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The growth of the cannabis industry has thrust many companies into a position to scale up their operations and reach more consumers across the country. With more states legalizing recreational cannabis and mainstream attitudes toward the substance swinging in favor of countrywide legalization, it’s time for companies to start thinking about how to evolve their marketing to match demand and differentiate themselves from competitors. This means creating assets that cater to the desires of disparate audiences and tailoring messages to the proper channel and vendor.

Take, for example, the humble dispensary. Each individual dispensary has a limited or nonexistent ad budget but nevertheless relies on getting customers through the door. A successful dispensary will work to improve awareness in a town or city and keep returning customers coming in. Additionally, with the COVID-19 pandemic, providing (and promoting) services such as curbside pickup and contactless transactions is important. 

For cannabis brands, the need to build brand affinity and loyalty is just as important but the challenges and goals are slightly different. Many of the challenges brands face stem from the fact that dispensaries control the final point of sale. Regulations and economics keep brands from going direct-to-consumer so the majority of brands rely on dispensaries to deliver a good brand experience. Building brand equity through marketing outside of dispensaries is important for brands. It drives customer demand in the store and takes some of the control over the brand experience back from the dispensaries. 

If a dispensary or cannabis brand has a web presence, it should be designed to appeal to local SEO, getting eyes on the product that are the most likely to come in and purchase. Given the upswing in the number of dispensaries in certain towns and cities, achieving early awareness before the market becomes too crowded has the potential to lead to lasting success. At the moment, Google does not allow ads for recreational substances, though a Google My Business account is a way to get on the map until this restriction is lifted. Site- and content-based SEO can help supplement this strategy and cement a small cannabis dispensary as a community staple.

In a similar manner, most social channels currently do not allow for ads that depict a “drug-related” product, though certain products, such as topical hemp, are exempt from these rules. This can offer an opportunity to build generalized brand awareness and offer content for individuals that might be interested in a business or brand. Regardless, any online advertising should be done with careful research. 

For any cannabis-related company that isn’t quite ready to go all-in on a web presence, email marketing is an inexpensive way to inform and incentivize customers. Email marketing provides a built-in way to inform customers about new products and offer discounts or deals in the process. Plus, there are fewer restrictions on what products can be depicted. 

Really, any cannabis brand or dispensary should implement omnichannel marketing to stay competitive and to put down roots in an industry that is just hitting its stride. Though it requires research to know what restrictions exist on each channel, marketers that can navigate these spaces will find themselves succeeding while other companies get stuck just scrambling to get products into the market. It’s important to note that all cannabis companies should be discerning in regards to the ads they run in order to stay within regulations. Consulting a legal expert before running any marketing initiatives is always recommended.