The Dos and Don’ts of Marketing for the Cannabis Industry

Dec 6, 2019

It’s a smokin’ time for the cannabis industry (no pun intended)—by 2020, the market expects to grow to $19.3 billion.

While the industry skyrockets, cannabis companies are searching for ways to be more efficient. By teaming up with vertical companies that take care of production and processing, cannabis brands can boost their productivity, cut sales costs, and provide quality control.

That’s excellent news for companies looking to break into the cannabis market, such as B2B companies that sell farming technology, lighting, fertilizer, and other growing and processing equipment.

Now’s the best time to market your services—so make sure you do it right. But before we dive into cannabis marketing tips, let’s explore why marketing to cannabis companies isn’t always as straightforward as marketing in other industries.

How is B2B Marketing Different for the Cannabis Industry?

public opinion cannabis

Relaxed attitudes around drug use are what’s driving the industry’s explosive growth. 62% of Americans now believe that the United States should legalize marijuana—double what it was in 2000 (32%).

However, the battle for cannabis isn’t over yet.

While the business is growing, the cannabis industry is in its early stages. There are still many challenges headed its way, mainly stemming from the War On Drugs and the bad reputation cannabis still carries—despite those changing attitudes.

Companies trying to break into the cannabis industry face many hurdles, including:

  • Legal battles: The law remains an obstacle. Across the U.S., there are still plenty of states that have made no progress when it comes to legalization.
  • Taboo: Society still has negative stereotypes of marijuana due to decades of propaganda—from being called a “gateway drug” to rumors that it could cause brain damage.
  • Competition: There’s a lot of competition coming your way. By 2026, the cannabis cultivation market expects to grow to $45.4 billion.

Compliance is the most significant issue. B2B Marijuana advertising is a minefield—one misstep and your business could be in a lot of trouble.

Let’s dive deeper into what the U.S. legislation says about Cannabis.

State Laws

The U.S. has a unique legal system in which each state has the freedom to create their own laws. Because of this, many states have independently made the decision to legalize cannabis within their borders, but it’s important to keep in mind that the laws and regulations are not the same in each legal state.

That means that even in states where cannabis is legal, it pays to research your state’s legislation—you don’t want to get in trouble because you’re following laws for another state!

Currently, cannabis is entirely legal in 11 states, while medical marijuana is legal in 28 states. Marijuana is still wholly illegal in 11 states.

Cannabis marketing, however, is another issue altogether. Even in states where it’s legal, there are still laws that restrict how you can market your services.

It’s essential to research your own state’s laws on cannabis before you invest in marketing. Not sure where to begin? Take a look at the table below for some insight into your state’s laws.

State Legal Status Medicinal Decriminalized
Alabama Fully Illegal No No
Alaska Fully Legal Yes Yes
Arizona Fully Legal Yes Yes
Arkansas Mixed Yes No
California Fully Legal Yes Yes
Colorado Fully Legal Yes Yes
Connecticut Mixed Yes Yes
Delaware Mixed Yes Yes
District of Columbia Fully Legal Yes Yes
Florida Mixed Yes No
Georgia Mixed CBD Oil Only No
Hawaii Mixed Yes Yes
Idaho Fully Illegal No No
Illinois? Fully Legal Yes Yes
Indiana Mixed CBD Oil Only No
Iowa Mixed CBD Oil Only No
Kansas Fully Illegal No No
Kentucky Mixed CBD Oil Only No
Louisiana Mixed Yes No
Maine Fully Legal Yes Yes
Maryland Mixed Yes Yes
Massachusetts Fully Legal Yes Yes
Michigan Fully Legal Yes Yes
Minnesota Mixed Yes Yes
Mississippi Mixed Yes Yes
Missouri Mixed Yes Yes
Montana Fully Legal Yes Yes
Nebraska Fully Illegal No Yes
Nevada Fully Legal Yes Yes
New Hampshire Mixed Yes Yes
New Jersey Mixed Yes No
New Mexico Mixed Yes Yes
New York Mixed Yes Yes
North Carolina Fully Illegal No Yes
North Dakota Mixed Yes Yes
Ohio Mixed Yes Yes
Oklahoma Mixed Yes No
Oregon Fully Legal Yes Yes
Pennsylvania Mixed Yes No
Rhode Island Mixed Yes Yes
South Carolina Fully Illegal No No
South Dakota Fully Legal Yes Yes
Tennessee Fully Illegal No No
Texas Mixed CBD Oil Only No
Utah Mixed Yes No
Vermont Fully Legal Yes Yes
Virginia Mixed CBD Oil Only Yes
Washington Fully Legal Yes Yes
West Virginia Mixed Yes No
Wisconsin Mixed CBD Oil Only No
Wyoming Fully Illegal No No

Source: DISA Map of Marijuana Legality

Federal Laws

Despite increasingly liberal attitudes and legalization in several individual states, cannabis is still federally illegal, which can complicate your marketing efforts further.

The federal government classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug—meaning that it views marijuana as a drug with high potential for abuse. Other drugs in this category include cocaine and heroin (not a good look).

Google and social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) all abide by federal law. Running ads on Google and social media is not allowed and it will get your accounts taken down.

TV commercials are legal in some instances, but it’s not something you can depend on; sometimes ads that promote cannabis are not allowed to run.

Despite all of the complicated layers of cannabis law, things are changing. Last November, the House Judiciary Committee approved the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act. The bill will decriminalize marijuana at the federal level and strip away its Schedule I status.

It’s important to note that decriminalizing does NOT mean legalizing. But it’s fair to assume that cannabis marketing will get easier over time.

How to Market Your B2B Business in the Cannabis Industry

Cannabis marketing is not a simple process. It’s all about how you adapt. Brands selling to the cannabis industry can still prosper online—as long as they have the right strategy. So where do you begin? Here are our dos and don’ts of marketing your B2B business in the cannabis industry.

