Cannabis was deemed essential during the 2020 global pandemic, and now four new states have voted to legalize recreational cannabis here in the United States. Whether you’re a dispensary in an already established market or planning to open your first cannabis dispensary in an up-and-coming market, how you approach marketing moving forward is critical. Cannabis is only going to continue to normalize and competition in all markets is only going to increase.

The purpose of this blog is to explain some of the challenges of marketing a marijuana dispensary – while providing 8 cannabis marketing tips that any dispensary can follow to establish a solid foundation for their marketing platform.

What are some of the challenges when marketing a cannabis dispensary?

One of the main challenges when marketing a dispensary that many don’t realize, is the fact that you’re putting in a brick-and-mortar retail location that’s going to sell a product that has had a stigma for almost a century, with people still in jail for it. Most dispensaries are located in the more populated area of any town, so each citizen is going to have his or her own feelings about a dispensary now being around.

Unlike standard retail, however, cannabis dispensaries are very limited on how they can present information such as special offers, pricing, and certain claims. Regardless, there’s always some type of risk involved in cannabis marketing and advertising. Even on the most common marketing and advertising platforms, such as Google or Facebook, there is zero cannabis dispensary advertising allowed. When looked at from an organic social media marketing perspective – pricing, consumption content, claims, and certain calls to action are limited.

As you can see, even the most general brick-and-mortar marketing principles are limited in the cannabis space. Universally, it’s tough for a cannabis organization to navigate compliance in any area of their business. Marketing, advertising, and every aspect of the business all have rules and regulations that vary state to state. For example, our client Lazy River Products is unable to print their branding on swag, accessories, etc., because there is a specific rule in Massachusetts marijuana policy forbidding them to do so.

8 Marketing Tips To Address These Challenges as a Dispensary:

1) Strong and Distinct Dispensary Branding, Identity and Logo

  • Branding is what gives an organization emotion, a vibe, a story, expectations, memories and behavior. This is how an organization can distinguish themselves within the market, break down barriers in communities and make an impact on the future of their business from the start.
  • Brand Identity is what defines the collateral, messaging, stance, color system, and fonts that represent the brand. Dispensaries have a lot of places to print and digitally incorporate their branding, especially if they’re a fully integrated dispensary. In this case, the business is responsible for its own grow, lab, manufacturing, products, dispensary operations, etc.
  • Logo Design is the first touch with consumers, community, etc. It is a great way to make a solid first impression. Your logo defines the symbol, colors, words and shape that visually defines your branding. It’s great to have a clean and distinct image that can be used in small and large sizes, digitally or printed.

2) Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

  • CSR is defined as a self-regulating business model that helps a company be socially accountable – to itself, it’s stakeholders, and the public. As a cannabis dispensary, incorporating CSR into your business model and branding is a great way to help overcome some of the challenges faced by dispensaries in the community. (ie. Community food drive or trash clean-up)
  • Due to the impact cannabis prohibition and the War on Drugs has had on Disproportionately Impacted Areas, in addition to the fact that folks are still in prison for cannabis despite it being legal and essential in many states, it’s wise (and we feel obligatory) for dispensaries to educate stakeholders on this history and anti-racism material.

3) Custom Website Design and Development

  • Having the ability to customize and control your website design and development allows for more opportunity to incorporate branding, identity, logo design, and SEO tactics. As technology becomes more prevalent in the cannabis industry, a website that is agile and able to integrate certain features such as online ordering is critical to the success of a dispensary. We typically use WordPress to build our sites because it makes all of these aspects possible. A great example of a site that incorporates all of these elements would be the site we designed and developed for 906 Fire Station.
  • The downside to using a template or website builder such as Wix, is that you’re limited in regards to design, updates, SEO points, integrations, agility, and adaptability. As a dispensary, your website should be a long term investment and solution for your business.

4) Monthly SEO Program and Analytical Report

  • You can learn more about what SEO is and its importance to the cannabis industry by reading our previous blog. As competition continues to increase in the dispensary space, you’ll learn that SEO can be a critical tool to your dispensary’s success.
  • As online ordering and cannabis education become more and more prevalent to legal cannabis consumers, establishing domain authority and ranking on search engines for strategic keywords above your competition is and will be more important than ever.
  • Using an SEO program to track your progress against your competition gives you a sense of where you are, so you can establish achievable goals and refine your on-going strategy over time.
  • We typically include blogging in our SEO program to boost keyword rankings, searchability, and keep content fresh for the site, social media and newsletter.

5) Daily Social Media Management and Engagement

  • Social media is an amazing tool to share branding, CSR, products, updates, etc.
  • Dispensaries attract many different types of demographics (age, hobbies, etc.) so it’s great to use many social platforms (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn).
  • It is smart for a dispensary to create a vibe and personality that helps make the community feel welcomed, and vice versa.
  • You can’t pay for advertising on social media, but there are ways to organically target and communicate with your audience:
    • Hashtags
    • Location tags
    • CSR
    • Working with local photographers
    • Great Content
    • A consistent and strategic social media program can do wonders for a dispensary, especially with great content!

6) High-Resolution and Creative Content Creation

  • As competition increases in stores and online, high-resolution photos and videos on your website, social media, newsletter, blog and ads will help increase conversions.
  • On average, we see high-resolution content outperform low-resolution content.
  • Making this content creative, unique, relevant and relatable can be very effective.
  • Planning out content a few months in advance can always be super helpful.

7) Public Relations (PR) and Custom Advertising Solutions

  • Local PR is a great way to expose a dispensary’s grand opening and CSR efforts can increase conversion rates and brand awareness. For fully integrated organizations who are expanding nationally, we’d suggest more long-term local and national PR campaigns.
  • As mentioned previously, standard social media and SEM methods do not work in most cases, but there are “advertising” solutions that can be strategized that include but are not limited to:
  • Compliant Display Ad Solution
    • Network
    • Media partner (Leafly, Weedmaps, etc)
  • Complaint Social Media Growth Campaign
    • Media partner
    • Influencers
    • Local Businesses
  • Compliant CSR Ad Campaign
    • Safe alternate domain
    • Safe alternate social media

8) Dispensary Text Loyalty and Email Marketing

  • Two great places to direct your current and new customers are your email marketing and text loyalty programs. Not only is it a direct way to reach them, but it’s also an opportunity to communicate information you may not be able to share on social media or ads.
  • Email marketing can help with:
    • Updates
    • Campaigns
    • Specials
    • Pricing
  • Text Loyalty can help with:
    • Direct Non-filtered Communication
    • Updates
    • Pricing/Specials
    • Direct Customer Retention
  • Although texting is more direct and not as spam filtered as most email campaigns, we suggest utilizing both!

How can I prepare for this process as a dispensary owner with no background in marketing?

We strongly suggest executing a substantial amount of due diligence before diving into any cannabis project, especially a dispensary. There are a ton of legalities for dispensaries to navigate, and they range state to state at the moment. Also, some major points to consider are that it is time consuming and expensive to open a dispensary.

Once you have the right legal and business team in place, it’s smart to hire a CSR professional and a highly experienced and quality cannabis specific marketing agency, like PufCreativ. Taking these steps early on will set your brand up for success in the long term as a marijuana dispensary in a competitive market.

For more information and questions regarding our cannabis dispensary marketing programs, please email hello@pufcreativ.com

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