Your Dispensary Needs a Customer Service Culture From the Start

Cannabis dispensaries consider every detail but too often miss the mark on creating a customer service culture. 

Customer service is everything. 

And customer service isn’t a department or set of rules and regulations (although guidelines are essential).

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The Rules of Content Marketing for Cannabis

Content marketing isn’t new. 

Brands have used content to tell their stories for hundreds of years, and storytelling is one of the oldest forms of communication (cave drawings are content).  

But today, the word content isn’t just overused; it’s misused. Marketers aggressively use the phrase, “content is king,” like it’s going out of style. 

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The CRITICAL Reason That Every Cannabis Business NEEDS A Merchandise Line

Branded merchandise is the key to turning budtenders into brand ambassadors.

Regardless of what side of the cannabis industry you’re on, developing branded merchandise is critical. Why? Because in a saturated and competitive marketplace, merch is often the difference between success and failure. And while T-shirts and hats are perfect giveaways that make customers walking billboards, that’s not what makes merchandise critical. Like everything else in cannabis, it comes down to the budtenders. Here’s why:

Budtenders are the lynchpin of the cannabis industry.

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BEWARE: The OKannapocalypse is coming. Will you be ready?

It’s been said before that nothing is certain except for death and taxes. Well, in the case of the Oklahoma cannabis industry, here is what is certain...Read more


Concerts, weed, and food: 3 ways to make a difference in your community and your business

That ‘I-love-this-song’ kinda high…

50 free concerts were held at the Levitt Pavilion in Denver this summer, in addition to ticketed shows featuring the Third Eye Blind and Jimmy Eat World.

The community gigs were organized by the Levitt Pavilion Foundation, a non-profit that built the $4.8 million outdoor amphitheater in 2016 with the help of city bonds and charitable donations.Read more


UNDER THE INFLUENCE: WHY CANNABIS INFLUENCERS ARE THE ANSWER TO YOUR MARKETING QUESTION

Mike Tyson is a heavy-hitter.

The former heavyweight champion revealed in August that he smokes $40,000 of weed every month at his future cannabis resort, Tyson Ranch.

The story came up in an episode of Hotboxin’ with Mike Tyson, a podcast where “Iron” Mike sits down for a “performance-enhanced” conversation with celebrities, athletes and luminaries. Details on Tyson’s colossal cannabis consumption scored him a ton of earned media, with multiple news outlets and social media channels covering the story.

So what does this story teach us?

Mike Tyson smokes a lot of weed.

But what else?

Mike Tyson is an influencer at the top of his game.

He generated massive awareness for his resort, and he did it organically. He brought up his monumental weed consumption in conversation, tied it in to his new venture, and let the message spread digitally. Besides production costs, it cost him nothing.

As an influencer in the weed game, Mike hits hard.

BACK TRACK A SECOND. “INFLUENCER”. I KNOW THAT WORD, BUT COULD YOU GIVE ME A REFRESHER?

Relax. Despite all the hype, “influencer” is a relatively new word. Before 2016, it lacked a definition on Dictionary.com.

An influencer is someone who can change the way people think and behave.

Whether they’re writing an impassioned defense of universal basic income on their personal blog, or posting Instagram Stories of their Maldivian overwater villa, influencers create new thoughts, new desires, and new perspectives.

And they’re persuasive. Influencers develop a unique bond with their followers, sharing regular, engaging content. They’re always on hand. They’re your five minutes at the bus stop. Your after-work wind-down.

Plus, they follow back. While traditional media is mostly limited to one-way conversation, social media allows influencers to communicate directly with their followers, sharing likes, posting comments, and responding to direct messages.

Sounds groovy. But what makes Mike such a “heavy hitter” in the weed business?

He’s a problem solver.

Federal legislation makes it tough to promote your cannabis business, with social media companies like Twitter and Facebook banning weed advertisements.

By partnering with influencers, you can knock down these obstacles and get your brand off the canvas. Whether you’re sponsoring digital content, developing co-branded merchandise, or offering free bud for a review, influencers like Tyson can connect you to a new, engaged audience.

ALRIGHT, I’M IN. BUT HOW DO I FIND AN INFLUENCER TO WORK WITH?

Work with an agency, like us!

We’ll match you with influencers who are perfectly suited to promoting your business. We’ll manage the partnership and help you build the relationship. And we’ll take care of the paperwork.

