Successfully marketing a cannabis dispensary involves understanding and navigating the complex network of regulations and legal challenges that come with the territory. In addition to ensuring compliance, your approach should be innovative and engaging. Consumers are spoiled for choice — how can you encourage them to think of your dispensary first?
Here are 12 actionable marketing ideas to help grow your customer base and stand out in an increasingly competitive marketplace — but first, let’s talk legal stuff.
Compliance and Legal Challenges To Consider
Navigating the labyrinth of regulations surrounding cannabis advertising is a crucial task for any dispensary. It’s not just about maintaining your brand’s credibility — it’s also about avoiding potential legal disputes and fines that could disrupt or halt your business operations.
Firstly, every state has its own distinct cannabis regulations. This means that while it might be legal to advertise your dispensary in one state, it might be illegal in another. Even within states where cannabis is legal, regulations can vary by county or city. Always check the local laws in your area before launching any advertising campaign.
Federal laws also play a significant role in cannabis advertising. While cannabis remains illegal at the federal level, businesses must be particularly careful not to use any form of interstate advertising, such as certain digital ads or TV commercials, as these could be viewed as promoting the interstate sale of a controlled substance.
A critical aspect of legal compliance, particularly for digital marketing efforts, is the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). This law restricts telemarketing calls and the use of automated telephone equipment, including text messaging. The TCPA requires businesses to get written consent before sending marketing text messages to customers. Violations of the TCPA can lead to hefty fines, so dispensaries must carefully manage their SMS marketing programs.
Cannabis businesses also face specific advertising restrictions. For example, many state laws prohibit promoting excessive cannabis consumption, targeting minors, advertising near schools, and making false or misleading claims about cannabis products. Many states require cannabis advertising to include public health and safety warnings, and some states limit the platforms where you can advertise cannabis. My advice? Set a Google Alert with the name of your cannabis regulatory agency so you can easily stay on top of changes to regulations in your area.
As an additional point of complexity, advertising platforms and services often have their own policies on cannabis advertising. Social media networks and search engines have guidelines that prohibit or restrict the advertising of cannabis products, regardless of legal status, in any particular location. That means no selling cannabis on Instagram or pay-per-click (PPC) ads for your dispensary.
So how can you connect with your audience and get them excited about your products?
1. Embrace Social Media
Social platforms can showcase your brand’s personality, foster direct communication with customers, and provide an avenue to share information about your products and services.
However, cannabis businesses must navigate social media platforms cautiously due to each platform’s strict guidelines concerning cannabis promotion. Here are some do’s and don’ts to help you stay compliant.
Facebook, Instagram & Threads
- Educate: Share informational content about cannabis, its benefits, and responsible use.
- Engage: Utilize the platforms to interact with your customers, answer their questions, and foster community engagement.
- Be Discreet: Use coded language that avoids direct mention of cannabis sales or prices.
- Sell: Both platforms prohibit direct sales of cannabis, so avoid listing prices or promoting specific products for sale.
- Target Minors: Design your content for adults, and use content age restrictions to avoid reaching minors.
- Share Industry News: Twitter is an excellent platform for sharing news about your dispensary or the cannabis industry.
- Use Hashtags: Use popular but appropriate hashtags to increase the visibility of your posts.
- Encourage Illegal Activity: Never suggest using cannabis for illegal purposes or in areas where it’s not legal.
- Network: Use LinkedIn to connect with other professionals in the cannabis industry and stay abreast of trends and discussions.
- Showcase Your Business: Highlight your dispensary’s milestones, services, and team members.
- Advertise Cannabis Sales: LinkedIn’s policy prohibits advertising drug sales, so focus on educating and networking rather than direct promotion.
- Educate: Create videos that educate about the safe and responsible use of cannabis.
- Entertain: Engage viewers with light-hearted, entertaining content that aligns with your brand.
- Promote Drug Use: Videos promoting drug use or the sale of drugs, including cannabis, are strictly forbidden on TikTok.
