4 Things that Make Dispensary Sales Go “Boom!”

A cannabis dispensary in eastern Oregon has a sign pointing to the entrance and vintage vehicles parked out front. The structure is a log cabin that fits the town's gold rush branding

You can have the best location, the coolest budtenders, and Willie and Snoop as regular customers. But if you don’t have a dispensary marketing strategy in place to help regular Joes and Mary Janes find your business, it won’t grow like you want it to. 

What does a strong marketing strategy for your dispensary look like? Here are four fundamentals that can build your business, and help you avoid costly mistakes down the line.

1. Build Your Identity

Cannabis dispensaries are not all created equal. They run the gamut from classic headshops to slick spaces where you might want to scoop up a new laptop along with that ounce of Yuzu Tangie. Your business probably falls somewhere in between. But do your customers know where you stand? Before you stock the shelves or design a logo, you need to envision a powerful cannabis brand that will stand out from the competition and appeal to your target audience. (More about that below.)

Take a look at your location, your specialties and the customers most likely to walk through the door. Those pillars form the foundation for the mission that drives your dispensary—from your first shop to your future locations.

2. Draw a bullseye around your target audience

Who do you most want to walk through your door? Curious first-time cannabis buyers who aren’t sure what strains they like? Seasoned connoisseurs who want to explore the nuances of cannabis concentrates? Maybe you want to create an inclusive space that feels especially welcoming to BIPOC or GBLTQIA+ shoppers. Or perhaps you’re opening in a market like Florida or Arizona where the demographics skew towards seniors who may need extra information, education and reassurance from their budtenders. 

Build your brand with your key customers in mind. Everything from your location, to how you design the retail space, to the way you display inventory, to the brand voice and style will help you target key customers. Think laser beams, not searchlights. Establish clear priorities here, and you won’t have to refocus later.

3. Think local, even online

Brick and mortar businesses need hyperlocal outreach to their customers. If you’re not front and center on a Google Maps search for “dispensaries near me,” you’re not maximizing your target audience. Dial in your digital marketing to the customer next door. Tools like geotagging on social media, locally targeted ads, neighborhood discounts and a robust Google My Business profile will throw out the welcome mat to your core customers. 

SEO keywords are another way to market locally, instead of out of town or out of state. You might think of SEO keywords as short, broad terms like “cannabis dispensary,” but those words are as likely to find someone in Thailand as they are in your neighborhood. So harness the power of “long-tail keywords.”

Long-tail keywords use more words to precisely target the answers a search engine delivers. For example, instead of trying to rank for a term like “cannabis dispensary” and competing with businesses all across the country, try a long-tail keyword phrase that speaks to your location, like “cannabis dispensaries in Boston” or “best cannabis dispensary in southern Illinois” or “closest dispensary to the Denver airport.” That will help you top search engine results (also known as SERPs) for the city or neighborhood where you do business, instead of competing in locations where you don’t have a presence. Selling local? SEO local.

4. Study up on dispensary marketing rules and regs

You’ve got another local audience: The regulators who are trying to keep everything within your state’s legal guardrails. Make their jobs easier by ensuring that what you post on social media, the claims you make in blogs, and the words you use in web copy are in line with local regs. That way you won’t get shadowbanned from a platform like Instagram or Facebook, find your Google ads restricted, or have your license revoked for overpromising on health or safety claims. 

Find out who got in trouble and why. Chat up the regulators. Become their ally in enforcement by setting a sterling example. You’ll train The Law to look elsewhere—at your competition, perhaps.

Knowing chapter and verse of advertising regulations is especially important for multi-state dispensary operators who have more than one set of rules to follow, and for dispensaries opening in newly legalized states where guidelines may change quickly over time. A new market is more like a jazz band than a symphony orchestra—they’re improvising as they go along. Listen to the music and keep in step. 

If you decide to outsource your dispensary marketing, partner with an agency that speaks fluent cannabis. A local ad giant with a track record in fast food may know how to sell cheeseburgers, but if they don’t know cannabis compliance, your time and money might lead to a media blackout, or worse.

Ricardo Baca’s 2022 Cannabis Industry Trends Forecast

Ricardo Baca, a man with dark hair, holds a microphone and smiles as he makes a gesture while speaking. He is wearing a plaid shirt over a t-shirt with the Grasslands G logo on it. Behind him is a tree. The photo is black and white.

Editor’s Note: What lies ahead for cannabis? It’s a question many in the industry are asking as we hit the ground running in Q1. From old-school matters like mergers and acquisitions to emerging cannabis industry trends like delivery models that took off during the pandemic and are here to stay, there’s a lot to assess in predicting which cannabis products and services will be pivotal to business success or become a major problem.

Whether you’re keeping an eye on efforts by prohibitionists to limit THC potency in products or how the tech industry treats cannabis on digital platforms, or you’re just curious where the industry is going to go next, Grasslands founder and CEO Ricardo Baca (who was just named ADCANN’s Marketer of the Year!) has a few thoughts on “futurecasting” cannabis in 2022.

The Colorado Model Goes National

Colorado first led the global charge on determining what a regulated cannabis market looks like, and we now see iterations of the “Colorado Model” implemented throughout the world—and I’m so fortunate to have had a front-row seat to Colorado’s historic legalization rollout since my days as Editor-in-Chief for The Denver Post’s cannabis coverage.

Since adult-use sales started in 2014, Colorado cannabis has gone on to show immense profitability, corporate responsibility and worldwide leadership. The Centennial state has been projected to become the third most profitable cannabis market in the US by the end of 2022. And as we started the year, there were 17 other states and two U.S. territories that have followed in Colorado’s footsteps to adult-use legalization. 

This year, Colorado and its veteran operators will become one of the hottest markets for cannabis M&A activity in the country. Sure, out-of-state operators like Columbia Care, Curaleaf, PharmaCann and Eaze made sizable strategic moves into the Centennial State in 2021—but that will not hold a candle to what we’re about to witness in the world’s most experienced legal cannabis market in 2022.

Door-to-Door Weed Delivery

In 2022, we will see cannabis delivery in Colorado and beyond become more normalized, increasingly widespread and lucrative. With this shift, Colorado’s real-life experience will help squash the misinformation on cannabis delivery that has for years been spread by NIMBY regulators and anti-legalization law enforcement. 

Cannabis delivery is not the dangerous bogeyman they’ve made it out to be, and I’m confident this highly regulated expansion of Colorado cannabis will be quietly successful—and like nearly every other aspect of Colorado’s first-of-its-kind cannabis industry, this real-life experience will be a powerful counterargument to fear-mongering prohibitionists.

The THC Potency Problem

2022 is the year the American cannabis industry will need to take prohibitionists’ THC potency campaigns as the serious threat they are. Not only are anti-legalization forces aiming to reduce patient access to clean, tested and proven plant medicine, they’re also attempting to cripple a healthy (and immensely regulated) business environment that is already more restrictive than most other industries. 

The prohibitionists’ latest tactic of trying to implement THC-potency caps, which are becoming increasingly common from Colorado to Vermont, must be stopped—and regulators must insist on legitimate scientific data (and not fear-mongering misinformation) to guide any potential reforms ahead. When alcohol kills more than 70,000 Americans a year and the CDC tells us cannabis has never been responsible for even one death, we need to align our business environments with the reality of the substance in question.

Social Equity, Diversity and Cannabis

While the cannabis industry has made some progress on social equity and DEI issues, we are far from where we need to be. More cannabis professionals need to understand, acknowledge and act on the history of cannabis and the war on drugs that heavily swayed public opinion and promoted racist ideologies. And I hope 2022 will be the year more cannabis executives prioritize putting this knowledge and advocacy into more widespread action. 

It’s not enough to establish cannabis brands and sell products; the cannabis industry (of all industries) needs to be a more socially conscious space. Making sure that our teams, our boards, our partnerships, our vendors and our marketing campaigns are more equitable is no longer optional. Brands must adapt or risk falling to the wayside.

New York and New Jersey Adopt an Empire State of Mind

2022 will be the all-important wind-up year for two major U.S. markets that are on track to enter the cannabis sphere: New York and New Jersey. These two East Coast giants will likely open for adult-use sales in 2023, and so 2022 is an essential timeline for ensuring the success of these lynchpin markets across the board—from social equity to responsible and reasonable business regulations. 

Like so many others before them, NY and NJ will surely adopt some iteration of Colorado’s first-of-its-kind regulatory model. But it’s also their responsibility to move the conversation forward—and to learn from mistakes and missteps in Colorado, Massachusetts, California, Illinois and others, and create the more equitable and responsible cannabis industry of the future.

