If you’re just getting started in DC’s post-initiative 71 cannabis-friendly landscape, you may be wondering how to safely market your products and services without risking compliance issues with the laws and federal advertising restrictions. Here’s everything you need to know to market your cannabis brand or business in Washington DC effectively.
The cannabis industry vs. marketing pitfalls
The cannabis industry is set to be worth an estimated $150-500 billion by 2025. If you’re not involved with cannabis now, there’s a good chance that at some point, you will be. So if the industry is worth so much, why does the cannabis industry face so many obstacles with advertising while similar industries, like alcohol and tobacco, have been successful?
For one thing, the industry is very new, but it’s exploding. Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia have passed laws legalizing marijuana in some form. In some cases, the rate of legalization may be outpacing the state’s ability to prepare new rules. For example, a billboard in Maryland depicting Michealangelo’s Adam with a joint between his fingers forced Maryland to develop its own policy for advertising cannabis, when there were no laws in place saying that advertisement couldn’t be run.
There are many federal restrictions in place regarding marketing and advertising cannabis, too. On a federal level, marijuana is a schedule 1 drug up there on the list with notorious drugs like heroin. For this reason, it’s illegal to utilize most forms of traditional and print marketing, including flyers and mailers sent through the US postal service, TV commercials, and public radio ads. This is mainly because there’s no way to guarantee that no more than 30% of the people who view the ad are underage.
The pitfalls are also adamant in the digital world. Social Media giants like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all include cannabis clauses in their terms of service that prohibit using their sites to advertise cannabis products and brands. Further, it’s impossible to promote a cannabis business using ad spend on Google Adwords. Google doesn’t want to get into trouble with the feds, and they also can’t guarantee that cannabis ads run through Google Adwords won’t be viewed by people under age 21, which is a federal rule.
Additionally, each city and state has its own laws surrounding cannabis brands. Some cities are prohibited from using cannabis or the green cannabis cross in their logos or signage. Others aren’t allowed to use billboards. Some prohibit cannabis advertising altogether.
In DC, for example, it’s illegal for any cannabis advertisements to depict cannabis prices. You also can’t advertise cannabis in any form outside of a medical dispensary, meaning it can’t be visible from the exterior at all. None of your ads or social posts can contain anything related to children, including toys, since they can’t be attractive to children.
Though there are many of these roadblocks in place, preventing cannabis brands from marketing and advertising themselves in a traditional manner, there are still many highly-effective ways to market cannabis businesses by finding an organic reach online.
By using a combination of storytelling and SEO in unison with social media and on-the-ground public relations, you can still find supreme marketing success. Below you’ll find a quick rundown of all the moving parts that make up a cannabis marketing strategy and a few ways you can get started telling your story.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is one of the most effective marketing tools when it comes to the cannabis industry. Because paid advertising on Google and Facebook is not available, SEO is one of the primary ways that you can invest and your marketing and see a measurable return. In short SEO is the process of increasing the organic ranking of a webpage in Google or other major search results.
There’s a lot of discussion on effective SEO tactics but most agree that the two most important factors are content and backlinks. The more you have of these two signals the more trustworthy and authoritative your website seems. As you produce more content and get more links, you inevitably will rise in the rankings and then get more qualified traffic to your website thus resulting in more sales.
Now this sounds simple but the details are key. In order for this to be effective you need to produce the right content and get the right links to your website. By having relevant and engaging content and links from websites in your niche you are going to see a bigger impact on your rankings. Medicated Marketing is a cannabis marketing agency that specializes in Marijuana SEO. They have expertise in ranking cannabis websites of all types and can help you with all of your digital marketing needs.
Cannabis Content Marketing
Content marketing is the best way for cannabis businesses to advertise their products and services. It is a long-term, low-cost solution that develops highly engaged audiences through storytelling and on-page SEO. With content marketing, you can grow a steady audience of customers and brand evangelists by providing a more direct approach to your customers and your audience.
This is primarily achieved through the written word – including blog content, website copy, guides, and press releases. The content you develop can be repurposed for meaningful social posts, email campaigns, text advertisements, and community outreach, further fueling your marketing fire while sticking to local laws and federal regulations.
To get started with cannabis content marketing, you need to first think about who you are and what you want your brand to represent. How do you want to present yourself? What makes your company different from other businesses that do the same thing? What extra value do you bring to the table? You should also take the time to consider the personal touches. Did you get into cannabis for any particular reason? What is your goal for your products, and who will they help?
From there, you need to develop a user-friendly website that reflects your business goals and resonates with your target audience. After that, comes content development and applying them to the many moving parts of cannabis content marketing.
Cannabis Website Design
Cannabis websites are by and large the same no matter where you look. To have a compliant website, you need to ensure that no more than 30% of the people who visit your site will be under the age of 21. To accomplish this, most brands will include a pop up that allows the user to put in their birthdate or click a button that says they are over age 21. It seems simple, but it’s a critical part of any cannabis website.
