Digital marketing for cannabis related brands is tricky business. Major platforms like Google, Facebook and Instagram have clearly defined rules against the promotion of illegal drugs. Until cannabis becomes federally legal, it’s unlikely the big tech players will completely remove their cannabis restrictions. Some companies are able to avoid social media page shutdowns, but as a whole, most of the cannabis-touching businesses are denied from participating in paid advertisements on social media and search engines.
As digital marketing is a major revenue generator and advertising focus for most other compliant industries, this restriction puts a serious damper on cannabis marketers. However — cannabis advocates aren’t known to back down in the face of adversity. Using tools that are more readily available, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most effective (and less policed) ways to advertise your cannabis business online.
1. Advertise on cannabis-related sites
Some large cannabis news sources have been gaining search engine authority since the dawn of legalization. Utilize these invaluable resources for digital ad placements. Major cannabis news hubs like High Times, MJBiz Daily and Leafly offer digital ad placements on their websites. Cannabis websites reach a large base of those interested in marijuana-related products, and some platforms even offer geographical targeting for retail or location-specific products.
When researching potential websites to host digital ads on, ask the outlets to provide website traffic and average click-through rates for their current ads and request testimonials from their current advertisers. Major online cannabis platforms require a large investment for online advertising. Thoroughly research high-traffic cannabis websites before committing to a contract.
Once you’ve found an online outlet that fits your needs, plan to track the performance of your ads through a custom URL or UTM code to regularly ensure you’re gaining the exposure expected.
2. Utilize a blog
Blogs are a great way to inform and attract customers. When set up through your own website, a blog can help your SEO (which helps you appear higher on Google and other related search engine results). Brainstorm topics that are relevant and helpful to your target audience. Topics should include information that is pertinent to your product or brand. For example, if you have a cannabis vape business, a relevant topic for your consumers is, “5 Features Every Cannabis Vape Should Have.” Blogs are a perfect outlet for both advertising your own product and informing the customer with useful information.
However, be careful not to veer too heavily in the self-promotion direction. Readers want informative content, not a long-format ad. Mix up the content with more generalized cannabis topics like, “Our Favorite Strains for Sleeping.” The blog topics will vary depending on your business focus, but if you create content that is relevant, helpful and engaging, you’ll help your SEO and naturally convert leads into sales in the process.
3. Develop an email list
An email list is a direct, effective line of communication to an audience that’s already shown interest in your brand. There are various ways to collect email addresses. If you use an email delivery service like MailChimp or Hubspot, these platforms provide an email collection form you can embed on your website, in your blogs and across other online outlets. You can also collect email addresses at your point of purchase, at events and various other in-person avenues. There are several ways to entice visitors to share their contact information. Offering a discount with an email sign-up or giving email subscribers a first look at new products are both effective ways to gain subscribers. (Just make sure you follow up on your promises.)
Once you’ve started to build a list, curate an email marketing plan that fits your needs. There’s no set frequency or messaging that works across the board — each company’s email marketing plan will vary. Do you release new products each month? Do you offer weekly sales? Email communications are an effective way to communicate these value props to your audience. Closely monitor open, click and unsubscribes rates to ensure your messaging and frequency resonates with your subscribers, and tailor as needed.
4. Tread lightly with paid social ads
As mentioned before, paid advertisements are a no-go for most cannabis-related brands. While you may get an ad or two approved via Facebook Ads or Instagram, you run the risk of these platforms shutting down your profile completely. If you’re willing to lose all your social media followers, proceed at your own risk.
With a myriad of cannabis websites offering digital ad space, the unlimited potential of blog and email marketing and it’s best to avoid the riskier social platforms and utilize the other resources available to cannabis marketers that don’t put you at as much of a risk.
5. Partner with cannabis-friendly advertisers
A few companies are paving the way as cannabis-friendly digital media options. RTBiQ and Mantis are two great resources for cannabis display ads. They both offer robust platforms for digital ad visibility across high-trafficked websites. These platforms provide self-guided ad placement or guided services, so you can jump right in or have your questions answered if needed.
With legalization finally taking hold, it’s only a matter of time until cannabis marketing follows suit. Until federal legalization occurs, we’ll continue to provide the best tools available to those marketing in the cannabis industry. Click here to check out the other guide in our series, 4 Ways to Make Your Product Stand out in Dispensaries.
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