Overall, the key to successful and compliant social media marketing is focusing on education and community engagement rather than direct sales. And remember, each platform’s guidelines are subject to change, so always stay updated with the latest policies.
I also want to note that you don’t own a social platform. Your account may be frozen or removed at any time. Make sure to capitalize on your followers by getting them to sign up for your loyalty program or your email list (we’ll talk about both in a bit).
2. Partner With Influencers
Influencer partnerships can be an invaluable strategy in extending your brand’s reach. By aligning with influencers who resonate with your target audience, you can create authentic connections and build brand awareness. However, just like with direct marketing, there are rules to follow to stay compliant.
- Choose Influencers Carefully: Select influencers who align with your brand and have an audience of legal-age followers. Influencers who already have a foothold in the cannabis community can be particularly beneficial.
- Focus on Education and Lifestyle: Encourage influencers to promote the benefits of cannabis and the lifestyle associated with your brand rather than specific products or prices.
- Provide Clear Guidelines: Make sure influencers understand the cannabis advertising laws in their jurisdiction and your expectations for compliance.
- Promote Direct Sales: Avoid posts that directly encourage purchasing cannabis products. Instead, have influencers share their personal experiences or the benefits they’ve received from cannabis.
- Target Minors: Be certain the content these influencers create is designed for adults and does not appeal to minors.
- Make Health Claims: While influencers can share their personal experiences, they should not make broad claims about cannabis curing or treating health conditions.
It’s also essential to consider different regulations in different jurisdictions. For example, in Canada, the Cannabis Act prohibits endorsements or testimonials, presenting cannabis in a way that associates it with a particular way of life and using influencers to promote cannabis. Therefore, for any campaign involving influencers, you should familiarize yourself with local laws and industry regulations to avoid potential legal consequences.
A successful and compliant influencer partnership heavily relies on clear communication, careful planning, and a shared commitment to promoting responsible cannabis use.
3. Team Up With Other Businesses
Partnerships with other local businesses can be a smart way to reach new audiences, boost visibility, and offer unique experiences to your customers. Collaboration can come in many forms, from sponsoring local events to co-hosting educational workshops. However, due to cannabis regulations, there are critical guidelines to keep in mind.
- Select Partners Wisely: Choose to collaborate with businesses that align with your brand and have a similar target demographic. These could include wellness-focused companies, local artisans, or gourmet food businesses.
- Coordinate Complementary Events: Collaborate with a local yoga studio for a “Cannabis and Yoga” education session or a local brewery for a “Hops and Hemp” event where you inform participants about the similarities between beer brewing and cannabis cultivation.
- Engage in Joint Advertising: Pool resources with partnering businesses to create joint marketing campaigns, enhancing the visibility for both parties. You can do this through shared social media posts, co-created content, or even joint outdoor banners.
- Sell Outside Your Dispensary: Despite any partnerships, remember that cannabis sales can only occur at your dispensary or through your website (where applicable). Any marketing should direct customers to your dispensary for purchases.
- Associate with Inappropriate Businesses: Avoid partnering with businesses that may draw controversy or negatively impact your dispensary’s reputation. This includes businesses that are not cannabis friendly or those that target minors.
- Misrepresent Your Partnership: When advertising your partnership, make the messaging transparent. Do not promise anything outside the scope of what’s legally allowed.
Strategic partnerships can provide mutually beneficial growth opportunities. Just make sure that all your collaborative efforts align with regulations and promote safe and responsible cannabis use.
5. Host and Attend Events
Events are a brilliant way to engage your community, enhance your brand visibility, and foster lasting relationships with customers. However, you must plan and execute them carefully to stay compliant with cannabis regulations. Here are some event ideas and guidelines to help your dispensary succeed.
- Host Education Sessions: Host events focused on educating the public about cannabis. Some ideas include cannabis 101, cooking with cannabis, and responsible usage sessions. These events not only help dispel common misconceptions about cannabis but also position your dispensary as a trusted source of information.
