Table of Contents
Table of Contents
With the legalization of cannabis reaching more and more states, the cannabis industry has been more than just booming, it’s more on the scale of a big bang!
In fact, according to Grand View Research, the U.S. cannabis market is projected to expand at a 14.2% CAGR (compound annual growth rate) between 2023 and 2030, culminating in a valuation of USD 40.1 billion by the end of 2030. This is great news for anyone looking to get a foot in the industry. However, this also means cannabis businesses will be up against some strong competition – all while still needing to navigate and abide by the minefield of state regulations and advertising policies of the industry.
But fret not, for the green light of opportunity shines bright on those who dare to think outside the box. In this article, we will provide you with actionable dispensary marketing ideas to help you improve your strategy and stand out in this competitive industry.
What is Dispensary Marketing?
Dispensary Marketing is exactly what the name suggests – implementing clever and creative marketing strategies to create brand awareness, foster customer loyalty, and ultimately, generating revenue for your dispensary businesses. This involves targeting potential customers through social media, content marketing, and various other marketing channels and campaigns, while adhering to the necessary legal guidelines, of course.
The Golden Rules of Dispensary Marketing
Marketing in this heavily regulated and policed industry can feel a bit like playing a game of good old Minesweeper. One wrong move, and you could get into serious trouble. Therefore, the following golden rules should be applied across all marketing channels:
Keep up to date with regulations
Before implementing any marketing initiative, thoroughly research and understand the laws and regulations in your jurisdiction. Laws vary by state and may impose limitations on pricing, advertising, and promotions. Consult with a legal expert if necessary to ensure compliance.
Don’t neglect community guidelines
Each platform has its own community guidelines, so always familiarize yourself with these rules to maintain compliance.
Focus on education and awareness
Share informative content about the benefits, usage, and legality of cannabis products.
Don’t explicitly promote the sale of cannabis
Avoid content that directly encourages the purchase or consumption of cannabis, as this can violate platform policies.
Don’t target underage users
Ensure your content is directed towards a legal, adult audience and that their age is confirmed where possible, e.g., requesting users confirm that they are over 21 when visiting your website.
Don’t make medical claims
Refrain from making unverified medical claims about your products to avoid potential legal issues.
It’s also important to note that platform policies and state regulations can also vary between CBD products and recreational cannabis in general
Some important links to check:
10 Effective Dispensary Marketing Strategies Across All Marketing Channels
1. Social Media
Social media has become an indispensable marketing tool for businesses of all kinds and sizes. However, given that the legal cannabis industry is barely out of its infancy stage and is still a highly controlled substance, the rules and policies around it are often strict and tightly monitored. But with the right blend of strategy, creativity, and authenticity, your dispensary can still effectively reach your target audience and grow your business.
Review the Following Platform Policies
Choosing the Right Platforms
Select the platforms that allow cannabis-related content and are popular among your target audience. Of course, we’re mainly talking about the big players like:
But there are some more niche and less stringent platforms you could tap into as well, such as:
Building Your Social Media Presence
Once you have identified suitable platforms, follow these steps to build a strong social media presence:
1. Optimize Your Profile
Create a complete and professional profile with your logo, website link, contact information, and a compelling bio that highlights your unique selling points.
2. Post Engaging Content
Share a variety of content types, such as images, videos, blog posts, and user-generated content, that showcase your products and reflect your brand identity. Focus on educational, informative, and entertaining content to engage your audience.
3. Use Hashtags Strategically
Incorporate relevant and targeted hashtags to improve your content’s visibility and reach a larger audience. Avoid using hashtags that explicitly promote the sale of cannabis to comply with platform guidelines.
4. Interact with Your Audience
Respond to comments, direct messages, and mentions to build strong relationships with your followers. Engage with potential customers by participating in relevant discussions, joining groups, and following industry influencers.
Learn more about this in our Social Media Community Management article.
5. Utilize Influencer Partnerships
Partner with influencers who share your target audience and align with your brand values. Collaborations can help expand your reach and boost your credibility.
Monitor and Analyze Performance
Track your social media performance using analytics tools to measure engagement, reach, and conversions. Identify what works best for your audience and refine your strategy accordingly.
Need a more in-depth and comprehensive guide?
In a world where online visibility is everything, SEO marketing has become a crucial tool for cannabis dispensaries looking to increase their digital presence and attract more customers. By optimizing their website and content to rank higher on search engines, dispensaries can reach a wider audience and establish themselves as leaders in the industry.
