Dispensary marketing is no easy task. You can’t advertise on most search engines or social media networks (although there are exceptions), and there are countless rules about the types of signage you can display even in your store window. When it seems like the whole world is against you, how are you supposed to distinguish yourself in this increasingly saturated market? The good news is that there are many effective dispensary marketing ideas. You just have to get a little creative.
1. Think Local… Local SEO, That Is
Just because you can’t advertise on Google doesn’t mean you can’t still use Google to your advantage. You just have to focus on organic search. Local SEO is all about making your business as visible as possible to people who search online for dispensaries in your area.
The nuances of local dispensary SEO could fill their own article, but one of the simplest ways to optimize your site is to build out your Google My Business profile. This listing will show up in search engine results pages (SERPs) in the sidebar whenever someone Google-searches your business, and it also helps Google to more effectively index your site for local search.
You also want to optimize your marijuana dispensary website for local search. What cities or areas do you serve? Make sure this information is prominently available on your homepage and any other key landing pages. Keywords like “Los Angeles dispensary” or “best dispensary in Denver” can be very effective. It’s easy to get the basics, but if you really want to gain a competitive edge in Google search, it helps to hire a reputable SEO agency to oversee your digital marketing strategy.
2. Go Social
Most major social media networks still forbid cannabis advertising…with one notable exception. Twitter recently became the first major social platform to allow cannabis ads, and you should absolutely take advantage of that. Twitter has around 450 million active monthly users, many of whom are highly engaged.
But even if you can’t advertise on Instagram, Facebook, or TikTok, you should still be using these platforms daily. As long as you don’t violate their guidelines (e.g. You can’t promote the sale of cannabis on Instagram or Facebook), social media is a great place to build your brand and draw the local community to your business.
Trulieve is one dispensary that does this exceptionally well. The Trulieve Instagram page features a combination of educational cannabis posts, deals for non-cannabis products, new product highlights, staff highlights, and other general-interest posts. And the page has nearly 50,000 followers. So tread lightly with your cannabis content, but make social media a priority.
3. Find 420-Friendly Ad Networks
If you want to do some traditional advertising, Twitter isn’t your only option. New 420-friendly ad networks are popping up all the time, some of which have distribution across major websites and media networks.
The best example is Mantis Ad Network. Not only is it the largest cannabis ad network, but the company takes 0% commission and pays 100% to its advertisers. Businesses and hobbyists can get started for as little as $90 per month.
And Mantis isn’t the only ad network that cannabis businesses rely on. Other popular options include Traffic Roots and Puff Network. Compare the options, try them out, and see what works for you.
4. Attend Events & Collaborate with Other Brands
Cannabis industry conventions—both B2B and B2C—should be one of your top marketing tactics. They’re prime networking opportunities that can help to elevate your brand recognition, jumpstart sales, and connect you with potential industry partners who can further promote your brand on your behalf.
Connecting with other local brands can be especially effective. For instance, Lowtemp Industries (a leading rosin press manufacturer in Denver) has been successful in bolstering their own brand by partnering with other local businesses in Colorado that specialize in solventless concentrates and complementary processing equipment. The cross-promotion is mutually beneficial for both businesses, and it’s one of the key ways that cannabis businesses get the word out.
As a dispensary owner, you’re in a prime position for these types of partnerships. Cannabis manufacturers want their products sold in retail establishments, and you have the means to provide that. In return, you might get your brand featured as a retail partner on the manufacturer’s website or even highlighted in their social profiles. Cannabis doctors also take part in dispensary partnerships in many cases (recommending preferred establishments to their patients), so get out there and network as much as possible.
5. Develop Homegrown Brands
Developing your own signature cannabis products is one simple way to gain a competitive edge over other dispensaries in your area. Some of the top dispensaries in the nation have their own cultivation facilities, processors, and SKUs that can’t be found anywhere else. As the word spreads about your proprietary products, customers are drawn to your location.
If you don’t have the budget, resources, or licenses to cultivate your own cannabis products at scale, you still have options. Private labeling (or white labeling) has become a popular way for companies to promote their own signature lines without planting a single crop. You partner with a white-label company like HybridLA, Riverview Farms, or Veritas Cannabis (depending on which state you operate in), and they produce the cannabis. You’re then free to place your own branding on it and market it as you please.
As long as you do your homework and partner with a company that makes high-quality cannabis, you can enjoy the same benefits that you’d enjoy if you grew your own cannabis—and with a fraction of the hassle.
6. Provide Incentives
BOGO deals. Daily deals. Medical-only deals. First-time customer specials. Loyalty programs. Incentives are so ubiquitous in cannabis dispensaries that you almost can’t survive without them. But there’s a reason they’re so common: They work.
Incentives are powerful for marketing. They inspire word-of-mouth recommendations for your local business. They motivate positive online reviews. They encourage existing customers to keep coming back. And—when properly advertised on your website—they draw in organic search traffic from people in your area seeking “cannabis deals.” So make them a part of your business strategy, and make them enticing.
Marketing Is Integral to Dispensary Success
Cannabis marketing strategies might seem costly and time-consuming, but the rewards can be enormous. You don’t have to follow every tip on this list, but you should give some of them a try. There are over 7,000 dispensaries in the U.S., and you need every competitive advantage you can get.
There is no substitute for a quality product and world-class customer service. But before you can show off how great your business is, you have to get people in the door. So start marketing like your business depends on it!