Note: This blog was originally published December 6, 2019. It has been updated for relevance and accuracy.
The cannabis industry has seen explosive growth and unprecedented change over the past few years. Exponential growth in the industry continues with no end in sight. In fact, the US market is conservatively expected to double to $41.5 billion by 2025.
While the industry continues its meteoric climb, many cannabis companies are searching for ways to be more operationally efficient as they scale ever-expanding enterprises. By teaming up with vertical business vendors that oversee production and processing, cannabis brands can boost their productivity, cut sales costs, and ensure quality control.
For companies looking to break into the cannabis market, particularly B2B companies that sell farming technology, lighting, fertilizer, and other growing and processing equipment, now is the optimal time to market your services—but make sure you do it right. It’s a Goldrush out there, but it’s a gold rush laden with conflict, government restrictions, guidelines, and penalties to get tripped up on (we’ll discuss this in more detail later).
In an industry where change is the only given, how do you do it right? We’re here to provide some insight from our experiences working within the industry. So without further ado, here are our dos and don’t of marketing for the cannabis industry.
1. Audit Your Foundation
First thing’s first: how prepared is your business? You cannot build your marketing efforts without a solid foundation to fall back on. Does your website speak to your audience and support their buying journey? Is your team equipped to follow up with any leads you gain through your marketing efforts? This is the most important step, so don’t skip it. Take these steps to effectively audit your foundation:
- Assess your website. Does the design reflect who your brand is today? More than that, is it usable across all devices? Optimized for search engines? You want to ensure that people find your website when they’re searching for the solutions you offer—but your website must capture their attention once they’ve found you.
- Capture leads. Bringing visitors to your site is one thing, but what happens next? If you don’t capture their contact information, they may leave without you ever knowing they were there in the first place. Add relevant, impactful call to action statements throughout your site. These should encourage visitors to take the next step in their buying journey. You might provide high value content that they will be willing to trade their contact information for or encourage them to book a meeting with a business specialist.
- Keep your contacts organized. When new high-value leads come in through your website, what happens next? Are they saved to a CRM? The right tool will help you organize your contacts and take further steps to guide them through their journey.
With a solid foundation, you can be sure that your team is prepared not only to bring in new leads, but to follow up on them and guide them toward a buying decision.
2. Map Content to Sales Stage
Educating your audience means building credibility and consistently providing value. What better way to achieve this than with smart, consistent, and reliable content marketing?
Content marketing can boost your SEO, generate new leads, and establish authority in your particular space.
Engaging content can come in many different forms, including blog posts, case studies, ebooks and whitepapers, podcasts, webinars, videos, and much more. But while you have options, it’s important that you approach content marketing in a strategic way. The best way to do this is to analyze your funnel. Start at the bottom and work your way up, making sure you have relevant, timely content aimed at prospects at each stage in the funnel.
- Bottom of the funnel. It’s tempting to start at the top and focus on the information that will bring people to your site. But if you don’t have content aimed at the bottom of the funnel, it’s unlikely that anyone will convert. Put your target persona hat on and visit your website. Does the website have essential content that your target customer needs to make the decision to work with you? Examples include: request a consultation, live demos, quote requests, published pricing information. Remember, today’s modern buyer prefers to find this information online before engaging with a sales team member. Make it easy for them.
- Middle of the funnel. What content do you have to offer prospects who are on your site and considering their options? You’ll want to support them with plenty of content that will help them compare your solution to others. This might include product or solution-focused, whitepapers and webinars, demo videos, product catalogs, free samples, or customer testimonials.
- Top of the funnel. Now that you have the necessary content to bring leads through the funnel and convert them into customers, you can focus on how you’ll get them to visit your site. Consider the questions that people are asking within the B2B cannabis space. What can you help with? Once you’ve identified the questions your prospects are asking, it’s time to create the content that will speak to them and draw them to your website. This may include blogs, vlogs, video product demonstrations, and more. Think about your prospects and the information that will be most valuable to them.