The Dos

It’s still possible to market your products and services to the cannabis industry with digital marketing. You can use inbound tactics to boost awareness around your company and services, grow your following online, and connect with top leaders in the cannabis industry
Here are our best tips to propel yourself to success:

1. Focus on Education, Not Selling!

Before you launch a digital marketing campaign, it’s vital to understand what you’re going to get from the experience.

Your goal when marketing your services should be to educate—not sell.

Cannabis companies are looking for the best solutions to grow their products efficiently. The more you can educate a potential partner about your services and how you can help them generate more business, the easier it will be to convert them to customers.

2. Take Advantage of Social Media

Using social media to promote your cannabis brand can be a high-risk, high-reward situation. Social media is an excellent platform to reach a wider audience and educate them about your services.

The platforms we recommend include:

  • Instagram: The image-centered platforms is probably the best option for brands selling to the cannabis industry. Companies can use it to boost awareness and build their audience.
  • Facebook: Brands in cannabis verticals can use Facebook to build a community, offer customer service, or keep clients updated on the latest changes in your company.
  • Twitter: Twitter is an excellent tool to network with leaders in the cannabis industry. Leaders may include CEOs, influencers, and journalists.

Test out and study the analytics of each different platform. From there, identify which works best for you and spend your time and money there.

The best form of content that works on social media include:

  • Recent and relevant industry news
  • Educational graphics
  • Sharing links to recent studies on the best ways to produce marijuana
  • Posting behind-the-scenes footage of your products in action

Social Media Success Starts With Strategy

Before launching a social campaign, make sure you start with a brand strategy.

Think about the core values that drive your company. What do you stand for as a B2B cannabis brand? Defining your company values is vital because they influence every decision you make.

Next, you should identify the problems you help solve for customers. What’s your value proposition? How can you communicate it on social media?

Acreage Holdings is a top leading cannabis brand with an active social presence. Their mission is to make cannabis safe and accessible for everyone. On their social media pages, they publish fun facts about marijuana to educate their audience and call out the war on drugs.

Need an example? Acreage Holdings is a top leading cannabis brand with an active social presence. Their pages include industry news, fun facts about cannabis, and calling out the war on drugs.

acreage holdings

Source

3. Join Cannabis-Niched Websites

Getting banned online is a common fear among companies in the cannabis market.

One issue with standard social media is that you’re walking on eggshells. Yes, you can post about your industry, but many brands fear crossing a line and getting their social accounts banned.

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 getting banned.

Here’s our top pick of the three best platforms you should 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.
  • Weedable: This social network gives you the possibility to set up a business profile and reach potential partners/ clients.

4. Content Marketing

Educating your audience means building credibility and providing value. And what better way to do this than with content marketing?

Content marketing can boost your SEO, generate new leads, and establish authority. It can come in many different forms, including:

  • Blog posts
  • Case studies
  • Ebooks and white papers
  • Podcasts
  • Webinars

Illuminex is a company that offers LED solutions for growing plants. They use various forms of content marketing on their site to promote their services.

For example, their blog includes debunking common myths and the best tips on using LED to grow plants.

illumitex

They also run podcasts and have downloadable case studies to show off their expertise. They instantly build trust when visitors land on their site.

When investing in content marketing, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who is your ideal buyer?
  • What common pain points and goals does your audience share?
  • How can you solve their problems?

From there, start producing content that answers these questions for your visitors.

5. Get Media Coverage

cannabis marketing media coverageThe cannabis industry is relatively new—the media still 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 cost-effective, but getting promoted by news outlets is a great way to build credibility and boost your reputation.

Here are examples of news publications that B2B cannabis brands can network with:

  • Forbes: World-renowned Forbes magazine is one of the biggest business publications out there. They have a whole team dedicated to the cannabis industry.
  • 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 already 12,000 subscribers. It’s also available in every major bookstore chain across North America.

The Don’ts

Now that we covered the dos, here’s what you DON’T want to do when marketing your cannabis services.

1. Overlook Branding & Public Image

Companies in the cannabis industry must emphasize public image. Don’t forget that just ten years ago, selling equipment to help grow cannabis was still taboo.

It’s up to you to look professional—your clients want to see you as a legitimate business, not one that engages in shady practices.

2. Fall Behind on Regulations

Cannabis marketing is continually changing, especially on social media.

Social media giants have proven to be unpredictable when it comes to cannabis. As laws change, how you can market your cannabis equipment 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, try to 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

As of January 2020, running cannabis ads on Google and social media is still illegal under federal law. As long as you don’t launch ads on social platforms, you’ll be fine.

3. Lie or Over-Exaggerate

The goal of digital marketing is to position yourself as a credible source. Lying about your products or services defeats the whole point 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!

Think about it—the cannabis industry already has a bad rap. Lying about your product isn’t suitable for your brand, nor the cannabis market as a whole.

4. Blend in With the Crowd

It won’t be long until verticals in the cannabis industry are jam-packed with competition.
With a growing number of competitors, it’s crucial to know how your product stands out from the crowd. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What makes your cannabis equipment different from others like it?
  • How can you improve current industry standards?
  • What makes your brand similar to competitors, and what can you do to differentiate yourself?

Let’s Get Started

Navigating the world of marketing as a B2B brand selling to the cannabis industry can be tricky business, but now that you know the hurdles coming your way and how to bypass them, it’s time to take action!

New Perspective works with businesses in the cannabis industry to effectively market to their audience and capture high-quality leads. Want to see our work? Take a look at our case study to see how we worked with Agrify, an indoor grow technology business, to launch their brand and make an impact.

View Case Study

Continue Reading