Your Guide To An Organic Cannabis Marketing Strategy
UPDATE April 2022: Check out an updated article on How To Promote Selling Weed Online and Top 20 Local Search Ranking Signals For Your Weed Marketing Strategy. These new articles share updated insights for all dispensaries – retail stores and mail order.
It’s a good time to be a cannabis entrepreneur and to learn about effective cannabis marketing tactics to grow your business, but it’s also very frustrating to advertise marijuana dispensaries or run ads for mail-order marijuana companies on digital marketing platforms like Google, Facebook, Instagram, & popular mainstream websites.
Recreational marijuana products are super popular among a large majority of the adult population in the United States, Canada, Europe, and emerging markets like Israel and Africa, and demand is growing significantly. So now is certainly the time to invest in a comprehensive digital cannabis marketing strategy for your licensed retail store or legacy mail-order marijuana dispensary.
Choosing paid advertising to grow your retail or online cannabis dispensary actually is possible however, it can be cost-prohibitive for new retail dispensaries and profit-minded legacy businesses because the monthly media investment for display/banner advertising/retargeting and Google search advertising is a minimum of $15,000 USD per month and $8,000 USD per month respectively.
In addition, traditional marketing channels like print, radio, TV, and social media platforms like Facebook & Instagram have placed strict advertising restrictions against cannabis, CBD, hemp, and related products, which makes digital marketing for cannabis super challenging.
That’s why we highly recommend implementing organic digital marketing tactics in your cannabis marketing strategy like SEO for dispensaries as well as a blog content marketing strategy, with link building. There are absolutely no restrictions with SEO for cannabis marketing and with solid SEO in place, you’re able to drive “free” traffic from organic search for years.
Once your website is ranking for profitable keywords, you can maintain your search rankings by continuing with updating the SEO & keyword strategy & publishing high-quality relevant blog content on your website that actually ranks in organic search and drives traffic to your website.
In this article, we illustrate how to market your cannabis brand using organic digital marketing tactics including marijuana SEO, cannabis content marketing, and ubiquitous social media platforms. As a bonus, we’ll also include cannabis marketing options for advertising on popular mainstream websites.
1. Cannabis Marketing Must Include Dispensary SEO
Marijuana SEO, or search engine optimization, is probably one of the most effective marijuana marketing strategies for cannabis businesses.
Before implementing any SEO on your dispensary website it’s important to understand that cannabis dispensary SEO is a long-term process that can take 6-12 months to see significant results & ROI.
In some cases, we’ve seen that it is possible to see results in less than 6 months, but you will need either a comprehensive keyword strategy with a large quantity of high-quality SEO optimized blog articles published directly on your site as well as backlinks from some relevant websites with super high domain authority (DA)/domain ranking (DR).
Or, you can see results in 1-3-months if you invest heavily in cannabis advertising campaigns on Google search combined with programmatic display/banner advertising for retargeting on popular mainstream websites.
One of the benefits of a dispensary SEO strategy is that it requires absolutely no advertising spend which also means that there are no restrictions.
Dispensary SEO and blog content marketing work hand-in-hand with cannabis marketing because the content on your website needs to be optimized for search engines so they can determine the relevance and authority of your site and where to rank your website content in search engines.
The higher your domain authority and quality/relevance of your content, the higher your website pages will rank in search engines for relevant and related search queries.
Some potential customers are searching for information on cannabis with the intent of learning more about the plant and products to eventually purchase. Other customers are searching to buy weed now, near them, or to have weed delivered to their homes.
You can use SEO and organic search to market your cannabis brand, with no advertising restrictions, by implementing an SEO and content marketing strategy designed to build and grow your domain authority and site relevance.
Our process for dispensary SEO for cannabis marketing:
- A comprehensive SEO audit of your current website
- 200-point SEO audit report detailing errors and omissions related to search engine optimization and Google indexing
- A comprehensive review of your competitor’s website SEO & keyword rankings
- Prepare a baseline keyword rankings report to see where you currently rank for your targeted keywords search queries
- Develop a keyword strategy for your website
- Develop blog content strategy
- Fix the priority errors and omissions found in the report and implement a new SEO and keyword strategy on your entire website, including on-page copy, back-end metadata, and all images.
- We then do a new keyword rankings report to see where you rank after the new SEO strategy and continue this each month.
The goals when using SEO for cannabis marketing:
- Increase your brand awareness and trust by increasing your online visibility in search engines
- Increase your search engine rankings
- Drive higher-quality traffic to your website from organic search
- Increase website conversions/sales
2. Blog Content Marketing For Dispensaries
Content is directly related to SEO. They work together as mentioned in the section above. SEO helps your blog content rank in organic search results which results in an increase in “free” organic search traffic to your website, which in turn helps your SEO especially if the content on your website is high-quality, informative, educational, and sharable.
