With up to 80% of the advertising landscape unavailable to cannabis brands, simply using social media and traditional media to reach consumers are not options.
Facebook’s U.S. advertising policy currently bans ads that promote cannabis sales, Instagram refuses to allow dispensary advertising, even Google is extra hard on cannabis advertising. Because of these advertising restrictions, helping cannabis retailers improve sales performance is a tougher task for cannabis marketing agencies than helping a typical retailer.
Add to the cannabis marketing hurdles the fact that restrictions and guidelines vary from state-to-state.
While these realities make the job of a cannabis marketing agency more difficult, there are proven marketing alternatives outside of traditional and social advertising platforms.
Limitations for Cannabis Marketing
Despite its growing recreational and medical use, the fact remains that cannabis is still illegal at a federal level. Even for successful cannabis businesses, this creates buckets of challenges every day. To put these challenges into perspective, below are just a few limitations for cannabis marketing:
No national advertising campaigns.
No digital advertising on social media.
No advertising on television (broadcast or cable), print, digital, or radio if at least 71.6 percent of the audience is expected to be under the age of 21 (California law).
No dispensary advertising or advertising of cannabis products within 1,000 feet (or another specific distance) of a school or area where children often spend time.
No advertising on public or private vehicles.
No advertising in arenas, stadiums, state fairs, shopping malls, arcades, and farmer's markets.
The Sales Funnel
Before diving into cannabis marketing alternatives, you first need to understand the sales funnel – also known as the sales pipeline. This is the foundation of helping retailers improve sales performance, as well as used to create, and fine tune, a marketing strategy using data evaluation.
If you understand the metrics within your pipeline, you’ll have access to the information you need to create more opportunities, generate more leads (from the right kind of customer) and encourage existing customers to buy more.
- Top-of-the-funnel (TOFU)—getting consumers to enter the funnel is extremely important and more challenging because of advertising restriction.
Middle-of-the-funnel (MOFU)—consumers are interested and it important to keep them engaged.
Bottom-of-the-funnel (BOFU)—interested, engaged and ready to purchase.
Marketing Alternatives for the Cannabis Industry
Below is a list of five workarounds used by cannabis marketing agencies to help retailers overcome the lack of access to social media and traditional advertising.
1. Target Persona
Understanding the target persona or personas of customers will add focus a retailers marketing strategy. Without focus any strategy a cannabis marketing agency creates is doomed.
Knowing the target persona or personas in detail enables retailers to speak directly to potential customers. Plus, this information will impact the look and feel of a retailer’s website, content, and other marketing information.
By identifying different segments in your market, you can use their commonalities — including shopping habits, lifestyles, and consumption preferences — to craft and deliver tailored messages and promotions that will resonate more deeply with them.
2. Content Marketing
Creating and sharing quality content is essential. A top priority in helping retailers should be making sure a retailer’s website and blog are full of content like reviews, posts, pictures, testimonials, and videos. Adding user generated content makes sense as well. People are smart shoppers, plus they are used to engaging in high quality content during their consumer journey. The need to educate, engage and entertain is real and should not be overlooked.
Content marketing will help bring an audience to a brand. There’s a lot of curiosity about the cannabis industry, so there are tons of questions you can answer for your audience. Content marketing also sets you apart from the competition. If you post consistently good content, then people start finding you.
3. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
There’s no prohibition on a cannabis brand creating a website and creating informative content on that website. Brands can use search engine optimization tactics to help their content rank high on search engine results pages, so that people looking to learn more about cannabis can find it.
You must understand user-intent and what cannabis users are actively searching for online. Some SEO tactics you can include:
Creating a Google Business Profile
Using Social Media
Applying On-Site SEO
4. Inbound Marketing
Sharing loads of quality content and maximizing SEO enables customers to raise their hands and enter a retailer’s sales funnel. Using an inbound marketing process, as well as software like HubSpot, enables retailers to capture leads and use automation to move leads through and to the bottom of the sales funnel to purchase.
Outbound marketing puts your brand in front of your target audience wherever they may be. Inbound marketing, on the other hand, describes marketing where the consumer takes the first step and comes to you. They realize they have a problem, interest, or need and begin to research it, generally online. They use search engines, social media, and recommendations from friends and family to learn more.
The focus of an inbound marketing strategy is presenting you, or the brand, as a solution to the prospect’s problem by being educational, consultative, credible, and/or interesting.
5. Lead Nurturing
Just because a consumer enters a sales funnel does not mean they will magically move through the pipeline to make a purchase. Therefore, nurturing leads with content tailored to a consumer’s location in the funnel is key.
Additionally, using a platform that provides automation enables retailers to do this on an ongoing basis with thousands of leads.
Effectively Market Your Cannabis Business Online
Advertising restrictions for the cannabis business are strict, but there are still plenty of ways to legally promote products. With a little ingenuity and creativity, cannabis brands can work around roadblocks to find reliable ways to reach their target audience.