The cannabis world is constantly changing so quickly it can be hard to keep up. More states are beginning to open their eyes and decriminalize the plant. As cannabis becomes more mainstream and accepted, the businesses in the industry will be met with ever-changing regulatory conditions and guidelines. Here are ten trends we think can help keep your cannabusiness ahead of the curve.
Evolving Cannabis Consumer Profiles
Cannabis users are looking for lifestyle content that isn’t so stoner-centric and breaks away from the classic stereotypes. New customers can’t relate as well to the old stoner quips and will be looking for a more mainstream and consumer-friendly experience. Try providing that in the form of Buzzfeed-style quizzes, brand activations, partnerships with local media across print and digital platforms, and creating email marketing campaigns users resonate with.
Additionally, SMS and MMS has been huge in getting larger, more consistent purchases from existing customers. Text message open rates are as high as 98% compared to just 20% of all emails.
Inbound marketing is king in the cannabis industry – especially since we can’t use traditional advertising. Your email list and referral marketing can be some of the most effective tools to help grow your business.
In a survey, 82% of respondents said they seek recommendations from friends and family when considering a new purchase. We suspect this number to be higher in the emerging cannabis industry since there are so many options to pick from without any truly established name brands.
People will bring their business to the companies that have been vetted by the ones they trust — especially for first-time customers. And these new customers will be expecting a professional brand and atmosphere.
Utilize Local Tactics and Storytelling
Two things we’ll see more of next year are hyper-local tactics and humanizing storytelling—both focused on mainstreaming cannabis. Because every market has different regulations and is in different stages of maturation, the cannabis industry is all about catering to local tastes.
To make up for limited advertising opportunities, cannabis companies should invest more time in developing a brand ambassador network, creating educational content, and crafting a cohesive narrative across your online channels. Creative loyalty programs, special rewards, and sales will continue to excite customers about brands and products in a way that encourages them to share your brand and their stories with others.
We’ve started to see mainstream companies and public figures investing in the cannabis industry meaning top talent and agencies are starting to work with cannabis brands to tell relatable stories around the benefits of cannabis use. Local cannabis businesses should help craft their story by requesting honest reviews from customers. This helps pull back the curtain of the cannabis world and allow for less intimidating interactions with potential new customers. Seeing reviews from people in their own community is a good step to building trust and authority in your area.
Multi-Channel Marketing Strategies and Better Product Designs
The cannabis industry is continually raising the bar and existing customers are getting savvier. Consumers and upgraded retail stores demand upgraded product and packaging design with a high perceived value. It is critical that brands recognize the changes in the landscape and evolve with it.
Walls are beginning to come down as brands begin to enter large systematic retargeting campaigns and identifying lookalike audiences. The future looks bright for large scale digital campaigns and data science will start playing a vital role in the growth of the cannabis industry. Being able to track and monitor your business’ performance will become essential.
As more venues open up to the industry, the more sophisticated brands will be in the best position to be able to capture an exponentially larger market share. They will be the ones trusted to partner with larger events outside of the cannabis industry that will unlock untapped markets in the future.
Be A Cannabis Educator
Educate, educate, educate.
And then educate some more.
There are so many products, brands, and regulations in the market, one of the most effective strategies to differentiate yourself is to be the true trusted advisor for cannabis education. Seemingly obvious questions can be intimidating to ask for new cannabis customers. How to properly roll a joint, how to use different types of marijuana products, how much THC should they consume, the laws in your local area — there are hundreds of topics to cover. Be open and honest with them. There are no dumb questions in the cannabis world.
There will be many first-timers and new customers looking to purchase marijuana legally and the process can be intimidating. No one likes to feel like they don’t know what they’re doing or that they don’t belong. You’ll gain a customer for life by being patient and accommodating.
Incorporating education as an essential part of your business, you become a generous brand that builds credibility and visibility with their customers. You’ll be the go-to source for new clients entering the cannabis market.
Utilizing the Power of SEO
Overcoming the restrictions on traditional ad platforms (Google, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.) can lift your brand far above the competition. Because of these limitations, search engines and not social media are your most valuable online asset. With social media limited and the cannabis industry still in its infancy, the majority of cannabis related traffic is coming from search engines. This is why it is so important to optimize your SEO and be use your online presence to educate.
We focus on organic search traffic through keyword and content campaigns for cannabis-related keywords – either on-page or off-page with content campaigns with selected publishers to drive organic traffic. Because of the compounding effect of SEO, this is one of the best investments a brand can make.
To win the market share of your local area you can either be the best or you can be first. Right now, you have a chance to be first and obtain as much market share and social currency online before your competitors. By investing in SEO now, it ensures you’ll be the best later.
Additionally, capturing leads and emails is super important once your traffic reaches your websites. With the limitation on advertising channels, email and direct marketing become essential for effective cannabis marketing efforts. This allows you to sell to customers on a re-occurring basis and drastically increases the lifetime value of a single client.