Identify the content that your ideal fit buyers are looking for online and use that information to create a prioritized content calendar. Keep the buyer’s journey in mind to create targeted content that answers all of your prospects’ questions.
Need an example of a business doing it right? Illumitex is a company that offers LED solutions for growing plants. They use various forms of content marketing on their site to promote their services. Their blog debunks common myths and provides tips on using LED to grow plants.
Illumitex also runs podcasts and provides downloadable case studies to showcase their expertise. They quickly build trust with visitors who land on their site, positioning themselves as the expert in the LED grow space.
3. Amplify Your Message
Once you’ve built your foundation and you have the right content to support your customers as they explore your products, you want to get your message out there. The most important thing to remember is that you need your content and your message to appear in the places that your prospects care about. If they’re not on Twitter, there’s no reason to attempt to amplify brand awareness on Twitter. Similarly, if you’re not present in the spaces that your prospects care about, they’re not likely to notice you. So how can you amplify your message?
Social media can seem like a minefield for cannabis businesses. As regulations shift by the day, it’s difficult to know what is okay to post and what might get your account banned. For this reason, cannabis brands are typically encouraged not to run paid ads on social media sites—but that doesn’t mean you can’t make the most of organic reach.
Social media is an excellent platform to reach a wider audience and educate them about your services. The platforms we recommend include:
- Instagram: Images-centered platforms are the best option for brands selling to the cannabis industry. Companies can use channels like Instagram to boost awareness and build their targeted high-value audience.
- Facebook: Brands in cannabis verticals can use Facebook to build a community, promote excellent customer service, or keep clients updated on the latest news and updates at your company.
- Twitter: Twitter is an excellent tool to network and exchange ideas with leaders in the cannabis industry. Targets can include CEOs, influencers, and journalists.
What should you post? The most important thing to keep in mind is social media should be used to educate your customers (not to push your product). Think about the things they care about and cultivate posts that will speak to them. Impactful and relevant forms of content on social media include industry news, educational graphics, sharing links to relevant strategies and technologies, and behind-the-scenes footage of your products in use.
Once you’ve begun posting, test out and really dig into the analytics you get from each specific platform. Identify what works best for you and spend your time and resources on that channel. Remember: you don’t want to spend time and resources on channels that aren’t relevant to your audience, so this analytics step is important.
Acreage Holdings is a leading cannabis brand with an active social media presence. Their mission is to make cannabis safe and accessible for legal users. On their social media pages, they publish fun facts about marijuana, industry news, and video interviews to educate their audience and challenge the arguments driving the misguided war on drugs.
Cannabis brands can make great use of traditional social media platforms, but there is still the fear that you might cross a line and get your social accounts banned as a result.
A good alternative is to explore other platforms that focus strictly on cannabis. Joining these websites can open doors for your business without the worry of possibly getting banned.
Here’s our top pick for platforms to join:
- Leafwire: Leafwire is a great place to network with investors and professionals in the industry.
- MjLink: With 2.5 million users, MjLink makes it easy to connect with other cannabis entrepreneurs.
Work With Influencers
“Influencer marketing” is a term that gets thrown around a lot these days, and it doesn’t always have a positive connotation. It might call to mind the image of a vapid teenager who can’t look away from their phone—but wait! An influencer is anyone who can influence potential buyers by promoting or recommending your product. B2B businesses can make use of this method just as much as B2C businesses, though the partnership may look a bit different.
If you want to work with influencers, start by figuring out who your customers are paying attention to. What topics are they searching for online? Who do they follow on social media? Spend some time doing research, and once you’ve come up with a list of influencers in your niche market, reach out to them to discuss working together.
When used correctly, email marketing is an incredibly powerful tool to reach your target audience. It’s a great way to deliver your message directly to your prospects and keep them up-to-date on the latest news about your business.
Start by building your email list. Remember, you should never buy email lists—that’s a quick way to get yourself in trouble. Rather, you should attract potential customers with your content marketing efforts and encourage them to give you their email addresses. They may trade their information for high-quality content offers, or they may sign up for your email newsletter.
