Cannabis Marketing 101: Understanding Tactics and Strategies for Marketing Your Marijuana Business

You need your brand to connect with customers in a meaningful, memorable way. Here’s how communications agencies like Grasslands execute on strategies for PR and content marketing that outshine your brand’s competition.

Grasslands cannabis marketing office having a party

Table of Contents

How Does Cannabis Marketing Help My Brand?

Media Placements: What You Need to Know

Thought Leadership in Cannabis: Why it Matters

Marketing Cannabis Products and Services: Tips and Tricks

The cannabis industry may still be a relatively new space, but it’s jam-packed with brand competition.

Dispensary shelves overflow with products, retailers jockey to differentiate themselves, executives push their innovative business models into new markets—how do you catch the attention of prospective customers amid the deluge of “look at me” messaging? The best way to cut through the noise is with cannabis marketing that’s strategic and compelling.      

How Does Cannabis Marketing Help My Brand?

Whether your brand is B2B, B2C or a mix of both, you need a plan for cannabis marketing that resonates with your customers on all platforms, makes you easy to discover, and keeps you memorable in a highly competitive space. 

At Grasslands, everything we do helps our clients build brand equity and customer trust. We specialize in three aspects of cannabis marketing: online content marketing, full-service public relations and thought leadership development. Each facet presents unique opportunities to connect with customers.  

And we get it: The concepts of cannabis marketing often feel as nebulous and ever-shifting as a cloud of smoke. So that’s why we created the Cannabis Marketing 101 series, to shed light on how customers react—and respond—to these strategies and tactics. 

In a word, it’s all about storytelling.

The Benefits of Marketing for Your Cannabis Brand 

Having a solid plan for cannabis marketing and public relations—and some diligence—pays off on multiple levels. 

There’s a lot to be said for potential or loyal customers reading articles or reviews that feature your brand or the people behind it: Seeing your company quoted in reputable media outlets builds trust. 

And when your cannabis marketing in the media is coupled with a rock-solid, curated website and always-fresh social media content, you’re planting seeds all over the place and meeting customers where they are. Planting these seeds in a customer’s mind adds to your brand’s reputation as a player in the market and can make it an easier choice for cannabis consumers when they recognize your brand name in the dispensary menu, or for B2B, when company decision-makers see your brand in their go-to trade pubs and at trade shows. 

82% of consumers seek recommendations from people they know before making purchases. (Source: Business 2 Community / Harris poll)

When you build a reputation as a trustworthy brand that’s consistent in its products and messaging, word of mouth becomes an equally important tool in your marketing toolbox. An overwhelming majority of consumers seek out recommendations from friends and family about products and services: “What’s your favorite edible?” “Which dispensary has the best deals?” “Why do you think distillate is a better concentrate than rosin?” You’ve likely had these types of conversations yourself.    

Your agency partner helps spark the conversation by shining a spotlight on your brand through various avenues: 

  • Earned media: Considered the most reputable and trustworthy sources, such as quotes in timely news reports, feature article profiles, etc.  
  • Owned media: Platforms where your company controls the messaging, e.g. company website, social media, news releases and newsletters
  • Paid media: Sponsored content and other pay-to-play platforms 

Media Placements: What You Need to Know

You’re likely reading this because you’re wondering: Why does my cannabis brand need public relations, anyway? There’s a lot that goes into PR, and taking a haphazard approach goes nowhere. You need a plan.

When your agency partner creates a PR strategy, they’re supporting your brand’s mission by strategically presenting your story to target audiences. This is where it helps to work with an agency that’s well-versed in the cannabis industry and its history. 

PR agencies that specialize in cannabis hold a distinct advantage over mainstream agencies for a few reasons: Institutional knowledge, strong media relationships and an understanding of marketing needs. 

Here’s an example. Say you’re an edibles company developing a new branded product line targeted toward younger, affluent consumers with a luxury-product price point. There are two primary goals: Create hyper buzz around the brand and get these new products on dispensary shelves in the right markets. 

This brings up the first challenge: How to get press coverage for your cannabis business.

It makes sense to approach these goals in distinct ways, whether it’s featuring the brand in a roundup of specialty cannabis products or product reviews in buzzworthy publications like PopSugar, GQ or Marie Claire, well-timed media interviews in outlets such as Forbes or Cheddar, and panelist roundtables at influential, heavily attended trade shows. 