Creating cannabis blog content isn’t easy. It does take a lot of work including keyword research, topic research, cannabis knowledge, consumer knowledge, and expertise with cannabis copywriting. This is an area of cannabis marketing that you’ll want to outsource to a professional dispensary SEO agency with experience in cannabis content marketing.
Investing in blog content marketing for your cannabis dispensary will absolutely reward you by attracting the most relevant visitors to your website, getting customers excited about your products, creating engagement opportunities, and ultimately converting website visitors into customers.
Step 1 for your strategy starts with understanding your customers. Step 2 is all about keyword research and finding the most popular questions your target market is asking about cannabis. This can be everything from education on the plant or on terpenes, to reviews of specific weed strains or how to set up a dab rig.
When choosing topics from keyword research for your blog content strategy, don’t always focus on the keywords that have the highest search volume because those phrases will also be the most competitive and most challenging to rank for, especially if your website is relatively new compared to your top competitors.
If you’re a new dispensary with a new website, your cannabis marketing strategy will be much different from a dispensary that is open and driving traffic to its retail store and its website for a few months or a few years. However, it is possible to become competitive with sites ranking on page 1 for popular keywords, if you have a comprehensive ongoing cannabis SEO, keyword, and blog content strategy.
Compared to pay-per-click and other forms of digital marketing, blog content marketing is a low-cost method of building your cannabis brand and driving potential customers to your website or retail store.
Benefits of Blog Content Marketing For Dispensaries
According to HubSpot, B2C companies that blogged 11+ times per month got more than four times as many leads as those that blog only four to five times per month. Here are some other benefits of blog content for cannabis marketing:
- 43% of marketers say blogging is their most important type of content.
- 55% of marketers say blog content creation is their top inbound marketing priority.
- Companies that published 16+ blog posts per month got almost 3.5 times more traffic than companies that published zero to four monthly posts.
- B2B companies that blogged 11+ times per month had almost three times more traffic than those blogging 0-1 times per month.
- B2C companies that blogged 11+ times per month got more than four times as many leads than those that blog only four to five times per month
- Companies that published 16+ blog posts per month got about 4.5 times more leads than companies that published zero to four monthly posts.
For cannabis marketing for mail order marijuana dispensaries, we recommend 6-12 x 1,200-1,500 word SEO optimized blog articles per month. For licensed retail dispensaries, we recommend 2-4+ SEO-optimized blog articles per month.
3. Maximize & Optimize Organic Reach on Instagram
Instagram is a highly visual marketing platform to market your cannabis company to those 21-44, and this fact fits perfectly with your products. However, Instagram is notoriously anti-cannabis marketing with ridiculous policies that render cannabis advertising impossible and put non-paid/organic posts at risk and subject to having your Instagram account banned.
However, we have found that content that promotes cannabis education, cannabinoids, parts of the cannabis plant, terpenes, etc., can be accepted by Instagram and also can get a ton of organic reach if your copywriting is compliant and you use appropriate relevant hashtags.
Digital marketers for cannabis should use this strategy as a digital visual merchandising opportunity, which would be similar to the traditional storefront display window that we still see in shopping malls and on Main street back in the day – and, you’ll remain compliant with Instagram’s policies because you’re simply posting education and facts based on science.
Traditionally, the store-front window would draw customers into the retail store. Today, Instagram can be used as your digital store window that shows up in Instagram posts and stories in potential customers’ news feed and draws people to your website or retail store.
Here are some tips to market your cannabis brand using Instagram:
Daily Organic Posts & Stories:
- Create an optimized and targeted cannabis content strategy for your daily posts and stories on Instagram.
- It’s also important to establish a consistent posting schedule with both in-feed posts and stories on both platforms.
- Build and maintain an updated list of popular, trending, and highly relevant hashtags.
Customer Service via Social Media:
- In order to effectively market your cannabis brand, you need to build and establish your brand loyalty with your customers.
- One of the best ways to build loyalty to market your cannabis brand is to focus on customer service, both in-store and most definitely on social media.
Implement a Customized Community Management Strategy:
- It’s vital for your cannabis brand to have a response and interaction strategy as part of your social media marketing plan.
- We’d recommend establishing a response for every possible customer service question or situation.
- A customized Facebook Messenger chatbot could easily automate this service for your cannabis brand.
Brand Ambassadors & Instagram Influencers:
- Using Instagram influencers to market marijuana and CBD products is always a good strategy, but it does come with a few key limitations.
- It’s extremely challenging to measure ROI with influencer marketing but with the right strategy in place, it can be a useful tactic for marketing cannabis brands, organically.