Once you have their email addresses, it’s time to craft your email marketing strategy. Ask yourself:
- How often will you send out emails?
- What will the emails be about? Upcoming events, new blogs, product launches?
- How will you segment your emails? Will you send the same message to everyone, or change the messaging based on certain actions your prospect has taken?
Email marketing is a great way to keep your brand top of mind—and at the top of your prospects’ inboxes.
Cultivate Media Coverage
The cannabis industry is still relatively new, but it is in aggressive growth mode—the media naturally has many questions and would love to learn more about the market.
Getting media coverage should be a priority for B2B cannabis brands. Not only is it a cost-effective promotional channel, but getting spotlighted by news outlets is a great way to build credibility and boost your company’s reputation and profile.
Here are examples of news publications with which B2B cannabis brands can network:
- Forbes: Leading business publication Forbes Magazine has a whole team dedicated to the cannabis industry and they publish online stories frequently.
- Cannabis Business Times: Owned by GIE media, Cannabis Business Times provides news on current industry trends. They also offer advice on topics such as cultivation and marketing.
- Marijuana Venture: This magazine is a leading B2B trade publication with a large subscriber base. It’s also available in every major bookstore chain across North America.
Now that we have covered the dos, AKA “The Fun Stuff,” here’s what you DON’T want to do when marketing your cannabis services—AKA “Don’t Stick Your Finger in that Socket.”
1. Don’t Overlook Your Branding & Public Image
Companies in the cannabis industry must emphasize their public-facing image. Don’t forget that just ten years ago, selling equipment to help grow cannabis was still seen as a black market enterprise.
It’s up to you to present a professional brand image—your clients want to see you as a legitimate business, not one that engages in shady practices.
2. Don’t Fall Behind on Ever-Changing Regulations
Guidelines for cannabis marketing are continually changing, particularly when it comes to social media.
Social media giants have proven to be unpredictable when it comes to cannabis industry marketing. As laws change, the means by which you can market your cannabis business will change too.
The worst thing you can do is to ignore changes in regulations. To help you out, here are some tips to keep up with the times on social media:
- Don’t show cannabis consumption. As you post on social media, avoid showing people consuming marijuana on your page. Many cannabis brands have had to learn this lesson the hard way.
- Be intentional with hashtags. Social media is still strict on marijuana-related searches. Do your research and avoid potentially risky keywords that could get you banned.
- Don’t run ads. Google and leading social media platforms all abide by federal law. Running most paid campaigns on Google and other major social media platforms is not permitted and will result in accounts being taken down. While it is possible to run ads (carefully), it’s a labor-intensive process and one misstep can result in a ban. It’s best to leave this one alone.
3. Don’t Lie or Over-Exaggerate
The overall goals of digital content marketing are to provide valuable information to your target audience, boost relevant traffic, and generate conversions. Lying about your products or services defeats your purpose and will backfire.
It’s not enough to highlight the benefits of your services. You’ll also have to prove your claims with links to relevant studies or content.
Whatever you do, avoid pseudoscience at all costs!
4. Don’t Blend in With the Crowd
It won’t be long until verticals in the cannabis industry are jam-packed with competition—some of it good, some of it fly by night.
With a profusion of competitors, it’s crucial to establish how your product stands out from the fray. Ask yourself these questions:
- What makes your cannabis equipment different from others in its category?
- How can you improve upon current industry standards?
- What makes your brand similar to competitors, and what can you do to differentiate yourself?
Now that we’ve explored some of our top tips for marketing in the cannabis space, let’s dive a bit deeper into some of the reasons that this industry is so very complicated. With changing public perceptions, government regulations, and the added complexity of state and federal laws, the industry is in a constant state of flux. Let’s explore some of the factors at play.
The Public Is on Our Side
Bipartisan agreement is achieved!
Increasingly relaxed attitudes around the use of cannabis are driving the industry’s explosive growth. Two thirds of Americans now believe that the United States should legalize marijuana—more than double the number in 2000 (32%).
