Advertising vs Marketing Techniques for Cannabis Dispensaries & Businesses
In today’s blog post we will talk about Advertising VS Marketing your Cannabis business, discuss how they are different, and then we’ll look at 10 marketing methods you can use to turbocharge your sales in the cannabis industry.
It is important to first understand how advertising and marketing are interrelated before we get in to the specifics of how to do marketing in the tightly regulated Cannabis industry.
Advertising is a form of marketing. Marketing is much bigger than just advertising. Marketing includes selling, advertising, and communicating messages with your customers. Advertising is a small part of the marketing equation and has become less effective in an age where the average person sees 4000+ ads per day. In today’s hyper-connected world, two-way communication between your brand and your customer is the most effective form of marketing in 2017. We’ll get into how to do this shortly.
What is advertising?
Advertising 99% of the time involves your business paying money to another third-party business in exchange for displaying your message to their audience. This represents the opportunity for your business to communicate with a target market you currently don’t have the ability to interact with unless you pay to use the third-party platform. (I’m going to show you how to build your own audience and advertise to them for free later).
Here are some examples of advertising:
- TV Commercial
- Paid message in a newspaper or local print media
- Facebook Ads/ Google Adwords
- Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising on websites/blogs
- Billboard advertising
All of these represent platforms that have an audience already, and you don’t, so you must pay a fee in order to show your message to their audience. Advertising can be lucrative or it can kill your business, it all depends on your strategy, target market and your choice of media to reach your intended audience. One thing is for sure: advertising using traditional methods is incredibly expensive for small businesses.
“So how is a small business owner suppose to grow their business and reach new customers without spending an arm and a leg on advertising that may or may not work?”
The answer: savvy marketing.
What is marketing?
The term marketing encompasses a broad definition of promoting your business to existing and new potential customers. Marketing includes selling, advertising, and communicating messages with your customers. Marketing can be free or paid for. Weekly email messages sent to your customer, building relationships with your customers through social media communication, hosting a community event at your business, and being mentioned in the media are all a form of marketing.
In case you weren’t aware; in business you are always marketing yourself or your business. Whether it’s positive marketing or negative, the choice is up to you. If one single customer has a bad experience with your business or product, they are likely to spread word of mouth marketing about your business to their network – except this will be negative word of mouth.
Think of marketing like building a long-term relationship with a spouse, only replace spouse with your customer. You must continually work and build upon providing more value, better service, and creating a stronger relationship between your brand and the customer so that they become a raving fan of your brand.
A great example of this is Apple and their loyal following. How would you like to have your business be as crowded and talked about as the Apple store? With effective marketing you can.
Peter Drucker famously said:
“Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has TWO–and only two–basic functions: MARKETING and INNOVATION. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.”
How to improve your marketing:
When I speak with Cannabis business owners asking them what they currently do to market their business, I often hear one of three things:
- “we hope our customers will spread word-of-mouth recommendations”,
- “we pay for a billboard ad or media ad space and can’t measure the results in real time”, or
- “we don’t do any marketing at this time.”
All of these strategies are bad marketing strategies. Marketing is something that your business must focus on and actively improve month-by-month. You need someone on your team who is focused on building the marketing infrastructure all the time or else this will fall to the backburner with more urgent, less valuable tasks stealing your time.
Below are 10 marketing methods Cannabis businesses can use to increase their marketing communication with their customer. Although you may not see the value immediately, over time these will make a huge difference to your profitability and long-term success as a whole.
10 Marketing Methods to Turbocharge your Sales:
I recommend every cannabis business engage in more marketing activities then they are currently doing. Below are some suggestions:
- High-quality Website & SEO – You must have a high-quality website with a clear call-to-action. Your website is where all your traffic should be directed. It is a piece of internet real estate that you have full control of. Equally important is proper Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Every prospective customer starts with an online search to find what they’re looking for. SEO ensures your website matches your customer’s online search. If they land on your website and it’s low quality, this will negatively effect your brand image and you’ll likely lose the customer to a competitor. Make sure location, contact information and hours are all accurate.
Recommendation: you should explicitly state a call-to-action; what do you want the customer to do? Subscribe to your email list? Visit your store? Make it clear.
- Start a blog – This will help increase your brand’s web presence and boost the website’s SEO. If, for example, you are a local dispensary in Portland, you would want to target keywords specifically to your neighbourhood. You could write a blog post titled “5 best places to enjoy cannabis in Portland” or “3 Best donut shops in Portland for when you have the munchies.” With this strategy you could convert someone who is looking for a donut shop or munchie food, into a paying customer of yours. They may have not been shopping for Cannabis originally, but your blog could influence them otherwise after you have provided them with free value. If you have a cannabis product, try writing informative blogs about the technology or how-to guides related to the problem your product solves.
– First understand who and where your target market is.
– Are they nation-wide or local only?