Keyword research and optimization
To ensure you’re targeting the right audience, conduct thorough keyword research with a focus on keywords that are specific to your location, products, and services. Also, consider using question keywords as these as this will help you pick the best topics to cover based on relevancy, search data, and keyword difficulty. This way, you can tap into what your audience is truly searching for and address the most pressing concerns and interests.
Understanding keyword intent is another essential aspect of this process, as it provides valuable insight into the searcher’s goals and expectations. By considering the underlying motives behind search queries, you can create content that both meets their needs and engages them.
Maximize Local SEO
Cannabis dispensaries operate under strict location-based regulations; therefore, local SEO is great for attracting customers in your specific area. By building state or city level pages that target local keywords, this helps dispensaries ensure you are reaching your ideal customers within their allowed jurisdiction. KWFinder by Mangools is also a fantastic resource that helps provide state, city, and major area level keyword data, offering great insights for crafting targeted content. Another great way to maximize local SEO is to claim and optimize your GMB (Google My Business) listing. This not only helps cannabis dispensaries improve their Local SEO, but it also makes it easier for potential customers to discover your products and services. GMB also allows you to post regular content under your listing. This is yet another great way to keep your audience engaged, showcase your expertise, and establish yourself as a go-to source for cannabis-related information.
Be sure to encourage users to leave reviews.
Positive reviews can significantly impact your Local SEO by signaling to Google that your business is trustworthy and provides excellent customer service. Encourage your satisfied customers to leave reviews on your GMB listing and other review platforms. Also make an effort to respond to reviews – both good and bad. This demonstrates that you value customer feedback and are committed to addressing any concerns.
Keep your NAP consistent
Remember to keep your NAP (Name, Address, Phone number) consistent as this information helps search engines like Google to understand and trust your business information, which ultimately improves your local search rankings.
On-page and technical SEO
Optimize your website’s structure, making it easy for both users and search engines to navigate. This includes creating a clear sitemap, implementing proper header and alt image tags, improving site speed, and ensuring your website is mobile-friendly.
Track and analyze performance
Monitor your SEO efforts regularly to identify trends, successes, and areas for improvement.
Need a more in-depth and comprehensive guide?
3. Referral Programs
Given that the cannabis industry is still subject to stigma, there are few marketing strategies that match the trust and reputation building power that word-of-mouth marketing can bring. By incentivizing these referrals, cannabis dispensaries can not only increase their customer base and revenue but also foster a sense of community and loyalty among their clientele. But like any marketing program, referral programs too should be carefully planned out.
Define your referral rewards
Decide on the incentives you will offer to both the referrer and the referred customer (e.g., discounts, store credit, or free products).
Implement a referral tracking system
Utilize referral tracking software to manage referrals, rewards, and program performance.
Promote your program
Make your customers aware of the program through email, social media, in-store signage, or other marketing channels.
Simplify the process
Make it easy for customers to refer others by providing a simple referral link or a unique referral code.
Monitor program performance
Track key performance indicators (KPIs) such as referral conversion rates, customer lifetime value, and program ROI to evaluate success and identify areas for improvement.
Encourage repeat referrals
Offer additional incentives or tiered rewards for customers who make multiple successful referrals.
Test and optimize
Regularly review your referral program’s performance, experiment with different reward structures or promotional methods, and make adjustments to maximize its effectiveness.
4. Loyalty and Discount Programs
Every business, big and small, knows that building a loyal customer base is essential to success. As the cannabis industry becomes more competitive, dispensaries are turning to loyalty and discount programs as a way to differentiate themselves and build a loyal customer base. By offering unique rewards and exclusive discounts, dispensaries can create a sense of community and make customers feel valued and appreciated.
Determine Your Objectives
Set clear goals for your loyalty program, such as increasing customer retention, boosting sales, or promoting specific products. Establishing these objectives will guide your program design and help you measure its success.
Choose the Right Type of Program
There are various loyalty and discount program structures to consider, such as points-based, tiered, or spend-based programs. Evaluate the pros and cons of each option and choose the one that aligns with your objectives and target audience.
Train your staff
Provide comprehensive training on how the program works, eligibility, and proper customer enrollment. Your staff should be able to explain the program to customers and answer any questions confidently.
