Across the seven states that currently have recreational cannabis dispensaries operating, more than 1,600 retail locations have already opened up — and many more are on the way. In Colorado alone, marijuana dispensaries outnumber local Starbucks and McDonald’s locations by far. With so many stores popping up, you must dial in your cannabis marketing tactics to help your dispensary stand out from the crowd. The right combination of marketing tactics and channels can bring customers through the doors in droves, after all.
Unfortunately, in this industry, it’s just not that simple. With so many differing laws and regulations, taking the right approach to cannabis dispensary advertising can prove challenging. You also have to know where to focus your efforts to achieve the greatest return on all your marketing campaigns.
Luckily, we are here to help you out with this informative guide on how to market your dispensary. Dive right in to learn how easy it is to get started — and then, see how we can help you get your cannabis certification through our six-week Cannabis Business Owner Certificate Course Online.
Get Familiar with Your State’s Recreational Cannabis Marketing Regulations
Before you even start advertising, you need to know your state regulations inside and out to stay on the right side of the law. Otherwise, you could end up shut down — perhaps even for good.
Since the sheer number of laws on the books is so dizzying, here’s a breakdown to help you learn the basics. Always dive deep into the laws before operating your dispensary, however, or you could easily end up out of compliance.
Cannabis marketing regulations in Alaska focus on physical signage. For starters, you can only have three on display outside your establishment. Furthermore, they must not have false or misleading statements, use cartoon characters, or promote consumption in excess. You are also not allowed to give away coupons or hold contests to promote your marijuana dispensary.
When you release advertisements of any kind, they must have five distinct product warnings listed in full. You are not allowed to post any of your advertisements within 1,000 feet of schools or child-centric facilities. You also cannot post them on college campuses, publicly owned property, or public transit entities.
While operating a cannabis shop in California, you have to vet every advertising channel you use. You must verify that your ads only land on channels where more than 71.6% of the audience is an adult age 21 and over. When you are directly marketing to those individuals, such as through your website or in person, you must confirm their age before proceeding. With this approach, you can also market through broadcast publications, like radio and cable.
You cannot put up billboards advertising your marijuana dispensary or products on highways that cross state lines, but everywhere else is okay. You can also put up smaller print advertisements across your local community. Just make sure they are 1,000 feet or further from youth-centric establishments, including daycares and playgrounds, or you could get in trouble.
Always use accurate information and leave cartoon characters out of the mix to remain in compliance with state cannabis marketing laws. Although always a sound practice, state laws dictate that you must make your brand clearly identifiable on all advertisements as well.
Colorado also allows cannabis dispensary owners to advertise through TV, radio, print, and digital publications, as long as less than 30% of the audience is under 21. To market through SMS, you must ensure your recipient is over the age of 21 and can easily opt-out of your advertisements.
No matter how you advertise, you must make sure your ads never purposefully target people who live out of state. This includes tourists interested in trying recreational marijuana. You also cannot have pop-up ads on your cannabis dispensary’s website nor advertise as a sponsor at events.
You can advertise that your products have been tested, but you cannot claim they are safe to consume. All advertising in public areas is forbidden. Whether you want to use sandwich signs on the sidewalk or billboards along the highway, it is simply not allowed. You can put up permanent signage on your lot, however, to identify your cannabis dispensary only.
Marijuana marketing laws in Massachusetts control how you create your logo, display your signage, and advertise your products. You cannot include medical symbols in your logo, for example, or list product prices on your advertising materials.
You are not allowed to put advertisements on your building or any signs that go beyond simply identifying your cannabis dispensary by name. It is also not legal to sell merchandise with your logo or give away promotional items displaying your brand.
As you create your ads, you have to make sure they do not promote the use of cannabis in any way nor imply that it is safe. All graphics and other representations should only depict individuals 18 years of age or older as well.
Nevada demands that all recreational dispensary owners only use discreet signage with professional flair. You must submit your logo, signage, and all advertising materials for approval by the state before putting it on your building or advertising materials.
It is important to ensure your ads do not promote the use of recreational marijuana or show it consumed in any way. You cannot use cartoons or other elements that could attract the attention of people under 21 years of age.
Always make sure that all advertising channels you use have an audience makeup of at least 70 percent adults over age 21. Never advertise within 1,000 feet of schools or other youth-centric establishments. Also, do not put up ads in public transportation vehicles or shelters nor at sports and entertainment venues. When you do create ads and display them in the right areas, they must include two distinct warnings indicating they are not for use by children.
Oregon laws for cannabis dispensary advertising focus on signage, first and foremost. Dispensary owners are required to put up a wide range of signs at their physical location. These signs must warn users of the risks and state laws.
You are allowed to create ads for TV, radio, internet, and print works, including billboards. In creating your ads, you must skip the cartoons, toys, and other images that can be attractive to children. You also need to verify that your ads do not make untrue claims or encourage rapid consumption. Never show the consumption of cannabis in your ads, either.
In Washington State, you have the option to advertise on signs outside your establishment and on billboards along public roadways. You can only have up to two signs under 1,600 square inches in size at your physical location. Billboards can only have your business name, purpose, and directions to your dispensary.
Your advertisements cannot have cartoon characters, pictures of marijuana, or any elements that could appeal to people under age 21. Each billboard or other ad needs to include all four warnings assigned by the state to comply with local laws.
You cannot put up advertisements within 1,000 feet of child-centric establishments, including libraries and arcades. Furthermore, you cannot advertise on public transportation or private vehicles, including vinyl wraps on your own car. Advertising on public property or through giveaways and coupons is similarly prohibited.
