Marketing Your Cannabis Business

If you can’t tell by now, we’re big on the Cannabusiness. This new frontier for legal cannabis represents opportunities for a broad landscape of business types to monetize this “new” industry. One area we find particularly intriguing is the local market dispensary business.

Cannabis dispensaries are representing an ever growing and expanding marketplace. Federal, state and local law make each market unique in regards to volume and competition. As major markets like California and Washington move out of the “Initial launch” period of the industry factors like competitiveness and market share are becoming a large part of the strategic conversation for many of the brands and retailers we speak with in the space.

Since we are a marketing business we’re going to focus on what we know (and love!) Due to state by state nature of the business, dispensaries are required to keep their marketing campaigns within their state borders. On top of that many of the most commonly used local marketing strategies for non cannabis businesses have not yet adopted or accepted cannabis as an acceptable product to advertise within their walled gardens . These many obstacles can make it difficult to run an advertising campaign that allows you to reach the largest possible audience while still complying with regulations. This is usually where we would pitch you Safe-Reach, but for the sake of the blog….

The Challenges

The legal requirement to keep cannabis advertisements within certain state lines limits the size of your potential audience, but geo-targeting specific local markets can help you comply with regulations. Geo-targeting refers to the delivery of content or advertisements to a website/mobile user through their geographic location. For example, a dispensary in California will need to geo-target an audience who is over the age of 21 for their advertising campaigns. Geo-targeting a very specific audience can be viewed as a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be. The key is to use a platform that offers broad geo-targeting abilities.

With these requirements in mind, the goal is simple: to reach as many potential consumers and attract more local customers without targeting minors or people who live out-of-state. In most industries, the first step would be to use Google, Facebook or a different advertising platform and conduct a geo-targeted campaign. However, the challenge for those in the cannabis industry is the restrictive policies out in place by these platforms. Google, Facebook, and many other forms of traditional media prohibit cannabis-related ads.

Due to the limited avenues of advertising for dispensaries, many turn to popular websites like Weedmaps or Leafly. Businesses pay to advertise on these sites in an attempt to draw in more customers. But simply because these websites are available, doesn’t mean that they’re the best option for advertising your business. It’s important to look at the ROI and eCPM of your campaigns when paying for an individual website and compare it to campaigns run on Safe Reach that reach a broad range of publishers.

Many of the aforementioned canna-specific resources are great for getting the market that is actively looking for your product. But, as competition grows, the ability to reach consumers interested but not yet actively looking in niche or industry based platforms will become the key to market domination.

Questions to Consider Before Conducting Local Campaigns

Before committing your marketing budget for any specific campaign, consider the following questions:

1. How many total unique visitors does the website or app reach?

A service can claim to reach millions of visitors, and that response can be misleading. It’s important to consider how many unique visitors they get during a specific timeframe.

Additionally, ask the seller about their reach in your local target market. You want to be sure you’re making unique impressions on people within your target state or metro area.

2. How much will this campaign cost?

After identifying a campaign’s potential reach, you will want to budget for how much it will cost. Most advertising campaigns are sold on a cost-per-click, cost-per-1,000 impressions or a cost-per-1,000-viewable impressions basis. Additionally, you could purchase ad space from publishers on a fixed monthly schedule. It’s crucial to compare the rates of various sellers to determine which offers the most value to your company.

Balancing the cost to reach these customers against the ROI each customer you can reach is a challenge all business need to manage diligently. Online advertising can be a true accelerator of growth when done correctly, it can also be a black hole of negative ROI if done hastily.

3. How much competition is there for this target audience’s attention?

What will your Share of Voice (SOV) be with a specific ad partner? A website could be reaching a million people a month, but if you share that add space with nine other advertisers, that cuts your potential audience size to ~100,000 visitors.

If you’re already using an online tool or website to market your services, check to be sure your campaign is getting the reach you expect in your target market.

Attribution – How do you know it works? Print ads can be brought in to the store. Coupons cut from circulars are redeemed in person. How do you know your audience from the ad campaign came and transacted with your brand? Most platforms and services have a quagmire of helpful and sometimes slanted ways to validate the efficacy of their service. We encourage all business owners to start understanding

  1. UTM coding, goal setting in Google Analytics
  2. Cross Device and Conversion Pixel Tracking
  3. Offline Audience Attribution – Using a service like Safe-Reach that operates with onboarded audience, we can provide a postal file of all of the qualified consumers who received your ad (for validation and compliance reasons)
    1. Are you flagging this data against POS data you collect to validate who received your ad and then bought from you? Are you measuring the total value of sales against campaign spend to calculate ROI?

Digital Media is booming because more and more people are spending more and more time on connected devices. Cannabis is unique in that avenues to reach this growing audience are limited in scale. Understanding basic advertising principles and then implementing them effectively where possible is a game that all cannabis business should be getting involved with.

Perhaps one day in the coming years all of the available strategies for all businesses will be available for the cannabis business, but for now, businesses with an ear to the street for strategy and innovation will have a major leg up in the game of new customer acquisition.