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Marijuana Marketing: How to Market a Cannabis Brand in 2020

Marijuana marketing may well be a taboo topic forever. After all, we can’t deny that cannabis is a drug that shouldn’t be sold to minors. But Canada and many of the United States have made illegal cannabis a part of the past. That means someone needs to sell it, and to make sales, you need marketing.

The question is, how do you market such a plant effectively while obeying all the rules, and staying off the platforms that forbid it? That’s exactly what this guide will explain. We’ll examine some of the best tactics for marketing a cannabis brand, as well as common pitfalls to avoid.

If you’re looking to take the Do-It-Yourself route to marijuana marketing, this article is a great place to start. If you’re ready to invest in your cannabis business, feel free to contact us for a free consultation.

What is Marijuana Marketing and What Makes It Difficult?

As much as the team at 2Marketing loves our work, even we must admit it can be difficult at times. In the world of digital marketing things are constantly changing, and as industry experts we have to move fast to keep up. Running successful marketing campaigns is not an easy task, so imagine how much more difficult it gets when you’re fenced in by laws and restrictions.

Why is It Important to Market a Cannabis Brand?

You might be thinking that marijuana would sell itself, and that could be true in some cases. But the cannabis community is a competitive market. To make an impact in it, you need to do something to stand out… just not the wrong thing.

How Do You Get Started Marketing a Marijuana Company?

The first step is to focus on your target audience – your ideal customers. Here are some potential questions you might ask yourself before getting started.

  • Will you be selling primarily to consumers in their twenties, forties, or seventies? 
  • Will your customers be primarily one gender, or an even mix? 
  • Will you target existing cannabis users, or those who may be interested in trying it? 
  • Will you sell for medicinal or recreational purposes?

Answering these questions will give you an idea of who your target audience is and what it’ll take for them to fall in love with your brand. In most cases, some combination of the strategies outlined here will be effective.

Before we get into the marketing though, let’s talk a bit about cannabis branding.

What to Consider About Marijuana Branding

Before you launch into your marketing strategies, it’s important that you have clear brand positioning and promises, and strong brand assets. 

Brand positioning is an internal understanding of who you are and what you do as a business. Brand promises are what you’ll consistently deliver to your customers. Brand assets are elements such as colors, fonts, logos and other designs/images, business cards, and so on.

Be careful when hiring designers to create your brand assets – branding a cannabis company in 2020 and beyond requires care and finesse. It may be worth paying for an experienced design team that knows how to communicate your intent with colors and symbols.

Start Organic and Local

Much like the best vegetables (and the best cannabis), the best marijuana marketing campaigns will have powerful organic and local elements. By “organic” we mean a focus on content creation vs. paid traffic. By focusing on your local area first, you’ll be able to find more support and save on some shipping expenses.

How to Market Marijuana Locally and Organically

Content creation is the cornerstone of most organic campaigns, but it’s important to get creative in the cannabis space. It’s also important to consult a lawyer / legal counsel and make sure you’re doing everything you can to be in compliance with legislation. Here are some great ways to get started locally:

  • If you have a physical storefront, hold an open house event and work on your local SEO
  • If you have a dispensary, contact local cannabis directories such as Cannasaver.com to see about getting included
  • Run a limited time promotional campaign focused on customer acquisition rather than profits
  • Give your customers reasons to come back, and to tell their friends (word of mouth marketing still works!)

For your digital approach, here are some easy ways to get started organically:

  • Lock down your brand social media accounts – Facebook groups can be a great source of traffic, and Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram all have thriving cannabis communities. Social media is an easy (and free) place to get started with content creation
  • Create a blog and/or podcast and upload educational content as well as updates on your business’ progress
  • Collect email addresses from people who visit your website and remarket to those who sign up

These are some of the most effective methods we’ve witnessed and used for marijuana based businesses. Whether you focus on one of them or create a plan based around all of them, they should give you a running start when communicating with the cannabis community.