Big Tech Warms Up to Cannabis

Could 2022 be the year that social media and tech giants start to play nice with cannabis brands? The wheel is already starting to turn. 

Nebulous terms of use are a broken model that is no longer sustainable for this fast-growing sector, regardless of its continued unjust federal illegality. As we see other tech platforms—including Apple’s App Store, Uber and Google—become more 420-friendly, we will see the Metas of the world start to bend to the overwhelming percentage of the American adult population that believes cannabis should be legal—and therefore reasonably engaged with by Zuck and his ilk.

A More Accessible Cannabis Industry

The cannabis industry is entering a more mature stage in its development. In 2022, cannabis marketers will focus on making cannabis branding and products more accessible in every way––from ADA-compliant websites to Braille lettering on product labels to child-resistant packaging that can be opened by adults with disabilities and more. State-legal cannabis has to be ready for the federal legalization ahead, and brands not planning for that inevitability will be the brands that lose out.

What is Cannabis Marketing?

A blond woman sits in a midcentury modern chair with a laptop facing a cozy fireplace

Marketing is important for any industry—at a fundamental level, marketing is how you communicate the value your business offers to your customers. But it’s especially important for the cannabis industry, as well as the burgeoning field of legal psychedelics. For one, the cannabis industry is growing rapidly, and the competition gets more fierce every day. For another, there is a greater variety of cannabis products to choose from than ever, from flower to concentrates to edibles and beyond. But the real reason cannabis marketing is so crucial is education.

Marketing doesn’t just mean educating potential customers about the products and services you offer, or your company’s brand values and mission. Those are hugely important pieces of information to communicate, for sure. But marketing also means educating the public about cannabis itself, how it fits into different lifestyles and why this industry is growing so fast despite decades of prohibition and anti-drug rhetoric. 

Think about the numbers. In the years since Colorado and Washington State first opened the door to legal recreational cannabis sales in 2014, over a dozen other states and the District of Columbia have followed suit. However, a 2019 study by the Pew Research Center found that just 18% of U.S. adults said they had used marijuana during the previous year. That means there’s a huge untapped market in the United States—not to mention other countries that have made moves toward medical or recreational legalization. The potential global customer market is huge.

Smart marketing is how cannabis companies can best communicate with potential customers about what products they might want to try. It’s also how cannabis companies can position themselves as trusted authorities who can help new and existing customers sift through the wealth of technical information about different cannabis products, industry regulations and fast-changing legal and legislative policies. 

Types of Cannabis Marketing: Owned Media, Earned Media and Paid Media

In a nutshell, marketing is how your company can help potential customers and partners solve a problem. That problem may be hesitancy to try cannabis, uncertainty over where to begin choosing a product or confusion over which cannabis companies could become powerful business partners. Whatever the actual pain points might be, marketing is how you can communicate the solutions you have to offer. Your marketing strategy is a series of chances to educate people not just about your company and products, but about the industry as a whole and further break down cannabis stigmas. And there are several ways to accomplish that very important work.  

Cannabis marketing, like any other industry, comes in three major forms: owned media, earned media and paid media. They all have their advantages and limitations, and a strong marketing strategy will likely include a blend of all three tailored to your budget, goals and your company’s strengths. But because the cannabis industry is so unique in its legal landscape, growth stage and regulatory environment, it’s important for cannabis brands to be aware of the unique considerations for each type of marketing. 

If you’re curious how to use each of the three pillars of marketing for your cannabis brand, use the table of contents below or just read on.

Table of Contents

Owned Media for Cannabis Brands

Owned media—such as a company’s website and campaigns conducted on its social media, blogs and newsletters—is one of the most reliable types of marketing any company can undertake, but that is especially true for cannabis brands. Unlike earned or paid media, owned media is completely under your control. 

You decide when and how your content is published, what the message is, the format, the design aesthetic and where your intellectual property is hosted online. 

With earned media, the coverage and brand awareness you get is ultimately told through the lens of journalists and reporters. Meanwhile, paid media is limited by advertising regulations that restrict how brands in cannabis and the emerging psychedelics space reach their audiences. So out of the three media pillars, owned media offers your brand the most opportunity to craft the narrative and engage with customers.

It’s not that earned media and paid media aren’t valuable and important parts of any cannabis marketing plan. But owned media is the foundation from which to build your earned and paid media strategies. Ultimately, earned and paid media efforts are more successful when they stem from a strong base of owned media. 

So what does success with owned media look like? It starts with developing a compelling brand identity and creating a content marketing strategy on the platforms you control, all carefully tailored to your business goals and priorities.

Types of Owned Media: Websites, Blogs, Newsletters, Social Media and Gated Content

Three marketers sit working

Websites and Web Copy

The information on your website, aka web copy, is one important component of any content marketing or digital marketing strategy. After all, it’s the foundation of your owned media.

There are a few essentials any good web page should include: You want to explain what your brand is about, what you’re selling and where customers can purchase your products or services. You want to provide contact information, play up your social media channels, create a space for the media mentions you earn, and illuminate your company’s strengths with information about your key staff members and their qualifications, talents and passions as they relate to your cannabusiness.

Why SEO Matters for Cannabusinesses

Quality web copy not only introduces potential customers to your cannabis brand, its values and the products and services you offer, it helps those customers find you in the first place. It’s important for cannabrands to have strong web copy created with search engine optimization (SEO) as the backbone. 

For one, it’s how you can make sure your brand is front and center on SERPs, aka search engine results pages. The goal of SEO for cannabis companies, any any type of business, is to rank on the first page of results that a search engine delivers—after all, think about your own behavior when you’re searching for something online. You don’t often click to the second, third, or even fourth page of results (not many people do). Ideally, you want your brand to be one of the top five results served up by search engines like Google. However, your web copy needs more than just carefully selected keywords to rank well. 

Structure, Snippets, SERPs

Every aspect of your content marketing strategy should provide quality information that answers the kinds of questions your customers are searching for. The web copy should be written in a tone and voice that aligns with your brand values, and the website structured in a way that’s intuitive and easy to navigate for both human beings and the bots search engines use to “crawl” your site and gather data. 

It’s even better if your web copy does this in such a way that Google will create what’s called a snippet, or a short preview of your web copy that appears on the SERP for a given keyword. That’s a highly competitive level of exposure which signals that search engines think your domain has some serious authority on a subject people are wanting to learn about. Chances are, your target audience will agree.

How blogs boost cannabis marketing

In addition to basic web copy, blogs can be a powerful content marketing tool in many ways. 

Each blog post gives you an opportunity to rank for secondary and long-tail keywords that wouldn’t necessarily align with the intent of the main pages on your site. 

Blogs create opportunities to share news and updates with your loyal followers on social media—and drive them to your site. Every blog also gives you a regular source of new content to share on other content marketing channels like your newsletter. 

Blogs further showcase your industry expertise and demonstrate to Google that your content is fresh. They work to enhance your SEO rankings in other ways too. Here’s how: They can increase the amount of time that your audience spends on your website, which also suggests to search engines that there is a lot of valuable information available that’s helping people answer their questions about a given topic. Blogs are an additional place to showcase other elements of your content marketing strategy like white papers, videos, infographics and more.

The Power of Backlinks

Your brand’s blog creates avenues to partner with other industry experts and allies on guest posts, interviews and cross-promotions, all of which can be a valuable source of backlinks—the network of links that lead from another domain or web address back to your website.

Backlinks hold hidden power: They increase your search engine rankings and lead more potential customers back to your website, because having a lot of quality backlinks can indicate to search engines that your site is a trusted resource with valuable information and lots of authority. That’s an important ingredient of your content marketing strategy that shouldn’t be overlooked—after all, it’s not just keywords that search engines pay attention to these days.

The Benefits of an Editorial Calendar

It’s well worth taking the time to plan out your blog posts months in advance using what journalists and media veterans call an editorial calendar. That way you can make sure big events for your company like product releases, trade shows, marketing events, earned media and thought leadership pieces bylined by company leaders are promoted on your blog at the right time. 

Partnering with a marketing and PR agency that’s fluent in both cannabis and content marketing development and scheduling can help you streamline this process too.