When you have an agency partner who deeply understands this industry, its history and its evolving needs, the agency is working strategically and efficiently to get your brand in front of the right audiences, again and again.

Your Questions, Answered:

Thought Leadership in Cannabis: Why it Matters

That brings us to another aspect of strategic marketing where brands can differentiate themselves and rise above the competition: thought leadership. 

You’ve created something special out of nothing, assembled a skilled team and your company is on an upward trajectory. How do you keep building momentum, make strategic B2B connections and engage with your target market? Share your knowledge and expertise the right way, with your insights presented to the right audience. 

Because Grasslands is a journalism-minded agency, we’re obsessed with clear communication, storytelling and cultivating strong media relationships with cannabis journalists. We help clients distill their ideas, craft compelling narratives that are topical and timely, and develop their thought-leadership capabilities, whether it’s the written word or a speaking engagement. 

Thought leadership builds brand equity

When business leaders flex their thought leadership muscles as cannabis industry speakers, their peers are listening and learning. Company recognition grows. 

When reporters reach out to Grasslands in their article research, they’re looking for expertise that only people intimately involved in the industry can deliver. We make strategic connections happen in key local and national publications. 

When company leaders share their insights on the issue at hand in articles and in-depth profiles, when they broadcast passionate, persuasive and informative commentary, when they’re presenting to their industry cohorts, all of these aspects coalesce as cannabis brand development.   

Your Questions, Answered:

  • “What is Thought Leadership?” 
  • “My Competitors are Speaking at MJBizCon and NCIA. How Does that Happen?” 
  • “Why Does My Cannabis Brand Need Thought Leadership?” 

How to Be a Thought Leader in Cannabis

Here are examples of what thought leadership looks like in practice: 

  • Earned Media Coverage: The lead product developer for your edibles company shares her expertise about creating the perfect edibles experience with Mashable’s national audience ahead of the 4/20 holiday.
  • Speaking Engagements: Management staff for your cultivation services company presents top trends in boosting output and maximizing yields at conferences, trade shows and expos in key emerging markets and saturated mature markets where competition is ruthless.
  • Op-Eds and Commentary: Your cannabinoid research company’s CEO publishes an op-ed in top-circulation media outlet STAT News about a new federal regulation that’s disrupting the industry.     

Marketing Cannabis Products and Services: Tips and Tricks

Having a comprehensive marketing strategy that spans PR and content marketing is essential in today’s hyper competitive cannabis industry. Otherwise, there’s no way you’re going to stand out from every other Tom, Dick and Mary Jane in the space.

The other essential piece of the equation is successfully executing on that strategy, which needs to include your company website, social media presence and public relations plan. 

The difference between PR and marketing comes down to the audience: PR is primarily media-facing, while marketing is about engaging customers and compelling them to seek out your product or service. 

Finding ways to connect with a time-strapped, “seen it all before” reporter or editor requires more finesse in the messaging, and that’s where it really helps to have an agency partner that’s fluent in cannabis, who can craft a compelling narrative about your brand and is tracking the news for trends and opportunities to share your story or company leadership’s expertise on timely topics. 

For cannabis cultivators and product manufacturers, expanding their retail footprint is a top priority. So, here are a few strategies for how to get your product into cannabis dispensaries: By ensuring your online presence is professional, engaging and relevant. By generating word of mouth. By strategic networking at industry events and gatherings. 

And here’s the crux of how to build your cannabis brand online with content marketing: While many companies put all their focus on their homepage, developing an informative blog—one that’s geared for search engine optimization (SEO) and ranking well—draws a lot more web traffic. Couple your blog with social media platforms that broadcast your fresh content and keep your brand in followers’ feeds, and you’ve completed the circle for effective marketing.

The magic of marketing cannabis products and driving sales comes down to strategic storytelling targeted for specific audiences. 

Coasting is not an option. 

Your Questions, Answered:

  • “Why Does My Cannabis Brand Need Content Marketing”
  • “What is PR? And What is Earned Media?” 
  • “My Competitors’ Brands are Gaining Traction at Dispensaries. Why Aren’t My Products?”
  • “What is Content Marketing?” (blog to link to)

Hopefully, you’re feeling good about the ins and outs of content marketing. Want to take the next step toward elevating your brand? Give us a shout.

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