Marketing

The cannabis industry and cannabis culture have been growing non-stop since it began legally in 2012. In 2020, the industry reached new heights, with sales topping out at almost $21.3 billion. That 48% increase in sales from 2019 is impressive, especially considering the restraints imposed by the pandemic. 

If you’re a cannabis business wanting to get in on the profits, then you’re going to have to do some marketing. But how? There are many complications and restrictions that make marketing in the cannabis industry a challenge, but with the right knowledge, you can become an extremely successful marketer. 

Here, you can find the basic dos and don’ts of effective cannabis marketing that every cannabis company needs to know in order to keep pace with the industry’s growth. This article will highlight 5 dos and 5 don’ts for cannabis marketing, specifically:  

Dos: 

  • Understand the legal landscape
  • Have a plan
  • Know yourself
  • Know your customer
  • Capture and maintain leads (Content marketing, social media marketing)
  • Know your options
  • Network and get media coverage

Don’ts:

  • Don’t run with the pack
  • Don’t lie or overexaggerate 
  • Don’t forget about your loyalty program
  • Don’t overlook eCommerce
  • Don’t try to skirt regulations
  • Don’t spread your brand too thin

Whether you are a newbie or a seasoned veteran in the industry, these dos and don’ts apply to you and your business. With the impact of COVID, continual legal changes, and the rapid evolution of this industry, there is always more to know. 

The dos of cannabis marketing

Understand the legal landscape and restrictions 

LawThe first “do” of effective cannabis marketing is gaining an understanding of the industry’s legal landscape and restrictions. Doing this is crucial for everyone, from cannabis brands and retailers to growers and everyone in between. For better or worse, there is no shortage of laws and regulations being imposed on the industry. Understanding them is step one for a reason: if you don’t understand the legal landscape, your marketing plan, even if it’s perfect, won’t go far.

Specifically, there are a few areas that are crucial for cannabis marketers to understand: Text message marketing laws and restrictions, social media restrictions, and state and municipal restrictions.

Text message marketing laws and restrictions: When it comes to text message marketing, understanding certain pieces of legislation are key: 1) Federal Communications Commission (FCC), 2) Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), 3) CTIA, Consumer Telecommunications Industry Association and 4) the CAN-SPAM Act. 5) SHAFT 

Information on all of this and more can be found in our guide to text message marketing laws and compliance for cannabis dispensaries. 

Social media restrictions: Social media restrictions vary from site to site but remain generally similar for the primary social media platforms(think: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn). Despite restrictions on cannabis-related pages and cannabis-related advertisements, marketing on social media is important and necessary for overall marketing success. For more information on social media restriction and cannabis social media marketing in general, read our article on how to make your dispensary stand out on social media

Local and physical restrictions: Local and physical restrictions include anything from billboard ads to your products’ packaging. These types of restrictions vary from state to state, so make sure you do your own due diligence on your specific state’s regulations. For example, in California, recent legislation banned cannabis billboard advertisement on any interstate or state highway that crosses a state border. 

Packaging restrictions are extremely important for cannabis brands to understand. In short, avoid any packaging design that could appeal to children, but be sure to check your local laws for other restrictions. For example, Pennsylvania banned transparent packaging.

Worried about whether or not you are in compliance? Concerned about staying up-to-date? Check out springbig’s compliance suite: 360 Permissions™. 

Have a plan

Having a structured,well-thought-out, and fully compliant marketing plan for your cannabis business is essential. A successful marketing plan has three main steps: 1) Reach your customers, 2) Engage with your customers, 3) Retain your customers. 

When it comes to reaching your customers, building your brand and advertising will be key. Engage with your customers with a range of approaches, such as text message marketing, social media marketing, content marketing with blog posts, outstanding customer service, and a memorable customer experience. Finally, retaining customers will rely largely on loyalty programs and text message marketing. For a thorough guide to developing a successful marketing plan, check out our 3 step dispensary marketing plan

Know yourself

Before you can market your business to customers, you need to know what you are marketing to customers. What are you bringing to market? You’ll need to know yourself, but how you do this is, well, up to you. But one thing is sure: you’ll need to build a name for yourself. 

Ask yourself: What is your brand voice? Are you relaxed and casual? If you’re a recreational dispensary targeting Millenials then you might be. But if you’re targeting medical patients, you might be more educational and professional. In short, who you are will largely depend on who your customers are. 

Know your customer

Similar to knowing yourself, you also need to know your customer or potential customers before you market to them. You don’t want to just spray and pray with your marketing strategy/ You want to be targeted. 

In doing so, you’ll need to identify your target customer or customer(s). Here, less is more. Rather than targeting every main customer segment, it is best to target just one or two to start, and then expand as growth allows. 

On top of this, as your business develops, you’ll want to use customer data to further segment cannabis consumers into customer segments. These can then be used to create more targeted marketing campaigns.

For a complete breakdown on how to get to know your customer and use this knowledge to improve your marketing plan, check out our article on how to optimize your dispensary marketing strategy with customer segmentation.

Capture and maintain leads

When marketing, the main goal is to capture leads and turn those leads into customers and profit. 

When it comes to capturing leads, you’ve got options, but the two most important options for capturing first-time leads are content marketing and social media marketing:

Content marketing

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. In short, there are four main kinds of content marketing:

  • Blogging
  • Posting on social media
  • Creating Videos
  • Launching merch

Each piece of content you put out for each of these categories will work for you in creating possible leads and spreading brand awareness. For a comprehensive article on content marketing, check out our article on content marketing for cannabis dispensaries.

Social media marketing

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.