5 Blogging Tips for Cannabis Brands

  1. Do your SEO research. A blog won’t do much for the overall SEO value of your site if you aren’t targeting both keywords that are relevant to your business and keywords and keyword phrases that match the intent of people searching for information that may be related to your brand.
  2. Don’t make it all about marketing. It might sound counterintuitive to suggest you should use an important marketing tool like a blog to not make a case for your products and services whenever possible. But if your blog is one giant sales pitch, readers won’t stay for long. Instead, think of your blog as an opportunity to answer your potential customers’ questions, help readers learn more about your corner of the cannabis industry, and find solutions they didn’t realize they needed.
  3. Do make sure your blog fits into your site architecture. If Google or Bing can’t figure out how all your blog posts relate to the other pages on your site, it might hurt your rankings. And if readers can’t easily navigate through your blog posts, they’ll be missing out on valuable information you worked hard to prepare.
  4. Know your voice. Just like with any other marketing effort, a blog should sound like your brand. Whether your tone is formal or casual, playful or authoritative, consistency goes a long way to convey authenticity.
  5. Include internal links. Backlinks aren’t the only kind of links that help boost a blog post’s value. Internal links to related posts on your site, when used correctly, can strengthen the overall SEO value of your blog and keep customers engaged on your site for longer.
A laptop sits balanced on the arm of a leather sofa with a round velvet pillow in the background. On the screen of the laptop is the Grasslands Newsletter

Newsletters

Newsletters are having a moment right now. While they’ve been around since long before the internet and the advent of digital marketing, newsletters are going through a bit of renaissance because they feel intimate and personal in a way other types of content marketing do not. 

They don’t require a lot of SEO legwork to get clicks. And newsletters don’t have the same restrictions many social media platforms do concerning content about substances like legalized cannabis and psychedelics. In a newsletter, cannabis companies can say what they want about their products and services without worrying about it negatively impacting their performance through the platform’s algorithm.

Why Newsletters Are Hot Right Now

Readers like being able to curate the information that hits their inboxes and directly support the content creators whose work they enjoy. These days, many journalists and thought leaders are turning to newsletters, too, as a way to directly profit from their work without going through traditional third-party publishers like magazines, websites and op-ed sections.

Services like Mailchimp and Substack make it easy to put together good-looking newsletters that blend written copy with on-brand visual elements. That’s definitely important in making sure your newsletter gets read by recipients, and that your audience clicks through to your website, social media, or promotional information. But these types of newsletter services also simplify adherence to marketing regulations so your email list can grow instead of getting flagged as spam.

Marketing Regulations for Newsletters

Laws concerning electronic marketing are strict about only allowing companies to email people who have actively consented to contact via email. Companies need to not only store a record of that consent, they need to keep track of other details, such as which kinds of information the consumer consented to receive. 

For example, a customer might agree to receive emails with shipping updates from an online order, but refuse an offer of a newsletter subscription or promotional emails. Newsletter management platforms make it easy to track and organize that data as you grow your email list, and tailor certain types of newsletter content to different segments of your audience.

In other words, newsletters give publishers control over their message and how it’s conveyed, while also giving readers control over who has access to their inbox. Because everyone gets what they want, it reduces the barrier between brands and their audiences. That adds up to greater trust and more marketing clout. That can make a big difference as more Americans consider cannabis—after all, industry sales grew by 67% nationwide in 2020 alone, according to data from Flowhub

White Papers, Ebooks and Gated Media

Another important tool in any cannabis content marketing strategy is gated content like white papers, ebooks, video courses and other resources you can make available in exchange for a reader’s email address. 

While blogs and social media posts both help to build authority and reach new audiences, gated owned media can move potential customers further down the marketing funnel toward a purchase or becoming a client. 

Think of your website or social media profiles as an introduction between two strangers or casual acquaintances. Getting someone to sign up for more in-depth content is like those strangers meeting up again for a cup of coffee and a longer conversation. That means you need to offer greater value in exchange for a greater ask.  If a reader is willing to give you access to their inbox, download a long ebook or subscribe to a video series or webinar learning course, you need to be ready to deliver well-researched, original content. 

This is your chance to share expertise on a deeper level and help readers solve a problem. So be sure to cite your sources and include up-to-date statistics, helpful visual elements like graphs, charts and illustrations—and make that content available through a thoughtful distribution plan. 

Gated media will only be as successful as the value you provide, but the rewards can be huge. In fact, the Content Marketing Institute found that 63% of B2B companies found white papers to be one of the most effective pieces of owned media they used to find new clients and retain existing ones.

Gated Media for Cannabis Marketing

There are a few considerations to figure out before you dive headlong into gated media, however. 

Digging down into the substance of what you do and what your company offers is a great opportunity to stand out from your competitors when you’re trying to make an impression on B2B clients. But it doesn’t always make sense for B2C marketing strategies, when your potential customer typically doesn’t need such high-level information to make a purchasing decision. 

Another factor is how robust your sales department might be. Gated content is often favored by sales teams because it gives them access to the contact information they need to build relationships and close deals. But if sales aren’t a major component of your cannabis business or you’re primarily looking to build up your email list to promote other aspects of your content marketing strategy through newsletters, it might not be worth the extra time and attention that quality gated content can take to develop.

How Gated Media Helps Build Trust

Last but not least, this is the cannabis industry. And that means content marketing strategy needs to be calibrated a little bit differently than you might in other business sectors. Because cannabis is so highly regulated, so fast-changing, and still pushing back against stigma from decades of prohibition, it’s a field where trust matters even more than in more traditional business dealings.

Gated media is a great opportunity to earn your audience’s trust by making small commitments and exchanges as customers warm up to the possibility of a bigger financial or business commitment. It’s also a chance to cut through a lot of spin and slick web copy from your competitors and offer more substantive proof of your authority and ability to meet your clients’ needs.

Social Media and Cannabis

Social media has completely changed the way the world works, from the personal to the political, from the recreational to the commercial. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, SnapChat and TikTok have given brands unprecedented access to different audiences. They’ve also inspired those audiences to interact with brands in more personal and creative ways. 

According to data from social media scheduling platform SproutSocial, 91% of consumers who follow a brand on social media will also visit the brand’s website, 89% will make a purchase and 85% will make a coveted word-of-mouth recommendation.

Social media provides numerous channels through which you can share your blogs and newsletters, benefit from word of mouth, get exposure to new markets and dip a toe in hot trends and national conversations. Some marketing experts, however, don’t think social platforms technically qualify as a type of owned media because you are subject to the terms of agreement and content guidelines issued by those third-party companies. 

Advertising Regulations for Cannabusinesses

Because cannabis is still illegal at the federal level, many social media platforms ban cannabis-related content, even if the intent isn’t illicit-market sales. While some platforms like Twitter allow ads from cannabis companies that are targeted to legal markets (within Canada, for example) most of the other major social companies have complex blockers that complicate posting cannabis content, even within legal states or without paid promotions behind posts. 

Platforms like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok don’t allow photos or video of products like vaporizers or bongs in action, for example—much to the chagrin of manufacturers and dispensaries. Run afoul of the capricious content guidelines and it doesn’t matter how many years you’ve invested in a particular social media platform. The AI algorithms behind the scenes could choose to quietly “shadowban” your account, which means you might not appear in your followers’ feeds or among the hashtags you’ve used. 

That doesn’t mean social media isn’t worth investing in, of course—but it does make a case for how social media qualifies less as owned media than other types of content marketing. It also makes a case for how important it is for cannabis companies to approach social media a little differently than brands in other industries might, and to stay up to date on the latest tweaks to social platforms’ algorithms and policies.

Cannabis Influencer Marketing

If you want evidence that cannabis companies still have a lot to gain on social media, look no further than a new generation of cannabis influencers touting a green lifestyle on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube and other platforms. There are hundreds of successful cannabis influencers who have cultivated large followings with product reviews and posts that show how cannabis can be integrated into a fun, aesthetic and aspirational lifestyle. 

These cannabis influencers are busting old stoner stereotypes and whittling away at stigma in real time, and they’re doing it despite social media algorithms. These content producers wouldn’t be on social media if there weren’t thousands of cannabis consumers who want to connect with the weed community all across the country and are clicking the follow and like buttons on influencers’ accounts. Your brand can benefit from those good vibes, too, if you’re smart about your strategy. 

Here are a few key social media tips for cannabis brands to keep top of mind:

5 Social Media Tips for Cannabis Businesses

  1. Different social media platforms require different strategies. What performs well on Facebook might flop on Twitter. Ideal posting times vary from algorithm to algorithm. Different demographics prefer different platforms. Don’t try a one-size-fits-all approach to cannabis social media.
  2. Play to your strengths. If your brand doesn’t have a lot of visual assets, for example, you may not want to invest a lot of time and effort into an ultra-aesthetic platform like Instagram.
  3. Create a social media calendar. Planning what you’ll post ahead of time and coordinating your social media content with the rest of your content marketing editorial calendar will give you a sense of when it’s most effective to schedule a guest post or try a new product promotion to fill a gap.
  4. Have clear goals and values. Know why you’re getting on a particular social media platform and what you hope to accomplish there before you invest in getting a profile set up and growing your audience. Companies focused on B2B marketing may get a lot more mileage out of networking on LinkedIn, for example, while a dispensary has better luck going viral with a video of their budtenders trying a trendy new dance on TikTok.
  5. Take social media seriously. It used to be the case that social media was an afterthought handed off to entry-level employees and interns. But people of every age are on social media, and using it smartly requires more than just being “very online.” Take the time to polish your social media copy, to build relationships and promote your other digital marketing content with finesse. 