Your website should include all of the components an ordinary site would, including a blog, contact information, and other information relevant to your brand’s story, like an about or services section. Many cannabis websites include a menu of products that they update manually. You should take great care to ensure your content reflects your brand and business goals while also maintaining website design best practices.
Remember, your website is for your USERS, not just for you. If it isn’t easy to read and navigate the content on the site, it isn’t doing your marketing efforts any favors. Here are a few ways to optimize your website for user experience. If you need a website for your cannabis business Medicated Marketing specializes in building websites for dispensaries, delivery services and doctors.
Social Media Marketing Cannabis Brands
Social media is your friend in the cannabis industry, but it’s also a dangerous game. Since cannabis is federally illegal, the social media giants all have policies in place preventing cannabis businesses from showcasing their products and services on their websites.
There are many ways to get around it, though. For one thing, instead of sharing pictures of weed, you should stick to only sharing engaging or educational content. You don’t really want to promote your business since doing so could be a violation of the network’s rules and get your account frozen or deleted altogether. Many cannabis brands rely on influencer marketing and shout outs through Instagram to strum up an audience instead of being on social media themselves. Some cannabis social stars only engage with their audiences through forums and message boards.
However, there are also several cannabis-centric social media platforms, so you don’t have to rely on influencers or stick to sites that aren’t always safe to use. Massroots is considered the Instagram of the cannabis industry and boasts thousands of daily users. Duby is a lot like tinder, but for weed. Using a cannabis-centric social media platform ensures that you can advertise your business where your ideal customer base is already hanging out.
In the cannabis industry, your relationship with social media is all about organic growth. You can’t run paid ads since you’re in the cannabis business, but you can reach out to and connect with your audience using a variety of media. Short videos, podcasts, cooking shows, blog and news content, and memes are all great ways to repurpose and repackage your content into something your audience will want to engage with. For more ways to market your cannabis brand through social media, check this out.
Listing on Cannabis Websites and Blogs
Since SEO is a huge part of content marketing, you want to make sure your local SEO is top-notch. Most of your customer base is going to be local traffic, so they must know how to find you. By following this list of Local SEO best practices, you can get your business found organically through local Google search results.
To do this, you need to list your business every chance you get. You should have your business registered with Google My Business to start. If you’re a dispensary, you’ll want to be listed on Weedmaps and Leafly. However, local online directories are essential, too.
To earn citations, you need to have your name, address, phone number, and website URL listed all over relevant places of the web. A great way to do that is by listing your business in local directories. Local directories can also help you earn more local traffic, as more people will be exposed to your brand online. Here are a few of the best cannabis business directories you can list with to earn those citations!
To build local SEO in the DC area, be sure to list your business with 420DC. To create a listing, you must be the owner/operator of a DC-based delivery service or smoke shop. You must also have a business name, address, phone number, and website URL to get the best results. Once listed, you have the opportunity to reach over 40,000 D.C. based customers every month.
Text and Email Marketing
SMS and Email is a great way to keep your customers in the loop without dedicating so much time to social media. Text and email campaigns are typically incentivized by a loyalty or rewards program that encourages customers to stay loyal and keep in touch.
In the cannabis industry, dispensaries and delivery services rely on SMS marketing to get valuable information out to their audiences quickly. Texts have a 98% open rate, making them the most effective means of digital communication.
The content you use for your text and email campaigns will primarily be relevant company information, such as availability, hour changes, new products, and more. Newsletters and longer forms of messaging marketing can also be developed from the content you create for your content marketing strategy.
Guerilla Marketing through Events
Events provide a way for businesses to interact with ordinary people. By attending expos and cannabis events, many brands can get valuable facetime with customers and competitors.
Since many businesses in the cannabis industry are on a smaller scale (think dispensaries), there isn’t a huge need to establish an entire table or booth. Most of the time, cannabis brands attend events in the form of one or two people.
They will attend the event and collect business cards and talk about their business. However, they’ll also utilize guerilla marketing tactics along with merchandise to leave a lasting impression. Some cannabis brands print up a bunch of stickers and put them everywhere that their audience might be hanging out. Others give out free stuff, like hats, water bottles, and t-shirts.
Guerilla marketing puts your brand in the public eye, while events allow you to build better relationships with customers and competitors. If you’re always on the lookout for cannabis events in DC, be sure to visit 420DC’s events section for daily updates on local happenings where you can make a good impression.
TLDR; Cannabis Marketing
- There are many advertising restrictions in place preventing cannabis businesses from marketing their brands in the traditional sense
- Through content marketing, cannabis businesses can enjoy real results with little additional budget
- There are many working parts in a cannabis content marketing plan, including content development, website design, various forms of content, social media, text and email marketing, event marketing, and local SEO
- Local SEO is one of the best ways to earn local traffic, so listing your business information in local directories is imperative
- 420DC can help you list your business to boost your local SEO. It can also help you find cannabis events to attend every single day so you can keep your brand at the forefront of everybody’s mind.
- If you would like professional help with marketing your cannabis business, the experts at Medicated Marketing can help.