Communicate Clearly with Customers
Through your various marketing channels, educate your customers about the program, its benefits, and how it works. Ensure that advertisements and promotions are truthful, transparent, and do not promote excessive consumption.
Collect Data Responsibly
Gather customer data to help personalize your marketing efforts and better understand your customers’ preferences. Be mindful of privacy regulations and collect only the data necessary for your program. Use the data to segment and target customers with tailored offers and promotions.
Monitor customer consumption patterns
Keep track of customer purchases and monitor consumption patterns to keep an eye on any potential issues. Implement measures to limit or deny loyalty rewards if a customer’s consumption appears excessive or harmful. This will demonstrate your commitment to responsible use and help maintain a positive reputation.
Regularly review and update
Periodically review your programs and adjust them based on customer feedback, market trends, and changes in regulations. This will help keep your program relevant and effective in driving customer retention.
5. Email Marketing
No matter what anyone says, email marketing is still one of the most effective tools you can have in your marketing arsenal. From promoting new strains to announcing special deals, email marketing allows you to stay top-of-mind and engage with your audience in a way that’s both meaningful and effective – if done right.
Here are some tips to help do just that:
Choose a cannabis-friendly email marketing platform
Not all email platforms allow for cannabis content to be shared. So, before you invest in a platform subscription, be sure to check what their policies are in regard to cannabis. Some of the current top platforms that allow cannabis and CBD content include:
Build a compliant email list
Start by building an email list that complies with the CAN-SPAM Act and local regulations. Obtain explicit permission from customers to send them promotional emails. Encourage people to sign up for your newsletter in-store or through your website with incentives like discounts or exclusive offers. When building your email list, always make sure to:
- Include a clear unsubscribe option in your emails.
- Implement an age verification system to ensure that subscribers are of legal age to purchase cannabis products.
- Collect email addresses through an opt-in system to avoid spam complaints and legal issues.
Segment your audience
Divide your subscribers into segments based on factors like purchase history, location, and interests. This will allow you to send targeted, relevant content to each group, improving engagement and conversion rates.
Create engaging and personalized content
Invest in crafting high-quality, relevant content that educates and informs your subscribers based on their preferences and interests. Share industry news, new product launches, and tips for responsible consumption.
Offer exclusive deals and promotions
Reward your subscribers with exclusive discounts, promotions, and event invitations. These incentives will encourage them to remain subscribed to and engaged with your content.
Test and optimize
Regularly test different aspects of your email campaigns, such as subject lines, send times, and content types. Use A/B testing and analyze open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates to determine what works best for your audience.
6. SMS Marketing
SMS for cannabis dispensaries is not just about sending promotional messages or order updates. It’s about building a personal connection with customers, providing a discreet and convenient way to access information, and creating a community that goes beyond the transactional. With SMS, dispensaries can create a unique and memorable experience for their customers, one that is sure to keep them coming back for more.
Building Your Subscriber List
A robust subscriber list is essential for effective SMS marketing. Some ways to build your list include:
- In-store promotions
Offer incentives to customers who sign up for text alerts while visiting your dispensary
- Online sign-ups
Add an opt-in form to your website and social media pages.
- Use QR codes
Create QR codes for in-store posters or flyers that customers can scan to subscribe.
Remember to obtain explicit consent from customers before sending SMS marketing messages.
Crafting Engaging Messages
An impactful SMS campaign combines brevity, relevance, and timeliness. To hit this sweet spot, keep these tips in mind:
Address customers by name to create a more personal connection.
- Exclusive offers
Provide discounts, promotions, or access to limited-edition products only available to text subscribers.
- Event notifications
Inform customers of special events, workshops, or product launches.
Share valuable insights, tips, or cannabis-related news.
Strike a balance between staying connected and not overwhelming subscribers with messages.
Implement CTAs and Trackable Links
Effective SMS marketing campaigns include clear calls-to-action (CTAs) that inspire customers to take the next step. Use trackable links to measure the success of your campaigns and adjust your strategy accordingly.
Always provide an easy opt-out mechanism in each message to maintain compliance and respect your customers’ preferences. A simple “Reply STOP to unsubscribe” suffices.