Earned Media and the Cannabis Industry

Earned media is everywhere you look, you just might not know that’s what it’s called. 

When journalists report on a company’s IPO going public, quote a CEO on the latest industry trends, review a hot new vaporizer or cover local news like a neighborhood dispensary expanding, that’s media coverage earned by a cannabis company through its quality of service, PR and marketing efforts, and word of mouth.

You can think of earned media as the center of a Venn diagram where marketing and public relations overlap. A company might get coverage in their hometown paper because there’s a journalist on the business beat who reported on the founder’s latest accomplishment. Or a cannabusiness might find themselves in a national business journal because an editor received a compelling news release penned by the company’s publicist.

Earned Media and Word of Mouth

Another name for earned media is “word of mouth,” that elusive but extra-potent buzz that is one of the best things that can happen to a brand. With this type of earned media, a customer might review your product or service on a site like Yelp or YouTube. They might write a post about your services to a friend on Twitter, or tag a photo of themselves at your storefront or office on Instagram. Another business might quote a post from your blog and reference it on their own website with a backlink to yours. 

You can’t pay for this kind of publicity, but earned media is some of the most effective coverage you can get. According to HubSpot Research, 57% of people in the U.S. trust what they hear from friends and family the most when they discover a new product. That’s great news in an industry where cannabis sales data platform BDSA found that 30% of existing cannabis customers nationwide shopped for products more frequently in 2020, and market penetration is up to nearly 50% in well-established state markets. 

So how do you tap into this powerful communication vein? There are plenty of ways to earn media placements, but here are a few tips to streamline the process:

5 Ways Cannabis Brands Can Earn More Media Placements

  1. Utilize public relations. PR is a great way to position your brand so you’re more likely to earn media exposure. A good publicist will help get your brand in front of journalists, editors, lifestyle and cannabis influencers and social media followers who might be interested in sharing what your business is all about. Some examples of what that might look like including sending out news releases about a dispensary opening, placing products in gift guides throughout the year, or making sure a thought leader’s book is reviewed on widely read sites.
  2. Network online and off. The more you invest in your local cannabis community, the more you’ll earn the trust of prospective customers and start generating word-of-mouth referrals. From building relationships with the media to connecting with allies in your local cannabis industry, you can never have too many friends.
  3. Develop thought leadership. One byproduct of success in thought leadership is more opportunities for earned media placements. Speaking at B2B conferences, networking luncheons and community gatherings is a natural way to be included in press coverage about such events. Well-crafted thought leadership pieces lend themselves to being cited by a reporter, and also opens opportunities for the author to be the subject of an interview, profile or feature, or invited to pen an op-ed or commentary piece.
  4. Demonstrate expertise. Thought leadership isn’t the only way to gain potential clients’ trust or become regarded as an authority. Your brand can demonstrate expertise through concisely written web copy, content marketing like blogs and podcasts, and even more technical white papers and ebooks. Those may be shared by other brands on their websites or social platforms, jumpstart online conversations in forums and comment sections, or be quoted in articles by the media. 
  5. Tell a great story. It doesn’t matter what you accomplish or how great your products are if you can’t turn those wins into compelling stories people want to share. Every brand has the potential to inspire all sorts of narratives. Knowing what makes a powerful cannabis brand, celebrating the team that drives your success, and seeing where you fit into the larger cannabis industry are all ways to start discovering the stories just waiting to be told about your business. 
Best Content Marketing Practices 2021

Paid Media for Cannabis Businesses

Paid media may have a smaller role to play in your overall marketing strategy than owned and earned media, but it’s still important to approach these opportunities strategically. That’s due to the fact that paid media, already fraught with marketing regulations for any business, has extra compliance challenges and restrictions for cannabis businesses.

Because cannabis is still illegal at the federal level, there are limitations on any kind of electronic ad or sponsored post that might be seen by minors. Many social media sites ban content that seems to be promoting the sale of cannabis products directly to the consumer. And social media algorithms are often calibrated against cannabrands’ favor. 

One of the many benefits of paid media, however, is the ability to target ads to different segments of your audience and different demographics of potential customers. That level of granularity means you really need to know your brand values and have conducted strong market research. It also means, however, that you need to be very familiar with the guidelines for cannabis advertising and CBD advertising in the particular states or localities where you do business.

Why Cannabis Businesses Should Invest in Paid Media Marketing

That doesn’t mean cannabis brands can’t reap the many advantages of paid media, however. It just means you need to know the right way to go about it. Finding a creative solution to the paid media problem can be a huge boon for cannabis brands, particularly because many cannabusinesses eschew paid media because of its complexities for the industry. The ones that do pursue paid advertising stand out considerably, with less competition from other cannabis companies.

One way to reap the benefits of paid advertising with fewer regulatory hangups is to go straight to publications and forums dedicated to covering the cannabis industry. Placing an ad in venues like Leafly, High Times and NW Leaf, Leafwire or Eaze doesn’t guarantee return on investment, but it does mean you go in knowing their audiences are receptive and that cannabis brands are welcome. 

But that doesn’t mean you should discount more traditional forms of paid advertising, particularly those free from FCC regulations. Billboards and other types of signage, for example, are one possibility. Or you can get creative about newer possibilities like advertising on podcasts—a method that skirts restrictions for similar ads on broadcast radio networks. Event marketing is another tool which overlaps with some types of paid advertising and has the added bonus of contributing to a sense of community. 

Reflecting On a Summer of Brand Strategy: Q&A With Grasslands’ Marketing Intern Erick Rivera

Marketing intern in office.



“I was supported by a team that gave me the space to be creative and take risks”

In June 2021, Grasslands launched our new Diversity-in-Marketing internship program. Now, at the conclusion of a 12-week run, we’re happy to report that this year’s internships were a tremendous success for both our interns and our entire team. 

This paid internship program is part of our Indigenous-owned agency’s commitment to attract, develop and retain diverse, high-potential early-career marcom talent. 

Our Founder and CEO, Ricardo Baca, started his 20-year career in journalism with an internship that offered valuable opportunities for professional development, and this is our agency’s way of paying it forward. He recognizes the challenges of forging a career path out of school and the value of having a head start in developing a professional network and learning exactly what it’s like to work at a fast-paced agency. 

Here, Grasslands Marketing Intern Erick Rivera tells us about his experience and how it will help him going forward into his senior year at the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business


Visit our Careers page to learn more about open positions at Grasslands and the Diversity-in-Marketing internship program


What’s your biggest takeaway from your internship?

This experience was immersive—I learned so much about myself and the industry. I gained knowledge about the functions of an agency operating in regulated markets as well as the dynamics of making and maintaining relationships in this space. I worked with an amazing team that gave me the resources and space to be creative and expand my responsibilities. I learned about the growing importance of integrated marketing communications and how Grasslands is preparing itself to own that space in cannabis and beyond. I was given the opportunity to network and meet other professionals in various industries, which gave me more insight into the careers that are available—but more importantly, the careers that are needed. 

What was the most meaningful work you did over the summer?

I think every project was extremely meaningful in my development as a professional, but if I had to choose the most meaningful I would say it was the brand evaluation for Grasslands. It forced me to take an external perspective to an agency that I was working to become a part of. It taught me the importance of understanding what it means to be a strategic thinker and how difficult it can be to embody the voice and tone of a client. It challenged me to network with leadership to better understand their goals and visions of the agency and to build recommendations to align that vision. It taught me the important lesson of balancing client work while continuously marketing yourself for future growth.

What did you gain from this internship?

The top three gains from this internship: Knowledge, power and adaptability. Knowledge about the industry and available career opportunities. Power in owning my work and choosing my direction. 

Adaptability, a crucial skill to have in communications and at agencies in general, and the ability to shift priorities and work around the schedules of other people was so fundamental to my experience as an agency professional.

What did you contribute during this internship?

In the most humble way, a lot! And it is something that the team has praised me for, and I appreciate it. I contributed to the development of the Grasslands brand, and I offered strategy and perspective when appropriate. I supported important projects relating to improving the efficiencies of the agency, and I conducted research that will contribute to future marketing strategies.

Is there anything you would change about the internship?

