Why Your Dispensary Marketing Plan Must Put Your Target Consumers First

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Your Dispensary Marketing Plan For Recreational Cannabis & Medical Marijuana

This is not a post about how to market marijuana or what marijuana marketing strategies are best for your dispensary marketing plan.

But, this is a post about how you can improve your cannabis marketing strategy and set your brand or dispensary ahead of your competition using these proven digital marketing tips for your recreational or medical dispensary marketing strategy.

It seems to me that cannabis companies have forgotten all about the consumer and spent too much time on their brand and their products or services.

Branding or Customers. Which Comes First?

Don’t get me wrong, branding is essential for legal cannabis producers and as a marijuana dispensary marketing strategy, but if you’re not focusing on your customers first and foremost, who are you creating this branding for?

This article aims to discuss how leading cannabis companies have seemingly forgotten the customer(s) while focusing too much on their respective brand’s.

We’ll also discuss what type of marijuana marketing strategies new cannabis companies and marijuana dispensaries should be using when marketing recreational or medical marijuana.

I feel that most companies in dispensary marketing and the medical/recreational marijuana space think that they are marketing to one consumer – one customer avatar (see below) – or to just one consumer cohort.

Do today’s cannabis brands feel that every 420 lover is the same when it comes to their smoke? Do they even smoke or do they prefer to consume their cannabis via beverages or edibles?

My point is that there have to be hundreds of different types of marijuana customers who like to consume their cannabis is a hundred different ways.

If this is true, marijuana companies need to begin to understand the different types of customers for their different types of products or services.

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5 Different Types of Cannabis Consumers

Before we get to how marijuana dispensaries, licensed marijuana producers and other businesses in the cannabis marketing space can identify their best customers, let’s first define a basic, high-level list of the cannabis consumers.

Since we’ve already established that there are many different types of people who like to, or will like to, consume cannabis in many different ways, marijuana brands need to understand these different cohorts first, before producing or marketing their weed.

Keep in mind this is a generalization I’m making for the purposes of illustrating my point.

Marijuana Consumer #1: Medical Mary Jane Only

As of June 2018, there were more than 330 thousand medical marijuana clients registered in Canada. Medical marijuana has been legal in Canada since 1999.

This is a significant increase from June 2015 when there were only around 24 thousand people registered. In the United States, medical marijuana has been approved for medical use in 33 states, as of November 2018.

Canada, as well as fifteen American states, have passed medical marijuana laws, but little is known about the growing population of patients who use marijuana medicinally.

Look at the different demographics in California as of 2000, of different types of people who use medical marijuana, as well as a list of the many ways medical cannabis users prefer to consume their marijuana: (source)

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Imagine how many questions of concerns each of these demographics may have with their medical marijuana prescription and regimen.

Is there informative education provided to these customers? If so by what medical marijuana professional?

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Marijuana Consumer #2: Old School Stoners

We all know these people. They have smoked for years since they first started smoking in high school or college/university, and are still smoking regularly today.

These people may enjoy smoking cannabis more so than consuming it via edibles.

Or maybe these people have evolved from smoking weed in pipes and bongs and are now buying a marijuana concentrate known as “shatter” and a blow torch to spark it up. Seriously, people do this!

Marijuana dispensaries and other cannabis-related businesses need to market to this cohort with a much different strategy that they’d use with medical cannabis users or the next set of cohorts below.

Why? Because they’re interests and online behaviors, sources of information, and goals with using cannabis, recreational or medical, are all different.

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Marijuana Consumer #3: New School Stoners

You probably will know some in this cohort as well. These are the people who have never smoked or consumed cannabis, ever. Or they have tried it once but “didn’t inhale”.
Ottawa University posts statistics that say there are an estimated 2.3 million marijuana users in Canada. Of that, the site reports that the number of people aged 12 – 17 who use daily is 225,0005.

In the USA, nearly 55 million Americans, or 22%, currently use marijuana.

With the recent legalization of cannabis in Canada, I think it’s safe to say the numbers above will increase based on an influx of new users, aka, new school stoners.

Legalization opened the doors for new school weed consumption and Canadians plan to partake. Accounting firm Deloitte says that Canadians are expected to increase their consumption of marijuana by up to 35% and spend as much as $7 Billion on legal and illegal sales in 2019.

