Gregg Greenberg is the co-founder and co-CEO of Everything But The Plant, a B2B ancillary eCommerce marketplace that sells everything you need to build, run, and grow your cannabis business.
As laws and social norms change, the cannabis market continues to blossom. Whether you’re in the process of launching a marijuana startup, or are a seasoned entrepreneur in the industry already, your marketing efforts need to hook your target demographic immediately. Given the rise of technology and social media, this isn’t as easy as you might think.
In the modern era, people have limited attention spans. If you fail to connect with users right away — poof, they’re gone. Our “swipe left” culture simply does tolerate anything subpar.
In this article, we will discuss the following topics on how to grab people’s attention with cannabis marketing:
- Know your “grab” window
- Adhere to the KISS principle
- Ensure accessibility
- Emphasize important aspects of your product or business
- Make sure your content is engaging
- Rely on effective cannabis marketing channels
- Take advantage of brainstorming tools
Know your “grab” window
Your “grab” window is the amount of time you have to get a customer’s attention. Fail to make that click, and you can kiss a potential sale goodbye.
In 2015, Microsoft performed a rigorous study on the subject and found that as a result of people’s highly digitized lifestyles, the average attention span dropped from 12 to 8 seconds over the course of a 15 year period (2000-2015). One can only imagine what it is today.
To give you some perspective, a goldfish has a 9 second attention span.
To obtain this data, researchers surveyed 2,000 participants and analyzed the brain activity of 112 candidates using electroencephalograms (EEGs).
The study yielded the following additional data:
- Heavy multi-screeners find it difficult to filter out irrelevant stimuli — they’re more easily distracted by multiple streams of media
- People’s overall ability to multitask has improved drastically
- 77% of people between the ages of 18 to 24 said “yes” when asked, “When nothing is occupying my attention, the first thing I do is reach for my phone”
- Only 10% of those 65 or older responded “yes” to the same question
So basically, you have seconds, not minutes to market your cannabis product to a potential customer. And if you don’t move quick enough, a competitor will swoop in and steal your target’s attention.
Now that you are armed with this information, you shouldn’t waste time devising intricate marketing campaigns. Instead, follow the KISS principle.
Adhere to the KISS principle
If you’re new to marketing, you may be intimidated by the process. Many businesses mistakenly think that marketing is a complex beast that needs to be wrangled.
If you’re constantly fighting to get your marketing campaign to work — stop.
Look, there used to be a time when long-winded content was important for gaining traction online. But nowadays, for most companies, clean, concise marketing is the best approach.
To that end, you should adhere to the KISS principle — keep it simple, stupid. Basically, this means that your marketing should be short, sweet, and impactful.
According to the Nielsen Norman Group, people don’t read webpages. They scan them for useful information. So, don’t waste your time with filler.
Instead, create effective cannabis marketing by following the KISS principle like these successful companies:
- Nike — You know the slogan — Just do it. It doesn’t get any simpler than that. Created in 1987 to accompany various TV commercials showing people running, playing basketball, cycling, etc., the slogan quickly became ubiquitous, appearing on T-shirts, billboards, and merchandise. Today, it is inseparable from the Nike brand.
- McDonalds — As attention spans started plummeting, McDonalds took notice. Complicated storytelling commercials were replaced with quick TV spots, and other media advertisements that featured real people enjoying the product. They also used the simple yet effective tagline ‘I’m loving it.” Today, the McDonalds website features bold text with bright colors. Simple phrases like, “Every Day. A Better Day”, “They were one of us” and “Every bite safe and sound” splash across the screen showing that the company understands its audience as well as the current state of the world.
- Instacart — In 2012, when Instacart was just starting out, they used the most ancient and simple marketing strategy of all time: word of mouth. The San Francisco based food delivery company focused on providing a quality service and let their customers spread the word. Today, Instacart is wildly successful and an important part of the post-COVID-19 world.
These brands understand that good marketing need not be complex.
Whether you are selling CBD, oil for vaping, grow tents, bud, topicals, concentrates, or edibles, try to keep your cannabis marketing efforts as simple as possible. If you sense things are getting a bit too convoluted, dial it back and start over if necessary.
