Rare is the opportunity to break into a brand new industry as it just gets off the ground. Typically, as a new industry grows, it is quickly dominated by the forces that brought the industry to market or taken over by established corporations looking to turn a quick profit.
Naturally, fighting those forces as a start-up can be fraught with difficulty and failure. The fledgling cannabis dispensary industry, however, is a different beast altogether.
At the heart of this difference is the legal status of marijuana. Since the DEA still classifies Marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance at the federal level, the large corporations who would typically dominate new industries are unwilling, or unable, to take on such a risky business proposition.
Their hesitancy opens the door for much smaller start-ups to enter the picture and become highly profitable without dominant corporations pushing them out.
That said, all is not sunshine and rainbows. Even after securing all the necessary permits and government approvals, dispensaries are not immune from the necessities of any other business; namely marketing and customer acquisition.
In order to draw in and convert a steady stream of customers, a tailored dispensary marketing plan is required.
Dispensary Marketing Plan
Considering the popularity of legal cannabis, why would dispensaries even need to be concerned with marketing? Well, for all the same reasons that other businesses are.
Despite the fact that dispensaries currently occupy the bleeding-edge of an industry that is fraught with complex legal arrangements, dispensaries still need to appeal to a customer base in order to become profitable. Just because a dispensary opened on a corner does not mean the potential customers in that city know it’s there. Extend that out to the next city, or even further, and the knowledge drops off precipitously.
As in all things marketing, dispensaries need to leverage the accessibility of the Internet to their advantage.
Does a Dispensary Need a Marketing Plan?
Where do you turn when you have a question or need a service? That’s right; the Internet. There is a reason the modern cliche of solving ignorance is “Google it”. For dispensary marketing, Google is going to be an absolute necessity that may also present a potential advantage.
There is no disputing the fact that legalized cannabis is generating a substantial amount of popularity. Despite this popularity, there is still an enormous amount of stigma surrounding the drug. Both society and the business world harbor a substantial amount of negative judgment about the cannabis industry and those who choose to use legalized marijuana.
Because of this prevailing stigma, many large-scale marketing agencies will not conduct business with dispensaries. Additionally, since many marketing agencies’ territories cross state lines, there may be legal considerations preventing such an agency from engaging in the cannabis industry.
So what is a dispensary to do when advertising agencies refuse to promote their business? They have to do it themselves.
Herein lies the major advantage Google will provide in any dispensary marketing plan.
Dispensary Marketing – Keywords and Market Saturation
As part of any solid marketing plan, businesses should be establishing and exploiting a well-crafted web presence. The truth of the matter is that customers cannot patronize a business they cannot find.
Simply opening the dispensary and getting it stocked is not enough if customers do not know the location is open for business. This is where web presence comes in; funneling potential customers towards a physical business by appearing high on Google search results.
Dispensary Marketing Content
In order to rank high on Google search results and appear in front of potential customers, websites need to be valuable and useful to searchers. A website that simply states business hours and location will be only marginally useful to a Google searcher and will only appear to the searcher seeking those specific items.
Also, the searcher who is seeking hours and location already knows the business exists and likely already intends on patronizing it. So website bearing only this content is not effectively reaching any new customers.
So, to expand on the number of searchers that will end up on the dispensary page, the dispensary marketing plan needs to include tailored content that provides useful information to the searcher.
While this may seem difficult, the reality is far from it.
The marijuana industry, by virtue of its recent evolution and constant legal struggles, is fraught with misinformation or just plain no information. For the searcher in a state with legalized dispensaries or one where legalization is imminent, any information is useful.
To be useful to searchers, dispensaries should seek to address the Marijuana industry as a whole and the legalities behind how the dispensary distributes products.
Potential customers will be keen to know what sort of products the dispensary has on hand, how these products were grown, what makes the products different from other dispensaries, and what legalities are involved in using the dispensary products as a customer.
Not only will this content address questions for the more experienced cannabis consumer, but it will also draw in and assuage the concerns of those who want to try Marijuana but are hesitant based on possible legal issues or a lack of Marijuana knowledge. This second group of searchers also represents a larger pool of potential customers for a dispensary.
Generally, the group of people who previously used Marijuana regularly while it was illegal pales in comparison to the group of people who have never used Marijuana.
The potential drawbacks to using a substance deemed illegal are substantial, which previously prevented many people from consuming it. Once cannabis becomes legalized in an area, dispensaries stand poised at the point of bringing the previously apprehensive people into the customer role.
Regardless of their intentions, all these people need information and they will turn to the Internet to satisfy this need. The key to a dispensary marketing plan is recognizing that each searcher who comes to the site looking for information is also a potential customer.
Dispensary Marketing – Keywords
Another distinct advantage of the fledgling cannabis industry is that there are far fewer dispensaries competing against each other for internet space and customers. Unlike a well-developed industry like fast food, for example, dispensaries are still few and far between in certain areas. Low competition leaves enormous room for growth with fewer complications.
As previously mentioned, content is king when it comes to providing value to searchers. That content, however, also needs to be crafted around certain keywords a searcher will use to answer their questions.
For instance, searchers looking for the legal implications of marijuana use will not search “strand of marijuana with highest THC”. Like any other person looking for information on the Internet, searchers will use specific queries to find answers to specific questions.
In saturated industries, many companies will be competing towards answering those specific queries and with competition comes a much more difficult content strategy. This competition is far less evident in the cannabis industry, meaning keyword competition is far less.
Dispensary Marketing – Social Media
Now, as the dispensary crafts their web presence and fills it with keyword-targeted content, there is still the need to broadcast the dispensaries presence in the real world.
As previously mentioned, many dispensaries may face push-back from marketing agencies. Additionally, many jurisdictions may resist having dispensary-related billboards or signs advertising cannabis. To combat this, dispensaries can turn to social media and take advertising into their own hands.
A majority of the people dispensaries seek to target are also prevalent social media users. Add that to the fact that prevalent social media users also share poignant posts and things that interest them with their friends, and it becomes fairly apparent that getting worthwhile content in front of this group will be a major boon.
Dispensaries should strive toward making sure their web content is light and highly shareable and written in a manner that attracts the social media generation.
Now, this is not to say that dispensaries should be targeting the ‘party scene’; far from it. Dispensaries need their content to appeal to widespread social media use as a means of being able to market their products in areas that may be resistant to traditional marketing strategies.
As we’ve already discussed, there is a huge swath of people who may have considered trying Marijuana but previous legal status prevented them from doing so. Now, with legalized Marijuana that legal prohibition is gone, meaning these people are now potential dispensary customers.
The dispensary simply needs to reach these people and reignite their curiosity in a way that prompts them to explore the option of visiting the dispensary website for more information. Carefully crafted social media posts written in a shareable fashion just maybe just the push to get this curious group to make the visit.
Outside the curious, shareable social media posts will also continually shine a light on a given dispensary, giving the dispensary more name recognition and appearing in front of more experienced Marijuana users. These more experienced users may visit the dispensary and evaluate the customer experience, and finding it satisfactory, will promote the dispensary to their friends. In short, crowd-sourced marketing.
Grass-Roots Dispensary Marketing
Much like any other industry or group that rises against the prevailing social stigma of the day, the cannabis industry must resort to grass-roots marketing efforts to promote their business in places that may resist the dispensary’s presence entirely.
By leveraging positive website content that answers searchers questions and promoting highly shareable social media content, dispensaries can utilize the accessibility of the internet to reach a majority of their potential customer base, without having to contend with the stigma of traditional marketing agencies.