Your e-commerce website can become a cornerstone of success, offering customers an accessible and convenient way to purchase your products, but there are some very essential factors to consider:
Choosing a cannabis-friendly hosting provider
One of the first steps in establishing your online presence is to choose a hosting provider that is cannabis-friendly. Many traditional hosting providers may not support cannabis-related businesses due to the complex legal landscape, so it’s essential to find one that understands and caters to the industry. When selecting a provider, consider factors such as reliability, uptime, security, and scalability. Some popular cannabis-friendly hosting providers you can choose from include:
Also, remember that as your cannabis dispensary’s ecommerce website gains popularity, you’ll need to be prepared for growth. Choose a web hosting provider that offers scalable solutions and ensure your website’s infrastructure can handle increased traffic and order volumes.
Building or choosing the right platform
When it comes to setting up your e-commerce platform, you have two main options: building a custom platform or choosing an existing one. A tailor-made platform designed specifically for your cannabis dispensary allows for maximum customization and control, but you’ll need a skilled development team to create a tailored solution that fits your business needs.
Alternatively, you can opt for a pre-built cannabis-friendly e-commerce platform, like WooCommerce or Shopify that have specialized plugins or themes catering to the cannabis industry.
Navigating legal shipping
Shipping cannabis products is subject to strict regulations, and it’s essential to adhere to federal, state, and local laws. To ensure compliance, consider the following:
- Familiarize yourself with the laws and regulations in the jurisdictions where you plan to ship. This includes understanding the legal status of cannabis in those areas, as well as any specific rules around packaging, labeling, and taxation.
- Work with a reputable shipping carrier that is experienced and licensed in handling cannabis-related products. This will help minimize the risk of delays or legal issues during transit.
- Implement age verification measures on your website to ensure you’re only selling to customers who are legally allowed to purchase cannabis products.
Setting up your payment system
Many traditional payment processors and banks are hesitant to work with cannabis-related businesses, so you’ll need to find a provider that specializes in the industry like Instabill, Flowhub, or Paybotic, as examples.
Apart from ticking all the cannabis regulation boxes, ensure your chosen provider also complies with all the generally applicable laws and regulations, including anti-money laundering (AML) and know-your-customer (KYC) rules.
Other important tips and considerations
Once you are properly set up, here are some important factors to keep top of mind:
- Implement a robust age verification system to prevent underage users from accessing and purchasing cannabis products on your
- platform.Provide detailed product descriptions, high-quality images, and information about THC/CBD content, potential benefits, and recommended dosages. This will help customers make informed decisions about their purchases.
- Ensure that your website follows strict security measures, such as SSL encryption, to protect your customers’ sensitive information.
- Provide outstanding customer support through multiple channels, such as email, phone, and live chat. Be prepared to answer questions and address concerns promptly and professionally.
- Monitor your website’s performance using analytics tools, such as Google Analytics, to gain insights into user behavior and preferences. Use this data to optimize your website, improve user experience, and refine your marketing strategies.
- Encourage customers to share their experiences with your products by leaving reviews and testimonials on your website. This will not only foster trust among potential customers but also help you gather valuable feedback for future improvements.
8. Paid digital advertising
For most products and services, Paid digital advertising is an excellent way to generate awareness and drive customer engagement. For cannabis, however, even with the move to relax some of the stringent restrictions in January 2023, it can still be a treacherous exercise. Here’s what you need to know:
Not all cannabis products have Google’s green light
Google’s updated policy now allows for the advertising of topical FDA-approved CBD products that contain less than 0.3% THC, in accordance with federal regulations. This applies to search ads, display ads, and shopping ads, but not to video or YouTube ads, and only within California, Colorado, and Puerto Rico. However, at this stage, advertising for other CBD products, such as supplements, food additives, and inhalants, as well as legal recreational cannabis products, remains a no-no under Google’s Dangerous products or services policies.
You’ll need to get certified
To start advertising your CBD products on Google, you will first need to complete a certification with LegitScript, Google’s official vetting partner to certify advertisers who sell medical & pharmaceutical products.
To apply for this certification, you’ll need to provide:
- All your company’s legal business information, including the legal business name as well as other “trading as” names.
- Product information for each CBD product you’d like to certify. This includes:
- Your product type
- Product description
- Universal Product Code (UPC)
- List of ingredients
- Product image
- Brand name
- Product samples that have been tested by an accredited third party.
Keep in mind that the certification journey with LegitScript and their associated lab partners may be time-consuming. This is because applications are processed strictly in the sequence they are submitted. To streamline your CBD certification as best as possible and minimize delays, here are some recommendations from LegitScript themselves.
