Sean Balogh

Cannabis Marketing Best Practices: Opt-In List Building

Before you start blasting inboxes with cannabis text and email campaigns, slow your roll. You need to get permission before you make that decision.

Building an opt-in list for cannabis text marketing and email campaigns is both essential and requires careful consideration. Retail dispensaries have a lot of regulations to contend with long before they get into CAN-SPAM and TCPA regulatory guidelines, which are designed to protect the rights and privacy of consumers.

Fortunately, there are some tried and true strategies that will ensure you build and maintain a healthy opt-in list of customers who want to receive your cannabis SMS and email marketing campaigns.

Before we get into all that, we need to cover some foundational education in regard to what cannabis marketing opt-ins are, just so you know what we mean when we use the term throughout this article.

Opt-in Meaning

Let’s start with the basics. If you’re using cannabis text marketing software, you need to get your customers' permission to send them text messages and emails. This is referred to as an opt-in. There are a number of ways to go about collecting that permission, which we cover in more detail further in this article.

At the most fundamental level, to opt-in is to give consent and it means to choose to participate in something, be it an activity, program, or anything really, whether that participation is active or passive.

A marketing opt-in takes things a step further. This permission-based marketing requires a formal process by which a user requests to receive communications from a brand around events, promotions, and phone, SMS, and email communications.

Managing Marketing Opt-ins

Most businesses collecting consent to receive communications have software to help keep track of marketing opt-ins. That’s because, by law, a consumer needs to be able to revoke their consent, their opt-in, at any time. 

One of those regulatory guidelines we mentioned earlier requires businesses to always provide a way to opt out of communications. So, be aware of that and make sure you have an opt-out or unsubscribe option available in every marketing communication you send.

Opt-in List Building Best Practices for Cannabis Marketing

Marketing is ubiquitous, every business uses it in one way or another to get the word out about their products, events, updates, and promotions. 

Getting people interested in you, through your marketing, is the best way to keep them informed and ultimately coming back to your business for what they need.

That said, marketing ain’t the wild west, even in cannabis. There are Rules, Smokey.

Fortunately, we know not everyone running marketing for a dispensary has the background, time, or inclination to take a course of study in the subject. So, here’s a rundown of the essentials when it comes to Opt-in list building best practices for cannabis marketing.

Get Permission


Always seek explicit permission from individuals before adding them to your opt-in list. Use clear and transparent language to inform them about the type of content they will receive and how frequently. Be sure to identify your business, the nature of your message, and consideration of the potential for additional fees to apply depending on the recipient’s phone service provider policies. To break that down into simpler terms, always include:

Use Double Opt-in

A double opt-in process is pretty standard among marketers across industries. A double opt-in is where individuals confirm their subscription by responding to a confirmation email or text. This not only ensures that subscribers genuinely want to receive your messages but also helps maintain a clean and engaged list.

Provide Value

For the love of all that is good, make sure your marketing focuses on bringing value to the customer experience. Don’t follow the Glengarry Glen Ross school of thought in that you need to 'Always Be Closing'. Clearly communicate the value subscribers will receive by opting in. Whether it's exclusive promotions, valuable content, or early access to information, people are more likely to subscribe, and stay subscribed, when they see tangible benefits.

Segment Your List

There are A LOT of businesses vying for your customers’ attention. What they need is personalized, to-the-point, practical marketing from you. It helps if the marketing you send them is pretty, but that’s not entirely essential.

Segment your opt-in list based on different criteria such as demographics, preferences, or behavior to make it more personalized. This allows for targeted and potent messaging, increasing the relevance of your communications and customer engagement.

Take advantage of Multiple Channels: Offer opt-in opportunities across various channels, including your website, social media, in-store, and events. With that said, it may not make sense to activate EVERY channel available to you if, for instance, your customers aren’t there. For example, if they don’t watch cable television or listen to AM radio, those probably aren’t good marketing channels for you to invest in.

By and large, the more touch-points you have, the greater the chance you have to reach potential subscribers.

Think Mobile-first

More people than ever are living out of their cellphones, tablets, and smart devices. And that number grows every day. Ensure that your opt-in processes and marketing are optimized for those devices. If you’ve ever tried to read an email built for a desktop computer on a mobile phone, only to find it looks like a digital frankenstein’s monster, you know what I mean. It’s just not pleasant and may come off as low-effort or clumsy. So, do your business a favor and adopt a mobile-first mindset when it comes to marketing communications.

