In the first part of this blog series, we went through the legalities of marketing a cannabis business. Here, in part two, we’re going to dive deeper and share some other ways you can, and cannot, market your cannabis business.
How to Promote Your Cannabis Business with Paid Search
Because cannabis is not federally legal, the internet has some restrictions. For example, search powerhouse Google has recreational drug policies centered around their advertising channels, including pay-per-click ads, retargeted ads, display network, shopping ads, in-app ads, and video ads.
With so many rules and regulations, is there any hope for cannabis-related paid search ads? Some advertisers have seen some success with crafty workarounds. For instance, by substituting banned keywords, like “THC, MMJ, and cannabis,” with words like “herb” and “greens,” you may be able to skirt banned terms and drive traffic. But at this point, it’s a bit early to tell what words are and are not acceptable.
Search and They Shall Find You (If Your SEO Is Done Right!)
Since you can’t rely as much on sponsored ads to increase your exposure in search engine results, optimizing your website content becomes even more crucial.
With all of the competition, SEO is going to be critical for getting the word out about your cannabis business in Massachusetts. Making sure your website is optimized for search and setup to convert visitors will be incredibly vital in driving both web and foot traffic.
This means it’s to your benefit to have a website that’s developed in a manner that is intuitive for a user and that’s easy for you to maintain and update with fresh content. By doing so, you’re ensuring that your website is more search engine friendly.
Wondering where to start? Create a list of keywords and phrases that your potential customers would use to find you. Of course, with the current restrictions in place, the colloquial terms they may be using are frowned upon by the CCC (Cannabis Control Commission) but write them down anyways so you can successfully monitor your SEO. From there, you can use this list to inspire topics for relevant content that you’ll need to regularly publish in hopes to inspire engagement and build your brand. This is the pinnacle of strong SEO.
In addition to a strategic onsite SEO strategy, be sure your local SEO game is strong. Have you claimed your Google My Business listing and optimized it? How are you showing up compared to the hundreds of online local listings? Are your social media accounts properly - and legally - operating? These additional online presences are key to being discovered by new customers.
Join the Network of Cannabis-Friendly Websites
While you might get the kibosh when trying to place ads on mega-sites and platforms like Google and Facebook, you can (and should) tap into the growing network of cannabis content providers. Companies like Leafly, The Cannabist, and The Daily Chronic will not only allow you to place your ads, some of them will also let you sponsor content, or work with you to create content that can be featured on their highly popular sites.
Build a Strong Email Campaign
Another tactic you should embrace when planning out your marketing strategy is email. (It’s relatively inexpensive, too!) Assuming you’re not purchasing lists (which, for the record, is a waste of resources and considered to be spam), your audience wants to hear from you. And there are no restrictions on using email for marketing cannabis. Well, for the most part.
While many email marketing platforms allow you to communicate with your subscriber list and customers, many of them do have policies like Google against using their platform to market substances banned by the federal government. Because some of the more popular email, automated marketing, and CRM platforms are playing it safe and disallow cannabis-related content, some new players are popping up to fill the need.
Email is a great way to keep your subscribers informed and engaged - keeping your brand top-of-mind. You have direct access to an audience that has opted to hear from you.
Aside from your current customers, who you can continue your relationship with by emailing them relevant content, you’ll want to encourage potential new customers to join your mailing list as well. Once they’ve subscribed, you can nurture them into repeat customers.
But how do you build that email list? There are a number of proven ways to build a list, here are a few to get you started:
Include an offer on your website, such as a free guide to marijuana strains that people will have access to if they sign up for emails
Suggest to visitors on your website to join your mailing list to receive exclusive updates and offers
Offer a weekly or monthly newsletter they can subscribe to
Add a Sign-Up link to your social media profiles
Once you have your list started, this is your chance to deliver compelling content that can delight and educate both current and prospective customers.
It’s worth mentioning that we’re not talking about sending the occasional email blast to your subscribers. Today, marketing automation tools allow you to segment your subscribers and customers by behavioral, geographic, and personal data. This allows you to carefully curate and choreograph email marketing at a regular cadence that’s structured around each person’s particular interests and behavior. When done thoughtfully, email will be one of your most powerful channels for marketing your cannabis business. Your customers will thank you.
The good news is, the laws around marketing cannabis seem to be slowly relaxing as more and more states legalize its sale. However, because of the many restrictions currently still in place, promoting marijuana products well in Massachusetts and beyond is still challenging and will require an extra dose of creativity. But, remember, with a little tenacity you’ll be able to pull together a smart marketing plan that enables your business to flourish.
If you want to learn more about how to market your cannabis dispensary legally and successfully, drop us a line.