Dispensary Marketing

Cannabis Dispensary Digital Marketing Strategies

You’re no doubt familiar with the adage popularized by “Field of Dreams,” the classic baseball film starring Kevin Costner: “Build it, and they will come.” While that advice may work for building a baseball field, it doesn’t work in the cannabis industry (or any other highly competitive industry).

Like all entrepreneurs, dispensary owners need to promote and market. Promote or perish, as they say.

Because the Feds (frustratingly) continue to classify cannabis as a Schedule I drug (deemed as dangerous as heroin), most major media properties do not allow businesses in our industry to advertise on their sites.

Sure, that presents challenges. But, nothing a little persistence or creativity can’t overcome. And, the landscape is changing. As companies adjust to laws while recognizing opportunity, it shouldn’t be too long before opportunities open up.

Nonetheless, even being in a tightly regulated industry, there are opportunities abound! Cannabis dispensary marketers are fortunate to have a wide array of digital marketing tools at their disposal.

What Is Digital Marketing and How Can It Help Your Cannabis Dispensary?

Digital marketing encompasses all web-based or electronic communication between you — the brand — and your audience. Given the prominence of digital channels — particularly the importance search, social media, and mobile — people are consuming more digital media and less traditional media.

While traditional forms of promotion are unlikely to disappear (and many continue to be successful for dispensaries), it’s critical that digital strategies feature prominently in your overall marketing plan.

Traditional vs. Digital Marketing

Here’s how some traditional marketing techniques compare to digital:

  • Billboard/Outdoor: To launch an effective billboard or outdoor promotional campaign, make sure to target locally to the dispensary; this can include traditional billboards, digital billboards, buses, taxis, pedicabs, etc. When it comes to traditional marketing, many cannabis dispensaries find this tactic to provide one of the highest ROIs in their marketing arsenal.
  • Radio: Marketing a cannabis dispensary on the radio can prove problematic, not just because of legal restrictions, but you’ll only be able to track the total number of impressions, which can make tracking ROI a monumental challenge.
  • Print: Using print media can quickly become expensive, without yielding significant results. If you consider print, it’s best to limit your efforts to local alternative media which tend to be less expensive, less restrictive, and can be effective (although hard to measure).
  • Word-of-Mouth: Clearly, one of the most effective strategies as people trust what friends and family tell them. Word-of-mouth may technically be traditional, but more often than not, now takes place on social media.

The greatest challenges with traditional media include the murky legal landscape, and that traditional media strategy are often hard to track.

How Does Digital Marketing Connect Customers to Dispensaries?

Here are a few of the foundational tools that are essential for any cannabis dispensary marketing program:


Your website is the flagship of your digital media presence and your brand. As such, investing in your website to ensure it is valuable for your audience while representing your brand effectively is vital to your success.

A few key considerations to keep in mind include:

  1. Make your website mobile-ready: Dispensary patrons are increasingly likely to access your site through Google, or a directory site like Weedmaps or Leafly, on their phones. So you need to make sure your website is responsive, meaning it’s built for desktop and mobile devices.
  2. Build your website, so it’s focused on conversions: By conversions, we mean converting visitors to paying customers (and keeping them as loyal customers). A high-value, user-friendly website will include:
    1. Menu: Showcase all of your products in a manner that’s easy for visitors to find what they’re looking for. Make sure your menu is accurate and up-to-date!
    2. Deals page: People love promotions! Use special deals and offers to motivate your customers (and potential customers).
    3. Map & Directions: Customers need to find you, right? Add a link to your Google Maps listing so customers can get directions instantly. Seems obvious, but you might be surprised at how many dispensary websites either neglect including a map or make it difficult to find directions to their store.
    4. Contact Information: Make it easy for customers to get in touch with you via email or phone.
    5. Blog: Maintaining a blog allows you to give a voice to your brand while educating your audience. You can blog on a wide variety of topics that will help you connect with your customers, from strain reviews to 101 guides (e.g. Dabbing 101, Safely Consuming Edibles 101, etc.)
    6. Directory Listings: Getting reviews for your dispensary is important for credibility, word-of-mouth, and even Google. Make sure you include links to popular directories like Leafly, Weedmaps, and even Yelp, to make it easy for people to leave reviews.
    7. Social Media: Add links to social media accounts. At a minimum include Facebook and Twitter, but other channels — such as MassRoots, Pinterest, Youtube, Google+, Instagram — can be effective, too. Note: Don’t spread yourself too thin. Most social media traffic still comes from Facebook, so don’t try to do too many social channels at the expense of maintaining your Facebook presence. Generally speaking (unless you have a social media manager), focus most of your energy on just a few social channels so that you don’t dilute your efforts.