Don't Hide Your Privacy Policy

With every business asking for customers’ personal information, individuals are more aware and alert than ever regarding how their information is being shared, sold, or stolen.  Make it a point to clearly communicate your privacy policy and assure your subscribers that their information will be handled securely and responsibly. Include information about how often you will send messages and what type of content they can expect.

Make it Easy to Opt-out


There may come a time when a customer no longer needs to hear from you. Maybe they’ve moved, maybe they no longer partake, maybe they’ve finally gone off-grid onto that permaculture homestead they’ve always dreamed of. Whatever the reason may be for that adieu, it's up to you to provide straightforward and easy-to-find options for subscribers to opt out of your messages. This is actually one of those legal requirements, so don’t think you can scoff this one off. Compliance with anti-spam regulations is crucial, and offering an easy opt-out process builds trust with your audience.

Huge benefit of Happy Marketers is that it helps retailers maintain compliance by automatically including opt-out options in all of your text or email campaigns.

Give as Much as You Get 

While this is a bit of “bring value” we mentioned earlier, encouraging sign-ups through incentives or rewards is a pretty solid strategy. This could include exclusive discounts, early access to sales, or freebies for those who opt in. Make sure the incentive aligns with the customers preferences (segmenting), is attractive enough to trade for their opt-in, and is clearly communicated in your opt-in messaging.

Use Social Proof 

Nothing works better to bring in business like word-of-mouth. Gather customer testimonials or showcase the number of satisfied subscribers to build social proof. Think of McDonald’s “more than 1 billion sold”. When potential subscribers see that others have found value in your communications, they may be more inclined to opt-in.

Integrate with Marketing Technology

This might be getting into the weeds a bit if you aren’t a tech-savvy operation, but it’s important to ensure a clean integration between your opt-in list and other marketing channels. This includes syncing your email list with your CRM system or connecting your text message marketing platform with your POS system. Seamless integration improves efficiency and consistency. The results are fewer mixed messages, better conversion rates, and an overall happier customer base.

An added benefit of integrating  marketing software with your dispensary POS software is that it helps age-verify your opt-ins to ensure your compliance.

Hygiene is Your Deity

What’s that John Wesley might have said about cleanliness being next to godliness? I’m not entirely sure, but there is a nugget of wisdom in the sentiment. By keeping your opt-in list clean, you will make your marketing much more effective. That’s the truth and anyone who disagrees can go kick rocks. Regularly clean and update your opt-in list to remove inactive or disengaged subscribers. This helps maintain a healthy list and ensures that your communications are reaching an engaged audience.

When your number of communications sent and number of engaged recipients spread too far apart, your deliverability and sender score can be impacted, resulting in you potentially getting flagged as SPAM by providers.

Follow the Rules of Engagement

It may feel like this is being overstated, but we want to hammer it into your brain: stay informed and comply with relevant regulations. Non-compliance can lead to legal issues, limit your ability to send emails and texts, and damage your brand's reputation.

Whether you know it or not, these violations could stop your messages from ever landing in a customer's inbox. that's why its so important to follow guidelines, ensure your campaigns land, and you avoid paying for texts that don't get delivered.

Set Expectations Early

Tell your subscribers what they get. Set expectations from the beginning by educating subscribers on what they will receive from you. Let them know the frequency of your messages and the type of content they will receive. This all goes into ensuring they are aware of what it means to be a subscriber and that they’re on board with all that, ultimately building trust with your brand and increasing customer lifetime value (CLV).

How to Build a Cannabis Marketing Opt in List

There are lots of ways to go about building a marketing opt-in list for your retail dispensary.

Marketing Channels You Can Use to Capture Customer Opt-ins

There are so many ways to engage your customers and get them to sign up for your promotions, updates, alerts, and educational content. Here are some ideas you can start leveraging today and a few you can start planning to bring online in the future.

*Disclaimer: Depending on your market, there may be regulations around incentivizing or rewarding an opt-in. So, check your local laws to make sure you are in compliance with those regulations.

