What's happening to the cannabis industry right now is a textbook example of the gargantuan snowball effect.
With the US legalizing medical and recreational use of marijuana state by state and with Canada soon to join the squad, we can expect one of the greatest business booms in the entire history of humanity.
As for now, the cannabis black market is estimated to be worth $31.6 billion, and with the legalization trend gaining pace, it goes without saying that a large segment of this market will transfer money to the legal industry by opening legitimate businesses.
That being said, entrepreneurs are looking for opportunities to make their name in the cannabis industry by providing marijuana users with the services they desire.
Believe it or not, but the demand for such services is huge.
However, growing your marijuana business in the midst of legalization in Canada may be a bit difficult, as any savoury entrepreneur will tell you that it's best to have your company ready before the sweet spot because it's easier to make people aware of your presence on the market.
This is where things get tricky, though.
Can You Promote a Cannabis Business in Canada?
As for now, although medical cannabis has been legal in Canada since 2001, the plant is still not a federally accepted drug, not to mention that the recreational use of marijuana, along with cultivating and selling the herb for such purposes, remains illegal. So this brings us to another question: how do you grow your cannabis business according to the letter of the law and prepare for the upcoming legalization at the same time?
Well, the Canadian government doesn't allow companies to advertise marijuana explicitly, so even if your logo refers to the cannabis plant, it cannot be presented to people directly – this is why some Canadian dispensaries and companies providing weed-related services get so creative when it comes to visuals.
Even services like Google or Facebook, who are private platforms, have to adjust to the legislation of a given country, so if you're hoping to grow your marijuana business in Canada with Facebook Ads, Google AdWords, or other popular online tools, I regret to burst your bubble, my friends – it won't work. Better yet, you may face some serious fines or, in some cases, even jail time for disobeying the law.
Yes, Cannabis Marketing Is a Hard Nut to Crack.
Thankfully, here comes the “NutCracker.” You see, when the law gets too complicated, it's easy to find a legal leak to avoid being accused of breaking the rules and still be successful in cannabis marketing. Likewise, you can apply plenty of tricks to your cannabis business if you want to grow it online. So how to make your road to become a big marijuana brand a little less bumpy? We'll get to it in a couple of moments, but as for now, let's focus on the general obstacles any cannapreneur will eventually have to face when entering the booming industry.
If you could follow me, please.
What Are the Obstacles Behind Cannabis Marketing?
As with any other new industry, marijuana businesses will raise many questions and, as it is with cannabis, there will be much controversy around it. However, there are three main issues you'll need to deal with when setting up a cannabis marketing strategy.
The Stoner Stigma
When most people think of a marijuana ad, they imagine a huge poster of Bob Marley sharing a gargantuan blunt with his family. Or better yet, they see two lazy guys passing bong to each other and watching “How High” for the 420th time. The worst-case scenario anticipates a half-naked chick with a grinder; like seriously, I still can't get why companies insist on exposing nudity to bump their sales, but that's the sad story. Given this, the main goal of cannabis marketing is to show the plant in a positive light and showcase its therapeutic properties in a fun and educational way. People don't want that image of a reefer junkie from the infamous War on Drugs; instead, they want to see a responsible stoner the society believes doesn't exist. So from now on, forget phrases like toking up, blazing a jay, getting ripped, or terms like reefer, sticky-icky, good shit, and other dirty words. Above all, when you talk or write about cannabis, make it sound as absorbing as a fantasy best-seller and as educational as an academic piece of research.
Let's be honest, years of propaganda have ravaged the image of cannabis worldwide, and although the marijuana culture is rejuvenating, let's not forget that it was in shambles only 5 years ago. Then, society perceived the plant as a gateway drug, a substance with strong potential for abuse, and associated cannabis users with inferior people. As a cannabis entrepreneur, you want to be considered a professional in your niche. Becoming an authority in a particular business sector is not an easy task, but education is paramount in this case. Some people will be stubborn, and it may take some time to get them convinced; on the other hand, remember that constant dripping wears the stone, so it's actually worth your time.
