The Art of Cannabis Digital Marketing

Posted on September 28th, 2021 to Digital Marketing

What is Digital Marketing?

According to Hubspot, “Digital marketing… refers to all marketing efforts that occur on the internet.” Vague, but true. Businesses use digital channels of all kinds to market their products and services to current and prospective customers all across the internet.

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How Non-Cannabis Businesses Use Digital Marketing

Typically, a new business that wants to market themselves online will deploy a strategy like this:

  1. Use PPC advertising to have their website immediately appear in the top search results for the keyword(s) they want to rank for.
    • This immediately drives traffic to their site which in turn drives sales.
  2. Use social media advertising to retarget this new traffic on Facebook & Instagram.
    • This drives more traffic to their site which in turn drives more sales.
  3. Deploy an SEO strategy using your blog and other landing pages to rank in search results organically.
    • Blog posts and other organic landing pages drive traffic to the site which in turn drives sales.
  4. PPC landing pages, blog posts, and other organic landing pages all fuel your retargeting campaign which continues to drive more traffic and sales.
  5. Begin retargeting & display ad campaigns to expand your reach to other websites outside of just social media.
  6. Continue this cycle, drive more sales.

Why Digital Marketing is Different for Cannabis Brands

Digital marketing for cannabis businesses is hard for lots of reasons. But probably the most pressing reason – these key digital marketing channels are not easily accessible to cannabis-related businesses: pay-per-click advertising and social media advertising. These forms of advertising are often the quickest and easiest ways to see a return on your digital investment – so not being able to use them effectively throws a wrench in things…

In reference to how non-cannabis businesses attack digital marketing – cannabis brands and dispensaries have to completely skip steps 1 and 2, forcing them through a cycle like this:

  1. Invest in content creation/SEO
  2. Wait an ambiguous amount of time
  3. Begin driving traffic & sales

While PPC & social media advertising provides an immediate path to traffic, it’s often lower quality than traffic acquired through SEO.

Why can’t cannabis businesses utilize PPC or social media advertising?

Simply put – it’s against Google and Facebook’s guidelines. Google does not allow advertisers to bid on cannabis-related keywords. They also don’t allow you to run ads to websites that mention cannabis in any way, shape, or form. CBD companies and dispensaries will not get ads approved if their website mentions anything cannabis-related. The same goes for businesses that have cannabis-related content on their Facebook and Instagram profiles. They won’t be approved to run ads and they might even experience a “shadow-ban”.

The fact that posts on social media may never be visible or that major ad avenues are off-limits may be beyond your control, but there are channels for cannabis brand marketing that are within your grasp. The key is to focus your marketing efforts on growing your presence through the channels you can actually control.

Shadow bans on social media, advertising restrictions, no PPC—this no doubt makes building a cannabis brand and getting noticed a little harder to do. However, you can still build your brand and get your products before the right people, you just have to do things a bit differently than a typical business owner.

Cannabis Digital Marketing Strategies

Web (SEO) and email content are not so dictated by the powers that be, at least when it comes to cannabis. This means that you can freely create content that paints your brand in the best light and share it on either your website—the true digital hub representing your business—or via email—a highly effective means of straight-line, B2C communication.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Your website should be well-outfitted with optimized content, which will help people find you in search results. But, even more than that, a good content strategy can really elevate your brand in the minds of consumers. When you take the time to build up the digital hub that represents your brand, potential customers have a total package to experience. Give them:

  • In-depth product information, such as detailed product pages or strain info.
  • Educational blog posts and guides that exemplify your expertise as a brand.
  • Location information that offers a proverbial snapshot of your physical storefronts.

Gimme’ That!

Why should I care about email marketing?

Email, another controllable channel, can be used to gain traction with site visitors and followers. This route of communication is tried-and-true. It still works just as effectively for businesses needing to establish that ongoing connection with customers. Email can be used to share everything from personality-filled newsletters and new guides published on the website to dispensary news.

Me WANT-Y!!

Know Your Audience and Build a Long-Term Strategy

The more you know your audience, the easier it becomes to build a long-term strategy to give that audience what they want. The thing is, getting to know your audience is a journey, and it is a journey that requires constant review and refinement. Perform market research, use data-driven information, and determine how you can best engage with people most likely to follow your brand.

This process may even involve tweaking things like brand messages, content tone, and even portrayed personality in imagery or product packaging. However, the end result is building a more meaningful connection with people most likely to buy your cannabis products.

What We Recommend…

Double-down on the forms of marketing that you can utilize (like SEO & email marketing) as well as organic social media posting. We also recommend that you hire a content production service that specializes in SEO, and then utilize that content strategy in all forms of marketing. SEO is a long-term strategy that takes time, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t utilize it for other short-term benefits. For example, if you have an SEO service-producing content for you, make sure you are distributing that content through every. single. channel that you have at your disposal.

Here’s how it works:

So you want to get a month of content using a 1000 word blog post generated by your SEO team?

  • Turn the headlines of that blog post into 1 email a week for the next month
  • Utilize those email subject lines to develop 4 Instagram posts
  • Take the questions that were being posed in your blog post and create them as 4 different surveys on LinkedIn and on Facebook, etc.

There are COUNTLESS ways to repurpose blog content, and you can always revisit old posts for new inspiration. At the end of the day, as a cannabis company you just have to get creative. Email is your best friend, as are testimonials and social proof!

Ready to build a winning strategy? Get in touch.

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SEO Expert

This post was written by Zach Santarsiero, CMO at CannaPlanners.

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