But Not Everyone is Convinced
While the industry is growing, it is still in its infancy. Complicated challenges lie ahead, including the long-standing illegal status and constantly changing state/county regulatory changes.
Companies trying to enter the cannabis industry face a number of hurdles, including:
- Constantly changing regulations. The law remains a big obstacle. Across the U.S., there are still many states that have made no progress when it comes to legalization and due to cultural, religious, and governmental pressure. Many of these are likely to never legalize—we’re looking at you, Kansas.
- Competition. There’s a lot of competition coming your way. A global market worth $129 billion in 2019, the cannabis cultivation market anticipates compound growth of over 14% a year through 2027, and you’d better believe that anyone who can put up a string of grow lights is going to be looking to make a buck off the industry.
- Misguided Fear. “If the hideous monster Frankenstein came face to face with marijuana, he would drop dead of fright.” This 1937 warning came from the ever-rational mind of Harry J. Anslinger, who just happened to head up the Federal Bureau of Narcotics for decades (and who must have been fun at parties).
- Media Portrayals. Society still has negative stereotypes of marijuana due to decades of misguided propaganda and flat out misinformation. It was called a “gateway drug” and rumored that it could cause brain damage—notwithstanding the antics of Cheech and Chong. And who among us can forget the scaremongering message behind the 1930s classic Reefer Madness, a cinematic gift from the office of the aforementioned Mr. Anslinger?
The Legal Stuff: What Do You Need to Know?
The U.S. has a unique legal system in which each state has the freedom to create their own laws, but we still have a federal government that regulates laws for the whole country. This has created a unique conundrum: many states have legalized cannabis within their jurisdictions, but it is still federally illegal. Let’s explore how this plays out.
As of February 2021, cannabis is entirely legal in 14 states (and Washington, D.C.) and medical marijuana is legal in 27 states. Marijuana is still illegal in 8 states. It’s not surprising that states would seek to legalize cannabis due to the tax revenue opportunity it represents for the state. That said, it’s critically important to keep in mind that laws and regulations are not the same in each state & county in which the product is legal.
It’s essential to research the cannabis laws in your state—and any state your business operates in—before you invest in marketing. Not sure where to begin? Check the bowling card below for some insight into your state’s laws, or download our handy PDF pocket guide below.
+ GET FREE LEGALITY BY STATE MAP
Cannabis Legality By State
|District of Columbia||Fully Legal||Yes||Yes|
|Georgia||Mixed||CBD Oil Only||No|
|Indiana||Mixed||CBD Oil Only||No|
|Iowa||Mixed||CBD Oil Only||No|
|Kentucky||Mixed||CBD Oil Only||No|
|North Carolina||Fully Illegal||No||Yes|
|South Carolina||Fully Illegal||No||No|
|South Dakota||Fully Legal||Yes||Yes|
|Texas||Mixed||CBD Oil Only||No|
|Virginia||Mixed||CBD Oil Only||Yes|
|Wisconsin||Mixed||CBD Oil Only||No|
And here is a handy map to show where you might want to vacation in 2021—we make no judgments.
+ GET FREE LEGALITY BY STATE MAP
Cannabis Legality By State
Despite increasingly liberal attitudes and legalization in several individual states, cannabis is still federally illegal, which can complicate your marketing efforts.
The federal government classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug—meaning that it views marijuana as a highly addictive drug which has no medical value. Other drugs in this category include cocaine and heroin (not good company to be keeping). However, there is a movement pushing to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule 2 drug. In October 2020, the federal government stated its desire to back a World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation to remove marijuana from the most restrictive global drug scheduling category.
Despite all of the complicated layers of cannabis law, things are changing. As of February 2021, there are several bills in development which seek to legalize cannabis nationally. However, it will not be an easy fight—and this will affect your marketing efforts.
Cannabis Marketing – Let’s Get Started
Businesses looking to break into the cannabis space have a lot to consider. Changing attitudes, unpredictable laws and regulations, and a booming industry are making it difficult to plan your marketing activities. Are you looking for a partner to help you get started? New Perspective can help. Contact us to begin your cannabis marketing efforts today.