- Set Up Wellness Events: Partner with local wellness businesses like yoga studios, meditation centers, or natural food stores to host events that align cannabis use with overall well-being.
- Organize Community Cleanups: Show your commitment to the local community by organizing cleanup days in public spaces. While not directly related to cannabis, these events showcase your dispensary’s social responsibility and dedication to the community.
- Create Art Shows: Collaborate with local artists to host an art show at your dispensary or another appropriate venue. The event could feature artwork that aligns with cannabis culture, promoting local talent and your dispensary at the same time.
- Attend Industry Events: Attend cannabis trade shows, conferences, and expos. These events offer great opportunities to learn about the latest trends, network with industry professionals, and increase your dispensary’s visibility.
- Promote Consumption at Events: While it may seem tempting to allow cannabis consumption at your events, this can land you in hot water with regulations, particularly in public spaces. Always prioritize legal compliance and public safety.
- Host or Sponsor Events Aimed at Minors: Always explicitly target your events at audiences of legal age. This includes not only the event’s content and advertising but also the choice of venue. For example, hosting or sponsoring events at locations frequently visited by minors, such as skate parks or music festivals, could risk attracting an underage audience and violate regulations.
- Overpromise in Event Advertising: Be careful not to overpromise or misrepresent what will occur at your event in any promotional materials. Make sure all communications clearly indicate that cannabis sales will only happen at your dispensary.
Hosting and attending events can be a powerful way to market your dispensary and build a strong, engaged community. Keep the focus on education, community-building, and compliance to ensure your events are successful and within regulatory bounds.
6. Start a Loyalty Program
Loyalty programs have proven to be effective strategies for not just attracting new customers but, more importantly, retaining existing ones. By rewarding your customers for their loyalty, you’re giving them an incentive to keep choosing your dispensary over others. This can lead to increased customer lifetime value (CLTV) and improved customer retention.
The Value of a Loyalty Program
A well-structured loyalty program provides significant value:
- Enhanced CLTV: By encouraging customers to make repeat purchases, you increase the total revenue generated from each customer over the duration of their relationship with your business.
- Improved Retention: Loyalty programs make customers feel valued, fostering a strong bond between them and your dispensary. This sense of value can discourage them from seeking out competitors.
- Increased Spend: When rewarded with points per dollar spent, customers may be inclined to add just one more product to their basket to earn extra points, thereby increasing their average spend.
- Valuable Data: Loyalty programs also enable you to gather valuable customer data, such as purchasing habits, preferences, and feedback. You can use this information to refine your marketing strategies, product offerings, and customer service.
Implementing a Loyalty Program
When implementing a loyalty program, consider a points-per-dollar-spent system rather than points-per-purchase. This type of program encourages higher spending, as the more a customer spends, the more points they earn. They can then redeem these points for discounts, freebies, or exclusive experiences.
Additionally, consider the following:
- Easy Signup: Make it easy for your customers to join the loyalty program. The fewer barriers to entry, the more likely they are to sign up.
- Simple and Clear Rules: The terms of your loyalty program should be simple and clearly communicated to your customers. The easier it is to understand, the more likely customers will participate.
- Engage Regularly: Keep your customers informed about their points balance, new ways to earn points, and special rewards for loyalty members through regular, personalized communication.
The main goal of your loyalty program should be to make your customers feel valued. A thoughtful, easy-to-use loyalty program can drive customer loyalty, boost revenue, and help your dispensary thrive amidst competition.
7. Set Up SMS Marketing
SMS marketing can be an effective and personal way to reach your customers, offering promotional updates, exclusive deals, and personalized offers straight to their mobile devices. However, due to the sensitive nature of the cannabis industry and telecommunication regulations, there are certain rules to follow to stay compliant.