No, and in the best way possible, I had the privilege of expanding this internship to be more than the original job description. Not only because I am learning to understand the depths of my capabilities but because I was supported by a team that gave me the space to be creative and take risks. Everyone that I interacted with was eager to talk to me and was extremely helpful. I never felt underprepared or lost, which speaks to the collaborative nature of the Grasslands culture.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Geographically? No idea. Mentally? I see myself thriving, taking risks and changing lives. While this internship has answered many questions about the marcom industry, it has also created many more. What does it take to start my own brand from scratch? What other industries are emerging and how are they going to change the world? How can I make the world a better place through marketing and communications? I see myself leaning into my curiosity and letting it guide me.

How has this internship helped shape your professional goals and plans?

It has allowed me to gain meaningful hands-on experience in an agency culture, a unique one at that. It has reshaped my ambitions. Seeing the pride that fellow colleagues and clients take in their work has me wanting more ownership of my work. The idea of creating and maintaining a brand from the ground up is so invigorating. It has also left me craving so much more experience. 

What’s next for you?

Finishing my bachelor’s degree at the University of Colorado, Boulder, is priority No. 1. I am also working on finalizing plans for a semester abroad, possibly in Argentina.



A Fresh POV on Working in Public Relations: Q&A With Grasslands’ Cannabis PR Intern Andre Hascall

Cannabis marketing intern in office.



“I honestly couldn’t think of a better internship for me to be in”

In June 2021, Grasslands launched our new Diversity-in-Marketing internship program. Now, at the conclusion of a 12-week run, we’re happy to report that this year’s internships were a tremendous success for both our interns and our entire team. 

This paid internship program is part of our Indigenous-owned agency’s commitment to attract, develop and retain diverse, high-potential early-career marcom talent. 

Our Founder and CEO, Ricardo Baca, started his 20-year career in journalism with an internship that offered valuable opportunities for professional development, and this is our agency’s way of paying it forward. He recognizes the challenges of forging a career path out of school and the value of having a head start in developing a professional network and learning exactly what it’s like to work at a fast-paced agency. 

Here, Grasslands Public Relations Intern Andre Hascall tells us about his experience, what he learned and how the internship helped launch him into full-time PR work at Grasslands.


Visit our Careers page to learn more about open positions at Grasslands and the Diversity-in-Marketing internship program

What’s your biggest takeaway from your internship?

The best way I can describe my time as an intern is it was mutually beneficial. I was able to contribute to the team more than I initially thought I could. All of my colleagues have been great at helping me along the way with feedback in real time, which I am very appreciative of. Overall, I picked up and honed skills that will advance me throughout my public relations career.

What was the most meaningful work you did during this internship?

It’s difficult to choose anything specific as I enjoyed working with multiple accounts. However, one moment that sticks out to me is when I secured an opportunity in Politico for one of my clients. 

What did you learn from this internship?

I learned how communication works in an agency, both internally and externally. How to properly build media lists as well as the development and distribution of pitches. In my time at Grasslands I’ve noticed my writing skills have improved and my ability to talk about the cannabis industry as a whole has grown. 

What did you contribute during this internship?

I was able to contribute in multiple ways, such as communicating with journalists to coordinate media opportunities. I added original ideas to communications strategies for some of our clients. I kept my accounts running smoothly when account leads were on short vacations. Overall, I did just about everything in account support while I interned.

Is there anything you would change about the internship?

I honestly couldn’t think of a better internship for me to be in. The company seemed like a perfect match, with my journalism degree and my interests in the cannabis industry. I learned a lot and was able to contribute every day. I wouldn’t change a thing.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I feel like five years will be here in no time, but I think I could still be working at Grasslands and if not, I expect to be working on starting my own agency. I always entertain the idea of having a sports & culture podcast as a side hustle.

How has this internship helped shape your professional goals?

I was immediately intrigued once I learned about public relations in cannabis. During this internship I learned so much about the industry and the growth trajectory it is on. I wouldn’t want to be a part of another industry after learning all that I have and the current state of cannabis in politics. I thought of being my own boss one day, and this internship has helped me find my niche in public relations.

What’s next for you after this internship?

I am accepting a full-time position as an account coordinator at Grasslands.  I love the atmosphere at the company and the city of Denver; this is the perfect place for me to kick off my public relations career.



Why Is the Right Cannabis Social Media So Necessary?



Getting around advertising limitations and reaching specific audiences start with social media

Table of Contents
What Is Cannabis Social Media?

Good cannabis social media starts with creating specialized content that fits a variety of platforms and reaches niche audiences, all while meeting community guidelines and cannabis advertising rules. 

How Can Social Media Help Your Cannabis Business?

Get this: In 2020 alone, the average daily social media use by people around the world was upward of three to four hours per day. If that doesn’t seem like a lot, you must really like social media. But just think about that number in terms of ad time—just think about how many moments you have to get your messages, products, services, solutions and brand identity in front of specific audiences.

This is why social media content is one of the first steps toward successfully marketing cannabis businesses. Because cannabis is illegal at the federal level, it is mired in strict advertising rules. This means using direct social channels and engaging posts is the best way to reach specific audiences and develop what is called an outbound marketing model.

Outbound marketing relates to using frequent messages to draw users to your brand, site, product and / or service. And by using social media to promote your differentiators to niche audiences that range from completely curious to savvy, well-informed and knowledgeable, you can generate lasting brand awareness that means tons of leads and real conversions. 

What Is the Best Cannabis Social Media Strategy?

An actionable social media strategy starts with knowing your audience and delivering them something so relevant, relatable, poignant and topical—OK, maybe it’s not that simple. But by using a dedicated social media content calendar and area for content ideation and copy, you’ll have a place to start. 

Each post should strike the right balance between covering your business and meeting your audiences where they are and with things they actually care about. Because when a user cares, they are more likely to engage and share. 

What Is the Right Time to Post on Social Media Platforms?

When creating spreadable content that engages, you must consider the logistics of social media. Despite what you might think, people are not on the platforms at all times of the day. Posting when the potential for engagement is at its highest will result in more impressions, likes, clicks, shares and, in the long run, sweet conversions.

Here’s a general quick rundown of the best times to post:

  • Facebook: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.;
  • Instagram: Monday-Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.;
  • Twitter: Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m, Tuesday-Thursday from 9 to 11 a.m.;
  • Linkedin: Tuesday-Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon.
How Should You Create Cannabis Social Content?

Drumming up engaging, spreadable content that is worth sharing is no easy task, but start by coming up with good ideas for posts that relate to an entire month’s worth of content, then ideate posts around specific information, fun facts, important events, holidays, anniversaries and business insights. 

At the same time, you can create posts that are specific to the social platform you want to use. Logically, a post on Instagram could revolve around a striking image. A tweet on Twitter should be short, sweet and eye-catching, if not funny. And a post on LinkedIn should be much more professional and focused on providing useful business information.

By understanding our target audiences then going down the line of target platforms ranging from giants such as Facebook all the way to cannabis-specific spaces such as Vangst, you will develop a well-rounded series of posts that launch your brand, your voice and your content in every corner of the marketplace. The best part? It can all be free of cost, unless you’re not careful.

Does Your Cannabis Social Media Post Meet Community Standards? 

Because cannabis is still illegal, businesses are not able to use social media platforms to solicit products, in words or in pictures. Other advertising approaches, such as gearing ads toward those under age 21 or making medical claims, are also not allowed.

These limitations fall into more-specific community guidelines and standards that all platforms have established in some regard to attempt to control the behavior of social users. While many of these restrictions are perfectly reasonable, if not wholly necessary, many of them can unfairly target legitimate cannabis businesses. Being flagged under these standards can result in shadowbans, blocked posts and deleted pages. 

By carefully understanding the guidelines of the social overlords, cannabis brands can still use these channels to grow a massive following and buzz. Or they can get someone to do that for them. Enter the canna-influencers.

Why Are Cannabis Social Media Influencers So Valuable?

For brands that are trying to garner interest among everyone from cannacurious, first-time consumers to seasoned aficionados, social media is a key component. Of course, in trying to avoid gatekeepers from flagging and killing off cannabis-related posts and pages, influencers are another powerful ally.

Cannabis influencers use social media to build up their own brand and use it to become an affiliate ambassador of other social media users, new products and up-and-coming companies. With the ability to influence a swath of like-minded consumers, these social stars are able to promote cannabis alongside an army of faithful followers. 

Why? Because word-of-mouth recommendations from a trusted source—whether it’s a friend or a cool influencer with a lifestyle that consumers desire—are one of the best forms of marketing. This same approach applies to reaching people via traditional media or even in person. 

Have You Found the Right Cannabis Social Media Partners?

