In the conversations we have about cannabis digital marketing, the first thing many people bring up is the lack of access to paid ads on Facebook, Google, and other mainstream ad networks. And while those limitations do exist, we say let’s focus instead on what we can do. There are so many creative and realistic ways to use digital marketing to build you cannabis brand!
Here are five cannabis marketing strategies that prioritize digital marketing channels:
1. Understand the limitations particular to cannabis businesses
Cannabis businesses start with a handicap not faced by mainstream companies: A prohibition of your content. MMJ marketing necessitates sharing a product that is not legal everywhere, which means it cannot be legally shown everywhere. Understanding the regulations you’ll face in advertising, packaging design and labeling, and marketing is a good place to start. Because if you create a dynamic campaign but don’t do the necessary due diligence, you may wind up with a brilliant ad laying by Facebook’s wayside.
2. Make a balanced Digital Marketing Strategy
What does a digital marketing strategy include? As a plan for your company, it should have a series of actions to complete along the way, and tools for evaluating their effectiveness. You should plan for a balance of owned, earned, and paid media.
Owned is your online extension of your brand, which lives through your website and social media channels. Earned comes through people finding you and telling others about you, and a good way to garner more of this kind is through developing a SEO strategy and by creating good content for people to engage with when they do find you.
3. Grow an organic social media following
Marketing cannabis is difficult outside of mainstream channels, but it is not impossible. Knowing that word of mouth is crucial to the cannabis industry, focus on finding your mouthpieces. The champions for your products don’t always have to be paid influencers. But you won’t find these people to tout your products if you don’t engage with them in a meaningful way. Social media gives you a platform to show your brand’s sense of humor, unique voice, and mission. It also gives you the space to dialogue with your customers—those future mouthpieces—and ask for feedback. If/when you go the paid influencer route, find those that fit your brand and already have the audience that you’re looking to reach.
4. Use cannabis-friendly ad networks
Plenty of ad networks have entered the scene in an attempt to prevent a Google AdSense monopoly. The only catch: Most of them won’t host ads by cannabis brands. Fear not! Some ad networks have popped up specifically to tackle this problem. Traffic Roots and Mantis are two such options. Traffic Roots touts its ability to connect advertisers with niche audiences through a “network of branded lifestyle websites,” and within this network they’ve curated a number of sites where cannabis ads perform. Mantis promises to reach “the world’s largest audience of millennials” and it does it by targeting ads to specific countries, states/regions, and zip codes.
5. Always have a Plan B
As you consider how to grow your cannabis brand, make sure to leave room for the unpredictable and unknowable. This industry is changing faster than most of us expected, and there are plenty of cannabis businesses now relegated to history because they couldn’t keep up with regulations.
Your digital marketing strategy should include options. Is your brand not doing well in 280-character tweets? Perhaps see how you do with room to creatively stretch out in a blog post or eblast. Has your influencer said something regrettable (and screenshot-able)? Have a plan for how to do damage control. Consider one of the biggest triumphs in cannabis advertising of 2019: When Acreage Holdings spent a hefty sum of money on their Super Bowl ad and CBS said no thanks, they posted it on their YouTube channel and used the buzz from the story of it being rejected to garner nearly a half million views.
Having an established and vibrant online presence is no longer a complementary piece of your marketing strategy; it is essential. Make your cannabis digital marketing strategy as innovative as your products and services, take some risks, and grow your brand with the same care as you grow cannabis.