Before diving into how you can use SMS marketing effectively, let’s address its legal considerations, namely the TCPA and the cell carrier guidelines.
The TCPA restricts telemarketing communications via voice calls and SMS. Here’s what you need to know to stay compliant:
- Obtain Consent: Make sure you have express written consent from customers before sending any promotional text messages. You could obtain this through an opt-in form on your website, at the point of sale, or via a text message prompt.
- Provide a Clear Opt-Out: Every SMS message you send must include a clear way for the recipient to opt out of receiving further messages. This could be as simple as instructing the recipient to reply “STOP” to unsubscribe.
- Respect Timings: The TCPA also restricts the hours during which you can send promotional messages. Only send texts between 8a.m. and 9p.m. in your recipient’s local time zone.
Cell Carrier Guidelines
In addition to TCPA, you must also adhere to cell carrier guidelines. Here’s how you can ensure you don’t run afoul of these rules:
- Avoid Explicit Content: Carriers can block messages that contain explicit content. Avoid using explicit language or overtly mentioning cannabis products in your texts. Instead, use neutral language to promote your deals and products. For example, instead of saying “20% off all cannabis products,” say “20% off storewide.”
- Limit Frequency of Messages: Be mindful not to flood your subscribers with messages. A good rule of thumb is to send no more than 4 to 6 messages per month.
By maintaining TCPA compliance and adhering to cell carrier guidelines, you can use SMS marketing as a valuable tool in your marketing strategy. It allows you to reach your customers directly, provide them with timely information, and ultimately drive them back to your dispensary. Be sure to integrate SMS marketing with your overall marketing strategy for a cohesive customer experience.
8. Don’t Forget Email Marketing
Despite the rise of social media and other forms of digital marketing, email remains a powerful tool for building relationships with customers. It lets you connect with your audience in a personalized way, providing valuable content directly to their inbox. However, like all other marketing avenues in the cannabis industry, you need to execute email marketing in a compliant manner.
What To Send via Email
Your email content should be informative, engaging, and valuable to your audience. Here are some content ideas:
- Educational Content: Share blog posts, articles, or resources that educate your audience about cannabis. You could write content about new products, strain profiles, the science of cannabis, or even industry news.
- Promotional Deals: Notify your customers about exclusive deals, sales, or upcoming products. You’ll incentivize them to visit your dispensary and make a purchase.
- Events and Workshops: If your dispensary hosts or participates in events, use your email newsletter as a platform to invite your audience.
- Customer Appreciation: Highlight customer testimonials, stories, or loyalty program rewards to show appreciation for your customer base.
What Isn’t Allowed
While email provides a direct line of communication with your customers, certain content is not allowed due to regulations:
- Overt Medical Claims: Avoid making explicit health or medical claims about cannabis. While research is ongoing, it’s not permissible to claim that cannabis can treat or cure specific medical conditions.
- Targeting Minors: Direct your email content toward an audience of legal age. Your email signup form should have age verification to prevent minors from subscribing.
- Spamming: Don’t overdo your email communication. Sending too many emails can frustrate your subscribers and may result in unsubscribes.
Building an Email Audience
Building an email list requires time and strategy. Here are some tips:
- Easy Signup: Make it simple for people to subscribe to your emails. Place an email signup form prominently on your website and social media profiles.
- In-Store Signup: Encourage your in-store customers to join your email list. You could incentivize this by offering a one-time discount or entry into a raffle.
- Lead Magnets: Offer something of value (like a comprehensive guide to cannabis strains or exclusive discounts) in exchange for email signups.
- Privacy and Consent: Remember to follow data protection regulations and only send emails to customers who have given their express consent.
Email marketing can be an effective way to keep your audience engaged and drive traffic to your dispensary. It’s important to create a well-rounded strategy that focuses on providing value and stays within legal boundaries.