Whether you work with an agency or go solo, start by asking yourself: who is my ideal influencer?

What do you believe in? What’s important to you? Perhaps you’ve installed LED lighting, solar power and water reclamation systems to reduce your carbon footprint. Pick an influencer who shares your commitment to the environment. This is known as brand alignment.

Who buys your weed? Who orders your lighting systems? Your customers probably have some things in common. Do they tend to be old or young, male or female, professional or self-employed? If you want to hit your target market, you’ll want to find an influencer with an audience that shares key characteristics with your customer base.

Once you’ve established the requirements, it’s time to find the candidate. This is the fun bit. Watch YouTube. Search Google for cannabis bloggers based in Denver. Scan Twitter with relevant hashtags. Make a note of the influencers who stand out and resonate with you and your business.

Next, delve a little deeper into your influencer shortlist.

  • Is their content entertaining?
  • Could you get on with them?
  • Do they have a large following?
  • Is their audience engaged? Do they have a lot of likes and comments on their posts?
  • Are there any red flags? Could anything they’ve said cause negative controversy?

OK, I’VE FOUND MY MATCH. NOW HOW DO I REACH OUT?

Let me guess. You can help with that too, right?

Indeed we can. We’ll take care of the legalities and make sure your business and your brand are protected.

That means you can focus on the fun part: building fun relationships with people who share your passions, your values, and your audience.

Influencers can connect you to new people and help you overcome bans on cannabis advertising. They promote your products or services by showing how your bud, bong or baked goods fit in with their lifestyle. They help you build your brand and they embody the values your business stands for.

That’s a combo “Iron” Mike would be proud of.


8 simple steps to a winning giveaway in the cannabis industry

If you’re in the cannabis industry, you can gain a lot by giving stuff away.

People like free stuff, so giveaways earn a ton of organic (free) views and engagement.

Not only does this save you money, it also provides an alternative to paid online advertising, prohibited for cannabis companies by government legislation and social media company bans

And to round out the benefits, contests and sweepstakes allow you to grow your email list, generate leads (potential sales), and build brand or product awareness.

Giveaways are a win-win if you’re in the cannabis industry. Read on for eight simple steps to getting your contest or sweepstake right. 

STEP 1

Set Your Goals

Set measurable, attainable targets so you can measure your success. If you’ve done this before, look at the results from your last contest: How much can you grow these numbers?

Set a goal for leads – customers that share their information. This can include their name, e-mail address, postal address, cellphone number and interests. Think about the quality of your leads too – are they qualified? Are they likely to buy your product?

Leads also give insight on how much awareness you’ve generated. Additionally, set targets for engagement – how many likes, shares, retweets or comments are you aiming for?

STEP 2

Pick Your Prize

Prizing is tricky in the cannabis industry since regulations limit what you can give away. In Colorado, for instance, retail cannabis stores may not give away cannabis or any cannabis product, or any consumable items including food and drinks..

So what can you give away? What will your customers, new and existing, be most enticed by? What prize connects to your brand and contest? Some ideas include:

      • Experiential: tickets to cannabis events or competitions, concerts in your city
      • Accessories: papers, grinders, glassware
      • Grower equipment: lighting, ventilation, hydration

If you’ve got partnerships, do any of your agreements include contra (free products or services supplied by a partner). For instance, if you’ve sponsored an athlete or sports team, you could ask for comped tickets to give away throughout the season.

STEP 3

Create Your Giveaway

If you want to maximize your entries, make your giveaway easy to enter.

The easiest kind of giveaway is a sweepstake. It’s based purely on chance: the entrant just has to enter their details and the winner is randomly selected. 

In fact, you don’t even need to ask for details. A share, tag, or follow will suffice if boosting awareness is top of your agenda.

Let’s say you’re launching a product and you want to generate hype. A few days before release, you launch a contest on social media, teasing the product and asking your followers to retweet or share the post to enter a sweepstake to win it. Alternatively, ask your followers to tag a friend in the comment section and, to build sustainable awareness, ask them to follow you as well. Sit back and watch the engagements multiply.

You can also build engagement by creating a cool contest and creating some fun content. You could test your followers’ knowledge with cannabis trivia, challenge them to predict the next Cannabis Cup winner, or encourage them to share something personal, like a photo of their favorite smoke spot. 