Grow Your Business Like (a) Weed

Cannabis is a hearty plant that can persist in harsh environments once it sets down its roots. Your business should be the same way. Once you have found a niche to fulfill and built some local organic momentum, grow into new spaces and weather any storms. This is when it may make sense to delve into paid advertising, influencer marketing, and affiliate/referral marketing.

Where and How to Advertise a Cannabis Brand

Right now popular ad networks like Google and Facebook are not allowing ads related to cannabis. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use paid media to supplement your organic reach. Here’s a list of platforms that not only permit but encourage cannabis and CBD marketing.

  • Safe-Reach
  • Outbrain
  • Taboola
  • Yelp

Let’s take a quick look at each of these advertising networks and examine their potential pros and cons.

Advertising With Safe-Reach

Safe-Reach is a full service media buying group and a self-serve ad platform rolled into one. Their entire business model is based around advertising Cannabis and CBD in full compliance with legislation. Safe-Reach can help you put your ads in front of interested potential visitors on relevant cannabis and CBD websites. They currently don’t have a system for advertising on mobile apps, but are fully integrated with many marijuana oriented websites.

Advertising With Outbrain

Outbrain is an ad platform that uses programmatic advertising (as well as other forms of smart ads) to maximize your spend. They permit cannabis related ads and can help you target the right kinds of websites to attract the audience you need.

Advertising With Taboola

Taboola is known for their “recommended for you” type ads appearing around articles on a variety of niche websites. Taboola’s purpose is to help people target “what’s interesting and new in the moment of next.” Naturally, this includes cannabis ads.

Advertising With Yelp

Using Yelp ads for cannabis can actually be incredibly simple, because Yelp has a “managed” ad option in addition to the traditional self-service option. This is a great option for cannabis businesses because you run much less risk of your ads being considered noncompliant. There is one caveat though; if you don’t have a great rating on Yelp, it will be hard for you to use their ads to attract customers.

How to Use Affiliate Marketing and Referrals

If you want to grow your reach in the marijuana space, implementing an affiliate program and/or referral program can give you a big boost. Of course, many of your competitors will be doing the same thing. Here are some tips to help you stand out from the crowd:

  • Go big or go home. Make sure that your business has suitable profit margins, and give your affiliates something serious to think about when it comes to their payouts.
  • Give your affiliates MORE than a payout to think about. Brainstorm ways you can give back to your affiliates other than fattening their wallets.
  • Upgrade the best performers and form partnerships. If one or two people are making 80% of your affiliate sales, it might make sense to get to know them.

If you get the right people giving you referrals, you can increase your traffic and brand awareness exponentially. Tune.com is one example of a platform you can use to manage your affiliates.

Find New Audiences Through Influencer Marketing

If you can identify an influencer in your niche with a highly engaged audience, it may be worth approaching them. While there are a number of approaches to take and strategies to use, the common thread among all of them is that you need to be prepared to handle a spike in traffic. If an influencer sends 1000 visitors to your website and it crashes or your optin form doesn’t work, you’ll have wasted any effort and money you put into working with them.

Developing Your “Dream 100” Ideal Customers

In addition to approaching influencers who may be willing to work with you, it’s important to build your brand in such a way that eventually those influencers approach you. This is known as the Dream 100 tactic, and when done correctly it seems almost like a magic trick.

In order to develop your dream one hundred, the first thing you need is a list of your hundred most ideal customers. These aren’t figments of your imagination or “buyer personas” – they should be real people you’d really like to sell to and/or work with. Once you have the list, start figuring out where they spend their time and money – especially online.

Build out a list of websites, forums, blogs, Facebook groups and LinkedIn groups, subreddits, and anywhere else that your ideal customers are spending time online. These are the types of places where you should seek not only to advertise, but to build authority, trust, and authentic relationships.

A Last Look at Marketing To the Cannabis Community

Marijuana digital marketing is still in its infancy, and the green gold rush for marijuana marketers is likely just getting started. As the laws and regulations surrounding cannabis sales and marketing are relaxed and/or become more familiar, more strategies will become available. In 2020, the techniques we mentioned above are the ones we’ve found to be most effective. Let us know if you want help implementing them in your business!

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