9. Consider Local Advertising
Local advertising can be a powerful way to reach potential customers in your immediate vicinity and raise awareness of your dispensary. These methods might be considered ‘old-school,’ but they can still be highly effective when done correctly. Let’s explore some exciting ways to leverage local advertising.
Billboards can provide visibility and capture the attention of both pedestrians and motorists. They can communicate your unique selling points, display attractive imagery, and share your dispensary’s location and hours. To stay compliant, avoid any explicit imagery or language associated with cannabis. Instead, focus on promoting your brand’s identity.
You can distribute flyers in various locations in your local area. They are a cost-effective method of advertising, and their physical nature can make a lasting impression on potential customers. As with billboards, avoid explicit language and images related to cannabis. Focus on promoting your brand, deals, or events.
Local Print Media
Newspapers and local magazines offer a great way to reach an older demographic that might be less responsive to digital marketing. These can be particularly effective if you can tie in your advertising with relevant content or events in your local area. Remember to check the publication’s advertising rules and follow their policies and local laws.
Radio ads can reach a wide local audience and are particularly effective for targeting commuters. You can use them to create a memorable jingle, offer promotions, or simply raise awareness about your dispensary. Keep your ads compliant by avoiding claims about health benefits or targeting underage audiences.
Supporting local events, teams, or charities can help establish your dispensary as a pillar of the community. It provides exposure and builds goodwill. Keep in mind that some events may not be appropriate for a dispensary to sponsor, particularly those aimed at or likely to attract minors.
When planning any local advertising, always consider the regulations related to cannabis advertising in your area.
Local advertising can significantly impact your dispensary’s visibility and reputation in your community. The key is to stay creative and customer-focused.
10. Cross-Promote Products
Cross-promotion is a valuable marketing strategy that involves promoting other products in conjunction with one another. This can help introduce customers to new products, boost sales of lesser-known items, and add value to the customer experience. Let’s look at some creative ways you can implement this strategy.
One way to cross-promote is by bundling complementary products together. For example, you might package a particular strain of flower with a grinder or a vaporizer with a cartridge. Customers appreciate the convenience of these packages and the feeling they’re getting a deal while you can move more inventory and increase overall sales.
Another effective method of cross-promotion is making recommendations at the point of sale. You can facilitate this through your sales staff or digital displays. For instance, if a customer purchases a certain strain of cannabis, your staff might recommend a specific edible that pairs well. Alternatively, digital displays can showcase popular product combinations based on the customer’s current selection.
Creating educational content is another way to cross-promote your products. For instance, you might publish a blog post or social media content explaining how different cannabis products can complement each other, such as pairing certain strains with specific food or drinks for an enhanced experience. This not only cross-promotes your products but also establishes your dispensary as a knowledgeable resource.
Consider running themed promotions that tie different products together. You could tie promotions to holidays, seasons, or even local events. For example, you could run a “Summer Relaxation” promotion that bundles calming strains, topical CBD products for post-hiking recovery, and refreshing, cannabis-infused beverages.
Customer Loyalty Program
Your loyalty program can also be a vehicle for cross-promotion. Offer extra loyalty points for purchasing certain product combinations or create a “product of the month” that pairs well with popular choices.
Highlight Local or Sustainable Products
If you carry local or sustainably produced products, promote them alongside your mainstays. You’ll appeal to customers who value sustainability and local economic support, differentiating your dispensary from competitors.
When executed thoughtfully and creatively, cross-promotion can be a powerful tool in your dispensary’s marketing strategy.
11. Invest in Content Marketing
Content marketing involves creating and sharing valuable content to attract, engage, and convert your target audience. For dispensaries, this means providing educational, interesting, and relevant content about cannabis that resonates with your customer base. Let’s delve deeper into the types of content you can create and how to make sure it appeals to your target market.
Types of Content
- Blog Posts: Blog posts are an excellent way to share more in-depth information about cannabis. You could create strain profiles, guides on different consumption methods, share industry trends, or discuss the science of cannabis.
