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March 11, 2021
6 Cannabis Dispensary Marketing Ideas Most Agencies Won't Tell You
Matt Dell

Nowadays, it is rare that a dispensary concept will sell itself.

In a major cannabis market like California, customers have plenty of options for choosing where to place their orders – let alone become regulars.

The competition is fierce, and dispensary marketing is responsible for bringing in new customers and maintaining their interest in the long run.

So, how can your business get creative and boost its marketing? Here are a few dispensary marketing ideas from Happy Cabbage that you might not find anywhere else.

1) Budget Your Marketing: Investment or Expense?


While spending money on marketing strategies, any store team can lose sight of this definitive question: is it an investment or an expense?

Marketing in the cannabis industry comes with embracing new technology and continuously trying out new tactics. Did you know that dispensaries spend between $250 to $2500 a month on marketing?

Regardless of spending, it's impossible to assess dispensary advertising value without proper tracking and sales attribution.

For determining what types of advertising work best (and those that don't) for your store, it's best to implement a system for tracking engagement and feedback.

2) Measure Dispensary Marketing ROI

Depending on the goals and channels involved, there are plenty of ways to measure traffic and ROI from cannabis marketing.

We're long past the days of strictly using billboards and physical advertising. Measuring online interaction is a great place to start.

Every channel used in cannabis marketing will typically have ways to monitor engagements from customers.

Here’s a top-level overview of digital technology for measuring dispensary marketing:

Google Analytics
This database helps measure traffic and behavior on your website and how users enter the online property from other channels. You can add segments and filters to assess a specific source or content.

Email Marketing
Platforms generally show specific metrics like open, click rates, and what links customers clicked. They help determine your email marketing campaign effectiveness and whether they're directing traffic to the right place.

SMS
Most SMS platforms measure open and click rate of sent messages. Cannabis SMS marketing platforms– like Polaris– that integrate with your point-of-sale (POS) system measure ROI and customer acquisition cost on specific campaigns or segmented audiences.

Social Media
Every social media platform has independent data collections. A few essential marketing metrics businesses can pay attention to on social media are web click-through rate, engagements, and impressions.

Mobilizing these platforms and monitoring metrics helps stores determine out what ads or channels work best for them, laying a data-driven framework for evaluating marketing impact on revenue.

The only way to find out if advertising is worth the investment is to see if the numbers to back it up. However, to better attribute marketing to sales growth, one critical feature needs to be digital.

3) Delivery & Store Menus: Bring Them Online

Deploying your cannabis dispensary delivery menu online provides essential data for evaluating marketing impact.

The more aspects of the dispensary store experience you can make digital, the easier it is to monitor ROI – including how marketing efforts impact menu preferences and buying behaviors.

Once your menu is live, you’ll be able to monitor purchasing patterns and test sales against online advertising or product specials run by the dispensary.

This information, in particular, provides sales-related measurements, which are vital to attributing marketing efforts to dispensary revenue growth.

When it comes to establishing acquisition cost, using data from online menus and marketing analytics can provide a case for finding an accurate estimation.

Software solutions like Webjoint enable retailers to embed their menus on their website. If you haven’t created a digital dispensary menu already – now is certainly the time!

4) Local Campaigns: SEO & GMB Strategies

The customers that matter most are those closest to your dispensary. Given that they live in immediate proximity, it's instantly more convenient for them to come to your business than drive elsewhere for their order.

While convenience can surely assuage prospects into placing an order anywhere, marijuana dispensaries need to ensure that their storefront is visible to those looking for the best local option.

Here are a few campaign ideas that can help you achieve that.

Local SEO

76% of people who look for something nearby via smartphone visit a local business within one day, with 28% of those resulting in a purchase.

So, when potential customers nearby type “weed near me” into Google – your dispensary needs to be at the top of the page.

Local SEO helps you achieve just that.

Unlike traditional SEO, local SEO focuses on generating visibility for a business within proximity to its physical location.

Essentially, that means targeting all keywords and queries that result in local listings shown on Google. One of the best methods for local SEO is optimizing your Google My Business profile.

Google My Business

Google My Business (GMB) is an account for managing your cannabis dispensary business listing on Google.

It includes all proprietary information, such as hours, address, email, contact number, ratings, pickup or delivery attributes, and other relevant descriptions.

An example of Google's local 3-pack for cannabis dispensaries in Oakland

When prospective customers search for a business, Google shows a collection of three listings called a local three-pack. This serves as a small guide for the top-ranking businesses.

In the context of cannabis retail, the local pack is the top dispensaries or retailers best optimized for that query. What's the commonality between all of them?

They have Google My Business.

Here are the factors that determine Google My Business rankings for the local three-pack:

Distance

How physically close the businesses are to user search location. 

Relevance
How much the business' category aligns with user search intent

Prominence
Whether the businesses are high quality and known. Reviews, backlinks, and local citations influence this factor.