  1. In-store sign-up stations: Met your customers in the moment, whether it’s at check-in, part of your budtender sales motions, or during checkout. Placing sign-up stations with clear instructions at strategic points throughout your dispensary can capture a lot of interest, especially if you tie it to a promotion valid for use during that particular visit.
  2. Website and Online Forms: your website is your digital storefront, utilize it as much as you can with Calls-to-action (CTAs) that pique interest, capture buy-in, and convert visitors into customers. USer-friendly forms, pop-ups, banners, and dedicated landing pages all serve to encourage visitors to subscribe to your marketing communications.
  3. Text-to-Join Campaigns: Set up a specific number that customers can text to be enrolled in your marketing sends. Make sure that you provide clear direction, incentive, and a hassle free process to text op-ins.
  4. Dispensary Mobile Apps: Have an app for your dispensary or brand? Use it as another channel to engage with your customers. Provide exclusive offers or discounts to those who subscribe through the app.
  5. Customer Loyalty Programs: Loyalty should be rewarded. Link your opt-in strategy to your loyalty program by offering loyalty and “VIP” discounts, points, and other incentives that can be redeemed by customers subscribed to your messaging. This will further support what you’ve got in place and improve engagement.
  6. Email Marketing Campaigns: Use this tried and true channel to encourage customers to opt-in for both text and email messages. Highlight the benefits they will receive, like exclusive promotions, product updates, and educational content.
  7. Social Media Promotions: Who doesn’t love social media? Well, me. However, it's a necessary evil these days, especially if you run a business. Fortunately, it’s proven to be a valuable channel for engaging customers and you can run promotions that require opt-ins alongside your dispensary’s social media posts, such as educational content, memes, and updates. 
  8. QR Codes: QR Codes are easy to incorporate into your marketing materials, both online and in-store. When scanned, these codes can lead customers through and easy opt-in process for further text and email marketing campaigns.
  9. Printed Materials and Menus: These include brochures, menus, and flyers, which can easily be printed with instructions or QR codes for simple opt-ins. Just make sure your instructions are easy to understand and visibly prominent to ensure no one misses the opportunity to hear from you.
  10. Event Participation: If your dispensary participates or hosts events, these are great opportunities to collect customer information. Sign-up sheets, tablets, and QR codes make it easy for attendees and future customers to get on board with your dispensary marketing.
  11. Partnerships and Collaborations: Collaboration with other businesses connected to the cannabis community is a great way to gain exposure in your local market. There are a wealth of opportunities to promote opt-ins through cross-promotions, like joint marketing, co-branded events, and shared promos.
  12. Educational Workshops and Seminars: An easy opportunity to overlook, if you have the room for it, hosting educational workshops and seminars can be a great way to engage and get buy-in from customers. The opportunities are abundant and this offers a great venue to sell products related to the theme. For example, including a kit to use as part of the event included the cost of attendance. Some ideas include:

Make Dispensary Marketing Meaningful

This is where it gets a bit more abstract. Here’s where you want to develop dispensary marketing to be something more than just ads and sales motions.

Make your marketing an experience for your customers that the business. All too often, business marketing is sanitized. It’s boring. It comes off as impersonal and, at times, even manipulative or deceptive.

Don’t let the idea of planting a forest intimidate you. Start with a single tree. Your marketing doesn’t have to be a high-dollar investment. It doesn’t have to be a grandiose effort. What it does have to be is unique and representative of your brand.

One motion you can complete in your approach to authentic marketing is to sit down with your team and take an inventory of the cultural and personality makeup of your business. Are you chill or high-energy? Are you nurturing and wise? Are you goofy and playful? Whatever you believe to be your “spirit”, build on it. Allow it to guide your voice and it will support how your content will take shape.

This resonates with your customers and it will help to associate your organization with that type of energy and level of service in their minds. As a result, they can rely on you and depend on that predictable experience when they interact with you through various channels and visit your store.

All this to say

Ultimately, your opt-ins should be derived from the value you provide your customers. Communicate that value wherever possible and promote opt-ins with a Call-to-Action wherever it makes sense to do so organically.

Whether it's through exclusive deals, educational content, or access to new products, pay attention to what customers want based on their behaviors. All this data is available in your POS, can easily be segmented, and put to use through a dispensary marketing software like our own Happy Marketers.

Just remember, always abide by cannabis advertising laws and regulations in your local jurisdiction. This will ensure compliance and build trust with your customers.

Finally, keep an eye on the performance of your opt-in channels and adjust your approach based on industry trends and, most importantly, customer feedback.

Want to know more about cannabis marketing software and how to build an opt in list for cannabis marketing? Reach out to Happy Cabbage and book a demo today.