As of the writing of this article, nine states allow recreational use of cannabis, 29 states have medical cannabis programs, and many more look set to follow. Investing in cannabis is smart, but it does come with some unique challenges, even for the most seasoned entrepreneurs and business owners. For most cannabis companies, finding the right marketing avenues is a real difficulty.
Your genius marketing strategies might be plagued by limiting regulations, too much competition, or lack of brand identity. You might find a lack of guidance or thought leadership online since the industry is so new. Luckily, none of the problems surrounding MMJ marketing are impossible to fix – you just need to be willing to think outside the box.
Ready to solve eleven of the most common cannabis marketing challenges? Let’s do this.
1. Regulation Preventing Traditional Online Marketing
If you’ve got any experience in online marketing, you’ll know that PPC campaigns and search engine ads are a great way to get tons of traffic to your new business, fast. Unfortunately, tight regulation means that many publishers will filter and reject ads with any mention of cannabis. This means that traditional forms of online marketing are off the table – unless you’re willing to get creative.
Instead of purchasing ads through a large publisher like Google, you could look contacting individual websites in the cannabis niche to ask about their ad space. Instead of marketing your products directly on search engines, you could create content that’s relevant to cannabis users but doesn’t actually mention cannabis. For example, ’10 Great Snacks for When You Have The Munchies.’
Regulation makes traditional online marketing tricky, but not impossible.
2. Struggling to Establish a Brand Identity
Branding for cannabis is new to most of us – and that means it can be hard to get right. Tempted to throw together a simple logo featuring a green leaf and your brand name? That won’t cut it. You need potential customers to recognize your brand instantly, connect with your brand values, and prefer you to all of your competitors. To create a strong brand identity, you’ll need the right business name, an eye-catching logo, a strong brand voice, and a solid set of brand values.
If you want to appeal to high-end consumers, you might create a sleek white and green logo, use a formal brand voice in your marketing materials, and make sure that your values revolve around quality.
Alternatively, if you’re going for a playful vibe, you could create a colorful logo, use a relaxed, informal brand voice, and create a set of values that focus on fun, creativity, and novelty.
Creating a strong brand is key to getting the rest of your marketing right, so don’t let it be an afterthought.
3. Finding the Right Influencers to Connect With
Influencer marketing is a great way to get your brand known, but finding the right influencers to connect with can be tricky. Sending a request to influencers who don’t smoke weed? It’s a big no-no. The safest bet is to focus on influencers who have promoted cannabis-related products before, or who already create cannabis-related content.
YouTube influencers are a great choice for companies which have a strong focus on packaging and presentation – unboxing videos are an excellent way to show this off.
Instagram is ideal for building hype around a new business or product launch. Asking influencers to share your content in their Instagram stories creates a sense of urgency and immediacy that other platforms don’t have.
Focus on building relationships with a few key influencers and you won’t regret it.
4. Competing with Black Market Sellers
Is there anything more frustrating than playing completely by the book, then being overtaken by black market sellers using shady tactics? Probably not. However, no matter how annoying it is to see others using underhand marketing techniques and appearing to get good results, you shouldn’t be tempted into trying to skirt regulations.
If you want to create a lasting business that customers trust, then you need to stay 100% within the law at all times. There are so many legitimate MMJ marketing techniques that there’s no need for you to risk your reputation.
Keep up to date with the regulations around MMJ marketing in your state, and don’t be tempted to bend the rules.
5. Standing out from Other Cannabis Brands
How many cannabis brands operate in the same state as you? Could a customer quickly and easily tell you apart? If the answer’s no, then you’re in trouble. If you don’t stand out from other cannabis brands, you’ll fail to attract loyal customers, and will see a fast decline in sales when other brands step up their marketing efforts. Try to establish a unique selling point that makes your business different from all the rest, and then use that as the basis for your marketing campaigns.
For example, you might use a tagline like, ‘The Only Dispensary That Hires Cannabis Experts,’ or ‘Quality Comes First.’
Figuring out what makes you special is essential if you want to succeed in the competitive world of cannabis marketing.
6. Avoiding TV, Radio and Print Ads That Could Target Children
While cannabis marketing regulations vary from state to state, most are clear on one thing: you can’t advertise cannabis in a place where children might see. This means billboard ads, paper flyers, radio ads, and TV ads are all out of the picture unless you choose very carefully. This might mean running ads on TV channels which are only available after a certain time of day, or during programs with an appropriate age rating. As far as print ads go, you won’t be able to take them out in regular magazines or newspapers. However, paying for ads in specialty cannabis magazines is a smart way to target the right audience without breaking any rules.
7. Finding the Right Content Marketing Topics
While tactics like PPC and social media advertising might be out of the question, you can still drive traffic to your website by creating great blog content. Not sure which topics to cover? Try creating a few ‘buyer personas’ for your business, then imagine what kind of content they might search for online. For example, if one of your personas is a cannabis user who struggles with insomnia, you might write an article titled, ’10 Natural Ways to Beat Insomnia.’ For a customer who uses weed to help with shoulder pain, an article like, ‘How Well Does Cannabis Treat Joint Pain?’ could go down well.
Educational content shows that you’re an authority, which makes your brand look more trustworthy.
8. Getting Guest Posts on High Authority Niche Sites
Got a great blog but not getting many hits? Guest posting on more established sites is a simple solution to this problem. You’ll want to pick sites that are relevant to cannabis, have a high domain authority, and tend to publish high-quality content. Write an article that’s relevant to the site, and include one or two useful links back to your own site. This will drive traffic and increase your ranking in search engines, and you won’t have to break any rules.
Avoid guest posting on low-quality or irrelevant sites, as this will only hurt your business.
9. Deciding Which Content to Share on Social Media
Creating social media profiles for your business is a great way to stay connected with current customers and reach new ones. But what kind of content should you share? Steering clear of overly promotional content will prevent any issues and stops you from getting on peoples’ nerves.
Instead, try sharing interesting news and research from the cannabis world, posting links to educational articles on your blog, and encouraging discussion in the comments. This way, you’re creating a community rather than just plugging your own products.
10. Creating a Mobile-Friendly Website
It’s not a problem that’s unique to cannabis companies, but it shouldn’t be overlooked: creating a mobile-friendly cannabis website. A huge percentage of searches now take place on mobile devices, so you can’t afford to have a site that doesn’t work well. Hire an experienced designed to optimize your existing site, or use a site builder which takes care of optimization automatically. A few simple changes could see your bounce rate fall dramatically.
11. Building a Strong Email Marketing List
Email marketing is one of the best ways to keep your audience up-to-date with news, deals, and new products. Struggling to collect many email addresses for your list? Try encouraging signups in your physical store, offering freebies on your blog in return for a few details, and promoting your mailing list on social media. People need a good reason to sign up, so be sure to plan a newsletter that’s interesting and informative – not just sales-y.
How to Succeed at MMJ Marketing
If you want to succeed when it comes to MMJ marketing you’ll need to build a strong brand image, take advantage of existing cannabis communities, connect with influencers, and avoid falling afoul of regulations.
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