Marketing in the cannabis industry faces challenges far beyond any other regulated industry. Liquor? They got it easy. Pharma? We see painfully cheesy medication ads on TV every day! But cannabis – if you’re a successful marketer in the cannabis space, you’re a real cowboy. You think outside the box because you have to! So many traditional tactics are off the table for cannabis marketers, that it’s tough to build a coherent and complete strategy. Not to worry, because we’ve cracked the code. INBOUND MARKETING. It’s the perfect fit! The philosophy behind inbound marketing is to use tactics that bring visitors in (to your website, for example), rather than marketers having to go out to get prospects or the attention of potential customers. For example, a basic inbound tactic is maintaining a blog that’s constantly updated, and contains valuable and useful information. This acts as a magnet to draw people to your website, where they not only read the blog, but learn more about your products or services, and ultimately (with the right call to action) convert into a viable lead.
So, why might this be a good strategy for cannabis businesses? It’s because they face three massive handicaps.
Much of the ad inventory on the internet held by the various platforms is off-limits to cannabis advertisements. While there is still plenty that’s not, you’re starting with large portions of your potential customers being walled-off from seeing any display ad campaigns you might want to run, just based on the sites they typically visit. One of the most powerful digital advertising tools available, Google Ads, also restricts use from cannabis businesses. (Yes, plenty of them sneak ads through, but technically, it’s against Google Ads terms of service. While you might be able to launch ads, they could be pulled down at any time.) Social media advertising is almost a no-go for cannabis businesses. Facebook ads are very difficult to slip through, and if you do manage to get one past their automated filters, it will likely be taken down in short order.
We’re not advocating that you stay away from digital advertising entirely, but that you do it with the understanding that you are operating at a disadvantage compared to businesses in other industries, and won’t even come close to reaching your complete target audience. (If you’re targeting super-desirable cannabis demos like seniors or women over 35, you’ll have an even tougher time!) You simply don’t have the same opportunities or access to ad space.
Imagine you own a chain of dispensaries. You invest time, money, and effort to build a social media following, zeroing in on Instagram as a primary driver of traffic to your business. Now imagine that all of the sudden Instagram changes their terms of service, and you are now in violation. They take down your Instagram profile, no warning, no questions asked, no recourse. What would you do, and how would it impact your business? Never forget this fact:
YOU DO NOT OWN YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA PROFILES.
he platform where your profile is hosted owns your profile. They can do whatever they want, at any time, and you will suffer the consequences. Again, we are not advocating you don’t use social media, but do so with the understanding that it should be simply one traffic source out of many (if you’re doing things right) and not even an especially important one if you’ve adopted an Inbound strategy.
Even if there were no platform-side issues with social media or advertising, you’ve got the government regulations to deal with. If you have a plant-touching business, that adds a whole different layer of difficulty. Regulations from state-to-state (and US to Canada) are literally all over the map, and even the regulators themselves don’t always know how to interpret them. In some places, like Montana, you simply can’t advertise or market your products at all. Then other states, like Pennsylvania, have little to no marketing restrictions. There’s even a few that throw in seemingly random rules, like Colorado, where “unsolicited pop-ups” are banned. If you’d like more detail on each state’s rules, take a look at IAB’s helpful map.
Most of the above issues have to do with going out to pull traffic and generate interest. And that’s why inbound is the perfect strategy for cannabis businesses; inbound is about creating value that organically brings people <in.
We believe this is the winning strategy for cannabis businesses. We believe in it so much, in fact, that it’s at the core of much of the work we do for our partners. Can it work for you? Absolutely. If you’d like to give it a try on your own, a great place to start is our Inbound Cannabis Content Ideabook. Or, if you’d rather hand it off to the pros, get in touch with one of Hybrid’s Cannabis Marketing Experts today.