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April 28, 2021

Cannabis Marketing Guide 2021: The Future is Now

by Chris Romero

The world of cannabis marketing has up to this point been amateur and unfocused. However, with the rapid digital transformation of modern society, the landscape of marijuana marketing is about to change completely.

Today we will observe the environment for cannabis brands trying to do marketing, and the different channels that you can use to grow your business.

Covid -19 will make it simpler for companies in this industry both big and small, new or established, with a wide range of budgets that are keen on traditional marketing practices such as TV advertising or sponsorship by way of highlighting their logos prominently at events like music concerts or sports games.

Marketing campaigns can now include outdoor signage in cities where marijuana has been legalized (although local laws may still prohibit certain types). Digital billboards are a similar option for cannabis businesses to increase the brands' presence in the local market.

Customers are getting used to the cannabis industry making their way into advertisements, both digital and print.

journal on desk next to weed

Cannabis brands are not only competing with the other brands in their industry but they are also going head-to-head against legacy tobacco, alcohol, and pharma companies.

The key to success for these cannabis businesses is how well they can create a name that resonates with people on an emotional level and creates enough of a differentiation between themselves and the competition.

Cannabis marketing is an emerging industry that has grown exponentially in recent years. The cannabis entrepreneur is a new breed of business person and thinker.

This is why cannabis marketing is growing rapidly. These marijuana pioneers are using social in different ways to market your products or brand.

Next, let's discuss the present state of cannabis marketing and what the future may hold for those looking to make their mark on this burgeoning sector.

people with laptop discussing

The State of Marijuana Marketing

The future of marijuana marketing is nuanced. Marijuana marketers have to figure out ways to make their product stand out from the competition and appeal to consumers on an emotional level.

However, this can be difficult when they are up against giant industries that produce addictive products like alcohol or opioids (pharmaceutical drugs). 

The key for cannabis businesses is how well they create a name that resonates with people on an emotional level and differentiates them from other companies in the space. For some brands, especially those who want to set themselves apart as “good” while others may not be seen as such because of negative associations with marijuana use by young people, it will work best if they steer clear of using words like pot or weed at all

First, let's look at the present state of cannabis marketing. Cannabis has been around for many years and with it comes a plethora of opportunities to market your goods or services.

There are two main types: vertical and horizontal marketing. Vertical means narrowing in on one specific demographic while horizontal is more broad - targeting everyone who smokes weed! So what type should you choose?

It depends on how much money you want to spend because they both have their pros and cons as well as challenges that come along with them.

Vertical vs. Horizontal marketing for the cannabis industry

Vertical marketing

is easier if you're looking for a targeted audience but will cost more than full-service advertising when done correctly due to all the extra work needed to make sure people know about your product/brand within this niche. With the right marketing, you can dominate your niche and be able to promote yourself for a lot of business.

Vertical marketing is more targeted and efficient when it comes to the cost, but not always as effective. With vertical, you're looking for people who have already expressed an interest in your niche and are most likely going to buy from you. This type of advertising can be seen on social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook where there's more opportunity for engagement.

Horizontal marketing

is more cost-efficient but will take much longer to find success because it's not targeted towards one specific group of people - there are just too many! This type of marketing is good if you're looking to also build up your brand awareness in your market at the same time.

Depending on your cannabis brand, sometimes it is a lot easier to stick to your target audience, but as legal cannabis grows, the masses are more susceptible to marketing.

marketing team around laptop

How to Grow Your Cannabis Brand With Marketing Channels

Marketers often use social media to reach new audiences and reinforce messages, but one way to measure the success of your marketing is by looking at how it translates into real world reach.

If you offer a discount or promotion on your product, then you can incentivize people to purchase and provide feedback about their experience with your business. This is how you can understand how people perceive your brand and exactly how your marketing approach plays into it. Digital marketing and tracking tools make this easier than ever.