Constantly Changing Laws and Regulations
An important thing to remember is to be diligent in understanding the laws and regulations in the cannabis industry.
This is not like a typical market with straightforward laws across the board. You have to be careful with what you say and how you present your products. New directives will continue to come down that will affect what you can put on your packaging and your websites. The understanding of these changes is essential to building a brand and effectively marketing it.
Try to build your cannabis business while worrying about continually changing regulations can be difficult. It could be a good idea to hire consultants to make sure your brand follows applicable laws, so you can focus on building your brand and making sales.
PS. Our friends over at Loud Consulting can ensure your business stays in the green if you need help with the ever-changing legal landscape.
Nothing Beats Human Connection
Cannabis advertising is the most creative industry you can get into. As we look to the future, we’re seeing increased brand competition, limited avenues for advertising, and more consumers interested in dipping their toes in the water.
Brands that want to be successful must continue to look for unexpected & meaningful ways to make a connection with consumers. At a higher level, brands should look towards channels like native advertising to drive clicks and traffic through a content approach.
However, nothing beats human connection. Making the customer experience as seamless and welcoming as possible when entering your business will go a long way to keeping them as repeat customers.
As the legal market for cannabis continues to grow and the competition gets more fierce, the successful brands will be the ones that are able to deliver real value via a quality product and education that helps normalize our rapidly growing and blossoming world of cannabis.
Specialized Cannabis Agency Partnerships
There are a few key strategies to differentiate and promote your brand in the evolving cannabis market that are guaranteed to help grow your business.
First, hiring an experienced digital marketing agency that knows the cannabis landscape (*cough cough* Gro Digital knows a thing or two about this). They can provide good data starting with SEO and content marketing – imperative to move your site up in Google rankings. Incorporate keywords on your site and in your blog. Educate the consumer (again). It’s good for the industry and it’s great content.
Make sure the SEO team creates tags and backlinks to help boost your site. Our hyper local ads are a great additional to quickly build backlinks and bring authority to your brand.
To get around Facebook restrictions, work with influencers with 10,000 or more followers who are a good match for cannabis-related content and can support boosting sales with solid product reviews. Influencers local to your area will have a much stronger reach to gain traffic and should be prioritized over follower count. A hundred followers that buy is a lot better than 10,000 followers that just like the post.
Hopefully, Google, Facebook and Instagram will start to change their policies regarding the cannabis industry and advertising, especially as legalization is on the verge of happening nationwide.
In the meantime, a multi-faceted cannabis marketing agency can increase qualified site traffic with PPC and increase onsite conversions through retargeting solutions. Adding other digital marketing assets into your marketing strategy is certainly worth the ROI and can give you an extra edge. Plus, it’s measurable compared to display advertisements. At Gro Digital, we even provide our clients with a dashboard that shows real-time traffic and ranking improvements for your website and digital campaigns.
The Consumer and Your Brand Story
Strong and consistent storytelling is a strong indicator of brand awareness and customer retention. Having a unique brand story that aligns with the brand’s values can help you stand out, be heard, and hook new consumers.
Communicate your story through videos and every in-person interaction to make it a part of your overall brand message. Brand stories are most effective when the consumer is the hero of the story. Research shows that millennials will spend more for brands that align with their values, so incorporate what you stand for as part of your story in order to stand out.
Additionally, consistently increasing the level of sophistication of their marketing and advertising will be a huge advantage. When there is less competition, it’s easy to gain traction. But with more brands emerging each year, companies need to use all of the channels and platforms that make sense for their audience. Creating processes, defining KPIs and eliminating what doesn’t work are a few ways to increase traction and results!
Experiential Cannabis Marketing
There has been a definitive shift towards experiential cannabis marketing on the brand level (brands sponsoring events, festivals, concerts) and away from the older more traditional static methods of advertising.
This innovative new industry is looking for exciting ways to reach its audience in unique and groundbreaking fashions. Unique forms of digital advertising have significantly increased after the adoption of Proposition 64 relaxed a large portion of online entities that would not accept any forms of cannabis advertising.
Social media channels are still the popular choice as they were the first to accept types of cannabis marketing into the online word. However, cannabis marketers are still ravenous for unique, innovative ways to reach their audience. Creating an engaging social media persona that focuses on education and the experience of the cannabis world without selling opens up opportunities to build your base and turn cold leads to customers.
In summary, the cannabis industry is still in its infant stages compared to most other industries. There is not a long track record of business strategies and growth techniques to copy that will guarantee your company will be a success. There are no giant national brands that dominate the market. The cannabis frontier is still the unexplored wilderness and you’ll need to experiment with what works best for you and your brand.
Ultimately, focusing your attention on your customers and a few proven marketing tactics will give you the best chance for success.
In today’s digital world, your online presence is one of the most important assets you own. Having a clean and professional website, strong SEO strategy, and a commitment to educating your ideal customer will have long-lasting benefits that will help your cannabusiness remain successful for years to come.