9. Content Marketing
It’s all about content. Because cannabis is still largely misunderstood, people look for trustworthy and carefully considered content to educate themselves and ultimately guide their purchasing decisions. This is why it’s so important to consider what kind of content you intend to showcase and how. Here are some ideas on how to build a content marketing strategy that connects and resonates with your audience:
Develop a content strategy
Before diving into content creation, it’s crucial to develop a solid content strategy. This involves identifying your target audience, setting content objectives, and selecting appropriate distribution channels.
Create a Content Calendar
Planning and organizing your content efforts is essential for consistent and effective content marketing. A content calendar helps you schedule your content, identify gaps, and ensure a steady flow of relevant and engaging material. It also helps you coordinate content around important dates or events and track the performance of your content over time.
Produce diverse content formats
Different people have different preferences when it comes to consuming content. By creating content in various formats, you cater to these preferences and increase the chances of reaching a wider audience. Some formats to consider include:
Share informative articles on topics relevant to your audience, such as cannabis strain reviews, health benefits, or industry news.
Create engaging and visually appealing videos to demonstrate product usage or provide educational information.
Design eye-catching graphics that present complex information or statistics in an easily digestible format.
Record audio content to discuss industry trends, interview experts, or share tips and advice with your audience.
Position your dispensary as an industry expert by publishing informative and educational content. Share your knowledge on various cannabis-related topics to build trust and credibility with your audience. By demonstrating your expertise, you can become the go-to source for information and advice, ultimately driving more traffic to your business.
Promote your content
Creating great content is just the beginning – promoting it effectively is what makes it successful. Utilize social media platforms, email marketing, and other channels to distribute your content and reach a wider audience. Collaborate with influencers, cross-promote with other businesses, and engage in industry forums to increase the visibility of your content.
Encourage user-generated content
User-generated content (UGC) is a powerful way to build trust and credibility for your dispensary. With a still-lingering stigma around cannabis use, UGC can help break down misconceptions and normalize the conversation around its benefits. Ask customers to share their experiences, reviews, and testimonials on your website and social media platforms. This not only creates a sense of community but also provides social proof for potential customers who are considering your products and services. Encourage UGC by hosting contests, giveaways, or featuring customer stories on your website and social media.
10. Local Advertising
Local dispensary advertising is all about connecting with the community in a way that’s authentic, creative, and memorable. With the right approach, local advertising can help dispensaries build a loyal following and establish themselves as a trusted and valued part of the community.
Embrace Community Involvement
Get involved in local events, charities, and organizations to foster a positive image for your dispensary. By sponsoring events, participating in fundraisers, or supporting local causes, you’ll demonstrate your commitment to the community, boost brand awareness, and generate goodwill.
Collaborate with Complementary Businesses
Form partnerships with local businesses that complement your dispensary, such as yoga studios, wellness centers, or head shops. Collaborate on joint events or offer exclusive discounts for each other’s customers. This will expand your reach and create a mutually beneficial relationship.
Host Educational Workshops
Educate potential customers about the benefits of cannabis and how to use your products safely. Hosting workshops or webinars will establish you as a trusted authority, build a loyal customer base, and increase the likelihood of customers recommending your dispensary to friends and family.
Creative Outdoor Advertising
Despite restrictions on cannabis advertising, there are still ways to make your presence felt. Use eye-catching billboards, posters, or banners near your dispensary, highlighting your unique selling points. Remember to comply with local regulations and avoid making medical claims.
The ever-evolving world of cannabis marketing is a world of possibilities for dispensaries to stand out and thrive – even despite the challenging rules and regulations that come with it. But you don’t navigate the complex world alone. Our team of experts can offer you tailored advice and support on how to craft a winning dispensary strategy that aligns with your unique goals and values. Whether you’re looking to optimize your customer experience, differentiate your brand, or enhance your online presence, we’ve got you covered. Don’t hesitate to reach out.
For Courtney Schwikkard, Araksya Hakobjanyan, and Ela Galanxhi, marketing is part of their DNA.
Having had much hands-on experience collaborating with various cannabis companies themselves, they understand just how daunting cannabis marketing can be.
But by drawing on their collective experience in strategic content marketing and SEO expertise across various channels, their aim is to provide a comprehensive starting point and a solid foundation for dispensaries eager to break ground in this budding industry.