Cannabis marketing has taken off in the past few years, with estimates that it will have an annual growth rate of 8%. Estimates place the value of cannabis branded goods at $42 billion by 2025. (source https://newfrontierdata.com/cannabis-insights/us-legal-cannabis-market-projected-to-double-by-2025/)

Cannabis companies search for operational solutions to scale their expanding enterprise, and this often leads them to work with industry vendors. This creates opportunities for many types of cannabis businesses.

For businesses looking to break into the cannabis space this is an optimal opportunity to promote your offerings. However, your marketing strategy must be done strategically for your brand. And beyond traditional print advertising, is it even possible for weed websites to get visitors? Believe it or not, the web is the perfect medium to get started with marketing strategies, especially for a cannabis brand.

It’s a mad world out there for cannabis marketers, there are guidelines and penalties to worry about, but we have a bit more to talk about before jumping into that.

Most attempts by cannabis marketers are unsuccessful, and this is largely due to the fact that they are grasping at straws without any experience. You need to have a clear cut plan

woman happy using a laptop

Steps for success in cannabis marketing:

-With a long-term perspective in mind, develop an organic marketing strategy for your website.

-Use your website as the hub of all your SEO, social media marketing and web design efforts.

-To stay on top of your cannabis marketing efforts, knowing local and national laws are crucial. Maintaining a current knowledge of potential legislation that could affect you is paramount.

-Picking a marketing path that you can stay committed to is key for getting started.

-Stay consistent, and you will reap the rewards.

In an industry where change is the only given, how do you do it right? We’re here to provide some insight from our experiences working within the industry. So without further ado, here are our dos and don’t of cannabis marketing.


The Do's of Cannabis Marketing:


1. Know where you stand

The first step in market on the internet is to have a strong foundation. Is your website prepared? Is your content speaking to people and guiding them on the buying journey?

Are you equipped to follow up with leads that your marketing efforts produce? These are important steps, so make sure not not skip anything. Here are some checkpoints you can use:


Evaluate your website.

How does your design reflect your company's current branding? More importantly, is it optimized for users? Does it work across devices like desktops or tablets?

And does it respond to keywords in the search engine rankings when indexed? Your website needs to be optimized for both internal and external web traffic.


Capture leads.

What do you do once a visitor arrives on your website?If you don’t capture their contact information, they may not leave any contact info to let you know that they were there since you never got the opportunity.

Incorporate relevant, impactful call to action statements throughout your site. These will suggest visitors take the next step in their buying journey.

In order to market our website with internet marketing, it is necessary to offer high quality content that people would be willing to trade their contact information for, or encourage them to book a meeting with one of our business specialists.


Organize ALL of your contacts.

Once new, high-value prospects are generated from your website, what happens next? Do they go directly to a CRM or some other lead management application?

The right tool will help you more easily organize your contacts and take further steps to guide them through the website.

With a solid foundation, you'll be able to create an effective marketing strategy that will continuously draw in new leads and follow up with them until they take the next step.

content on computer about marketing


2. Create content funnels

An astute investor shouldn’t invest in a company without building credibility first through content marketing. Content often comes in the form of articles, blogs, podcasts, and video publishing focused on one topic or keyword.

Content marketing establishes your authority, generates leads, and boosts SEO.

Content marketing comes with many forms, such as blog posts, case studies, ebooks and whitepapers, podcasts, webinars videos. Strategically analyze the content type that best suits your prospect in each stage of your funnel to better gain more conversions.


Start of the funnel

A common mistake many writers make is focusing on what will drive traffic to their site instead of designing content around reader goals. Without content geared towards the bottom of the funnel, it's unlikely anyone will convert.

Put yourself in your target persona's shoes and visit the website. Does it have everything you need to make a decision about the benefits of working with you?

Examples of internet marketing tactics include: request a consultation, live demos, quote requests, published pricing information. With the Internet's prevalence, these days buyers prefer to find this information online before speaking with sales representatives.

Make it easy for them by compiling all the information they're looking for in one place.


Middle of the funnel

Provide content related to the solution your website visitor is looking for. You want to make sure they can learn about how your product or service might be right for them.

Some common methods of internet marketing might include providing useful product reviews and comparisons, or giving away free samples.


