Cannabis marketing can be quite an ordeal if you’re not familiar with some of the irregular dispensary marketing strategies that are currently shaping the industry. In this guide, we’re breaking down some of the challenges you’ll face while marketing your cannabis business and offer several strategies to help you get on the right track.
The Unique Challenges of Cannabis Marketing
The cannabis industry is unlike any other, thanks to its complex legal landscape, historical stigmatization, and the inability to utilize traditional marketing tactics. Dispensary owners are challenged with navigating a web of issues, making marketing one of the most brutal beasts to tackle.
Legal restrictions and compliance with state and local laws create a complex landscape with varying regulations. Additionally, navigating social stigma requires strategic marketing that emphasizes education and transparency. Dispensaries must combat misinformation, ensure responsible use, and target the appropriate audience due to legal age restrictions. Limited advertising channels, banking challenges, fierce competition, and limited research turn this web of trouble into a knot.
In light of these unique challenges, dispensary owners must adopt strategic marketing approaches that resonate with their target audience while remaining compliant with legal requirements. This involves understanding their customers’ needs, building trust through transparent communication, leveraging digital and social media platforms, and promoting responsible cannabis use. Successfully navigating these challenges will enable dispensaries to carve a niche for themselves in the competitive cannabis market and build a loyal customer base.
Understanding the Legalities
Before you can even think about dispensary marketing in any capacity, you have to know the laws where your business operates. There is so much red tape in every state’s cannabis industry when it comes to marketing and signage, and it’s up to you to come up with creative workarounds. Each city and state kind of reinvents the wheel every time cannabis gets legalized, and laws for advertising are subject to change with time.
For example, while it used to be illegal, it’s now legal to have cannabis billboards in Colorado as long as they’re not anywhere near schools, churches, public parks, or drug rehabilitation facilities. But in the city of Denver, they’re prohibited entirely. Most cities and states have laws regarding the words and imagery you can use on indoor and outdoor signage, too. So if your logo utilizes a cannabis leaf, you’ll have to find a workaround depending on where your business is operating.
Both states and cities have the power to make rules about the marketing and advertising you do. With that in mind, you should stay subscribed to cannabis legislature news and be aware of any changing regulations. Making sure you stay compliant with state and local laws can keep you out of trouble and away from legal concerns or hefty fines. More importantly, compliance helps your business stay reputable to customers. Understanding and adhering to these laws is crucial to ensure that your marketing efforts remain compliant and effective.
Strategy #1: Knowing Your Customer
Effective cannabis marketing begins with knowing your target customers inside out. By conducting thorough customer segmentation and creating detailed buyer personas, you can better understand their preferences, needs, and pain points. But you gotta start small and build a solid foundation. Your ideal customer is at the center of all of your marketing, so taking the time to understand their interests, needs, and characteristics can help you provide marketing that resonates with them and nurtures them before, during, and after the sale.
Taking a targeted approach makes it easier to retain customers by giving them an experience that fosters a personal connection to your dispensary. Hyper-focused marketing encourages brand loyalty and satisfaction, helping you to rake in the big bucks and stay successful for the long haul in such a competitive industry.
If you want to get to know your customers, everything you do needs to collect data in some way. Start by using customer relationship management (CRM) software or a dispensary management system that can help track customer behavior and buying patterns. A good CRM is where all the magic happens. It allows your budtenders to leave personal notes from the conversations they have with the customers (such as their birthdays, favorite products, etc.), monitor their purchase history, and segment them into mailing lists or your dispensary loyalty program.
You want to be absorbing data like a sponge. Encourage current customers to take surveys and take great care to implement their feedback into your marketing strategy. Understanding their personal preferences, likes, dislikes, and demographics are all great tools to establish buyer personas and ensure you’re marketing to your customers effectively.
To really get into their heads, be sure to hang out with them on social media and in your store. Social media provides a platform for customers to express their opinions and preferences, giving you a glimpse into their buying behavior and any areas you can improve upon to make your dispensary better suited to your ideal customer. Staff should be trained to have meaningful conversations with customers and take note of any key information that would excite them and make them above and beyond happy. They should also ask questions and be open to feedback so you can work towards solving problems before they become problems.
Once you have plenty of data, you can flesh out your buyer personas. A buyer persona is a fictional portrayal of your ideal customer, enabling you to personify and comprehend your customer base based on their diverse characteristics, demographics, interests, personality, likes, and dislikes. Utilizing multiple personas, most dispensaries can create distinct marketing materials tailored to support specific customer segments.
Strategy #2: Building a Strong Brand Identity
In a saturated market, a strong brand identity is essential for distinguishing your dispensary from competitors. Crafting a unique brand image, including a memorable logo, tagline, and consistent visual elements, helps establish your dispensary’s personality and values, fostering customer loyalty. One of our favorite examples of dispensary marketing done right is High Profile. Everything from its digital marketing to its in-store experience is saturated in the company’s core values, vibe, and story but tailored specifically to its target audience.