Next, you need to ensure ease of use for your website/store or other selling channels. Nothing kills a potential sale like a frustrating experience.
We’ve all been there. You have a coffee, sandwich, shirt, or other product in your hand or in your cart. You want that product. You have every intention of buying that product.
But then something bizarre happens.
The seller drops the ball — they fail to provide you with an accessible, frustration free buying experience.
Here’s the thing. You can grab a person’s attention in 5 seconds. But, if there are any hitches leading up to the purchase point, you can lose the sale no matter how tight your cannabis marketing is or how much the customer may want your product.
Instead, they will simply look for a similar product with a vendor that has a user-friendly shopping experience.
To increase your chances of selling your edibles, topicals, concentrates, etc., ensure accessibility across all selling platforms:
- Website — You don’t need to spend a fortune on web design to be a successful cannabis CEO. But you do need to make sure that your website is user friendly and navigable. Pretend you are one of your customers. Now, type in your website. What do you see? Be honest. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Is it accessible? Easy to use? Are there any snags preventing you from clicking “proceed to checkout”? If not, you’re good to go. But remember to reassess your site’s accessibility constantly to ensure new products, links, pages, have not disrupted operations.
- Social media — Okay, so social media is tricky. You need to abide by the rules and regulations of each channel. However, this does not mean that your social media should be inaccessible. Provide educational information or link to your blog.
- Brick and mortar — If you’re selling through a brick-and-mortar store, the same rules apply. Does your signage explain what you’re selling clearly to your audience? Are your window calls to action accessible to cars driving by? What about foot traffic?
- Mobile app — Depending on your business and location, you might rely on a mobile app. For example, marijuana delivery companies like Eaze and Greenrush, depend heavily on mobile users. Your app needs to be easy to use, fast, and convenient. A buggy app that constantly requires you to login, or re-enter payment information will drive traffic away.
The best marketing strategy in the world is of little use if consumers can’t complete the sale. Remember, when you’re not running your cannabis company, you’re a customer too! Think about how important accessibility is when you’re shopping. Now, tailor the same type of customer experience you want for your audience.
Emphasize important aspects of your product or business
What is the most important feature or benefit of your product/brand/service? Is your topical cream intended for sensitive skin? Are your gummies vegan? Does your oil contain less impurities than other brands? Or maybe you use state of the art grow lights to yield a more potent strain than your competitors.
Emphasize the most important features of your product. If a potential customer sees your marketing campaign, they should know exactly what your “special sauce” is, preferably in 8 seconds or less.
To ensure your audience understands that your rolling papers are organic, that your muffins are gluten free, or that your lip balm is derived from honey, make sure you reiterate the most important aspects of your product across all advertising channels.
Make sure your content is engaging
There used to be a time, at least in the SEO world, when content was king. Nowadays, the crown is shared with link-building. But that doesn’t mean that content is any less important for developing and maintaining an audience.
The key is in the quality of the content you produce for your audience.
Follow these tips to ensure your content is helping you generate business:
- Make sure it is reflective of the current social climate — Before you release any cannabis marketing content on your site, blog, or social media channel, take a look at what’s going on in the world. Is there a pandemic wreaking havoc? Has civil unrest reached new levels? Don’t force a sales pitch during a crisis. Instead, acknowledge major events and explain what your brand is doing in response.
- Only use authentic content — If you can’t think of anything to say, say nothing at all. Silence is better than filler content. It’s okay to sell. People want to buy after all. But respect your customers and be honest about what you want from them.
- Provide entertaining and interesting content — At the end of the day, your content must be interesting or provide valuable information. Otherwise, why should anyone read it? Use bullet lists and infographics whenever possible. Remember, people scan web pages for nuggets of information. If your content is a snooze fest, they’ll hit the back button instead of pulling the scroll wheel.
It may sound counterintuitive, but by focusing less on selling and branding, and more on simply sharing information, you will draw in more customers.
Take a look at skin care and makeup company Glossier’s Instagram feed to get a better idea of how to create engaging content.
The direct-to-consumer brand appears less concerned with sales and more centered on information and the customer experience. This type of organic marketing starts slow, but when combustion occurs, it spreads like wildfire.