When it comes to social media marketing on Instagram, there are a couple of guidelines you’ll want to follow:

  • Don’t put anything about cannabis in your bio
  • Turn subscribers into text or email recipients
  • Engaged with customers in the comment section
  • Be consistent with posts
  • Don’t list prices or try to sell anything
  • Don’t post pictures of cannabis or of people consuming cannabis products

While this seems extremely limiting, there is still a lot of content you cant post:

  • Educational content
  • Loyalty member highlights
  • Weekly newsletters
  • Behind the scenes looks
  • Polls and other interactive content on Instagram Live

Along with making your own posts, you’ll also want to recruit influencers to help spread your brand to their network.

For a full breakdown of social media marketing and influencer marketing, check out our marketing guide and our guide to choosing the right influencers for your social media marketing plan.

Know your options

When it comes to cannabis advertising, tapping all available marketing channels is crucial. Too often, cannabis marketers leave out key marketing channels under the assumption that they are not “cannabis-friendly.” 

Cannabis marketing is much different than traditional marketing because many major platforms have banned cannabis from advertising on their platforms. This can be discouraging and make it seem like many traditional platforms are off-limits for cannabis marketing. But that’s not the case. Understand that even if a platform isn’t necessarily “cannabis-friendly,” you can still use it or others like it for cannabis marketing. 

When to comes to cannabis marketing and effective marketing channels, there are many options:

Each of these is important in its own right and each should be included in your marketing plan. For a breakdown of each, click on the links above. 

The don’ts of cannabis marketing

Don’t run with the pack 

The cannabis market becomes more and more saturated every day with so many companies entering (and leaving) the marijuana industry, so it’s only natural that some similarities pop up. Sometimes, it seems easier and safer to just go with what everyone else is doing and run a “cookie-cutter dispensary.” 

While this might produce short-term results, if you want to reach your true potential then you’ll have to find ways to differentiate yourself. 

This “differentiation” will rely on the way you brand yourself, how you communicate and interact with customers, and which cannabis products you’re offering. 

Overall, you want to make your dispensary unique. Takes risks! Down the road, your customers will have reasons to favor your dispensary over another, and that’s when the real growth begins.

Don’t lie or over-exaggerate 

Building a trustable brand and positive public image is essential for any business, but especially for cannabis businesses. Unfortunately, because of the stigma surrounding cannabis, some cannabis businesses may be seen as not legit.

That being said, you don’t want to smear your brand image by lying about or over-exaggerating stats or products. 

When making claims, make sure they can be backed up and verified. 

Don’t forget about your loyalty program 

When you’ve got so much going on, it can be easy to let your loyalty program slip through the cracks, but that would be a huge mistake

Why? Because customer loyalty is key. Studies have shown that retaining customers can be 5 to 25 times less expensive than marketing to new customers. On top of being cheaper, improving customer retention rates by just 5% has been shown to be able to boost profits up to 95%. 

You don’t want to miss out on these benefits, but somehow so many do. The main mistake people make, besides just outright not having a loyalty program, is not pushing their loyalty program. With every customer interaction, you should be encouraging customers to join. Customers should never have to ask a budtender or anyone else about the loyalty program. 

Without a loyalty program, repeat customers are never rewarded, and thus have less of an incentive to come back. With loyalty programs, your customers are rewarded for their loyalty and incentivized to come back. 

If you’re lacking here don’t worry. Springbig’s loyalty program platform will get you back on track. If you’ve already got a loyalty program or if you’re wondering how to structure it, check out our article on 5 features every cannabis loyalty program needs.

Don’t overlook eCommerce

Even before the pandemic, cannabis eCommerce was nothing to be ignored. Since the pandemic, it has become a necessity for all dispensaries who want to make the most out of their sales. 

As a result of the pandemic, cannabis eCommerce made huge strides as states loosened restrictions to allow for cannabis eCommerce to grow and keep the industry alive during the pandemic. 

While the pandemic seems to be coming to an end, cannabis eCommerce seems to be only at its beginning. That means making sure you’re up and running on all of the major eCommerce platforms in the cannabis space is a must. Our partners Weedmaps, Dispense, Dutchie, and iHeartJane are all great places to start. 

Don’t try to skirt regulations

While it may be tempting, DO NOT TRY TO SKIRT LAWS OR REGULATIONS. Yes, they’re a headache, but, trust us, getting into legal trouble is a far bigger headache.

While laws and regulations can feel tedious, they’re not worth testing. Going against regulations could cost you your social media account, freeze your merchant banking account, or land you in court. 

Don’t spread your brand too thin

Don’t spread yourself too thin. While as a cannabis retailer or brand it can be tempting to try and appeal to every customer segment in all legal cannabis markets, it just isn’t realistic. Having mass appeal can often lead to your brand becoming too general and therefore not interesting enough for any single customer segment. 

On top of this, marketing to too many customer segments can leave your marketing campaigns lacking quality or originality, which can cause potential customers to opt for other dispensaries that are more niche and focused. 

To avoid spreading yourself too thin, make sure you prioritize certain customer segments and have a clear idea of who your target audience is

Time to market!

Now that you are geared with an understanding of the general dos and don’ts of marketing in the cannabis industry, it’s time to market. 

If you’re any type of marijuana business looking for more information, then check out our complete guide to cannabis marketing. Here, you’ll find everything cannabis marketing, from loyalty programs to local advertising and infographic design. 

If you’re a brand looking for tips on marketing cannabis brands, check out our blog for useful tips. For starters check out our article on why the biggest California cannabis brands advertise with springbig.

If you’re looking for a complete cannabis marketing solution that is tailored specifically to the cannabis industry, then check out our website to see how springbig can help.

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