Consumers new to marijuana require a separate and unique marketing strategy to get them aware of your products and into your marketing funnel. Cannabis education is a big deal for this cohort because they are completely inexperienced.

Are you starting to see why really, really understanding your customers is important to our marijuana dispensary marketing strategy?

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Marijuana Consumer #4: Silver Haired Stoners

Yes, you know or will know these people too. There’s most certainly going to be an elderly group of individuals interested in legal pot. You could mix this group into the “New School Stoners” but I’d beg to disagree there.

My feeling is that silver-haired stoners, like your parents or grandparents, need a unique marketing strategy from the new school stoners described above.

I look at this group of people who view marijuana as “Reefer Madness” and other derogatory terms like it was viewed in the 1950s and 1960s.

Therefore, the education required for this group of new elderly stoners will be much different than what you’d use to convert younger new users. Here’s a quick example:

This demographic may feel that going to get legal weed for medical or recreational purposes involves going to a seedy area of town, down some back alley, or meeting some random drug dealer at a random time, in a random parking lot.

The truth is that the marijuana buying experience has changed and will continue to change drastically. Many marijuana dispensaries are tapping into high-end design to make their customers comfortable.

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Marijuana Consumer #5: Health Conscious Stoners

I’m thinking there is this relatively new cohort that we all know of but maybe haven’t yet connected the dots. There are people you know who’d fit into this group especially if you live in a country or US state where cannabis is now legal.

People in their 20’s up to 50s+ are more health conscious these days than they were in days past. Back in the day, smoking was de rigueur, today it’s intolerable if not unacceptable in some circles.

Because of this, I anticipate a whole new breed of new stoners who will enjoy marijuana without smoking it. They will consume marijuana via infused beverages, edibles, vapes, and oils.

However, statistics today show that smoking cannabis (dried flower) is still the most popular way to consume cannabis among Canadians 15 years of age and older. Edibles are a close second.

National Cannabis Survey, first quarter 2018, reports that about 4.2 million or 14% of Canadians aged 15 years and older use some form of cannabis products for medical or non-medical use in the past three months. More than half (56%) of the users indicated that they used some form of cannabis “daily” or “weekly.”

Here’s how those surveyed consume legal medical or recreational marijuana:

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How Education Helps Cannabis Companies Increase Revenue

Educating this consumer group is as important as educating some of the other cohorts above.

Cannabis companies can increase revenue by implementing content marketing and social media campaigns designed to educate these health-conscious consumers of the benefits of medical marijuana or the non-carcinogenic ways of enjoying recreational cannabis.

The idea would be to create educational ebooks, infographics, and short video “tutorials” on how to consume cannabis without smoking it.

You, or your experienced cannabis marketing agency, would create this content and give it away for free in exchange for the user’s email address.

You can then create custom audiences and lookalike audiences on Facebook to retarget all these highly-qualified users with creative marijuana advertising campaigns on Facebook and Instagram.

The next step in your recreational or medical marijuana marketing plan would be to identify your target customers from the different cannabis groups above and create your final customer avatars, aka, marketing personas. We discuss this in detail in the section below.

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Marijuana Marketing Strategy Step 1: Understanding Your Target Customer

Our process before starting and recreational or medical marijuana marketing plan is to understand the client and their target consumers. I truly believe the best marijuana marketing strategies start with building a set of detailed customer avatars.

Why? Simply because this is the best way to completely understand your target market – the people you’ll focus all your marijuana marketing on. You must get to know them almost better than they know themselves.

By using this customer avatar template marijuana brands like yours can identify all the vital information that is needed for any type of successful, hyper-targeted marijuana marketing and eventually marijuana advertising strategy.

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Sound cool?

For a brief 30-min consultation on how to use this template to build your customer avatars, please contact me directly to schedule a convenient time for us to chat.


Marijuana Marketing Strategy Step 2: Setting Up Your Conversion Funnel

So now that you’ve identified your target consumers and understand this unique target market, you and your marijuana marketing team should be armed with 5-10+ different customer avatars.

You’re almost ready to execute your marijuana marketing plan. But first, any decent cannabis marketer needs to understand the conversion funnel approach to marijuana marketing.

The Marijuana Marketing Conversion Funnel

Our partners helped us build this visual illustration of a digital marketing conversion funnel for marketing marijuana. Before you start your cannabis marketing strategy or dispensary marketing plan, build your customer avatars.

The visual shows 4 different stages your customers will go through before and after purchasing your marijuana product and services.