Now that you understand the value of social media marketing for cannabis, you need to get started. Finding an agency that has fluency in not only the ever-changing cannabis marketplace, but also the ever-evolving nature of social media will give you a tremendous advantage over the competition.

Grasslands is driven to develop powerful cannabis content, including for top brands such as Cookies, Willie’s Reserve, Cheeba Chews and others. Let’s talk about helping your business next. 



What is the Power Behind Cannabis PR and Event Marketing?



With the right PR and cannabis event marketing strategy, you can build your network, gain exposure and make invaluable connections

Table of Contents

What Is Cannabis Public Relations and Event Marketing All About?

Cannabis Public Relations and Event Marketing are two powerful tools that can be used together to grow your media presence and connections within the cannabis industry to create an invaluable network of colleagues, collaborators and partners. 

A holistic PR strategy can generate immediate business-boosting results when the multifaceted approach includes virtual and in-person events.

How Can a Good Cannabis PR Strategy Help Your Business?

You know that old saying any press is good press? Well, that’s not entirely true, especially for emerging brands and businesses. So the main reason strategic PR is so useful to any business is the power it has to control the narrative about your brand. And this process alone is especially crucial given the current state of the cannabis industry. 

Strict cannabis advertising rules from national advertisers, Google and Facebook keep businesses from being able to market and sell products in a direct way. Meanwhile, the marketplace is saturated with competitors that may have more presence, budget and connections than other contenders within the space.

To counter these advertising limitations and fierce competitors, it’s crucial to use PR tactics to get your business into the media cycle and spotlight its main differentiators through the lens of journalists and media influencers to gain earned-media relevance. In fact, good PR is so important to growing businesses, the current value of the PR market is estimated to surpass $93 billion by 2022. That’s a lot of story pitches! 

How Does Event Marketing Fit Into PR Strategy?

Like PR, there’s an old saying that applies to the power of event marketing: It’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know. Because when it comes down to growing your business, you’ll need the right connections. A business without a network is one without support. So imagine what it would be like if you didn’t have anyone to call on for advice, guidance or even supplies when a little help could mean more leads and sales. 

Through events, you have a prime opportunity to make your brand seen, heard and remembered while also developing a business network of industry peers and partners. It all starts with hosting a must-attend event that brings together business leaders, industry insiders, media and more. 

Before the pandemic, the private event planning market had generated nearly $5 billion dollars in value according to Statista. Now, the very nature of in-person events has changed, but they’re not extinct—far from it.  

At the same time, virtual events have really taken off. From webinars and online speaking engagements to even casual happy hour hangs, the virtual space is a great way to continue making connections and spotlighting your brand, even when hosting an in-person event isn’t possible. 

How Can You Host the Ultimate Cannabis Event?

Coordinating interviews and media outreach are part of the cannabis PR game, sure, but so are must-attend events. Curated, exclusive event marketing can turn a company from nothing into something based on the fact that an event brings together influential people. You can sell your brand in real time to fellow humans.

With Event Marketing, you get to demo the wares, show your expertise and cement interest with a memorable good time. From this, you can generate useful connections and potential business leads, just from one night of having fun and chatting cannabis. 

Here are a few tips to throw the ultimate in-person cannabis event:

  • Devote part of your marketing budget toward an annual event
  • Book your venue at least one year out from the event 
  • Create a social media and content campaign around your party
  • Make your event invite-only to curate the guest list, theme and vibe
  • Compile a dedicated guest list and send personal invitations and RSVPs to each guest
  • Get extra funding for your event by finding sponsors
  • Give sponsors the opportunity to promote their own brand while supporting yours
  • Create fun, branded activations that sponsors and attendees can engage in (e.g. photo booths and interactive exhibits)
  • Create specific and informative speaking engagements to add value
  • Bring on the food and entertainment by budgeting for catering and a DJ or band 
  • Spotlight and celebrate your guests with an opening or closing toast
  • Partner with Lyft, Uber or invest in ride-share coupons to ensure safe travel
  • If you’re planning a destination event, partner with a nearby hotel to offer guests discounted lodging 
Have You Found the Right PR and Event Professionals?

At Grasslands, we have a unique perspective on cannabis PR because we are a Journalism-Minded Agency™ that grew out of our Founder and CEO Ricardo Baca’s years at The Cannabist as America’s first-ever Marijuana Editor for a major mainstream news organization (The Denver Post)

Our team of PR and Content Marketing specialists have built targeted media networks that can help you establish a solid strategy to illuminate your brand on the national level. 

We also love creating high-level networking events like The Grasslands Party. Our events bring together top minds in cannabis and we’ve been all over: Boston, New Orleans, Oakland, Toronto, Denver, Austin and Las Vegas so far. By hosting this exclusive bash and helping entrepreneurs and business leaders from across the country expand their networks and elevate countless brands, we know what it takes to run a successful event.

Let’s chat about how to incorporate PR and cannabis event marketing into your business plan and amp up your brand. 



5 Fundamentals of Cannabis Content Strategy

Quality content marketing is essential in today’s digital landscape. That’s especially true for businesses in a highly-regulated industry that’s rapidly evolving. Cannabis professionals can build a strong content strategy to not only reach their target audiences, but help educate curious consumers, challenge decades of anti-drug rhetoric, and shape a new era of cannabis culture.

When done well, a cannabis-fluent content strategy can provide a lot of bang for the proverbial buck. But understanding the value of cannabis content marketing and knowing where to get started are two different things. That’s why we have five tips for building a winning strategy and navigating the unique challenges facing cannabis companies eager to broadcast their brand messaging.

1. EAT the competition 

An effective cannabis content strategy starts with capitalizing on useful, compelling content that conveys expertise, authority and trustworthiness—otherwise known as EAT. Whether you’re writing a blog or posting to social media, make sure what you’re sharing is informative and answers the kinds of questions your target audience might have with authentic, factual information. Not only will that resonate with readers, but it will also help boost your search engine optimization (SEO) value. EAT is especially valuable for cannabis companies looking to educate the public and reduce stigma, too.

2. Stay on top of SEO

Speaking of SEO, it’s incredibly important to use the right search term keywords on your web copy, blogs and other owned digital content. From the snappy headline to the meta description, and the H2 headers to the last paragraph, Google is able to crawl and index every element of your website to identify its value to readers and categorize the information you’re providing. 

SERPS and Snippets

SEO best practices are crucial to making sure your content shows up high in search engine results pages (SERPS)—the results a search engine like Google or Firefox serves up when someone keys in a query. It’s so much the better if you can structure your content in a way that Google pulls some of the copy into a feature called “snippets.” Snippets are a brief preview of the content on your page that Google showcases in a box at the top of the SERPs. They are typically positioned as an answer to the kind of question a searcher might be asking. This can be especially relevant for people who are interacting with Google from a mobile device or using voice search rather than typing.

Another benefit of optimizing your content for search engines is the ability to help search audiences in a particular geographic location or region find your business. Ranking high for a general term like “cannabis” is a much bigger challenge than ranking for a more specific term like “Portland cannabis dispensary.” Those dialed-in, multi-word keywords—called long-tail keywords—are increasingly important for helping searchers find brick-and-mortar businesses in a particular metro area, or to find cannabis business services tailored to a particular state’s regulatory structure.

3. Know your cannabis advertising rules

Like every other aspect of the cannabis industry, marketing and advertising are highly regulated. Because cannabis is currently still illegal at the federal level, many national advertisers and advertising platforms aren’t willing to promote THC products. The same can be said of most state-level ad networks, even where medical and/or recreational cannabis is legal. That’s one thing for B2B marketing efforts, but it’s quite another for B2C.

Many plant-touching businesses and ancillary businesses in the cannabis space are limited in how they can use marketing channels. From TV ads to social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, there are a lot of limits on where cannabis businesses can share product information and what information they can show. 

Knowing the most up-to-date advertising rules for social media platforms is also key to getting the word out about your company without getting shadowbanned—that’s when a platform like Instagram doesn’t outright delete an account but does use its algorithm to bottleneck the visibility of your posts.

4. Include alternative marketing channels in your cannabis content strategy 

Cannabrands have to work a little harder at marketing to compensate for advertising platforms that are out of reach due to regulations. But if you get creative, you can reach new audiences through alternative routes. Podcasts, for example, are becoming a popular vehicle for cannabis brands to advertise because the same restrictions that apply to radio networks overseen by the FFCC simply don’t apply to podcasts. Event marketing is due for a big boom starting in 2022 on the heels of the COVID vaccine, too.