Last but not least, the aforementioned legal system. Marijuana marketers have a hard time reaching their target audience when the fair share of tools is off-limits. Showing off with your products in a country where possessing marijuana for purposes other than medical is a crime? It's not an option. If you run a medical marijuana dispensary, making it visible to a broader audience, be it online, on TV, at events, or in print, requires 70% of attendees to be 21 or older. On top of that, it's illegal to register a trademark that explicitly relates to marijuana, so you'll have to go down the rabbit hole to establish your marketing strategy eventually. Melanie Rose Rodgers, a Managing Partner at Cannabrand, the Colorado-based marijuana marketing agency, said that their clients' greatest challenge is somehow overcoming the red tape around marijuana marketing until cannabis becomes entirely legalized in Canada and federally accepted by the US.
Best Marketing Strategies for Growing Your Weed Business Legitimately
Where both traditional and popular online advertising methods fail, the organic traffic and other less obvious forms of marketing succeed. Therefore, it's of the utmost importance that you implement these aspects into your cannabis marketing strategy. Only then will you reach your target audience, increase the number of potential customers, advertise your products effectively, and remain in neutral/friendly relations with Canadian law.
Search Engine Optimization
The incoming legalization is the perfect moment to make an effort and reach the podium in organic search results. A good SEO strategy is a pure gold. By delivering top-notch quality content while optimizing your texts following SEO standards (keywords, page speed, mobile-friendliness, readability, valuable links, relevant information, uniqueness of your content, etc.), you can grow your business without spending a dime on promotion.
There are plenty of tools that let you evaluate the SEO index of your online business and search for popular keywords in your niche to help you place higher in SERP (Search Engine Results Pages). Your goal should be to have at least several articles on the first page of results, and if you land the number one place, it's all the better.
The highest ranks in Search Engines can provide tons of organic traffic to your online business, so all you need to do is convert these leads to customers. Although many companies use the courtesy of services provided by SEO agencies, it's mandatory to learn the basics firsthand to start your content marketing in the first place.
While launching a campaign on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter may result in a permanent ban for your commercial account; you're free to use these channels to promote your content organically. Raising an engaged community on your social media platforms without using paid posts requires much time and effort. Still, as soon as you build a loyal community, you'll understand the power of personal brands. There's nothing better for your business in the long run than satisfied and loyal customers.
Besides, now that Facebook improved theme groups, they gained strong marketing potential. So when running an online cannabis business, establish a Facebook group where you'll give something back to people who support you. These may be pro tips for cannabis enthusiasts, valuable knowledge, be it on medical marijuana or the sheer weed culture, or a live audition once in a week.
Moreover, you can get access to other theme groups where some admins allow users to share relevant content there – yet another opportunity to extend your ‘tentacles.' Finally, there are social media influencers who like to share valuable stuff on their channels. Some Internet personalities gather hundreds of thousands of followers, and if you reach out to some big names in your niche, it may be a golden shot for your online traffic.
As an entrepreneur, you must include any risk into running your business, one of which can be this darkest scenario when all social media platforms die all of a sudden, and the community you've managed to gather around your business gets spread in literally nowhere.
This is why you need a backup plan, and e-mail marketing is the best way to both advertise your business and build a large database of your leads and clients, as well as potential business partners you want to reach out to.
Start by creating a simple newsletter to keep in touch with your audience. It's a smart choice to set up a discount on your products upon signing up for the newsletter so that you attract more readers to it. Keep in mind that newsletters are not about skyrocketing your business within days or weeks. In fact, sometimes, it may take a few months to create a database that will help you improve your business with more clients coming in from different channels.
Keeping your newsletter engaging and informative is another part of the task. Automated emails with no emotional background to tighten your bond between the company and your customers are the worst thing you can do to your e-mail marketing strategy. On the other hand, if you're consistent with adding different perks upon signing up to your newsletter and keep your audience updated about the latest deliveries, special discounts, or weed-related events in which you're going to participate, it will do so wonders over time. People love it if you give something back, be it directly to them or the community in general.