Top of the funnel

Now that you have a flow of individualized content that converts into leads and sales, the next step is figuring out how to reach your target audience.

 Write for who? What will they be interested in? Consider what prospects are asking in the cannabis space concerning education and training.

What can you help with?

You need to create content that speaks to the questions your potential clients are asking. This could include internet marketing tactics like blogging, vlogging, and video demonstrations.

Think about your target audience and what they would find the most value from. What is driving them?

Identify your ideal customers’ most pressing questions and articles that can answer those queries. Utilize the buyer's journey to generate content for every stage of their purchase process, ensuring that you cannot leave any questions unanswered.

Think about their social presence and how you can use that for your marketing materials.

Where do they spend time? Twitter? Instagram? YouTube? Pinterest? LinkedIn?

Do you need to speak with venture capitalists, or do marketing for genetic modification firms, automating cannabis growth? These questions will all dictate how your brand will be marketed and the types of questions you will ask

You should create engaging content that addresses ONE step of the funnel.

yellow background white phone with social apps

3. Promote your Content

Once you’ve built the foundation for your cannabis company and have content to support customers as they explore, it’s time to get your message out there. The key thing to remember when marketing on the Internet is that your content and message must appear in the places that your prospects routinely visit. If they’re not on Twitter, there is no reason to waste much time with Twitter. Similarly, If you don't spend time marketing in the same spaces your prospects are, you'll be less like to be noticed. Thus how can you amplify your message?


Social Media

Social sites can be a tricky landscape for cannabis companies. With one law getting repealed just months after you post something, it's hard to know what is right and what might get your company in trouble. This means that cannabis brands typically cannot advertise on various social networking sites, but that doesn’t mean these companies can't leverage organic reach on these platforms.

One excellent way to market your services is by using social media. We recommend the following platforms:

  • Instagram: The best platforms for cannabis brands are image-centered. Cannabis companies can use channels like Instagram to boost awareness and build a targeted high-value audience through digital marketing
  • Facebook: Brands in the cannabis industry can use Facebook to build a customer community, promote excellent customer service, or keep clients updated on your company's latest news and updates.
  • Twitter: The use of Twitter to network and exchange ideas is beneficial for the cannabis industry. This strategy can be used by leaders, influencers, or journalists. In other words, it's a great way for you to network with other cannabis entrepreneurs.
What does a cannabis brand post?

The biggest mistake people make when trying to market on social media is forgetting that your goal should be educating customers (not pushing your product).

Consider what your target audience cares about and create posts that speak to those interests. Posts on social networking sites include industry news, educational pictures or graphics, links to various strategies in the industry, behind-the-scenes footage of products.

One good content idea for cannabis companies is creating a cannabis responsibility initiative, which can be very valuable to consumers.

After publishing content on the platforms consistently, study the analytics provided for each and adjust accordingly.

Analyze what channels are most effective for your specific target market.

Though they may make for a valuable social marketing tactic, cannabis brands tread with caution when taking to the most popular platforms. Marketing agencies have been known to use write-ups about uplifting things or the story of an old remedy that used hemp - anything different than what's expected.

Creative cannabis marketers can use SEO along with social posts to increase the viewership of their site.

When doing content creation, good cannabis marketers will also study the intent of their chosen topic to see if it is looking for informational, commercial, or transactional content.

Moreover, they will add the information into a specific level in their funnel based on what that intent is.

So, essentially the client is trying to heal themselves with DIY methods. After educating potential customers on the industry, they will know which type of products or services they are looking for, and won't stop with the first result that shows up on a website or that gets good reviews.

They will already have built up loyalty and awareness of your company. All because of YOUR CONTENT.

Another option is to focus solely on cannabis websites that don't ban accounts for advertising. Joining these sites can open doors for business and lead to growth without worry of getting banned. Of course, the reach of these sites is a bit limited.

social influencer creating content
Reach out to Social Influencers

One of the most effective marketing tactics in recent years has been influencer marketing. Influencers are anyone who can increase your sales by promoting or recommending your product.

B2B businesses make use of this strategy just as much as any other business, though they may use a different approach to forming partnerships with influencers.