STEP 4

Spread the Word

Publicize your giveaway through as many different channels as possible. If you’re looking for new leads, you’ll need to look for ways to expand your reach beyond your existing audience.

Publicize regularly throughout the contest and, at the end of the giveaway period, communicate urgency with “last chance” messaging.

STEP 5

Gather the Entries

Whether you’re publicizing your giveaway online or otherwise, collecting your entries digitally will save you a lot of time on data entry.

Use a data management system like Formstack to build an entry form to collect entries automatically:

      • Decide what information you want to collect
      • Build the form and embed it on a dedicated landing page
      • Create a custom URL for the landing page
      • Drive traffic to the URL through your marketing collateral
      • Use custom tracking links to identify which channels or creatives are most successful in driving traffic to the page

If you’re publicizing your contest offline, asking your customers to remember and manually enter a URL can feel cumbersome. “Text-to-win” giveaways use five or six digit “Short Codes” to make entering contests easier. Your contestants to text an opt-in word to the Short Code you’ve created, e.g. “Text WIN to 762200.” Your contestant will automatically receive a reply containing the URL for the contest entry page.

STEP 6

Make Sure It’s Legal

Contesting laws differ from state to state in the US, so make sure your giveaway is legal

Also, you’ll need to draft up a Terms and Conditions for every contest you run. At minimum, this should contain details on:

      • Name of contest
      • Key dates and times (start, end, prize draw)
      • Eligibility
      • How to enter
      • Prize (quantity and description)
      • Prize claim
      • Conditions attached to the prize
      • General conditions
      • Use of personal information

Hyperlink to the Terms and Conditions on the contest entry page. Include a check box for entrants to confirm their agreement. Additionally, include a check mark for entrants to opt out of their personal information being used for marketing purposes.

STEP 7

Pick a winner. Share the good news.

When you’ve picked the winner of your giveaway, don’t forget to tell your followers – with your winner’s permission. Announcing the winner confirms your contest is real, so your followers will be more likely to enter the next one. Plus, winning is always a good story to tell.

STEP 8

Review

Look back at the objectives you set at the beginning. Were you successful? Did you collect enough leads and build sufficient awareness? 

What went well, and how could you improve? Record your numbers so you can try to beat them next time.

Contesting is a craft honed through experience. At Hybrid, we can help you get it right the first time. Chat with our team for advice on building the perfect giveaway for your cannabis business. You’ve got nothing to lose, but a lot to gain.


6 Dynamite Techniques to Grow Your Cannabis Business’ Email List

Those of us in the cannabis industry know that the tools and tactics available to us are limited. When, where, and IF you can advertise comes with a variety of restrictions. The instinct of most cannabis businesses is to invest heavily in social media. They get on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and any other platform you can imagine, and then saturate them with content. We’re not saying not to do that, but use social media with this understanding:

You do not own your profile on any social media platform.

For example, imagine you spend enormous amounts of time, effort, and money on your cannabis dispensaries’ Instagram account. You grow a healthy following and use it as a primary driver of traffic to your business. Then disaster strikes. Instagram decides to change their terms of service and determines that you are now in violation. They shut down your account, no warning, no questions asked, no recourse. What impact would that have on your business?

We’re not suggesting you avoid social media. We’re simply suggesting that you have a diversified approach to your marketing channels, with social media being one of at least several.

There is a belief amongst some (usually those outside the marketing department) that email marketing is old-school. While the tool of e-mail might be losing some steam in certain settings (teams adopting Slack for example), it’s still the most widely used tool on the internet, and it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Why? Because it works. You can use e-mail marketing to promote specials, drive attendance to events, provide news and updates, and keep your loyal customers engaged.

That’s why building your own e-mail list should be at the top of your priorities. YOU own your businesses email list, and it doesn’t run the risk of shutdown by anyone. And in the world of cannabis, your email list is your best friend. So, here’s six tips that will help you build your very own, very valuable email list for use in your own cannabis email marketing.

1.

POP-UPS

When building an e-mail list, pop-ups are going to be your biggest growth engine. They’re often annoying, but they don’t need to be. The blatant in-your-face pop-up as soon as somebody hits your website is off the table. Don’t do it. Instead, consider an exit-intent pop-up. That’s a pop-up that’s triggered when somebody is about to leave your site (typically it’s cursor movement to the top corner of the page that acts as a trigger). They’ve already done everything they need to do, so you’re not interrupting them. Slider pop-ups can also be an effective option. They just slide in to the corner of the screen and are much less obtrusive. Which one will work better for you? Consider A/B testing both.

