First Steps to Take When Advertising a Cannabis Brand
Advertising and marketing your cannabis brand can seem hopeless at times, with a multitude of restrictions and many popular traditional marketing channels off-limits to cannabis brands and dispensaries, how are you supposed to advertise your business and create brand awareness?
Even social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter all have strict policies banning cannabis from their platforms - especially when it comes to selling actual products containing THC.
If it wasn’t hard enough, advertising through search engines such as Google Ads is also off limits to cannabis dispensaries and brands as these search engines also have harsh policies banning the advertisement of cannabis.
While in some cases you may be able to risk it can get an ad up, you risk it getting flagged or taken down completely, thus losing your investment. Generally, businesses don’t include ads getting taken down in the budget, so unless you’re feeling extra risky, don’t risk it.
With all of these advertising channels off limits how is a cannabis business supposed to advertise to reach its target audience? How is a cannabis business supposed to even get off the ground in the first place and make a name for itself in an already saturated market? Luckily, there is more hope than there appears to be.
In this article, we will discuss various marketing strategies that have proven their effectiveness in the cannabis industry and that help you avoid any complications with regulations and restrictions. We will be discussing:
organic social media marketing,
search engine marketing,
marketing through cannabis publications,
customer retention marketing.
With high ROIs and their versatility in the cannabis industry, if you’re able to successfully implement each of these strategies into your cannabis marketing plan you’re sure to see your business grow like never before.
But, before we talk about all of that, let’s first discuss how to get your cannabis dispensary or brand off the ground. While all of the above tactics will be crucial we will discuss those later in the article, for now we’ll turn our focus to the internal operations of your dispensary or cannabis brand.
Getting off the ground in the cannabis industry
Before you can even begin to take advantage of general marketing tactics like SEO or paid advertisement in cannabis publications, you have to get your business off the ground first. In order to do this, there are a few key things you need to do before you even launch your dispensary or cannabis brand. The first of those being research.
When going into the cannabis industry, you’re also opting-in to dealing with the numerous restrictions, fees, and complicated laws that come with it. While they should not deter you from entering the industry if you are seriously considering it, before you launch you should make sure you are familiar with the laws and regulations in the cannabis industry.
For example, things as small as Instagram’s policies will be important to educate yourself on so you can make sure your account doesn’t get taken down from posting something against policy or using certain words in your captions.
Other things you’ll want to do your due diligence on are things like cannabis laws and regulations in your state (which differ from state to state), federal cannabis law, and laws regarding communicating with and advertising to your customers such as the TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act).
Separate yourself and find your voice
Next, you’ll want to find a way to separate yourself from the crowd and figure out your brand's voice.
Your brand’s voice is essentially the personality and image that you want your brand to evoke to your target audience. It should align with your mission statement and should stay consistent regardless of the setting, be it in your dispensary, on your website, or on your Instagram profile. Developing a brand voice is important to your brand recognition because your voice is one of the main things customers will associate with your brand.
For example, if you’re a medical dispensary then you might want your brand’s voice to come across a bit more formal than say a recreational dispensary’s voice. So, instead of making quirky 420 jokes in each message you send you customers, you might want to instead have a more informative tone and let them know about the health benefits of your newest strand.
While you can have the best products in the world, if you’re just starting off you’re going to want to make sure that your packaging makes your product stand out as much if not more than its quality. Unfortunately, this is a step many businesses overlook and thus suffer the consequences.
Packaging is one of the first impressions customers have of a product, so if your flower is sold in the same plastic containers as everyone else you may not leave a great first impression.
What makes this difficult are the guidelines that come with packaging cannabis such as rules against packaging that could possibly appeal to children. So finding the balance between compliance and appealing packaging can be tricky.
Digital launch before physical launch
Before you launch your physical store you’ll want to make sure that you already have customers who want to come through your doors - but how do you build a customer base without a physical business? Online. That’s right, before you even open your doors you need to gain an online presence and following.
That means advertisements that link to email or text message sign up pages so you can already have customers in your system. This way, you can market to customers who are already interested in your brand and let them know when they can come into your store.
You’ll also want to expand your reach on social media by gaining followers and creating content that gets people interested in your brand and brings them in on opening day.
Marketing strategies to grow your business
Now that you’ve gotten your business off the ground it’s time to start marketing your business and getting more customers coming through your doors - that means taking advantage of multiple marketing channels that allows you to dodge policy and regulation issues while also improving your businesses brand awareness.
Organic social media advertising
A great way to improve your digital marketing strategy and build your customer base is via social media channels- specifically Instagram, which many claim to be the most important of the social media platforms when it comes to building your brand. Not only should you be posting to your accounts, but you should also look to use influencer marketing in your social media strategy to make sure you have as much reach as possible.
To be successful with organic social media advertising you’ll want to make sure you follow a couple of key rules:
Don’t put anything cannabis related in your bio or captions. If you do, you risk your account getting flagged or deleted.
Engage with you customers in the comment section to boost engagement and make an impression.
Be consistent with your posts. Doing helps your customers know that you take your business and the connections you’ve made on social media seriously.
DO NOT try to sell anything. Selling drugs (which cannabis is still considered to be according to major social media platforms’ policies) is against the policies of top social media platforms.
Search engine optimization
While you won’t be able to utilize Google Ads to advertise your business, you can make sure that you appear at the top of search results by making sure all of your content is optimized with search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is an extremely important tactic for all businesses as it has the potential to drive substantial traffic to your business. In fact, almost 93% of global internet traffic comes from google. If you’re not appearing on the first page of the search results, then you will more than likely not be found. A study found that only 0.78% of users from the second page click on results from the second page of google.
Marketing through cannabis publications
Advertising through cannabis publications is a great way to get word out about your business, especially if you’re a cannabis brand. You can do this as a dispensary as well, but keep in mind that many of those reading these cannabis magazines are other dispensaries or brands in the cannabis industry.
Publications that would be great to get an ad in include Cannabis Culture Magazine, High Times, mg magazine, and the West Coast Leaf. These are just a few of the many you could reach out to for ad placements that are sure to get your name out.
Local advertising and word-of-mouth
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 My Business.
Customer retention marketing
Now that you’ve got the customers you’ll want to keep them around. 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). The following CRM marketing tactics are generally for dispensaries, but if you’re a cannabis brand you could take these and adapt them to fit your business.
The first step in creating an effective CRM strategy is to establish a loyalty program at your dispensary. 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?
Make it tiered so that customers are encourage to try to move up your loyalty program’s ladder
Base it off of a points-per-dollar reward system that encourages customers to spend more with each visit to attain rewards faster
Automate your loyalty program’s operations from the messages they are sent to the rewards that they receive.
Want to learn more about loyalty programs? Read our other article here!
Text message marketing
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 your text message campaigns.
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.
To learn more about text message marketing read our other article here!
Referral programs are another extremely important thing that you’ll want to integrate into your business’s everyday practices. 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!
If you’re able to take what has been said in this article, make it your own, and implement it into your business’s operations, then you’ll surely be on the way to increased profits and a continuously growing customer base.
From getting your dispensary off the ground to keeping the customers that you already have at your dispensary, there is a lot to be done when it comes to marketing your cannabis brand - and a lot of hurdles to jump over. Despite the difficulties, it is possible, and with springbig you’ll have help at every step of the way.