Sure, television, radio, Facebook and Google Ads are a little tricky for cannabis brands. But there are a lot of channels where cannabis content marketing and advertising is absolutely welcome, and while they might not have the sheer global scale of the biggest platforms, they do have certain advantages. For example, third-party directories geared towards cannabis brands are already tailored directly towards your industry.

Other canna-friendly marketing venues can be found on your brand’s owned media platforms as well as third-party sites. Google My Business directory listings give companies space to list their products in addition to logistical details like addresses and hours of operation. Review sites like Yelp, Leafly and Weedmaps also provide opportunities to engage with existing customers through short-form digital content. And email marketing efforts like newsletters are guaranteed to hit the inboxes of your target audience.

5. Position yourself for good PR

Public relations for cannabis brands is a whole rich subject in and of itself, but it often goes hand-in-hand with a broader cannabis marketing plan. A strong PR strategy can not only leverage your marketing efforts and help them go further, it can also get your message into spaces that owned content can’t always reach. 

Earned, paid and native media, for example, are different types of placements for your brand to appear in a variety of publications, from cannabis-industry-specific outlets like Ganjaprenuer to national outlets like Fortune Magazine, Rolling Stone or The Washington Post. A press release about your company’s latest product launch might reach potential customers who haven’t found your blog yet or signed up for your newsletter. 

Thought leadership, too, can take your marketing strategy further. This type of content development is fantastic for establishing EAT, from op-eds in well-read publications to television appearances or speaking events. Positioning members of your company’s leadership team as industry experts not only contributes to the enhanced legitimacy of cannabis by boosting public perception of the industry, it also presents a chance to reinforce the messaging at the heart of your marketing strategy while leading new audiences back to your owned content channels.

What is Cannabis SEO and Why is it So Important?



In a world without traditional advertising or media channels, SEO is the best way to stand out

Table of Contents

What Is Good SEO Marketing?
How Does SEO Work?
How Can SEO Help Your Cannabis Business? 
Using SEO and Content to Overcome Harsh Advertising Rules
Why Is Content Marketing So Important to Quality SEO? 
What Is the Difference Between Technical SEO and On-Page SEO?
What Are Cannabis Keywords and How Can You Research Them?
How Does SEO Value Help Cannabis Branding? 
How Does Understanding Cannabis Play into Great SEO?
Are You Ready to Harness Cannabis SEO?

What is Good SEO Marketing? 

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) may sound complicated, but mastering it really comes down to these essential elements: 

Thinking like a search engine user
• Surpassing search engine standards
• Creating a website strategically
• Meeting technical and on-page optimizations
• Publishing authoritative, informative content
• Utilizing keywords, links and a meta description 
• Boosting domain authority

How Does SEO Work?

SEO got its start in the Wild West—of the early internet, that is. Back in the days of dial-up and pop-up ads, the ’net was an unruly place filled with countless bad websites that were only out to get clicks, and in the process ended up spreading viruses, disinformation, spam and other junk. Meanwhile, a lot of great websites ended up lost to time, simply because people couldn’t find them.

Then, the bright idea of creating a way to index and search the entire internet for relevant, trustworthy and essential information came along, finally giving everyday folks a way to answer their inquiries quickly and efficiently with the best possible content.

When you utilize a search engine such as Google, Bing, Baidu or Yahoo, among others, it takes the word or phrase you entered (e.g. “cannabis marketing”) and crawls an index of billions of sites, pages and pieces of content to help this quest for information along. But in the interest of satisfying its customers, the search engine only wants to deliver the best, most relevant, trustworthy and authoritative content possible. This is where SEO comes into play. 

How Can SEO Help Your Cannabis Business? 

Discovery is the main reason for using SEO in the first place. As a fledgling cannabis company or brand, your ability to stand out among competitors is invaluable. Because for cannabis companies, standing out isn’t just about products, services or even social media presence, it’s about owning space on the internet. 

Using SEO best practices gives your site the edge it needs to beat out competitors and win big in search rankings, where securing a place on the first page of results is critical. Research by SEO development authority Moz has noted that well over two-thirds of users never look beyond the first page of results.

Through SEO, you can build the worth of your site, answer more search inquiries and further push your ability to rank highly for related search terms, increasing brand presence and awareness. Of course, in a world without traditional advertising channels, climbing to the top of search results is very important.

Using SEO and Content to Overcome Harsh Advertising Rules

Because cannabis is illegal at the federal level, it means advertising cannabis products and related services remains very precarious. That’s why most traditional advertisers, web rulers like Google and social giants like Facebook have a real aversion to advertising cannabis. 

Even state-based advertisers want to avoid the heavy hand of the government by ruling out the possibility of mainstream advertising, even where cannabis is now legal. In Colorado, which was one of the first states to allow recreational cannabis sales, regulations were put in place to limit cannabis ads from being presented to audiences under the age of 21, which basically shut out opportunities such as daytime radio, TV and online news sites. 

In trying to navigate these challenging regulations, companies have been relegated to using billboards, printed fliers and backpage ads in alt-weeklies that simply aren’t effective enough. But good SEO marketing can help.

Why is Content Marketing So Important to Quality SEO? 

Earning the trust of search engines and gaining SEO cred doesn’t just happen. It all starts with content. Using blogs, how-to guides and thought leadership columns is one of the first steps an emerging cannabis brand can take to carve out a presence on the internet, while engaging all possible target audiences. 

Creating content geared toward specific searchers, prospective clients and fellow marketers is key to elevating your brand, while keeping the gatekeepers of Google and other search engines happy. 

Speaking of that, this type of content falls into what Google has defined as having the quality of EAT: “expertise,” “authoritativeness” and “trustworthiness.” This type of content isn’t spam or a collection of links, it’s the kind of useful material that can inform and give answers. 

What is the Difference Between Technical SEO and On-Page SEO?

In optimizing your website, there are two types of SEO best practices to consider: Technical SEO and On-Page SEO. Here’s an analogy to remember when it comes to the differences between these two types of SEO: You wouldn’t buy a car without all the wiring that makes it work, right? And you wouldn’t buy a car without a speedometer, climate controls or other dashboard data that informs the driving experience, correct? 

Now if this car were your website, Technical SEO would be the wiring that makes it worth buying to search engines. On-Page SEO are all those necessary data points that help identify whether or not your content is worth offering up to search users. The better your site’s User Experience (UX), content relevance, crawlability, shareability and otherwise, the more authority it will have.

This means it can answer more search inquiries and is more likely to rise in rank. 

As Moz notes, good Technical SEO includes having: 

Indexed content
• An XML sitemap
• Correct URLs
• Internal backlinks
• Outbound links
• Proper images
• Google Analytics capability
• Structured data
• Correct title tags
• Correct meta tags
• Favicon
• Easily rendered coding
• Intuitive design and organization
• Schema markup

Good On-Page SEO includes having:

Relevance to a specific topic
• Featured snippet intro
• Answers to burning questions
• UX for desktop and mobile devices
• Table of contents (if applicable)
• Proper title tags
• Easily shareable URL
• Image alt text
• Keyword optimization
• Proper word and character count
• Meta description
• Author or publisher attributions

Now that you know the difference between technical and on-page requirements, it’s important to point out that content marketing, good technical SEO and on-page power couldn’t exist without the right keywords, so let’s break that down.

What Are Cannabis Keywords and How Can You Research Them?

On the surface, keywords are the inquiries that a person enters into search engines to find results. Digging deeper, keywords act as the building blocks of great content, as well as the most valuable currency your site has to be relevant and rank higher and higher. That’s because keywords are signals to search engines’ webcrawlers, aka crawl bots, that your website has the right content to meet the needs of specific searchers. 

Keywords can also help your site own authority and relevance within a specific space of the search-driven internet. In the case of cannabis, the legal market is relatively new, and there is a smaller amount of keyword information on the internet at this time—think of a trendy new form of cannabis concentrate, for example. This means certain sites can begin to own specific cannabis-related keywords to help boost their rank. 

Researching the best keywords to insert into your site content and copy starts with using everything from free tools like Google Trends—which looks at Google’s top trending keywords—to paid, powerful platforms like Semrush, which can collect in-depth results of keywords that are the most easy to rank for.

By building out a content marketing program that is built around the best keywords and keeps evolving with the cannabis industry, your site has the power to make your brand known across the web.

How Does SEO Value Help Cannabis Branding? 

To be found, generate an audience, then sell services or products, cannabis companies will need more than a great, optimized website. Exceptional branding is also crucial (so much so that it can make or break a company). 

Stellar cannabis branding comes down to being distinct, creating an identity and having strong messages that will engage and resonate with target consumers, keeping your brand on their mind. But generating lasting brand awareness—and advocates for your brand that stay loyal purchase after purchase—doesn’t happen without visibility. 