2.

GATED, HIGH-VALUE CONTENT

By gated, we mean that a potential lead or customer needs to enter their email to access the content. It’s a trade-off, and to hold up your end of the bargain, the content has to be valuable. Often, this will be long-form content. Examples might be: The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Cannabis Extracts, or The Ultimate Cannabis Grading Workbook, or perhaps some type of checklist.

3.

PROMOTE AN ONLINE CONTEST

Run a contest based where an email signup is required to be entered. You can promote the contest on social, on your website, and at events. If you want it to be successful you need to offer something significant as a prize. Maybe it’s a gift certificate to your dispensary, free product, or tickets to a cannabis-related event.

4.

COLLECT E-MAILS IN-STORE

Have (and promote) email sign-ups in-store with an offer for something free. It can be small, and definitely should be branded. Consider rolling papers, lighters, grading books, or grinders. Tip: ditch the paper sign-up sheets, and go with a tablet. You can a basic Amazon Fire tablet that will work just fine for around $60.

5.

SIGN-UP OPPORTUNITIES

Create multiple opportunities on the website to sign up. Don’t rely on the pop-ups by themselves. There should be a small sign-up window somewhere on the front page, and peppered elsewhere throughout the site.

6.

OFFER AN INCENTIVE

This goes hand-in-hand with pop-ups and sign-up forms. There’s nothing wrong with attracting sign-ups by letting customers know they’ll get sale info emailed to them. But if you really want to supercharge your sign ups (and you do), consider a one-time use coupon code. It doesn’t have to be much, 10% usually does the trick. Just make sure the coupon code is deliverable to their email address to prevent fake emails being used.

Keep in mind that you’re never done growing your email list. Average attrition for most lists is around 22% or more per year, so it’s not something you set and forget. Need help getting started? That’s what we’re here for. Drop us a message on this form and one of our cannabis marketing specialists will get back to you.


Ultimate Cannabis Long-Form Content Ideabook

For cannabis dispensaries, content is the name of the game. You need to have a lot of it, it needs to be consistent, and it needs to be good. Most dispensaries miss the boat by focusing on just a couple specific types of content, for example, Instagram and twitter posts. There’s certainly nothing wrong with a strong social game, but you need variation in your content offerings. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket! You need diversity, and where most dispensaries fail is long-form content. For example, ebooks, white papers, guides, and checklists. That’s why we’ve put together our Ultimate Long-Form Cannabis Content Ideabook. Any of these ideas would be great as resource available on your site, and would provide a healthy SEO boost. Or, gate them to boost sign-ups to your email list. 

The Cannaseur’s Cannabis Grading Book

You hear it all the time: focus on the experience. It’s not just about a customer getting high, it’s about what happens before, during, and after. You may have heard about cannabis users “journaling” about their sessions. That’s a tall order, and despite the hype, I see no evidence this will ever become a widely-adopted practice. Grading books are a different story. People like to collect things, millennials like to collect experiences, and the checklist/report card format takes much less effort than a journal. We’d recommend a separate page for each strain. There should be a place to record information like the strain name, date purchased, date consumed, and place purchased. Create rating categories other than just the “high.” For example, aroma, appearance, and taste. Use a 1-5 scale for each category, but be sure to leave a space for Notes. Canadian Licensed Producer 7 Acres created a beautiful grading book that’s only available in printed form. That’s a great giveaway or promotional item for dispensaries, but be sure to offer a downloadable/printable version as well. 

Senior Citizens Complete Guide to Cannabis

You’ll see much of what’s in this idea book are guides. That’s because the terminology works; it sounds long enough to be valuable, but less intimidating than an e-book. Think of creating guides that are tailor-made for the personas you have targeted as your ideal customers. One of the most desirable and growing demographics in the cannabis world are senior citizens, and (surprise), they are vastly under-served. Yes, typical digital marketing tactics may not be as likely to work on seniors, and you may need to add physical presence to some of your touches, but it will pay off. Seniors are exceptionally habit-driven, and if you can bring them in and make them comfortable, they will reward you with their loyalty. A Senior Citizen’s Complete Guide to Cannabis should include a basic look at all aspects of cannabis types, uses, methods of consumption… And, of course, where to get it. You really want it to work? Include a direct contact PHONE NUMBER to a Senior Specialist at your organization. If you really want to make a commitment to the senior citizen demographic, keep in mind your Senior Specialist shouldn’t be a 22 year old. It needs to be somebody that’s old enough to relate!