To start building your brand, understand your target audience’s preferences, needs, and pain points, then define your core values to help shape the personality and culture of your business. Tailor your brand messaging and visuals to resonate with your ideal customers, creating a sense of connection and understanding.
Choose an appealing name and design a logo that visually represents your dispensary’s personality and values. Your logo should be versatile enough to work on various platforms and merchandise. Establish a cohesive visual identity across all marketing materials, including your website, social media profiles, packaging, and in-store displays. Select a consistent color palette, typography, and visual elements that reflect your brand’s personality.
Craft a unique brand voice that reflects your dispensary’s personality and resonates with your target audience. Whether it’s playful, informative, or professional, ensure your tone aligns with your brand values and customer expectations. Share the story of your dispensary’s journey, mission, and vision with your audience. Humanize your brand by highlighting the people behind the business, their passion for cannabis, and the positive impact you aim to create.
Just remember that consistency is critical to establishing a solid brand identity. Ensure that all marketing efforts, from social media posts to print materials, align with your brand’s messaging, visuals, and values. Your brand identity should also encompass the customer experience you provide. Train your staff to embody your brand values and ensure each interaction with customers aligns with your brand’s tone and personality.
Engaging on social media is essential. Use it to connect with your audience and strengthen your brand identity. Engage with followers, respond to comments, and share content that reflects your brand personality and values. Additionally, community involvement is crucial. Participate in local events, support community initiatives, and engage in partnerships that align with your brand values. Active community involvement can further enhance your brand’s reputation and visibility.
By following these tips and continuously reinforcing your brand identity through all aspects of your dispensary’s operations, you can create a strong and memorable brand that resonates with your target audience and sets your business apart in the competitive cannabis market.
Strategy #3: Leveraging Social Media
Using social media effectively can be a powerful tool for cannabis dispensaries to connect with their audience, build brand awareness, and drive business growth. To make the most out of social media, start by choosing the right platforms for your dispensary. Focus on the social media platforms where your target audience is most active.
Like branding, consistency is key in social media marketing. Maintain a consistent posting schedule to keep your audience engaged and informed. Consistency helps build brand recognition and keeps your dispensary top-of-mind among your followers. Share a mix of content types, including educational posts, product updates, promotions, behind-the-scenes glimpses, and user-generated content. Use high-quality visuals and videos to capture attention and encourage interactions with your audience.
Interact with your followers actively. Respond to comments, messages, and mentions promptly. Engage in conversations with your followers to build a sense of community and trust. Address customer queries and concerns professionally and promptly to show that you value their feedback and are responsive to their needs.
Running contests and giveaways can be a fun way to boost engagement on social media. Organize social media contests and giveaways that align with your brand and attract new followers. Encourage participants to tag friends and share your posts to increase your content’s reach.
Consider collaborating with influencers or cannabis enthusiasts who align with your brand values. Influencers can extend your reach and add credibility to your target audience. Partnering with influencers allows you to tap into their existing followers and gain exposure to potential customers.
Lastly, ensure that your social media activities comply with the platform’s policies and advertising guidelines for cannabis-related content. Be aware of the rules and regulations to avoid account suspension or penalties. Staying compliant will help you maintain a positive and consistent online presence for your dispensary.
Strategy #4: Optimizing Your Website for SEO
A well-optimized website can significantly improve your dispensary’s online visibility. Since cannabis is still taboo, you can’t utilize paid ads in your marketing. However, you can rely on content and on-page SEO to help attract people to your website and support them through the buyer’s journey by providing different types of content.
To optimize SEO without relying on paid ads, dispensaries should focus on content marketing and blogging. Start with thorough keyword research to identify relevant and high-traffic keywords related to your dispensary. Create high-quality, informative, and engaging content through blog posts, guides, and videos that address your audience’s pain points and showcase your expertise.
You should also optimize on-page elements, like parallax or image sizes, to ensure mobile-friendliness. Almost 93% of web browsing is done from mobile these days, so your website must be optimized for mobile. You can also prioritize local SEO to attract customers in your area.
Building high-quality backlinks from reputable third-party websites can help improve your domain authority and improve site referrals. Regularly update content, track performance with analytics tools, and optimize for voice search to stay ahead in the competitive cannabis market. By following these strategies, dispensaries can boost their online visibility, attract organic traffic, and establish credibility in the cannabis industry.
Strategy #5: Content Marketing
As we mentioned in the last section, cannabis brands don’t have access to paid ads, so content is king. Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach that involves creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and engage a target audience at every stage of the buyer’s journey.
