As cannabis legalization continues to become a more mainstream topic, more and more states are putting cannabis on the ballot every year. With that in mind, new opportunities are coming to light for brands to market their cannabis brand or products to a much wider audience than ever before thought possible.
With this growth comes a lot of innovation, like new products, new distribution methods, and new freedoms. But not so much in the tech and advertising sectors. There are quite a few significant hurdles to overcome with marketing cannabis, anyway. But when large public traded companies like Facebook, Instagram, and Google are in control and crack down on cannabis, many business owners find themselves struggling.
Cy Scott, CEO, and co-founder of Headset said “Operators like Facebook, Instagram are pulling accounts all the time or Facebook won’t even let you start advertising. It’s worse than alcohol or tobacco—you see beer commercials all the time [where] everyone looks like they’re having a good time and enjoying alcohol, but you don’t see that with cannabis.” Headset is an analytics company that works with cannabis brands to provide sales data.
So where are you supposed to begin marketing cannabis in an unfriendly digital world? Here’s what the most successful cannabis companies are doing:
1. Focusing on the In-Store Experience
In-store demonstration days are one of the most effective methods for educating your customers about your products or services as a cannabis brand.
By running in-store demo days, your brand can analyze and properly gauge how much interest your customers have in your new products or services based on sales that day, and a few days afterward. This data can also be used as feedback that you can use to determine which products will do well in the future. Additionally, it can help you determine which products make sense to order.
Cy Scott said, “Measuring marketing can be difficult given the channel, regardless, but given the limited channels and in-store being a primary driver for them, we’ve been able to give them technology (Headset) to look at their sales numbers at that store as it happens.”
2. Running a Modern, Tech-Savvy Store
Advertising will continue to remain a challenge, so many cannabis brands are finding themselves having to stick with more traditional marketing methods.
The difference is that cannabis brands are more likely to adapt than legacy brands running traditional marketing. A great example of this is the use of text and email marketing.
Text and email marketing is excellent for the brand and for the consumer. The brand will get precious demographic-related information as well as the consumers personal preferences which they can use to build out their CRM databases.
The consumer will most likely be segmented into their own audiences based on their demographics and personal preferences. For example, Your SMS program sends a message to several different audiences: one for people who prefer flower, one for people that prefer edibles, one for people who prefer CBD only, etc. Someone segmented into the edible category could receive an offer for a new line of chocolate, for example.
Joel Milton, CEO of Baker Technologies said “Trying to utilize product preferences—the same way that Amazon does a really good job of showing you products that you’re interested in—we try to do the same thing to serve more targeted content. We put iPads in store to capture customer information [like] cell phone number, contact info, and product preferences.”
This method helps the customer as much as it helps the brand.
3. Building Brand Loyalty
If you think about the cannabis industry as you think of the craft beer industry, for example, you’ll notice that there is an opportunity for cannabis brands to win over consumers with high-quality products.
Morgan Paxhia, managing director of Poseidon Asset Management, an investment firm that specializes in cannabis took the time to compare and contrast the challenges that the cannabis and alcohol industries face.
Her example was that the big brands, like Budweiser, have been chasing and buying up a ton of craft breweries to keep up with the changing tastes of customers. A challenge would be that it’s hard to build brand loyalty when there are so many other options out there and craft beer fanatics like to try new beers all the time. While cannabis continues to push for that mainstream title, Paxhia sees an opportunity for weed brands to capitalize on that challenge and win over consumers with high-quality products.
However, she said, “There is still a massive need in the logistics and infrastructure need to power these large-platform brands. When you post cultivation, there still is a tremendous amount of work before that gets to the final market, and I think there’s a lot of innovation that can happen in that vertical.”
4. Skipping Digital Ads
Digital ads are more expensive than they’ve ever been for cannabis companies and they’re just not that effective overall. Most startups and challenger companies build their brands with digital ad spend, but cannabis marketers cannot do the same, thanks to the restrictions put in place by Facebook and Google.
“You have a handful of websites; you have print ads, which are abnormally popular, [and] dispensaries spend more on a cost-per-impression basis than a Super Bowl commercial to get into a local print publication,” Milton said.
The most successful companies are the ones that actively avoid using digital ad spend. The ones that focus on the customer experience, the quality of their products, and digital marketing trends are the brands that do well and survive.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to get your dispensary marketing back on track, be sure to keep an eye on our cannabis marketing blog. Additionally, the experts at Team MaryJane are just a phone call away from answering all of your questions.