Cannabis Direct Mailer Advertising: A Secret Weapon in a Restrictive Marketing Environment

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There are a lot of high-tech ways of reaching consumers: PPC campaigns, SMS messaging, even using offbeat social media platforms like Snapchat and Clubhouse. But given the highly restrictive environment for marketing cannabis businesses, there’s one very old-fashioned approach you shouldn’t count out: Cannabis direct mailer advertising.

While you’d assume these “direct mail” advertisements have faded against the backdrop of digital advertising, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. According to media distribution company MSpark, in the grocery industry, for example:

“75% of shoppers rely on advertising circulars to compare prices; 60% of shoppers prefer to receive their circulars in print format.”

But there’s another inconvenient truth about marketing dispensaries that should make you reconsider cannabis direct mailer advertising: With the largest legal cannabis market in the world having cracked down on cannabis billboard marketing, the landscape for getting out the word about your dispensary just shrank even more. 

It’s anticipated that similar legislation and lawsuits will be filed in other states, too. What should you do about it? Water always finds a way to flow around the rock, they say. 

Cannabis Direct Mailer Advertising: Beginnings and Evolution

Successful advertising depends in large part upon being in the right place, at the right time, with the right message. Once upon a time, direct mailers were one of the very few places where advertisers could collect impressions outside shop signs or banners painted—literally!—on walls in urban areas.

In the United States, direct mailer advertising predates…well, the United States. According to British advertising firm Central Mailing, in the 18th century, colonists in the New World could expect to get garden and seed catalogs by mail. But it wasn’t until 1872—with entrepreneur Aaron Montgomery Ward’s invention of the mail-order business—that the format really came into its own. 

Nor is the digital marketing revolution the first time analysts have predicted the death of direct mail. A century ago, radio was the big new technology on the horizon; television found wide acceptance in the decades following the Second World War. And yet direct mail continues to be a hugely viable marketing channel for any number of industries.

Think cannabis marketing has no place here? We respectfully disagree. Many of our clients have generated surprisingly high response rates using carefully designed and targeted cannabis direct mailer advertising campaigns. The key—as with any outreach effort—is on using your tools cleverly and effectively. Here’s how.

Response to a Changing Landscape

California’s ruling banned cannabis billboard advertising along interstate highways. But long before that, it was clear that dispensaries and other cannabis businesses were going to be operating in a highly restrictive environment. 

The main concerns surrounding the state’s decision had to do with the indiscriminate nature of traditional billboard advertising. Advertisers have no control over who sees such ads, whether viewers are underage or reside in states where cannabis remains illegal (and thus, lawyers could argue, are being induced by such advertisements to cross state lines in order to find it).

From an advertiser’s point of view, the “shotgun approach” inherent in billboard advertising speaks to an equally urgent problem: It’s impossible to track the effectiveness of a billboard campaign, other than offering estimates of how many impressions a given billboard receives per day.

Cannabis direct mailer advertising offers an alternative to both these issues. Rather than blanketing an entire geographic area, such as a whole city, our experience is that focusing on specific neighborhoods—and cross-referencing your mailing list by customer attributes—produces strong results. 

For example: Does your dispensary cater to affluent and sophisticated consumers with a high education level around the use of cannabis for specific outcomes? Focus on the smaller number of consumers who fit this bill, and you’ll likely see your response rate go up when compared with a broader, less targeted (and more expensive) campaign.

If you’ve done careful market research—collecting or purchasing granular demographic, income, and other stats—it’s possible to construct a campaign with fairly striking accuracy and superior response rates. How high can that number go? The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) reports that:

“Direct mail household response rate is 5.1% (compared to .6% email, .6% paid search, .2% online display, .4% social media).” 

There’s another, equally important facet to cannabis direct mailer advertising targeting: Staying compliant. If you’re not careful about whom you’re sending to, you could find yourself in very hot water indeed. If you want to get the most from this powerful and underutilized marketing channel, be careful, be conscientious, and be smart. If you haven’t watched it already, we urge you to check out our recent webinar on the topic of acquiring carefully vetted consumer lists targeted to your geographic area and legal age restrictions

checking for cannabis direct mailer advertising

Cannabis Direct Mailer Advertising: Recipes For Success

Beyond the issue of targeting cannabis direct mailers, what other factors contribute to a campaign’s overall success? 

Design: The look of a mailer may not be the single most important factor in its success, but it’s a big one. Make sure the look is clean, professional and functional. Colors and design elements should tie in to your existing brand identity. What’s more, according to the ANA, they affect response:

“Adding a person’s name and full color in the direct mail can increase response by 135%.”

Above all, the successful mailers we produce here at Foottraffik are designed to be uncluttered. Even with this unusual ad format, you still have only a few seconds to capture a potential customer’s attention. Make sure you’re delivering your pitch simply and succinctly for maximum effect.

Copy: Again, short and sweet is the rule here. Whether you’re delivering a time-sensitive deal or a “Welcome, neighbors!” pitch to announce a new location, you’ll want to get to the point quickly. That means having a focused goal for your campaign, be it selling a specific product, driving opt-ins to your loyalty program, or sharing your entire menu via a QR code.

Especially if you’re introducing consumers to a new business, a direct mailer can have a dramatic effect. According to the ANA:

“40% of consumers try a new business after receiving direct mail.

Cannabis Direct Mailer Advertising: Best Practices

Speaking of QR codes, the use of such tools is a great way to track the effectiveness of your campaign. Because these codes are specific to each mailer campaign, they allow you to collect valuable stats on the effectiveness of your outreach.

But here’s a catch: You need to be using Google Analytics to truly unlock the value in all your marketing efforts, not just mailers. Analyzing your results gives you insights into crucial factors like revenue attribution and return on ad spend (ROAS). Too many businesses—dispensaries included—aren’t making use of the powerful (and free!) tool.

Need a little guidance in this department? Give us a call or drop us a line today to set up a conversation. We’d love to help you make use of this “secret weapon” in the ever-evolving struggle to bring cannabis marketing into the future.