- Videos: Videos can be highly engaging and offer a great way to demonstrate product usage, introduce staff, or provide a behind-the-scenes look at your dispensary.
- Infographics: Infographics can simplify complex information, making it easier for your audience to understand. You could create infographics about the cannabis plant, different strains, or the effects of different cannabinoids.
- Newsletters: Regular newsletters can keep your customers informed about new products, upcoming events, special offers, and the latest blog posts or videos.
- Social Media Content: Social media provides a platform to share all the above types of content and engage directly with your audience. Regular, interesting posts can help keep your dispensary top-of-mind for your followers.
Creating Content that Resonates With Your Target Market
Creating compelling content requires a deep understanding of your target market. You need to know their interests, concerns, and what they value most about cannabis. Here are a few strategies:
- Persona Development: Develop personas for your typical customers. A persona might include age, occupation, interests, and reasons for using cannabis. This can guide your content creation by ensuring it resonates with your audience.
- Keyword Research: Use keyword research to discover what your target audience is searching for online. Tools like Ahrefs can help you find popular search terms related to cannabis.
- Feedback and Engagement: Listen to your customers. Solicit feedback in-store, through social media, or via email to learn what topics they’re interested in. Monitor which posts get the most engagement and adjust your strategy accordingly.
- Educational Content: Many people are interested in learning more about cannabis. Informative, well-researched content can position your dispensary as a trusted source of information.
- Address Misconceptions: Address common misconceptions about cannabis. Dispelling myths can help reduce stigma and make newcomers feel more comfortable.
While SEO is important, your primary goal is to provide value to your audience. High-quality, engaging content will help attract new customers and build loyalty with your existing customer base. As with all marketing efforts, confirm that your content complies with local and federal regulations. Need help? Check out our SEO content writing services.
12. Focus on Local SEO
Local Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an indispensable marketing tool for dispensaries. With the majority of consumers using search engines to find local businesses, prioritizing local SEO can significantly increase your dispensary’s visibility, helping you reach customers right when they’re ready to shop. And unlike some other marketing avenues, SEO is a safe cannabis marketing strategy, given you’re providing useful information to the public and not directly advertising cannabis sales.
Why Local SEO Matters for Dispensaries
- Customer Intent: Users searching for ‘dispensaries near me’ or similar phrases show strong purchasing intent. By ranking high in these searches, you’re reaching customers ready to visit a dispensary.
- Increased Visibility: Local SEO helps your business appear in ‘near me’ searches and map results, both of which receive high click-through rates.
- Competitive Advantage: Many businesses, including dispensaries, overlook local SEO. By prioritizing it, you can gain a significant edge over competitors.
Actionable Local SEO Tips
- Google My Business: Start by claiming your Google My Business (GMB) listing. Verify all information is accurate and complete, including your business name, address, and phone number (NAP). Regularly update your GMB with new photos, posts, and respond to customer reviews to stay active.
- Keyword Optimization: Incorporate local keywords (e.g., ‘dispensary in [city name]’) in your website content, meta tags, and descriptions.
- Online Directories: List your dispensary in online directories like Yelp, Yellow Pages, and local cannabis directories. Consistent NAP information across these directories can improve your local SEO.
- Customer Reviews: Encourage customers to leave reviews on your GMB profile. Positive reviews can improve your search ranking and attract more customers.
- Local Content: Create content relevant to your local community, such as blog posts about local cannabis laws, involvement in local events, or guides to consuming cannabis in your area safely and responsibly.
- Optimize for Mobile: Most local searches happen on mobile devices. Ensure your website is mobile friendly to provide a good user experience.
- Use Schema Markup: Use Local Business Schema Markup on your website to provide search engines with more information about your business, like your hours, pricing, and location.
Investing time in local SEO can increase your online visibility, drive more traffic to your dispensary, and ultimately boost sales. SEO is a long-term strategy and may take some time to see results. But by getting started today, you’re planting the seeds for future success.