When it comes to establishing a digital marketing presence, companies in the cannabis industry can’t follow the typical route. Many if not most advertising channels are unavailable to reach a broad market. Sure, there are tons of cannabis themed websites that cover topics from culture to growing to the business side of things and all are happy to take your money. Far fewer are able to deliver the sophistication of mainstream online advertising networks and platforms. For sure, things are evolving but we’re a long way from the digital cannabis space being on par with the mainstream. That being the case digital cannabis marketers need to think differently. Building visibility and connecting with your audience requires a dose of S.M.A.C. That’s short for Social, Mobile, Analytics and Content.
NOTE: We’re assuming you have a professional looking and developed website which is your starting point. A website is the equivalent of your flagship store or marquee location. Do not skimp on quality design and development. Budget the most you can afford as this is your virtual storefront to your audience, wherever they may be.
Assuming your website is on par with mainstream conventions for design, navigation, and functionality, the first place to start building your audience is in social media channels. This shouldn’t be news to anyone: start with the essentials of Facebook and Twitter. These platforms offer access to the largest audiences, have the most advanced features, and are supported by many tools to make publishing and community management easier.
Rule one in social media: be interesting! Share content that is relevant to your audience while keeping self-promotion to a minimum. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a ‘Deal of the Day’ or share when new inventory arrives. Share interesting and relevant news with your audience. Think of social media as a party. Does anyone want to listen to the loudmouth who just brags and talks about themselves? Of course not! Listen, engage and inform.
The first part of adding mobile to your digital marketing repertoire is to insure your website is mobile friendly. With today’s technologies that are readily available there’s no excuse. A general rule of thumb is that 30% of a website’s traffic is on mobile devices or tablets. While that’s far less than a majority, when people use their mobile devices they are often doing research and close to making a purchase decision.
Where’s the nearest dispensary or recreational store? What are their hours and do they have my favorite strain in stock? Location, hours and stock are the three most common queries on mobile devices. With WordPress seemingly the content management platform of choice for small and midsized businesses, there’s no excuse for selecting a theme that isn’t mobile friendly. (Note: a website theme in WordPress is a design framework.) Do keep in mind what your audience is looking for most frequently and make that content most prominent.
If I could tell you which pages on your website most often led to sales or which cities drove the most visits to the page where your address and phone number is, would you be interested? You better be! Analytics does this and much much more. Unfortunately 9 out 10 websites have only the most basic implementation of Google Analytics. On a dollar to features comparison there is nothing that matches the power of Google Analytics. And it’s FREE! Website analytics allow marketers to gain insights into the onsite behavior of their visitors. What to know how valuable visitors from social media channels are? Analytics will tell you. Curious if mobile users look up your location? It’s in analytics.
The power of digital marketing is the data that’s generated. Analytics allows marketers to make sense of the data by looking at past visitor behavior trends. And nothing predicts the future like the past. Remember this: if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. Truer words to live by I’ve not heard. Well, maybe “live free or die” but that’s a topic for another time.
The buzz phrase that’s been ruling the internet marketing circles the last five years or so is, “content is king.” Think of it this way, the web is like a multi-dimensional interactive encyclopedia of the world’s information (and a lot of garbage too!). People go online seeking to inform or entertain themselves. If you’re not producing valuable content you’re not likely to find much of an audience. As prohibition begins to crumble more and more people are going online to educate themselves about cannabis strains, consumption options, products, equipment, services and on and on.
The companies that rank highest in search engines are those with the most valuable content. Do you want to be successful online? Then you need to develop a content strategy that is integrated and supporting of your company’s goals and objectives. You need to consider how content can be shared through social channels (infographics are great for this!). The content needs to be able to be displayed on mobile devices. And you need to have analytics installed to inform you which content is most successful at attracting visitors in both volume and quality. Want examples of great content?
Go check out Leafly.com and their News & Culture section. Oh, last tidbit….content is not limited to the written word. Content includes audio, video, interactive elements, pictures, infographics, user generated content like reviews, blogging and of course the website itself.
Applying the S.M.A.C. stack to your marketing efforts is a long term strategy. It’s not executed over night and there are no shortcuts. You need discipline and a steadfast approach that supports your brand position. When executed well you’ll reap the benefits of a growing and loyal audience you’ll sing your praises. If you need help getting started, give us a call. We’ll give you a few tips to get you going. Just ask.