The Key to Marketing in the Cannabis Industry

People meeting in a room with large windows

Since 500 B.C., people have been using marijuana for medicinal purposes. 

It wasn’t until the early 1900s that recreational marijuana use was introduced to the US. The Great Depression and the start of Prohibition brought about a change in public sentiment and the rise of the “evil weed” stigma. In 1937 the U.S. introduced the Marijuana Tax Act, a federal law criminalizing all non-industrial uses of marijuana. 

It wasn’t until 1996 that the first state (California) legalized medical marijuana. 

While several states have since followed in California’s footsteps, marijuana use is still illegal at the federal level. 

So how do you establish a reputable business in an industry with incongruous legislation and a 60-year-strong stigma? 

With the ultimate power couple: marketing and education. 

Marketing via Education – The Secret Bullet

Education-based marketing vs. sales-based marketing

When it comes to your marketing message, there are two methods you can choose from, sales-based or education-based. 

Sales-based marketing focuses on the message as a sales pitch. In this type of marketing, your message acts like a salesperson trying to close a deal. The message centers on persuading a person to purchase your product.

In education-based marketing, you replace that sales message with an educational message. Rather than trying to convince potential customers to make a purchase, you create educational content designed to help customers make informed decisions. 

You give them the knowledge they need to navigate the buyer’s journey with ease, with the ultimate goal that they choose you once they’re ready to purchase. 

How are these different? 

While the end goal is the same – closing a deal – the methods of getting to the sale differ.

Tactics you may try in a sales-based approach include posting images of your product on your brand’s Facebook page or mailing information about your dispensary’s product selection to people in your area. 

Education-based marketing, on the other hand, involves writing articles, giving interviews, conducting webinars, wherein you provide industry insights, share advice, and educate your customers on your area of subject-matter expertise. 

Rather than pushing a potentially unwanted sales pitch, you’re sharing your wisdom. By creating educational content, you’re establishing your brand as an expert in the industry. 

Your brand becomes the guide – the Yoda, Gandalf, or Dumbledore – to your consumer’s Luke Skywalker, Frodo Baggins, or Harry Potter. With education-based marketing, you position your brand as the solution provider and your consumer as the triumphant hero of the story.

The benefits of education-based marketing

What makes educational-marketing so effective? Take a look at some of the benefits. 

  • Builds trust
  • Develops deeper levels of engagement
  • Establishes authority and credibility
  • Sets your brand apart in a competitive market
  • Prospective customers come to you
  • The principle of reciprocity: when you offer something (a gift, service, or valuable information) first, people feel obligated to return the favor 
  • Builds lasting relationships with consumers – instead of a one-time sales interaction

Getting Started

How do you position yourself as the Yoda/Gandalf/Dumbledore? With content that is designed to educate your audience. 

How do you figure out what content will speak to your audience? By identifying their pain points with some good, old-fashioned research. 

This can be as simple as thinking about the questions you are most often asked by potential consumers. If you frequently attend industry events, think about what newcomers ask. When you tell people about your company, what questions do they have? Use these questions to brainstorm topic ideas. 

Once you have a solid idea in mind, consider the best format to convey the information.

A few types of content you can use to position yourself as a thought-leader include:

  • Workshops
  • Classes (online or on-site)
  • Blog posts/articles
  • Infographics
  • Social media posts, pages, and groups
    • While social platforms don’t allow direct promotion of cannabis products, businesses, or services, they do allow educational resources.
  • Webinars
  • Ebooks
  • Downloadable resources
  • Email
  • Videos
  • Interviews
  • Print materials (brochures, one-sheeters, etc)
  • Presentations
  • Panel discussions

The demand for credible education

Whichever content type appeals to you, it’s important to remember to lead with science and facts. 

This is an industry that is coming out of the dark, and as a result, people are desperate for knowledge from reputable sources. Consumers have questions like: how do I incorporate CBD into my routine? What’s the appropriate dosage and method for me? 

And it’s not just the consumers who are looking to learn. Currently, only 15% of schools teach about the endocannabinoid system. Patients are pushing doctors to educate themselves by going in and asking questions about cannabis and its benefits. How can medical professionals help patients if they don’t know how cannabis products affect the body? 

Even government organizations and personnel are in search of reliable education materials as they reevaluate marijuana legislature.

If you’re still not convinced, consider the number of cannabis conferences that have popped up in the last couple of years. Consider the number of new training programs and university degree paths studying cannabis. The amount of new cannabis-related legislation that is up for debate. 

Regardless of who your ideal customer is, the desire for better educational resources is widespread. 

What this means for your cannabis marketing strategy

If you can identify knowledge gaps in consumer understanding and create content that fills in those blanks, you’ll establish credibility and position your brand as an expert resource. 

When the time comes and the consumer is ready to purchase, your brand will be top of mind as an authority within the industry.

Ready to jumpstart your marketing strategy? Drop us a line today.