It aims to build trust, credibility, and brand loyalty by providing valuable information and addressing the audience’s needs and interests. It allows dispensaries to educate their audience about cannabis products, usage, and benefits, foster community engagement, and position themselves as industry authorities.
Valuable and engaging content is a cornerstone of effective cannabis marketing. Creating informative blogs, videos, podcasts, and other content educates your audience and establishes your dispensary as an authority in the industry. Content marketing builds trust, leading to increased customer loyalty. You can also encourage customers to share their experiences through reviews, testimonials, and social media posts. User-generated content adds authenticity and social proof to your brand, making it more relatable and trustworthy.
Just keep in mind that, given the regulatory restrictions in the cannabis industry, you need to make sure that your content adheres to all applicable laws and guidelines. Avoid making health claims, use accurate information, and provide disclaimers when necessary to remain compliant with regulations.
Strategy #6: Email Marketing
Email marketing is a digital marketing strategy that involves sending targeted and personalized emails to a list of subscribers to engage, nurture, and convert them into customers. It is an effective and direct way to communicate with your audience, build brand loyalty, and drive sales. Email marketing allows dispensaries in the cannabis industry to share product updates, educational content, special offers, and promotions while staying compliant with advertising restrictions on other platforms.
Start by building a quality email list of subscribers who have opted in to receive communications from your dispensary. Offer incentives like exclusive discounts or valuable content to encourage sign-ups. Avoid purchasing email lists, as this can lead to low engagement and deliverability issues.
Segment your email list based on customer preferences, purchase history, and behavior. Personalize your emails to deliver relevant content that speaks directly to the recipient’s interests and needs. Segmenting allows you to target specific customer groups with tailored promotions and offers, increasing engagement and conversion rates.
Offer valuable and engaging content in your emails to keep subscribers interested and loyal. Share educational content about cannabis, new product releases, upcoming events, and exclusive promotions. Strive to create a sense of community and customer appreciation through your email communications.
Just emailing sparingly. Take a look at your current customers, and you might find that they only shop somewhere between once a week to once a month. You should aim to only email people with good news and great incentives. It helps to make sure your emails are segmented by interests so that customers who only buy edibles, for example, aren’t getting emails about concentrates, which are irrelevant to them and their interests.
Strategy #7: Community Engagement
Engaging with your local community can profoundly impact brand visibility and reputation. Community engagement refers to the active involvement of a business in its local community through various initiatives, events, and partnerships. It involves building meaningful connections, supporting local causes, and fostering a positive impact on the community. In the cannabis industry, community engagement is vital for dispelling stigmas, building trust, and establishing a positive reputation. Engaging with the local community can also increase brand visibility, attract new customers, foster strategic partnerships, and create a loyal customer base.
Get involved in local events, festivals, or charity initiatives. Sponsoring or participating in community gatherings not only shows support for the local community but also provides opportunities to interact with potential customers in a positive setting.
Forge partnerships with other local businesses, especially those that align with your brand values. Collaborative efforts, such as cross-promotions or joint events, can expand your reach and strengthen community ties.
Engage in educational initiatives about cannabis, its responsible usage, and its potential benefits. Organize workshops, seminars, or informational sessions to raise awareness and address any misconceptions about cannabis. Advocate for responsible cannabis use and contribute positively to discussions about the industry’s impact on the community.
By actively engaging with the local community and demonstrating a commitment to its well-being, dispensaries can build trust, establish a positive brand image, and become valued members of their neighborhoods in the cannabis industry.
Strategy #8: Influencer Partnerships
Influencer partnerships involve collaborating with individuals who have a significant and engaged following on social media or within a specific industry. These influencers, also known as thought leaders or content creators, can help promote a dispensary’s products or brand to their audience, leveraging their influence and credibility to drive awareness and trust.
In the cannabis industry, influencer partnerships are particularly beneficial due to the limited advertising options. Working with influencers allows dispensaries to reach a larger and more targeted audience, build brand credibility, and tap into the influencer’s loyal and engaged community.
While they can cost a lot of money or free stuff if you want to work with them, choose influencers whose values, style, and audience align with your dispensary’s brand. Look for influencers who have a genuine interest in cannabis and can create authentic and relatable content related to your products or dispensary experience.
Cultivate long-term partnerships with influencers rather than one-off collaborations. Building strong relationships with influencers allows them to become brand advocates, creating consistent and trustworthy promotion over time.
By carefully selecting and partnering with influencers, dispensaries can leverage their reach and influence to elevate their brand in the cannabis industry. Building authentic and meaningful relationships with influencers can result in increased brand awareness, credibility, and customer loyalty.
Strategy #9: Utilizing User-Generated Content
User-generated content (UGC) refers to content created and shared by your customers. It can include social media posts, reviews, testimonials, photos, videos, and other forms of content that users voluntarily share about their experiences with the brand or product. UGC is highly valuable because it is authentic, trustworthy, and provides social proof, making it an essential marketing tool in the cannabis industry.