1. Awareness (Cold)
2. Evaluation (Warm)
3. Conversion (Hot)
4. Delight

It also illustrates the different stages your prospects and customers are in made up of different types of marijuana consumers (right side of diagram).

Not only that, this marijuana marketing strategy shows you the different types of content you should produce for each stage of the conversion funnel (left side of diagram). You’ll notice that content marketing is a major part of all stages of this strategic marijuana marketing plan.

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The points to note here are that there are different customers, different goals, and different types of content that needs to be strategized, produced and marketed uniquely at each stage of the funnel.

If you’re targeting cold prospects at the top of the funnel with bottom of the funnel content, or a bottom of the funnel offer, you likely won’t be as successful as you would be if you produced top of the funnel content promoted to this “cold” audience.

Highly relevant cannabis related content educates prospects and establishes you and your brand as experts in the marijuana space. This, in turn, allows them to move through the conversion funnel and trust you enough to do initial business with your brand.

If your marijuana product or service is awesome and “delights” them, you now have a happy, satisfied return customer who will spread the good word about your marijuana brand to their friends.

Summary Of the Conversion Funnel

Essentially, what you should take from this illustration is:

1. You need to understand your customer avatars before starting a marijuana marketing strategy for your dispensary or cannabis-related brand.

2. You need to produce and distribute different types of content for each customer in each stage of the funnel.

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Marijuana Marketing Strategy Step 3: Producing Your Content

You can really only begin creating content to educate your customers and prospects or to sell your marijuana products and services once you understand who you are creating this content for. That is, who your product is specifically produced for and targeted to.

That’s why content creation is step 3 in this marijuana marketing strategy.

How do you know what type of content to produce? This is a question that seems hard to answer but is relatively simple if you think about it logically.

I do it using keyword research and using free and paid keyword research tools like Google Keyword Planner, Ubersuggest, SEMrush, and Buzzsumo.

Yes these are keyword research tools and I do use these tools for the keyword research I do to implement cannabis SEO strategies on client website’s, but I also use these tools as “topic” research.

After all, keywords are the short-tail and long-tail phrases users use to search for answers to their questions and queries. The trick is to use those keyword phrases and key topics and produce content to answer the most popular questions.

You’ll want to remember to create the content and promote it to the right audience.

So if you’re targeting people who are curious about consuming marijuana but aren’t ready to try anything or make a purchase, you ’d want to create educational content showing off your product/service features and benefits.

You’re not looking to sell your product or service to these people, you’re simply educating them on your products/services and showing them why they should care. That is, you are moving them through your funnel.

If you were running a retargeting campaign to warm and hot users who are familiar with your marijuana brand and have previously engaged with your website or social media content, you know they are considering your 420 product or service.

So the idea here would be to look for a sale and not to educate this group anymore. You could create a free trial, discount, or other offers to entice a sale. This warm/hot group would be more likely to buy from you that the cold group mentioned first.

Strategizing your content creation prior to production is key to success. This is the basis of our SEO and content marketing strategy at ColaDigital.ca. This is a proven way to target and attract highly-qualified traffic to your website or e-store.

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Next Steps For Your Marijuana Dispensary Marketing Plan

I’m hoping the marijuana marketing ideas illustrated above have helped you understand the importance of understanding your customers. This is step one – before you start selling.

The 5 different types of cannabis consumers I mentioned were off the top of my head. I’m sure you can find new cohorts within the 5 groups listed in this article.

The point is to do your research on your customers. Understand their online behaviour, their personal interests, and how they consume information and cannabis! Using the customer avatar template is a super effective way to start this exercise.

If you need help creating customer avatars, building your dispensary’s conversion funnel, or managing your dispensaries social media marketing strategy, we’re experienced and ready to help you and your team.

ColaDigital is Canada’s most experienced cannabis marketing agency dedicated to marketing recreational marijuana and medical cannabis. We partner with marijuana companies in Canada, USA, and Worldwide who share our vision of destigmatizing cannabis and breaking new ground in this dynamic industry.

Our team has been implementing digital strategy since 2004, we believe our experience speaks for itself. We’ve served over 100 clients in a wide variety of B2B and B2C sectors, including some companies in the medical cannabis space. We know what works and what doesn’t.

If you have questions or are ready to work with us, please contact us now or reach out using the contact form below.

We’re ready to help you grow!