As a canna-business, you face many challenges that businesses in other industries don’t. One of the biggest hurdles that businesses in the cannabis industry face is advertising. Advertising restrictions on the top digital platforms restrict canna-businesses from promoting their businesses online.
So, how can you reach new customers without traditional advertising? There are several powerful marketing strategies that you can leverage to promote your canna-businesses and grow your customer base legally.
Here’s what you can do to promote your canna-business online.
Digital Advertising Challenges Canna-businesses Face
Many businesses in several industries rely heavily on digital advertising to raise brand awareness and target potential customers. Unfortunately, this is not as easy for canna-businesses who face strict regulations surrounding online advertising. For example, Facebook and Google account for half of the digital advertising dollars spent in the U.S., and they do not accept ad buys from canna-businesses. The big social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Pinterest all have policies that limit social media marketing and advertising for canna-businesses and ancillary business.
Here are some of the restrictions that cannabis businesses face:
- Paid cannabis advertising is not allowed on billboards.
- Google Ads are not allowed.
- Social media ads are not allowed.
- TV commercials are allowed under certain circumstances based on the state, local ordinances, and audiences.
- Print cannabis advertising is allowed under circumstances if there’s a proven audience over 21 and it abides by state laws.
While the future may hold promising changes, canna-businesses still face a lot of challenges when it comes to traditional marketing. According to the Marijuana Business Daily, Facebook announced that it would stop blocking marijuana-related searches back in October 2018, but within just one month Facebook and Instagram deactivated several accounts for marijuana companies.
7 Digital Advertising Alternatives for Cannabis Businesses
Unfortunately, canna-businesses face many advertising restrictions that may take a while to resolve based on the federal rules. However, that does not leave dispensaries hopeless. There are still many legal and productive ways for canna-businesses to promote their businesses online. Here are some of the best digital advertising alternatives for cannabis businesses:
Organic Social Media Marketing
While cannabis businesses cannot use paid ads on social media, they can still take advantage of organic social media marketing. It’s important to choose the social media platforms that will best reach your target audience, meaning you’ll likely want to pay attention to Instagram. Focus on building an organic reach by posting consistently. Use location tagging and relevant hashtags that include some trending, popular, branded, and niche hashtags. Share content that’s visually appealing, interesting, and informative for your target market. Interact and engage with customers by replying to comments, responding to DMs and questions, and reposting any content that others post about your business.
Part of your organic social media strategy should include user-generated content, images, pictures, and text created by those who use your products. A new survey from Visual Objects found that consumers prefer user-generated content on Instagram specifically. Consumers enjoy UGC because they find it helpful to see the company’s products from a peers’ perspective. Generally, consumers find UGC more trustworthy and authentic than branded content.
Some UGC may occur naturally when customers post about their experiences with your products, but you can also do some things to encourage them. Here are some ways to increase the likelihood and impact of UGC:
- Repost when others share about your store or products. Monitor your mentions, branded hashtags, and tagged photos so you can spot UGC quickly.
- Thank users for their content. Interact by leaving a relevant comment.
- Encourage customers to leave UGC in your store. Provide a business card with your social media handles asking to hear about their experiences, or send a similar message via email after purchase.
Influencers and ambassadors are another part of social media marketing that can be very effective for canna-businesses. Makes sure that any potential influencers comply with the regulations surrounding cannabis advertising, meaning they are of legal age and in a state that allows it. Focus more on the relevance of the influencer rather than the size. The best influencers for your canna-business are ones who already engage with your target image and match your brand image. If the influencer is paid for the published content, then you must both disclose the content was sponsored. However, you may also be able to get some influencers to post in exchange for gifted products.
There’s a couple of ways to get influencers. For one, you can search for and reach out to relevant influencers, proposing a collaboration. Search through hashtags and see if any potential candidates already interact with your content. Additionally, you can share posts stating that you’re looking for influencers/ambassadors. Post on your social media asking anyone interested to contact you, add a page for influencers or ambassadors to apply on your website, and promote the information in your store as well.
Search Engine Optimization for Canna-Businesses
Since you cannot use Google ads, your website must rank high. The higher your page ranks for relevant search results, the more potential customers you can reach. SEO is a proven system of strategies for optimizing your website that can help you climb the search rankings and gain organic traffic.
Unless you have someone experienced in SEO on your team, you may need to outsource your SEO services. SEO marketing is essential for appearing well in Google’s organic search. You’ll want to optimize your site for cannabis-related keywords as well as location keywords. Whether you tackle SEO yourself or hire an expert, it should include:
- Keyword research
- Competitor research
- Content creation (service pages, website content, a blog)
- Meta tags
- Product images
- Site architecture
- Mobile site optimization
Content creation is part of SEO and can help your website rank higher, but it’s also its strategy. Create great content to provide value to your current and potential customers. You should have a blog on your website with content, but you can also repurpose the content for social media posts, email newsletters, and more. Your content strategy can and should include other mediums, like video, which we will touch on shortly.
Essentially, content marketing is about publishing useful content that your audience will like and share on their own. Through your content strategy, you’ll build your brand awareness and industry authority, so that those customers who saw your content will be more likely to purchase from you. While you can touch on your products or occasionally feature them in your content, the purpose of your content should be to provide value to your customers, not to just promote your products.
Here are a few ideas for content:
- Cannabis industry news
- “How-to” posts that explain how to use cannabis products
- Posts explaining different benefits related to cannabis
- Spotlights featuring influencers or other interesting people relevant to your brand
- Health and wellness content
Video is an engaging form of your content that can be very effective for canna-businesses. Video marketing is incredibly effective because it grabs the attention of people more than text or images. Markets see such a powerful ROI from video content that 99% of them will continue to use it next year. Additionally, 95% plan to increase or maintain their current spending on video marketing.
While it will take a bit more time and resources to create high-quality videos, it will be worth it for your canna-business. You can incorporate video into your overall digital marketing strategy in many ways. Share via social media stories and/or posts. Create YouTube videos and embed them into your website content or share them on social media. Here are a few ideas:
- How-to videos
- Unboxing videos
- Behind the scenes of your company
- New product announcements
- Educational content
- Video versions of blog posts
- Interviews with influencers
Podcasts are another great way to market your cannabis business. As of 2020, 55% of the US population has listened to a podcast, up 4% from the year before. Podcasts are a growing medium, and they allow people to listen while exercising, walking, driving, etc. Podcasting can fit in seamlessly with your content creation strategy, as you can share them on your social media, create blogs out of them, and even film podcasts to post as audio and videos so people can consume them how they like.
You can create your podcast with a small investment in equipment, but podcasts can be challenging to keep up with. You could focus on seasonal podcasts rather than weekly podcasts to reduce the demand for creating podcasts. Another option is to pitch to be a guest on a relevant podcast. You could look at health and wellness podcasts, or cannabis-specific podcasts like Cannabis Health Radio, Potcast, or Green Rush Ventures to name a few.
Start Effectively Marketing Your Canna-business Online
Businesses in the cannabis industry certainly face challenges when it comes to traditional advertising. There are many tight rules and restrictions on cannabis advertising, but canna-businesses can still legally promote themselves using the strategies above.
To get started with online marketing for your canna-businesses, you’ll need the best cannabis-specific POS available. Industry-leading POS, Anthea powered by RCS, is a comprehensive dispensary retail management system that will provide you with all of the customer insights you need to guide your digital marketing strategies. You’ll get all of the data you need about your customers to make smart business decisions including advertising and marketing. Learn more about how Anthea will help your canna-business with the digital marketing strategies above by requesting your free demo.