Now that you know the three ranking factors take a look at these ways to optimize your dispensary GMB profile:

  • Verify your dispensary with the PIN code Google sends to you via direct mail.
  • Keep the business name, address, and phone number (NAP) consistent across all online domains
  • Choose the correct category and attributes. For dispensaries, the category would be "Cannabis store" with applicable attributes for "In-store shopping," "Curbside pickup", and "Delivery."
  • Add photos and post blog content to your GMB profile. Treating your GMB profile like a micro-blog is a great way to keep customers informed and boost recognition in Google.
  • Encourage customer ratings. It helps your dispensary rank for the prominence factor.
Q: Can dispensaries offer discount specials for Google Reviews?

A: The answer is no. Google prohibits incentivizing reviews with discounts or an in-store special. The best way to gain reviews for your dispensary GMB profile is by delivering great consumer experiences. If buyers appreciate your service, ask them to leave a review.

What About Weedmaps?

In the context of local SEO, Weedmaps differentiates itself from Google because it shows results exclusively for dispensaries.

That said, the cannabis platform is planning to up advertising prices in 2021, with a new featured listing plan preparing to roll out later this year.

It's essential to consider the price and impact of Weedmaps in relationship to acquisition cost.

However, using Weedmaps for client acquisition requires a bit more strategy than simply signing up.

Here are a few steps we recommend:

Coordinate WeedMaps pins

Drop pins in designated areas where there’s an opportunity to acquire new customers. Look at the number of orders per location to inform this strategy.

Follow Weedmaps buyer acquisition with retention-oriented marketing
Identify purchase patterns, brand loyalty, and other notable characteristics for running a promotion.

It’s best to run retention-based cannabis marketing via SMS. Keep reading for ideas on retention-oriented marketing below.

5) Forget Cannabis Dispensary Loyalty Programs in Cannabis Marketing

When it comes to buyer retention, retailers should question dispensary loyalty program effectiveness.

Happy Cabbage did the research. Loyalty programs don’t work – especially when it comes to long-term sales.

Type of discount and total point-of-sales (POS) revenue. Regular discounts contributed greater to total sales revenue than loyalty-related programs.

As seen in the chart above, we measured the impact of loyalty programs on total sales revenue. They contributed much less to overall revenue than the general discount.

The sales findings reveal an overall negative impact on these cannabis promotions, further suggesting that loyalty programs may depreciate revenue up to 3x when implemented at the dispensary.

Why? Our data on retention offers a possible answer.

Average number of days until next order and customer program type. Loyalty Program customers ordered on average 19.41 days after their previous order. This was 0.40 days greater than customers in non-loyalty-based rewards programs.

In keeping with customer retention as a critical follow-through for dispensary advertising, our data shows that these programs do not promote quicker reorder times.

There's likely no relationship between order frequency and cannabis rewards program affiliation.

As generous rewards program discounts appear not to influence customer frequency, it's clear to understand how cannabis loyalty rewards could depreciate long-term sales.

The number of customer orders doesn't seem to balance or surpass the lost revenue from these type of program discounts.

So, if you're considering adding a cannabis rewards program to your marketing stack, it's best to forget about it.

Instead, take a read below for a marketing tactic that helps dispensaries keep their customers.

6) SMS & Dispensaries: Retain Customers in the Market

Cannabis SMS marketing is one of the most powerful tools out there for dispensaries to generate sustainable revenue.

The impact of text message promotions goes far beyond their average 98% open rate – an already-top standard by most marketing metrics.

Cannabis dispensaries can use SMS marketing to retain customers and increase order sizes.

Using data from our dispensary SMS marketing platform, Polaris, Happy Cabbage measured both ROI and customer recapture percentages over 90 days.


One of the notable findings in this study is that cannabis SMS marketing retained 34% of customers after the 90-day campaign.

Therefore, SMS has a clear advantage over cannabis loyalty programs in customer retention, wherein the former tends to encourage higher one-time ticket sizes but not repeat buyers.

Of course, cannabis SMS marketing is not as simple as just sending out a text to all your customers.

Happy Cabbage recommends the following procedures for maximizing SMS marketing impact:

  • Create custom segments. No two customers love the same products, let alone order at the same time or quantity. Identify segments to personalize SMS marketing to buyer affinities further.
  • ALWAYS remain compliant. You're sending texts to personal mobile phone numbers. Read all SMS compliance communications before starting a campaign. Make sure every contact has opted-in to receive texts and send the promotions they expect.
  • Evaluate content. Keep text ads short, sweet, on brand, and full of value. Be wary of using too many emojis, images, or video. You only have 160 characters!

Lastly – Our Key Takeaway Ideas

  • Dispensaries must consider and monitor marketing as investments and expenditures. Using marketing channel data platforms with online menus can help attribute acquisition cost to marketing efforts.
  • Optimizing Google My Business can boost local SEO value for the dispensary, resulting in more customers finding the business via nearby search rankings.
  • Dispensaries can use Weedmaps strategically to acquire new customers, but they must implement further marketing to retain them.
  • Cannabis loyalty programs can detract from overall revenue. It’s probably best to avoid them altogether.
  • Cannabis SMS marketing is a powerful tool for increasing sales in the short and long-term. Applying best segmentation, content writing, and compliant practices guarantees the best results.
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