The cannabis industry is on the rise, with more U.S. states legalizing weed for both recreational and medicinal uses. Also, CBD products are increasingly popular and are legal in all 50 states, as long as they are derived from industrial hemp.
Still, this emerging industry has significant marketing challenges. Because cannabis is not legal in all states, it can be tricky to promote cannabis products. The FDA is also very strict about what claims (if any) can be made about cannabis’ benefits. So, how can you connect with potential customers for your products? With a bit of creative marketing, it’s quite possible to build a strong brand around your cannabis business. Here are 5 tactics to start with.
#1. Lead With Education
There is still a lot of stigma surrounding cannabis. Consumer advocates have helped push for acceptance, but the only path to full legalization is through widespread education about cannabis and hemp. Focus on publishing informative content about cannabis, including the various strains, how it is grown and harvested, its potential benefits, and how to identify quality products. (Note: Avoid making any therapeutic claims about cannabis, and always source any medical statements with academic sources.)
By educating your audience, you are demonstrating your credibility and helping to overcome concerns about cannabis. Plus, this type of content is perfect for attracting organic traffic to your website.
#2. Tap Into Established Audiences
Even in states where cannabis is legal, you are often limited in how you can advertise your products. You cannot run ads that could be seen by minors, nor can you use “interruptive” marketing (cold calls and emails, pop-up ads, etc.). So, what can you do?
By partnering with content creators and related businesses, you can leverage affiliate relationships and guest posts to grow your brand. Look into cannabis-friendly podcasts that might offer you an interview, or collaborate with a blogger who can pitch your product to an exclusive audience. (Just be certain that any sponsor, influencer, or affiliate abides by cannabis advertising restrictions.) This approach is a powerful way to build trust among your prospective customers.
3. Sell Cannabis Swag
Online shopping increasingly happens on platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest, and Etsy. Unfortunately, you cannot sell cannabis products on these platforms. However, you can drive traffic to cannabis-themed merchandise, such as t-shirts, mugs, and stickers. This can build interest in your business, and once you’ve captured leads and gained their opt-in to your mailing list, you can send them an email campaign driving them to your website.
#4. Think Local
Local media outlets typically aren’t as picky when choosing advertisers — they need all the ad revenue they can get! As long as your campaign meets any applicable legal requirements, many local magazines, newspapers, and radio stations may be willing to run ads for your cannabis business. Plus, these campaigns are more likely to connect you with qualified leads.
Also don’t forget to optimize your website for local SEO! Be sure to set up Google My Business and add schema markup to your website so you’ll show up in Google search results. This is absolutely free to do and can fetch you a ready-to-buy local audience.
#5. Market at Events and Trade Shows
In-person marketing is always the most effective marketing, and that’s true for cannabis businesses as well. If traditional advertising channels aren’t available to you, or if you’re struggling to attract a digital audience, go to where your customers are.
Host an event where you can connect with fellow cannabis brands and related businesses (e.g. health food stores, CBD shops, etc.). Make it fun for attendees! For example you could book entertainment and food vendors, for example. This is also an excellent opportunity for consumer education!
If producing your own event isn’t feasible, join a trade show. You’ll get to host a booth for your business where you can network and connect with other cannabis entrepreneurs, with lots of buyers will be in attendance. A trade show helps build word-of-mouth — and potentially some great cross-promotional efforts!
Cannabis marketing often can’t go through traditional advertising routes, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. By focusing on education, partnerships, local brand-building, and collaborations, you can instill trust in skeptical consumers and demonstrate your legitimacy. Plus, these methods are typically less expensive than paid advertising! (Get more content marketing tips here.)
In conclusion, it takes some creativity to promote your cannabis business, but it can be done. Review your state and local guidelines for advertising regulations, then start building your network of potential sponsors, affiliates, and customers. Before you know it, you’ll be a trustworthy cannabis brand at the forefront of this emerging industry.
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