The retail cannabis scene is heating up, with competition arising on all sides. With sales expected to increase by several hundred percent, it’s no wonder that so many are seeking to launch a business in the cannabis industry. They are finding out, however, that it is a bit more challenging than they anticipated.
For those seeking to launch a dispensary in Canada, there is already competition, and this is set to increase significantly by April 1, 2019. Prior to that date, legal cannabis retail dispensaries will be considerably less common. Illegal stores are already in existence in many locations, however, and they may continue well into the future, but the addition of legal retail stores in April will bring that much more competition.
The advertising of medical and recreational cannabis is extremely challenging. We can make use of the usual methods, such as SEO and the creation of excellent content, but face certain limitations due to the fact that Google hides keyword research data. As a result, not all tools are available to use, or when they are, they may have certain constraints placed upon them.
Although this presents us with certain difficulties, at least we know that these issues are faced equally by others in the cannabis industry. Still, with the way the industry is set to grow in the coming months, businesses will be hard pressed to create original campaigns that not only manage to be effective but also differentiate them from their competitors.
Still Competition from South of the Border
In the US, there are numerous dispensaries for the public to choose from, with medical marijuana and recreational cannabis being legal in more than 32 states. In fact, it is probably fair to say that there is already an over-abundance of cannabis retail locations.
With so much choice available, the question arises as to whether or not there will be such a thing as brand loyalty among cannabis users. The answer, most likely, is yes.
People tend to be creatures of habit, and upon finding a brand that appeals to them, tend to continue to be loyal to it. This is true across an incredibly diverse assortment of products, so it seems more than likely that is should also prove true when it comes to cannabis products, or a particular cannabis business.
This is one reason why having an effective marketing strategy for your retail dispensary is so important. You want to ensure that you reach your audience quickly and easily, establishing them as customers who will become loyal patrons of your business for years to come.
Engage your existing and potential customers through the use of consumer-focused, data-driven strategies that will put your business front and centre in the eyes of your audience, growing awareness of your brand and driving traffic to both your website, and your physical location.
So, given the importance of an effective marketing strategy for your cannabis business, let’s look at some of the ways for you to start taking action right now.
Top Methods for an Effective Marketing Strategy
Once upon a time, whenever someone was looking for information on particular goods or services, they would pull out the Yellow Pages. This would typically be the first step in finding whatever they needed.
The Yellow Pages—at least as a physical resource—have passed into history, with the internet having supplanted them quite handily, offering far more than just a guide to phone numbers and addresses. Today, searching for information may include a quick check on Google for details of the business, followed by a search for reviews, or a consultation with online friends to determine a product’s value and quality.
Your dispensary will need to have an online presence that provides you with the visibility you need to stand out from your competition and appear in the top spot for any internet searches for the products and services that you offer.
Most often, those who are seeking a retail business are ready to make a purchase and are trying to find a location that is closest to them. Being ready to purchase, they will also typically know exactly what they want, or perhaps at least have an option or two in mind.
In some other cases, these potential buyers may not have quite made up their mind and they will instead be looking for information to help them make a decision. If they come across your site during their search, you have the opportunity to draw them in and convert them to a paying customer.
Here are 3 proven and effective means of marketing your cannabis business online.
For many people, asking friends and family for a review will be the first thing they do before trying something new. For example, a new restaurant has opened, and you are debating trying it out, but first, you ask around to see if anyone you know has already eaten there. Their response may determine whether or not you go yourself.
The desire to read some reviews before making a purchase has resulted in the rise of review sites, some of which have become immensely popular. Having positive customer reviews can play a very large role in your marketing efforts, especially with the rise of local search.
Ensure that you are making use of your Google My Business page and have all of your company information up to date. When a customer expresses satisfaction with the service or products they received from you, encourage them to write a review. These recommendations from happy customers will prove to be an excellent source of advertising for your retail cannabis business.
Search Engine Optimization, also simply called SEO, is employed by virtually any business that has any sort of online presence. It involves optimizing your site in a way that makes it more attractive to Google and other search engines so that they will find it more easily and rank it higher. It gives Google an idea of what your site is about so that you can be associated with the most relevant search terms.
Why is that important?
If Google doesn’t know what your site is about, then they have no real way of suggesting it to those users who are searching for what you offer. If, for example, a potential client in your area decides to search for “cannabis dispensaries near me” and Google has no idea that your site deals with cannabis, then you are not likely to appear anywhere in the search result. The downside of that should be pretty obvious: if Google can’t find you, neither will your customers.
By not ranking well—or at all—in Google, you are potentially missing a tremendous amount of business as your customers overlook you and are instead directed to your closest competitor.
Local SEO differs somewhat from standard SEO, however, in that the primary focus is related to having your business appear in the local map when someone is searching for a dispensary in your area. The main tool for making this happen will be your Google My Business page, which you should ensure is accurate and up to date with all relevant information that will help people find you.
The importance of this should not be overlooked because those searching on mobile will encounter maps first when searching locally, and failing to be represented is a failure to reach your customer, with predictable results.
Combining Local SEO and reviews is a great way to develop a strong online presence and develop brand awareness with your audience.
Many businesses have used social media to tremendous effect, sometimes allowing companies to compete with or even outperform larger rivals. It is, no doubt, a highly effective tool.
Unfortunately, social media presents certain difficulties to those in the cannabis industry, who are not able to advertise directly on those platforms, and thus must find new and creative ways to get by.
While you may not be able to advertise the way other industries can, you can still build up a Facebook business page and in fact, you should definitely do so, building a group of followers online, and potentially even reaching social media influencers, who could help drive your business forward.
Your best bet when dealing with social media is to regularly post relevant content of high quality. Your focus should be to engage, entertain, and perhaps educate as well. You should not be aggressively seeking a sale or pushing products. Recognize that people you encounter on social media are not there with the intention of purchasing something, as they might be when using local search.
Combine your excellent content with some good hashtag research in order to be visible to your audience. Just because you can’t advertise, per se, doesn’t mean you should remain invisible. Good use of popular hashtags can result in a great deal of social engagement when paired with appropriate content.
There are, of course, other methods of effective marketing, but these are some examples to show you that despite restrictions, it is still possible to spread the word about your retail cannabis business!