– Focus on writing blog articles that offer value to a problem your target customer is experiencing and provide them with a solution.
– Use keyword tools like SERPstat and Google Keyword Planner to identify high traffic keywords.
- Email Marketing – Email marketing has been the king of internet marketing for over a decade. Why? Because once you have a potential customer’s email, you can continuously remarket to that customer for free until they either purchase more products or unsubscribe. Although inboxes have become incredibly crowded, email marketing is still very effective, if done right. The recent introduction of the Gmail Promotions tab has made it a lot more difficult for most businesses to get their emails opened. However, if you configure your email software backend correctly you can land in the now less crowded Inbox tab. Contact me if you need help doing this.
- Social Media Marketing – Today in 2017, almost everyone actively visits at least one of the major social media platforms. This is a great opportunity for you to build trust and brand awareness with your clientele. I recommend you choose 2 social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.) and focus your energy on building an engaged community with 2-way conversation. I recommend you use social media to help educate and solve problems your customers may be experiencing related to your offering.
Word of warning: Do not constantly push sales on social media. In order to be successful you must treat the platform like it was intended: a place for people to gather and share thoughts and ideas with one another. Your posts should look like this: Give free value, post an awesome photo or video, give free value, ask them to purchase product, repeat. One ask for every 3-4 value posts is a good rule of thumb.
- Influencer Marketing – This is essentially paid word-of-mouth advertising where you pay an individual with a large social media following to mention/recommend your product to their following and provide a direct link to your website. You may occasionally find an influencer who loves your business and mentions you for free, but most of the time this will cost you. This has become huge on Instagram over the past year.
Word of warning: Choose your social media influencers very carefully. You don’t want to pay to advertise to an audience that isn’t in your geographic area. Review their followers; are they real people or bots?
- Facebook Messenger Marketing – Facebook Messenger is becoming the new email marketing. This platform has become very effective for marketing your business because Facebook Messenger has a 95% open rate as compared to 5-10% open rates for emails. Messenger is a great channel to communicate directly with the customer.
Challenge: You’ll need to have a Facebook fan page or group page so that you know who your customers are. Without one it will be difficult to know which James Stevens is your customer from the hundreds of facebook profiles with the same name.
- Host Community Events – This technique is extremely effective for Cannabis businesses who have a physical location and serve their local market. You could host monthly “How to cook with Cannabis” events where clients can learn from a real chef, or host a comedy night that brings people into your location who will likely bring friends with them. You want to create a friendly and trustworthy atmosphere where people feel comfortable to bring their friends and hang out. This is a great long term marketing play because over time the network will begin to grow and so will your brand reputation and ultimately sales.
- Sponsor Local Adult Sports Teams – I myself play beer league hockey. Most of the guys will have a beer after the game and at least 50% of the guys in the league use cannabis or know a close friend who does. Your business could sponsor a local baseball team, soccer team, or basketball team and offer to pay for their jerseys if your brand can be prominently displayed on the jersey. This is a small $500 or less investment and will provide high quality brand impressions for multiple years as team’s usually reuse jerseys for many seasons. Everyone on the opposing teams will see your brand many times throughout the season and your brand will become ingrained in everyone’s minds.
Bonus: this space is less crowded with advertisers because only a few teams have sponsors. I know I remember and can recall every brand who sponsors a team in my hockey league.
Recommendation: First start by creating criteria for who you want to reach with your message, then look for teams or leagues that fit your criteria. Make sure you sponsor leagues where the majority of the players are of the legal age.
- Create Joint Partnerships with other Organizations: Your customer also shops and visits other organizations in your community. Identify other organizations that have a large group of people in your target market and form partnerships that benefit you both.
For example, say there is a Cannabis Yoga studio in your city, you could give them flyers for a discount to give to their customers and your store could offer your customers a flyer for $5 off the first Cannabis Yoga experience at your partners location. This would be a win-win for both businesses as you both are now providing additional value to your existing customers and you are now marketing to a new customer base for very low relative cost.
Recommendation: Make sure your offer has a clear call-to-action. What is the next step you want this prospective customer to take? Visit your store, enter a contest, redeem a coupon?
- Curate Reviews: Reviews act as social proof for prospective customers. Bad reviews make the business look bad and will stop a lot of customers from even giving you a shot. Maybe 1 out of 100 happy customers will leave an online review on google or your other social media pages, where as unhappy customers are far more likely to leave a negative review if they have a bad experience to warn other consumers. If you don’t actively cultivate high quality reviews, a couple of bad customer experiences could destroy your brand’s online reputation and social proof; costing you lost customers and thousands of dollars in lost sales.
Recommendation: Give your customers a reason to stop what they are doing and write you a positive online review immediately. Try to get them to do it at the point of purchase while they are still in store by offering a discount or free add-on. This can be done with a smartphone within one minute.
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