Regardless, it is becoming almost NECESSARY for cannabis brands to engage with either influencers directly or a marketing agency.

When it comes to internet marketing, finding out who your customers are listening and watching is important.

After researching what topics they search for, who they follow on different social platforms, and other influencers in the niche market, reach out with offers to work together.

Email Marketing

Sending emails to consumers has been a very effective tool for companies, when used wisely.

It is an excellent way to reach your audience and maintain communication with your clientele.

Publish quality content that captivates your audience. You should never buy lists of email addresses, as this is a good way to get yourself in trouble.

Instead, develop an attractive offer or deliver enticing newsletters to pull people in and encourage them to give you their contact information. They may trade important information like their email for incentives like high-quality blog posts or exclusive case studies.

Once you’ve obtained a list of potentials prospects, it's time to craft your email marketing strategy. Ask yourself:

Will you send out monthly emails? What will the content of the emails be about?

How will an email marketing campaign be segmented? Will the messages stay the same for everyone, or will they change based on actions that people have taken?

Email marketing is a powerful tool for retaining your brand at the forefront of your customers’ minds

Do some PR and get media coverage

Given the explosive progression of the cannabis industry, more and more media sources are interested in learning about it.

This makes PR marketing for cannabis businesses very unique.

When building a B2B cannabis company, getting media coverage should be a priority. Not only is it cost-effective, but it builds credibility, boosts your company's reputation, search engine optimization and brand awareness

Here are some of the major media outlets for which businesses in the marijuana industry can network:

Forbes: Forbes Magazine has a team of reporters dedicated to cannabis news and they publish online stories often.

Cannabis Business Times: Cannabis Business Times is owned by GIE media and provides up-to-date news for those invested in the cannabis industry, as well as practical advice on how to get into the industry.

HighTimes : Popular news and media site for the marijuana community.

You can also use a digital PR service offered by a marketing agency, which will help you secure relationships with relevant publishers. Media coverage continues to be one of the most effective marketing strategies, even in the digital age.


The Don’ts of Cannabis Marketing:

Done with the dos, let’s take a look at what NOT to do when it comes to cannabis marketing.

1. Neglect your brand Image, product design and reputation

laptop with white screen and branding

Cannabis companies must emphasize their public-facing image, and you need to be in absolute control on how your customers are perceiving you.

A strong reputation, reviews, and word of mouth will make any cannabis advertising more effective. Especially because of the advertising restrictions still in place.

Even just selling equipment to help grow cannabis was still seen as a black market enterprise just ten years ago.

It is your responsibility to present a respectable brand image—your clients want to see you as an established business, not one that engages in dishonest practices.


2. Neglect changing rules and laws

Rules for cannabis marketing are continually changing, particularly when it comes to social media. You need to stay on top of the regulations for every platform. Remember that the rules vary from website to website.

Marketing for a cannabis business can be difficult due to the constantly changing regulations of social media platforms. Social media giants and search engines in North America are still unpredictable at the end of the day as we battle towards federal legalization.

To help you stay informed about changes to regulations, here are some tips for staying on top of the latest developments in social media regulation:

Do not depict people using cannabis. It is possible to promote your cannabis using internet marketing successfully, but it's important not to post images of people smoking marijuana in your posts.

The reason why is because it generally goes against guidelines of consuming "illegal substance" (even if it is legal).

Be intentional with hashtags.

Marijuana-related searches on social media may still be difficult to find due to moderation from sites like Instagram. When researching hashtags to use on your social media, make sure you avoid those hidden ones that may get you banned from the platform. And also make sure not to overspam hashtags, as this looks unnatural

Stay away from ads. Google, the leader in internet search platforms and social media networks, as well other companies that operate on federal law can not run most paid campaign ads. Advertising with ads is a bit of a hassle and leaves you vulnerable to being banned.

However, you might be able to use exclusive advertising platforms that are cannabis friendly, like Mantis: https://www.mantisadnetwork.com/


3. Lie to your customers

One of the main goals of digital content marketing is to provide valuable information to your audience, increase relevant traffic, and generate conversions or make sales. Outright lying about your products or services, if found out, will only serve to make your company look worse.