Ultimate Cannabis Extract Checklist

The world of extracts is vast and ever-growing. It seems like new extract products are popping up all the time, and older categories go in and out of favor.  Providing somebody with a way to navigate the complexity is valuable, especially if there is some sort of incentive. Imagine a checklist that has an explanation of each type of extract, a specific product suggestion for that category, and a place for a signature or stamp next to each listing. When they complete the checklist, they get a free piece of branded paraphernalia of some kind. Now they are not only incentivized to download the checklist (in exchange for their contact data), but they have a reason to print it out, physically bring it to your store, and purchase a whole range of products. Want to take it up a notch? Give them a 10% discount on any product on the checklist that’s purchased when they bring the list into the store with them.

Complete Beginners Guide to Cannabis Extracts

Newcomers to the cannabis world rarely go straight to extracts or concentrates. It’s like tattoos- you don’t go straight to the neck, face, or hand tat, you work your way up to it. But when cannabis users are considering making the jump from more traditional cannabis products (like dried flower, pre-rolls, etc) to extracts, it can be an intimidating experience. That’s no surprise, just one look at somebody firing up a dab rig with a blow torch can send folks running. That’s the purpose of the Complete Beginners Guide to Cannabis Extracts. It’s a way to break down some of the intimidating barriers with facts and information in an easy-to-read format. Smooth out your customer’s journey through your product line, and give them a comfortable transition into a high-margin category.  

Complete Beginners Guide to Cannabis Edibles

This is a similar concept to the above Extracts guide. People are curious, but there are a lot of stories out there about poor experiences for first-time cannabis edible users. This would be an opportunity to remove the stigma and fear, and educate potential consumers on safe and slow edible consumption. For many, edibles are a preferred consumption method. With a guide to edibles, build the messaging around the fact that it is a viable alternative to smoking. There’s no paraphernalia required, and edibles can be very discreet. Traditionally, smoking was what first-time cannabis users started with. But that isn’t necessarily the case for some newer cannabis demographics (like seniors citizens) who have an aversion to smoking, or were perhaps raised in the Reefer Madness era. To them, edibles seem completely different. A Complete Beginner’s Guide to Cannabis Edibles could be an excellent introduction. 

Cannabis Cookbooks

There are many, many cannabis cookbooks available these days, and many recipes that are available online. However, there are very few free collections of cannabis recipes that are of substantial quality. Start with something seasonal, and sweet. 5-7 recipes are enough to call it a book, and everybody likes cookies, cakes, and treats. The Fall Cannabis Cookie Recipe Collection, for example. Or Winter Baking for the Cannabis Sweet Tooth. You can get recipes out of an already-published book and modify it to make them your own. Make sure to accompany each recipe with high quality photos and detailed instructions. This one may take more effort, but has the potential to be very valuable content. 

Tourist’s Guide to Cannabis

This guide should be localized, for example, the Colorado Tourist’s Guide to Cannabis. Cannabis tourism is thriving, and will continue to do so as long as the pool of adult-use legalized states remains small. Most tourists rely on yelp or google to find places to purchase and consume. Make it easy for them, drive traffic to your site, and send excited consumers to your business. While most of these lead magnets will work as both gated or un-gated content, this one might be better off un-gated for the potential SEO boost. You can still have a downloadable version offered in exchange for an email contact. 

A Tourist’s Guide needs to have several elements:

  • Where to purchase (your dispensary!)
  • Where to consume
  • Where to stay (cannabis-friendly hotels, for example)
  • Local laws, regulations, and restrictions
  • Cannabis-themed attractions (ex: cultivation facility tours)
  • Things to do in the area when you’re under the influence

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but meant to help you generate new ideas or variations of your own. Long-form content creation is challenging and time-consuming. Luckily, you don’t need to do it yourself. At Hybrid we are PROS at writing valuable, long-form cannabis content. Fill out our specialized Contact Form and one of our cannabis content specialists will get in touch. 


Cannabis Businesses and Inbound Marketing: The PERFECT Fit

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. 

ADVERTISING RESTRICTIONS

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.

Social media ownership

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. 

The 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.

Government regulations

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.