While cannabis is legal for recreational and medical use to varying degrees across the United States, it remains illegal at the federal level. If you’re reading this article, chances are you’re no stranger to the challenges the changing laws present to cannabis businesses. These laws and rules create similar obstacles when it comes to digital marketing for cannabis businesses. However, digital marketing isn’t totally off the table for dispensaries and cannabis businesses. If you’re new to the game and wondering where to start, you’re in good hands. Here’s a brief rundown of things you’ll need to know – and the basics to get you started.
What to Know About Marketing a Dispensary
Before we dive into the most effective digital marketing strategies for your dispensary, let’s talk logistics. You already know that the tumultuous legality of cannabis makes doing business a challenge. Turns out, it impacts your ability to market your business as well. Here are some things to keep in mind.
Paid Ads Are a No-Go
We’ll save you the trouble of reading through the Google Ads policies and just tell you this: using any Google platform to sell a substance that is federally regulated isn’t allowed. While you could try to design a website that doesn’t mention any sort of cannabis-related trigger words (the list is long), getting caught can mean a complete ban from the Google Ads platform. Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram are the same way. But here’s the secret about paid ads like these: they’re hard to do successfully if you’re brand new to marketing. Not sure where to start? You’re better off using our Pyramid of Success to build a foundation for marketing your business.
Know Your State’s Laws
Not only does the sale of cannabis and CBD vary by state, but advertising rules vary by state too. Some places, such as California, prohibit ads to audiences under 21. Some states have no rules at all. Use the rules your state has in place to inform your marketing strategy – and consult them frequently as you go about planning. In many states, imagery depicting cannabis consumption is prohibited.
How to Market a Cannabis Dispensary
Now that you know what you’re up against, it’s time to start figuring out which marketing strategies will be the most effective for your business.
Build a Website
Digital marketing begins and ends with your website. You probably aren’t using business cards that are hand-drawn with crayons, right? A bad website is the digital equivalent. What does “bad” mean in the context of a website? It’s more than just bad design. What’s under the hood of your website is just as important as what users are seeing.
Here’s a short list of signs a website is high-quality:
- It loads quickly
- It’s easy for a visitor to navigate and use the site
- It has an updated security certificate
- Your business contact information is easy to access
- Placing orders is easy and secure
Improve Your Local SEO
If you’re trying to get on the radar of customers in a specific area, local search is the way to go. Many online directories and search engines will automatically generate a listing for your business, and these listings often contain incomplete or incorrect info. If your business is new, it pays to get ahead of this while you can. If you’ve been around for a while, claim your listings and take control of the information they’re displaying as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the weirder your listings will get. Both Google and Apple have platforms for businesses to claim their listings and add their information. It’s worth it to create listings on places like Yelp and TripAdvisor too, since that information is often added to online listings.
In addition, dispensary directories such as Leafly and WeedMaps are a good way to make sure your business is showing up locally. There are lots of these directories to choose from, so you’ll have to decide which ones are most effective in your state, and how many you want to spend time submitting listings to.
Create Social Media
We’ve already established that social ads are off the table for pretty much all social media platforms and unsurprisingly, there are restrictions on non-ad content as well. Staying within the parameters of what’s allowed on social media is a constant battle for dispensaries. For that reason, social media is third on this list. Social media still offers a lot of opportunities for dispensaries as far as brand building, creating a following, and connecting with customers. But it takes time to figure out what works.
If this sounds frustratingly vague, that’s because it unfortunately is. Even for non-cannabis businesses, being successful on social media requires a ton of trial and error. The rules add a whole new complexity to the equation. It can be done, however, and should be done in order to connect with your customers.
Outline Your Review Strategy
Reviews are good, and you’re going to need them. Customers and search engines alike look at business reviews to get a sense of how customers feel about your business, as well as what services you’re offering, so coming up with a strategy to get reviews from your customers ahead of time will benefit you. Automated requests for reviews – whether through email or text message – are the easiest way to generate more. It’s less work for you and helps make sure no review opportunities are missed.
When Should You Start?
Ideally, you’ll have these things in place before you open your doors. Pre-launch marketing campaigns are a good time to start testing different ideas and seeing what works. Remember, every business starts somewhere, and there’s no such thing as too soon when it comes to marketing.
Need help growing your cannabis business? MyAdvice has been creating digital marketing strategies for businesses for 20 years. We love working with dispensaries and cannabis retailers of all sizes to grow their online presence. Contact us to see what we can do for you.