Rely on effective cannabis marketing channels
The biggest challenge with running a cannabis business is getting exposure for your brand. Unlike other industries that don’t have to worry about state and federal regulations, cannabis companies have a lot of red tape to get through if they want to advertise their products or business.
Since laws and regulations vary from state-to-state, you’ll want to research what is and isn’t allowed in your area. That being said, 3 of the most effective marketing channels you can rely on to increase exposure and (hopefully) drive sales, include:
- Programmatic advertising — Programmatic advertising relies on algorithms to buy effective display space for your product. In simpler terms, it’s a computer automated process of buying and selling ad space for your company based on specific data. As a result, you only pay for ads delivered to your targeted demographic at the right time. Of course, in order to harness the power of programmatic advertising, you must comply with state and city/town regulations. But it’s definitely worth pursuing since Facebook and Google have restrictions on cannabis advertising. Programmatic advertising lets you buy ad space on other mainstream sites — ESPN, USA Today, HuffPost to name a few — that have no problem with cannabis marketing.
- Email marketing — For entrepreneurs new to the industry, the sheer number of roadblocks in the way of advertising can be disheartening. However, if you can get potential customers to opt-in to your email blasts, you will have a direct avenue to sell/market/advertise your cannabis brand any way you want. A call to action on your website can help gain subscribers, especially if you offer a discount, or BOGO (buy one get one) deal. Alternatively, you can ask customers to sign up during in-store checkouts, with or without a discount incentive. Once you gain subscribers — don’t squander them. Your email marketing should be simple and provide value. For example — This week only half off all CBD Gummies! Free dabbing tool with the purchase of any concentrate select dates only!
- Out-of-home marketing — As cannabis regulations and laws start to ease across the country, more out-of-home (OOH), marketing ads are starting to crop up. OOH ads are vehicle wraps, digital splash screens in cabs, graphics on benches, billboards, etc. A well designed/place OOH ad can be highly effective at grabbing attention for your cannabis brand. However, you must check the regulations on OOH cannabis advertising in your state/town/city. In areas where OOH cannabis marketing is permitted, the rules are pretty straightforward: keep away from schools, never show consumption, NO health claims, include the state disclaimer, no depiction of product. For more information on OOH regulations in your area, check with your local municipality or state government.
These are only 3 effective marketing channels for cannabis. Depending on your location, and the type of product/service you are selling, there may be other opportunities for exposure. For example, some cannabis brands have found success in advertising through SMS as well as paid social and paid search channels. Regardless of where you choose to advertise your business, you must ensure compliance or you risk account closures, fines, and other penalties.
Take advantage of brainstorming tools
Don’t keep every cannabis marketing idea you have in your head — write it down. Even better, use one of the free brainstorming tools online to organize your thoughts and help you boil down overly complicated concepts.
A good brainstorming session has the potential to turn a complex marketing campaign into a tight strategy that adheres to the KISS principle.
Some of the most popular tools for brainstorming include:
- Google docs — It’s free, it’s simple. It’s a digital sheet of paper. That’s it. You can create bulleted lists and share the docs with other members of your team.
- MindMup — If a sheet of paper isn’t structured or snazzy enough for you, try a program like MindMup. This tool allows you to create, share and publish “mind maps” with virtually anyone. It uses a “frictionless interface” and powerful hotkeys to help you get your marketing ideas down as quickly as they pop into your head.
- The ole notepad — You don’t have to be a luddite to pick up a Moleskine and pencil. Simple and secure, it’s better than a napkin.
Many people have great ideas. But they never write them down. Use whatever method you need to ensure your best marketing strategies never leave your mind.
Right now, anything related to cannabis is a hot topic. The industry is doing so well, you might even think of marketing as an afterthought. But with so much success, comes serious competition. And if you’re going to stand out and grab the attention of customers, you need to create snappy, impactful cannabis marketing.
This doesn’t mean you need an in-depth, complicated marketing campaign. Remember — the average person has an 8 second attention span.
On the contrary, the best way to gain traction in the cannabis industry is by creating a simple, accessible, and engaging marketing strategy that shows your audience you’re listening.