You will also need to provide links to studies or content that back up anything you are claiming in order for your efforts to be effective.

Pseudoscience is the enemy! Do not make claims you cannot back up.


4. Make yourself like everyone else

As the cannabis industry continues to grow, there will be increased opportunities with emerging verticals. Companies need to market their services distinctly in order for the public to know what they offer and the unique benefits that come with it.

Keep these points in mind:

What makes your business stand out from your main competitors?

What are current standards, and what do you think could be improved upon?

How is your brand similar to all other competitors, and what can you do to set yourself different?

traditional marketing dispensary sign

The Future of Cannabis Marketing

As you now know, this industry is riddled with complexity. As our society continues to evolve and public perceptions of cannabis shift, there's a new challenge for brands looking to market legally. Let’s explore some of the factors at play.

Things are changing.

Legalized marijuana usage is fueling the growth of the cannabis industry in the United States. Americans’ attitudes have changed about the legal status of marijuana. Two-thirds of people in America now want to legalize marijuana, which is up almost double from in 2000.

The cannabis industry is still young and evolving, but has to overcome many hurdles. The most pressing concerns to address are product costs due to its illegal status and ever changing legislative policies from county and state governments.

Concerns for newcomers to the cannabis industry are reflected in how they market their business.

Although the legalization of marijuana seems more and more inevitable, there are still some states that have yet to completely adopt a progressive stance when it comes to easing back their laws on possession. Mostly we are talking about southern states.

letters spelling out law

Legality: What Should You Keep in Mind?

The United States has a unique legal system in which the state governments set up their own laws, but some of these laws are obligatory for all U.S. citizens and businesses because they're regulated at a federal level. This is an interesting problem (not just for marijuana marketing): Cannabis is still federally illegal, but many states have legalized it within their jurisdictions. Let’s look more into what this means for the future:


State Laws

As of April 2021, cannabis is legal in 16 states and Washington D.C. Medical marijuana (of some form) is legal in 36 states. In 8 states, marijuana is still completely illegal.

After states legalized cannabis, they discovered the opportunity for tax revenue it offered and pursued legalization. It is crucial to keep in mind that laws and regulations are not the same everywhere.

When you plan to market cannabis products on the internet, it is important to understand any cannabis laws in your state.


Federal Laws

As discussed, your marketing efforts may be more difficult because cannabis is still illegal on the federal level. Cannabis services and products focusing on CBD might have an easier time with ads and social media marketing. This is because CBD is federally legal in all 50 states in the US.

However, the federal government still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, which is the most harmful class of drugs and is defined as having "no currently accepted medical use" https://www.dea.gov/drug-scheduling

Other drugs in this category include heroin and meth (geez). Exactly one year after the US Federal government backed WHO recommendation to re-classify marijuana, the movement has responded with 180+ petitions filed across 23 states in the US to advocate for legalization. This is good news for anyone in cannabis marketing.

Although there are various surfaces of complex laws with cannabis marketing, things are starting to change. Currently there are several bills in production that seek to legalize marijuana federally. The federal legalization movement in 2021 is heavily threatened by the Senate, so state and local movements are still very important.

The fight will be long and strenuous and is likely to effect your marketing strategy as a marijuana business owner for years to come.

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Let’s Get Started - Need a marketing agency?

When starting a business, the foremost consideration should be marketing efforts. Starting any cannabis venture can be intimidating with fluctuating laws and attitudes. Marketing is also essential for anyone looking to succeed in this competitive industry, but it needs to be planned carefully.

We have been successfully implementing strategic internet marketing campaigns for many years now; we have much experience that could streamline your strategy and save you money while scaling your business. Follow our blog for more free guides on the best way to approach digital branding, SEO services and other marketing techniques for your brand.

Chris Romero


Chris Romero is a well known and respected SEO, Filmmaker, Writer and Web Designer. He has worked on campaigns with Walt Disney World Corporate, Universal Studios, FOX TV, The HOTH, 9Round and over 1000 companies of all sizes.

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