In the cannabis industry, UGC offers a unique opportunity for dispensaries to showcase real experiences and build credibility with potential customers. It helps to humanize the brand and create a sense of community, fostering a positive brand image.
A great example of UGC is the Starbucks Holiday Cup challenge, which encouraged people to draw on a blank cup and post it on social media to get their design featured on the year’s holiday cups. The issue with UGC is that it can be tricky to get and requires a lot of out-of-the-box thinking.
To encourage UGC, actively encourage customers to share their experiences and content related to your dispensary and products. Incentivize UGC by offering rewards and discounts or featuring customers’ content on your official channels. This motivates users to engage and share their experiences with your brand.
Launch UGC campaigns with specific themes or hashtags that prompt users to share content related to a particular aspect of your dispensary, such as product usage, store visits, or cannabis education. Make the campaigns fun and engaging to encourage participation.
Interact with users who share UGC by liking, commenting, and resharing their content. Publicly showcase UGC on your website, social media platforms, or in-store displays. By highlighting user content, you show appreciation for your customers and foster a sense of community around your brand.
By leveraging user-generated content, dispensaries can tap into the power of word-of-mouth marketing, build trust with potential customers, and enhance their brand image within the cannabis industry. UGC allows dispensaries to create a genuine and relatable connection with their audience, ultimately driving customer loyalty and business growth.
Strategy #10: Data-Driven Decision-Making
Data and analytics are powerful tools for refining and optimizing your marketing strategies. User data-driven decision-making refers to the process of using data and insights collected from users’ behaviors, preferences, and interactions to inform business decisions. In the context of the cannabis industry, dispensaries can leverage user data to make informed choices about marketing strategies, product offerings, customer experience, and overall business improvements.
In the cannabis industry, data-driven decision-making is crucial for dispensaries to stay competitive, understand their target audience, and optimize their operations. By analyzing user data, dispensaries can identify trends, spot opportunities, and address pain points, leading to more effective marketing campaigns, better customer engagement, and increased customer satisfaction.
Utilize website analytics, social media insights, and customer relationship management (CRM) software to collect and analyze user data. These tools provide valuable information about customer behavior, purchase patterns, and user engagement.
Use the data collected to segment your customer base based on demographics, preferences, and purchase history. This allows you to personalize your marketing efforts and tailor promotions to specific customer segments, increasing relevance and effectiveness.
Conduct A/B tests for marketing campaigns, website layouts, and product offerings. By testing different variations and analyzing the results, dispensaries can make data-driven decisions about which options perform better and resonate more with their audience.
By adopting user data-driven decision-making, dispensaries can optimize their marketing efforts, enhance customer satisfaction, and gain a competitive edge in the cannabis industry. Understanding customer behavior and preferences empowers dispensaries to make informed choices that lead to business growth and long-term success.
Continuing Education and Regulatory Compliance
Staying on top of cannabis laws, regulations, and industry trends is paramount for dispensaries. The cannabis industry is heavily regulated, and compliance with local, state, and federal laws is essential for operating legally. Dispensaries must navigate through a complex web of regulations, which can vary significantly from one region to another. By staying informed about the latest legal developments, dispensaries can ensure compliance, avoid potential fines or penalties, and safeguard their business operations.
Moreover, staying ahead of industry trends is crucial for dispensaries to remain competitive and seize business opportunities. The cannabis market is dynamic and continuously evolving. Consumer preferences, product innovations, and market shifts can significantly impact the industry landscape. Dispensaries that proactively monitor industry trends can adapt their offerings, marketing strategies, and business models to meet customer demands effectively.
In addition to legal and business considerations, staying informed about cannabis laws and regulations is vital for consumer safety and education. Dispensaries play a significant role in providing accurate information about cannabis products, usage guidelines, and potential risks. By being knowledgeable about the latest laws and safety measures, dispensaries can build trust with their customers and foster a sense of responsibility within the industry.
Maintaining an updated understanding of cannabis laws and industry trends also contributes to a dispensary’s reputation and credibility. Dispensaries that demonstrate a commitment to compliance and industry best practices are perceived as responsible and reliable businesses. A positive reputation enhances customer trust and loyalty, which are critical factors for long-term success in the cannabis industry.
Staying updated with cannabis laws, regulations, and industry trends is an ongoing responsibility that enables dispensaries to operate legally, responsibly, and competitively in a highly regulated and rapidly evolving industry.
Conclusion: The Future of Cannabis Marketing
The cannabis industry continues to evolve, and so should your marketing strategies. Embracing creativity, innovation, and customer-centric approaches will position your dispensary for success in this dynamic market. By implementing these strategies and staying ahead of industry developments, you can unlock the full potential of cannabis marketing and secure a prosperous future for your dispensary.