While working on your cannabis marketing plan, keep your state advertising regulations in mind to stay on the right side of the law. Then, you can move forward in confidence that you are marketing your cannabis dispensary the right way.
Plan to Use Both Digital and Traditional Cannabis Marketing Methods
Now that you know what not to do, it is time to find out how to proceed in successfully marketing your recreational marijuana dispensary. To cover all your bases, and work within your state laws, you should focus on a combination of digital and traditional cannabis marketing methods.
Traditional marketing methods focus on print and broadcast media, such as:
Digital marketing methods, on the other hand, focus on spreading word of your cannabis shop across the digital landscape. To operate within this realm, you will need a well-designed website with informative and engaging content throughout. You must then promote your site directly by including the URL on all your cannabis marketing materials. Also, focus on improving search ranking results with search engine optimization techniques.
Other digital marketing options include:
By using a combination of dispensary marketing methods, you can promote the success of your brand, despite the immense competition in your industry.
Create a Strong Brand and Infuse Its Presence in All You Do
Through brand awareness, your recreational marijuana dispensary can rise to the top of the competition as consumers think of your company first in resolving their dilemmas. When people are aware of your brand, they are not likely to shop around before making a purchase. They will simply come to your location to purchase recreational cannabis and enjoy the well-crafted customer experience.
To achieve this goal, you have to identify all your branding elements and use them in your signage and other marijuana marketing materials. Choose a strong brand name, create an easily-identifiable logo, and create your instore and online color scheme, for starters. Define your mission, company values, and brand voice as well. Then, infuse those elements across your cannabis dispensary, website, and ads to start building brand awareness and loyalty.
Build an Informative and Engaging Website for Your Customers
You cannot make a splash in the digital space without a well-designed and highly-functional website. When you create a website for your cannabis dispensary, you give people the ability to explore your brand before they ever step foot in your shop. They can browse your site to learn about your mission and values. Plus, they get to see what your cannabis dispensary has to offer.
Well-performing cannabis dispensary websites tend to have the following elements:
Through these elements, you can ensure your customers can access the information they need to make the most out of their visit to your cannabis shop.
Above all else, your website should be intuitive to navigate, attractive to look at, and informative, page after page. Make sure you display your company name, logo, and other brand elements on your site to create a seamless customer experience.
Run Regular Blog Posts on Your Website to Improve Traffic and Engagement
As a regularly updated part of your website, the blog serves as a platform you can use to educate and connect with your client base. When you make regular posts, your clients have a reason to come back to your website and engage with your brand.
You need to update your blog with timely and relevant information your customers might find interesting, such as:
Unfortunately, there’s no magic number of times to post. You just have to make it consistent to count. Always focus on quality over quantity to better connect with your clients and make a great impression on the search engines.
Engage in Social Media Campaigns to Build Connections with Your Clients
Social media is a great way to connect with existing clients and bring in new customers to your cannabis dispensary. You should aim for daily posts on your platform of choice and respond to as many people as you can each day. As your social media presence grows, your ability to personally respond may decline, but you can still engage on occasion to keep up those connections.
While operating on social media, you have to not only keep your local laws in mind, but the platform’s rules as well. Most major platforms do not allow marijuana ads, for example, leaving you with promotion through organic content alone. Although many companies skirt around the rules, seemingly without consequence, it is just not worth the risk of losing all your followers.
Communicate with Your Clients by Email and SMS on a Regular Schedule
As a part of the federal government, the US Postal Service does not look too kindly on dispensaries advertising through the mail. Thankfully, email and SMS allow you to get around that rule and reach your target audience with your dispensary advertisements.
As with social media platforms, email marketing platforms, such as MailChimp, have their own usage rules you must follow. Although rare, it is possible to have your account shut down if the platform finds your campaign content breaks their rules.
With SMS marketing, you can send ads about your products, sales, and events. Before you do, you have to make sure your recipients are over the age of 21. You also need to make sure that they can easily and permanently opt-out of your SMS messages at any time.
Partner with Influencers to Promote Your Retail Cannabis Brand
Although you may have to skip the radio ads, influencers give you a sweet workaround that is both effective and legal. Influencers are social media stars, podcast hosts, and other individuals making their mark on the digital world.
When you partner with these professionals, they will use their influence to promote your brand through their regular digital content. As their network hears their recommendations, the audience gains awareness of your brand and often feel inspired to visit your website, cannabis dispensary, or both.
Whatever You Do, Don’t Wait Around — The Time for Cannabis Marketing is Now
While you hem and haw, taking the time to perfect your cannabis marketing blend, your competitors have already set out to find new customers and promote their brand. While a plan is vital in ensuring your success, it is also important to start making strides toward marketing your brand. Otherwise, you could get left in the dust.
If you would like help in gaining your footing, partner with us at IAP Career College. We have the online cannabis certification program you need to understand how to best operate a recreational dispensary. Through our certification program, you can learn how to market your dispensary and handle all its day to day operations.
From creating a cannabis business plan to manufacturing edibles, we will cover all the most important topics in this rapidly-growing industry. So, register now to work toward earning your online cannabis certification and achieving great success with your recreational marijuana dispensary.
Please note: the industry is rapidly changing, as are cannabis marketing regulations. You can trust that all the information in this article is current as of the publication date of July 30, 2019. Furthermore, it is only relevant to US-based dispensaries operating in the applicable states. As additional states come onboard and cannabis marketing regulations change even more, we will continue to update this article, so please check back.