- Influencer marketing can work very well on Instagram based on the platform’s ability to amplify word-of-mouth marketing and user-generated content.
Video Marketing Using Stories, Live, and IGTV:
- People love short vertical video, that’s why Stories are so popular on Instagram.
- You can use share video on Instagram in the news feed, in stories, and in high-converting campaigns using IGTV.
- Implement branding videos, product videos, and tutorial videos into your content strategy for Instagram.
4. How To Optimize Your Organic Reach on Facebook
If you’re marketing cannabis to those 45+, you need to be on Facebook as much as you may need to be on Instagram. It’s true, Facebook is for “older” people and you should use this knowledge to market your cannabis brand on social media.
Cannabis digital marketing on Facebook will help your brand to create and develop brand awareness for your marijuana dispensary and increase consumer trust with your weed products through positive reviews and word of mouth.
Facebook can also help your marijuana dispensary SEO by driving traffic to your website’s blog articles. Just like with Instagram, you should be sharing educational content on Facebook that links to top blog content published on your website.
For example, you’re already publishing SEO-optimized cannabis-related blog content on your website so you can use Facebook organically to amplify that content to your followers and drive traffic back to your website. This will increase referral traffic to your site, build more brand awareness & trust, and potentially cause a nice spike in online sales.
If the content you share is high-quality it has a better chance of being shared on Facebook by users who enjoyed the content and found it valuable. This in turn further amplifies your blog content, brand awareness, and increases traffic (and sales) to your website.
The key to effective digital marketing for cannabis on Facebook lies in the value your content provides for the user – i.e. your target market. This is why we suggest creating a social media content strategy that educates and informs your followers on the recreational benefits of cannabis as well as its medical benefits.
This type of cannabis content strategy will not only keep you out of “Facebook Jail” and keep your Facebook Business Page from being flagged or shut down, but it will also set you apart from some of your competitors because you’re leading with education while growing your brand awareness and increasing your potential customers.
We don’t recommend mail-order marijuana companies or licensed retail dispensaries try advertising on Facebook. Sure, you may be seeing ads for cannabis on Facebook and/or Instagram and there certainly are people who are using creative tactics to advertise weed or edibles on Facebook, but have you noticed that their advertising does not last long?
I can tell you for a fact that the cannabis ads you see on Facebook that have slipped through the cracks and got their ads approved will not have longevity. This means you will lose all the lucrative consumer data captured in your Facebook ad account when your account gets flagged or shut down.
This data includes unique users IDs for future Facebook advertising and retargeting campaigns, as well as online interests and demographic data from everyone who interacted with your paid advertisements. In my opinion, cannabis advertising with no longevity and risks of losing valuable consumer data is simply just not worth your time or your budget.
So, since cannabis advertising on Facebook is not recommended, here are a few alternative digital marketing tactics to use on Facebook:
Organic Posts & Stories:
- As you’re well aware, a cannabis business page cannot advertise on Facebook. But recently, Facebook made it possible for cannabis and weed pages to be found in Facebook search results.
- The bad news is, organic reach on Facebook is dead. If you have a business page with a decent engagement rate, you will get 2%-10% of your total followers to see your posts – and that’s being super optimistic.
- We’d recommend only focusing on Facebook marketing for your cannabis brand if you want to target an older, elderly demo with your cannabis and CBD products.
Facebook Messenger Chatbot:
- A Facebook Messenger chatbot is a super cool way to market your dispensary and provide excellent customer service.
- Most potential cannabis customers who are 50+ years of age will likely have a ton of the same questions about recreational marijuana, THC, Hemp, and CBD.
- By creating a customized Facebook Messenger chatbot, your cannabis brand is able to provide phenomenal customer service by automatically answering the most common questions potential customers have about your products.
- Facebook chatbots ensure that the people have a positive customer service experience with your cannabis brand and the quick automated response time with a chatbot is a driving factor in consumer purchase decisions.
Facebook Video, Facebook Live, and Facebook Stories
- The fact that people love video content applies to Facebook as much as it does Instagram.
- If you own a retail cannabis dispensary you should encourage your tea, to incorporate different styles of video and different lengths of video content from your stores.
- Facebook Stories has increased in popularity based on the success of Instagram Stories so it’s a great opportunity to get more impressions on your organic posts.
- We highly recommend content from your retail store be used in these types of posts as they will be most engaging.
5. Marketing Your Cannabis Brand on Cannabis Websites & Blogs
While we highly recommend you populate your website with regular weekly SEO optimized blog content, to develop your site’s domain authority and show up in search rankings. You can also do this using guest post opportunities on other websites.
When it comes to advertising to market your cannabis brand, there are many opportunities to advertise on other related – or unrelated – websites that your potential customers visit daily.