By devising and implementing an SEO strategy that is unique to your brand, you can translate your brand differentiators and messaging to the right keywords, hyper-relevant content and SEO best practices to rank for specific audiences. From here, branding for specific audiences gets far easier. 

How Does Understanding Cannabis Play into Great SEO?

Your journey toward getting great results from SEO starts with having a marketing partner that is not only fluent in cannabis, but also optimization. With the right team of content marketing specialists and public-relations strategists at hand, you can begin to impart the essence of your brand into an actionable content strategy that’s built for results. 

When it comes to cannabis, fluency isn’t just about knowing strains or products, but understanding the complex nuances of marketing niche companies and brands with only SEO ingenuity. 

Are You Ready to Harness Cannabis SEO?

Do you want to harness the power of SEO to grow your website’s rank and authority? Are you ready to create content that engages audiences and grows your brand awareness? It all starts by using a marketing and PR agency with extensive experience applying in-depth industry knowledge to content-driven SEO marketing. Let’s get started.



Why is Marketing Cannabis So Important?

Three marketers sit working

Strict advertising makes marketing the best way to stand out as a cannabis business

Table of Contents
What is the Real Power of Cannabis Marketing?

Effective cannabis marketing comes down to using messaging, branding, content, search engine optimization (SEO), analytical data and a variety of other strategic tools to build up businesses within a fast-paced industry—one that is booming with savvy competitors and huge profits.

Why is Marketing Cannabis So Important?

In any business, trying to sell a product or service without the right approach is close to impossible. Have you ever tried to convince your friends to help you move without an added incentive, like pizza or cash money? What about trying to offload an old couch at a yard sale without a little sales jargon, like barely used or this gem just needs a little dusting?

In the overly competitive world of cannabis, emerging companies must use all the right methods to reach the right audiences and stand out. This is why marketing cannabis is so crucial to achieving real success in the ever-growing green marketplace.

Navigating the Current Cannabis Industry

By 2026, it’s estimated that the recreational marijuana industry within the United States will be worth more than $40 billion dollars, while medical sales are projected to zoom right past $11 billion, as projected by Brightfield Group (via Statista). This makes sense considering that state legalization momentum hasn’t slowed, and 9 out of 10 Americans are in favor of legalizing cannabis nationwide. But while these numbers indicate that the end of prohibition may be right around the corner, cannabis companies are still facing challenges when it comes to reaching consumers.

Understanding Cannabis Advertising Rules

Despite being of the people, by the people and for the people, the federal government has thus far ignored popular opinion to keep cannabis on its list of illegal controlled substances.

As a Schedule I narcotic, marijuana is considered to have no accepted medical use (despite a growing body of scientific evidence to the contrary) and sits right alongside heroin, LSD and ecstasy. Because of this, advertisers across the nation refuse to promote cannabis out of fear of governmental backlash. This includes search-engine leaders like Google, social media giants like Facebook and many mainstream media outlets.

State regulators are taking a similar hard line, including in Colorado, which developed regulations with the goals of ensuring cannabis adverts won’t be seen by anyone under the age of 21 (putting major limitations on ad exposure for anyone watching a TV channel, listening to the radio or scrolling online at any given time).

Good Marketing Starts With the Right Cannabis Branding

With no traditional advertising options and countless competitors vying for recognition, fledgling cannabis companies must work harder to break out. Instead of using expensive but rather ineffective grassroots tactics, like print ads or a billboard, marketing cannabis is the real key. And everything starts with exceptional branding.

The most effective cannabis brand marketing comes down to having strong messages that will resonate with target consumers, then keeping them engaged and coming back for more. This process of generating brand awareness and advocacy is made easier through marketing strategy.

In researching the market and analyzing competitors, it becomes easier to understand what makes your brand different, plus the types of messaging that best define these differentiators. From this, branding for a specific audience becomes a lot easier to accomplish.

From Branding Comes Cannabis Content Marketing

Content marketing is one of the best ways a brand can start owning space on the internet by grabbing the attention of search-engine users with engaging blogs and how-to articles.

This type of content not only focuses on providing specific and useful information, but hits on trending search terms and therefore meets the objective of search engines. In the case of Google, it wants to send its users to content that displays good EAT (“expertise,” “authority” and “trustworthiness”).

This EAT content must answer questions using real (yes, real) facts and legitimate sources, which plays right into good SEO.

What Is Good SEO Marketing and How Can It Help?

To break out as a cannabis brand, you don’t just need awesome products or services, you need to be discovered. Because almost all discovery happens on the internet these days, especially via search engines like Google, a company that isn’t being found online can’t compete.

Search engines index the internet to help this act of discovery along. When search users enter search terms (e.g. best Colorado cannabis dispensary), engines like Google comb through billions of sites, pages and content to find the most relevant results.

Applying SEO best practices ensures your site can meet the sky-high, constantly changing standards of search engines. This includes both the backend Technical SEO aspects of your site, like creating a sitemap and backlinks, as well as On-Page SEO like content that contains the right search keywords and relevant information.

What Does Content Marketing Involve?

At a glance, cannabis content marketing uses a number of components to reach both broad and niche audiences, including:

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
  • Content Marketing
  • Inbound Marketing
  • Branding
  • Events and Expos
  • Public Relations
  • UX/UI Design
What Makes Cannabis Social Media and Influencers So Useful?

Social media content is also crucial for successfully marketing a cannabis business. Because of strict advertising restrictions, using direct social channels and engaging posts is the best way to reach specific audiences.

And while cannabis businesses are not legally able to use social media platforms to solicit products, brands are able to use these channels to grow a massive following and interest in what they’re selling—and direct the audience to their comprehensive website, creating a positive cycle of engagement.

For brands that are trying to garner interest among everyone from cannacurious, first-time consumers to seasoned aficionados, social media is a key component. Of course, in trying to avoid gatekeepers from flagging and killing off cannabis-related posts and pages, influencers are another powerful ally.

Cannabis influencers use social media to build up their own brand and use it to become an affiliate ambassador of other social media users, new products and up-and-coming companies. With the ability to influence a swath of like-minded consumers, these social stars are able to promote cannabis alongside an army of faithful followers.

Why? Because word-of-mouth recommendations from a trusted source—whether it’s a friend or a cool influencer with the lifestyle consumers desire—are one of the best forms of marketing. This same approach applies to reaching people via traditional media or even in person.

Using Public Relations and Event Marketing to Grow Your Brand

Solid public relations and event marketing are two more standout ways to counter limited advertising. With publicists working hard to pitch intriguing stories to a network of publications, cannabis journalists and mainstream news reporters can find a new story idea or source, and burgeoning brands can get in front of readers in the markets they’re targeting. Everybody wins.

Another win is hosting or sponsoring a must-attend event that brings together industry insiders, top media representatives, business leaders and influencers to rub elbows with your brand. The right event helps build great brand awareness and associations among all the right people.

Consider that events can serve multiple purposes. They can kickstart new company goals and initiatives, for one. And in promoting an event, there are opportunities to grow a network: Creating impressions via social posts, a dedicated email list and other tracking methods are crucial steps to expanding brand presence.

Here’s Why Every Marketing Agency Should be Fluent in Cannabis

With a PR and marketing agency that is fluent in cannabis on your side, you will find a partner that understands your needs. Whether it’s connecting you with the right media, facilitating networks, preparing for an unforeseen crisis or coming up with a tailored marketing strategy to meet your goals, it’s all about speaking your language—the language of cannabis and highly regulated industries.

Grasslands Founder and CEO Ricardo Baca comes from a long history of cannabis fluency. In a journalism career spanning two decades, he became the first-ever marijuana editor for a major mainstream media outlet, The Denver Post. There, he launched and ran the award-winning online vertical The Cannabist, a pioneering publication that covered the news of the industry and culture of legalization in Colorado and across the country.

Ricardo knows that expertise is fleeting in this ever-evolving industry, and partnering up with an agency that isn’t well-versed in changing policies, product trends and B2B services doesn’t result in success. Fluency in cannabis is the only way to know what a brand needs to build on its growth trajectory.

How Can You Start Marketing Cannabis?

If you’re still wondering how cannabis marketing can impact your brand, just think about the products you shop for and the brands you care about. How do you find them? What makes them your ideal brand? It’s a sure thing that good marketing played a role in your decision-making.

Marketing cannabis starts with strategy and employs tools like media outreach, events, optimized content and influencer-driven social to sway people to your business, products and brands, the right way. It all starts by using an agency with extensive industry experience and smart, goal-forward marketing services. Are you ready to harness cannabis marketing and PR to your advantage? Let’s chat.