggest hundreds of keywords you can add into your content to improve it.
There is a free and a paid version of Text Optimizer, so depending on your needs you may not need to pay for it!
Other SEO marketing tools like Ahrefs and Semrush are also great tools to use and can be used by smaller businesses or larger ones. With these tools, you’ll get more in-depth analysis, but that also comes at a price.
Having a website and content marketing is great, but you’ll never know how great if you’re not measuring your success online.
If you want to make the most of your website and content marketing strategy, then 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 customers or posting online. How do you do all of this?
Google Analytics will be a crucial tool for you to utilize when you’re tracking key metrics measuring the success of your website. Google Analytics provides actionable insights into your web design and helps you evolve with 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.
What’s even better: Google Analytics is 100% free.
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 the internet. By using a URL builder, you can create UTMs that you can use to track links across the internet.
A UTM looks like a normal URL, but what is unique about it is everything after the question mark:
The 5 main parts of a UTM include the campaign source, the campaign medium, the campaign name, the campaign term, and the campaign content. Depending on the type of campaign, you may use all 5, but most only use the first 3.
The UTM, which again is everything after the question mark, allows Google Analytics to track specific links so that you can know which link or links visitors click on. To learn more about UTMs, check out this article.
Last but not least is local advertising. While it’s old-school, cannabis businesses have reignited the flame in 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 business’s sales.
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 that 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 My Business. Doing this is one of the most important things you can do as a local business.
Having a comprehensive account made on Google My Business 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 My Business.
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.
Last but not least, when it comes to promotional material for your marijuana business, you want to be able to make a lasting impression on those who see it. Brand awareness starts with branding, a picture says 1000 words.
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. This makes your content both more professional and visually appealing.
So, which graphic design tools should you be using? Adobe Photoshop is obviously a great tool to use, but if you’re a beginner or if you’re wanting to save money, Canva is a great tool.
With Canva, you can have great graphics similar to what more advanced programs like Photoshop can without the price tag. You can do a lot with the free version of Canva, but if you want access to more, you can pay for the premium version which is relatively cheap compared to other options.
All of this beautiful promotional content can be optimized for mobile and sent via MMS through springbig.
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.
To see a demo of how you can leverage springbig in your digital marketing strategy fill out the form below!
CEO and Co-founder of springbig