Influencer marketing is a relatively new term.
First things first, who is an influencer?
An influencer is an online personality – it may be a blogger, vlogger, Instagram celeb, a person who runs a Facebook fan page or a popular channel on Twitter – who basically influences their audience. Some top influencers have made it from scratches to multi-million businesses, starting from a single blog or YouTube channel. Big enterprises have already realized the marketing potential of influencers, and they encourage other companies to run their campaigns with such people.
The main argument favouring establishing a partnership with an influencer is the authenticity of such a person. Influencers are subjective, they firmly stand their ground, and above all, they're honest with their followers. By getting into a business relationship with an influencer, you can reach your target audience and present your services creatively to contribute to this community.
Online marketing is about more than merely business – it's about human relations. That said, you have to take certain things into account before you decide to run a campaign with influencers. Most of all, always look for personal brands that gather people from your niche. For example, you may very well pay lots of money to a beauty blogger to promote bongs, but what's the point if her audience is not into glassware of that kind? On the contrary, if you sell vaporizers and you know a YouTuber who makes a living out of testing vapes on their channel, reaching out to such a person may evolve into a long-term partnership that will bear fruit for both of you.
To cut a long story short, influencer marketing is one of the most efficient ways to grow your cannabis business online. With bloggers, YouTubers, and other online personalities, creativity has no limits, and sometimes, you'll be able to run a rad campaign on your product without ravaging your company's budget.
Oh, I almost forgot; before you approach an influencer, do your research and don't consider them a cheap labour force. The relation should be based on mutual respect; otherwise, if you treat them like another promotion channel, the loyalty of their community may backfire on you.
Affiliate networks are the new grapevines. In short, cannabis affiliate marketing is one of the most effective ways of generating passive income, and it's totally noninvasive. When you run a cannabis business, consider adding the blog to your website. If smoking cannabis is your pair of shoes, go with bongs and vaporizer reviews in which you will link to products you believe are worth your recommendation. When a person clicks this link and completes the purchase, you receive a certain commission. More interestingly, you can land many links in one article, be it a how-to guide, a review, or a compilation of the best cannabis strains. By developing such a network, you'll increase the passive income over time. What's of paramount importance is, to be honest with your readers. People will realize you have shady intentions if you think of linking to products you wouldn't personally use only because they're expensive. Given this, Make the affiliate network a part of the lifestyle your business promotes. As long as you act ethically, this content marketing strategy will prove invaluable for growing your brand. There are plenty of companies that support affiliate networks, and to be honest, it all boils down to the number of products each network offers. Search the Web to find the perfect fit and start generating your passive income.
Cannabis Rallies and Events
Cannabis rallies and events are perfect for meeting new people who are as enthusiastic about the herb as you. Still, they also create great opportunities for cannabis entrepreneurs who want to introduce themselves to the public. Simply put, it's a sage move to show up in one of many cannabis conventions.
For instance, the latest edition of the New England Cannabis Convention rallied over 50 businesses and hundreds of participants interested in growing their weed companies. Marijuana events prove invaluable for gaining the necessary knowledge about both the industry and the benefits of using cannabis for medical and recreational reasons.
If you want to show your own vendor booth at one of the cannabis festivals, consider hiring a marketing agency for the job; it will free you from the burden of arranging the stand and negotiating prices with the host.
The Final Note
Cannabis marketing is such a complex matter that someone should write a whole book on it. When it comes to running a weed company legitimately, you're going to need some creativity, much knowledge, and even more, enthusiasm to maneuver in the legislative jungle. On top of that, it takes a lot of practice to master the use of each marketing channel for your cannabis business, and sometimes, you'll need a marketing agency to support your efforts.
Nevertheless, before you give up on that brilliant idea of yours, think about the time you spent learning about cannabis itself. Was it worth the proverbial candle? I bet it was. So roll up your sleeves and chase your goals.