Guest Posting on Relevant Blogs
- Many cannabis-related websites accept guest posts from experts, who are not journalists, in related fields.
- If you have some expertise in any area of the cannabis industry, we’d highly suggest you approach relevant cannabis industry websites to see if they accept guest posts.
- Your job would be to write a high-quality article that answers the target audience’s questions about the topic.
- You can also add a high-quality backlink to your website or specific related website content.
- Your cannabis website could get an increase in referral traffic from the guest post site and your cannabis brand gets some additional marketing exposure with many new readers/potential customers.
Display Ads on Third-Party Native Advertising Platforms
- Believe it or not, there are a handful of third-party advertising networks that allow for CBD and cannabis advertising on major websites. For more information check out our native advertising options.
- Mantis & Outbrain are two of the more popular native ad networks that many CBD brands are using to market cannabis products.
- These platforms do have some minimums when it comes to media spend which could be prohibitive for some cannabis businesses, but they do serve a relevant and highly target audience on popular websites so it may be worth the extra investment.
Display Ads on Relevant Industry Websites
- Depending on your business focus, you may find advertising opportunities on industry-related websites useful in growing your business.
- If you’re in the B2B cannabis space, banner ads on sites like Leafly.com, Lift & Co, CannabisBusinessExecutive.com, Marijuana Business Daily, and other similar sites, along with sponsored email newsletters, would be an ideal way to market your cannabis brand to other marijuana-related businesses.
6. SMS Messaging
Text messaging using SMS technology, not apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, or Slack, is an extremely effective form of advertising for any business and can be just as effective to market a cannabis brand.
Today, almost everyone owns a cellphone that they keep within arm’s length at all times, and over 90 percent of people read their text messages within 5 minutes of receiving them.
This is a huge opportunity when it comes to marketing cannabis and CBD brands.
Text message marketing regulation falls under the TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act), a federal statute designed to safeguard consumer privacy. This legislation restricts telemarketing communications via voice calls, SMS texts, and fax unless the recipients have given their explicit consent.
This is nothing new as every business in any industry needs to follow rules and stay compliant with text/SMS message marketing.
It’s actually easy to set up effective text marketing campaigns without spending a lot of money on legal fees and without running afoul of the law. All that is required by the TCPA is the customer’s explicit consent to receive texts.
There are a few ways to receive opt-in consent from your customers which essentially includes asking them only once to opt-in to receive text messages when you first send them a promotional message.
In order to stay compliant, the TCPA says marketers need to give the customer the ability to easily opt-out. This means including something as simple as “Reply STOP XXXX to stop receiving text messages” at the end of every text message.
7. Bonus Tip: How To Advertise Your Cannabis Brand!
We offer the following two highly effective alternatives to Facebook & Instagram advertising for your cannabis or CBD products:
i. Google Search Advertising:
We have been managing successful Google ads campaigns for cannabis & CBD/hemp companies in Canada, United States, and UK since 2017, and we can do the same for you. We have an 88% success rate for getting Google CBD ads approved, as of Mach 2021. These campaigns include text ads on the Google search network. See our case studies here.
Your ads are shown to people who are actively searching to buy CBD online. We target “warm” people in the evaluation and purchase stages of the sales cycle at the time when they are actually searching Google to find CBD to purchase.
When people are actually looking to purchase CBD, they are not on Instagram or Facebook. When someone is looking to buy CBD online, they are more than likely on Google searching for a solution. This is why we highly recommend using Google search ads for CBD marketing instead of social media platforms.
Follow this link to learn more about our Google search advertising management services for CBD & Cannabis companies.
ii. Programmatic Display and/or Video Advertising/Retargeting on Popular Websites:
Display/banner advertising on some of the world’s most popular websites is an essential tactic for every CBD company. Believe it or not, our DSP partners allow for display and/or video ads for CBD products including CBD oils, tinctures, extracts, edibles, and topicals, so ad approval is not an issue. It’s easy to start driving highly-qualified traffic to your website.
We are able to target people by demographics and interests with custom advertising just like we would on Facebook & Instagram. We’re also able to retarget all your site visitors, target look-a-like audiences, and custom audiences (email lists), also just like FB & IG, but with no risk of disapproved ads or getting shut down.
We Can Help You Market Your Cannabis Brand
Advertising your cannabis brand can be challenging but as you can see there are plenty of other options for marketing your cannabis brand that can be equally as effective.
Organic marketing tactics like building a strong social media presence, implementing a search engine optimization and content marketing strategy, guest posting. link building and even SMS/text messaging are all viable options to market your cannabis brand and CBD products.
We can help you craft, execute and manage an effective marijuana marketing strategy to grow your brand awareness online and drive traffic to your website store or retail locations.
Contact us for a free consultation or to request a quote.
We’re Ready To Help You Grow!