Email Marketing

Leverage email marketing to maintain regular contact with your customers:

Make sure to build your email list and keep in contact with your community by regularly sending out relevant email communications with your audience. This may include sending out tips and tricks, promotions (if legal in your state or locale), or a weekly newsletter.

Remember, effective email marketing enables you to build loyalty, trust, and brand awareness.

Mobile Marketing

We mentioned that mobile marketing is vital for your website to be responsive; we’ve found that 70% of visitors to our client websites are using a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet to access the site. But, mobile doesn’t end with your website.

Other effective mobile tactics may include:

Search Marketing

Search marketing or Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the visibility of a website on organic (“natural” or un-paid) Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs), by incorporating search engine friendly elements into your site.

Note: Think of SERPs as not only Google’s search results page, but like real estate.

  • How many properties do you want?
  • How many chances do you want to get a customer’s business?

You want your website, directory listings, videos, and social media accounts to show up on the homepage of Google — so it’s important to have everything to ensure Google picks you up and ranks your site high in their search results.

Google, of course, continues to own search, but fortunately, if you employ best practices for Google, you’ll rank well for other search engines, too. Google continually updates its algorithm to make it harder to “game,” while delivering more relevant results. Overall, this is a good thing, but it also requires keeping abreast of changes to ensure you maintain high rankings.

Here are a few important considerations:

  • Local Pack: What is Google’s local pack and why does it matter? When people did a local search, Google used to feature seven businesses. Now they feature just three. The “three pack” (obviously) means that fewer cannabis dispensaries are featured, meaning less visibility if you’re not ranking in the top three (which may also rotate). Also, to ensure you rank highly in the “Google Pack,” follow these steps:
    • Claim your Google My Business (if you haven’t already). Beyond being essential for local SEO, you can use Google My Business to track customer actions, impressions, and demographics.
    • Continue earning positive “reviews” on directory sites (especially on Google)
    • Confirm your opening and closing hours are correct on your website and directories.
    • Confirm your NAP (name, address, phone number) are accurate and consistent across your website and all external sites (like directories).

Content Marketing

Content marketing is huge! Content marketing is a key tool to help build your brand and loyalty with your customers. Create and share “remarkable” content to stimulate interest in your brand. Make sure the information is relevant, useful, and digestible. You can create blogs and guides; make sure to use images (original if possible), videos, and other media.

Mobile Applications

Apps overlap with directories. But, high traffic sites like Leafly and Weedmaps also provide mobile apps that cannabis consumers use to search on strains and dispensaries.

Make sure you’re listed with the two most popular apps:

  • Leafly: With nearly 7.5 million visitors per month, Leafly is the most popular cannabis resource on the web. If you’re not already listed on Leafly, click here to sign for free.
  • Weedmaps: Weedmaps is the second most trafficked cannabis resource on the web and the top mobile app. To set up your listing, you’ll first need to set up an account. Click here to get started with Weedmaps.

Other apps to consider include:

Cannabis Websites and Ad Networks

There are ad networks like Adistry and Mantis where you can purchase display advertising based on metro area. Ad networks allow you to purchase inventory across relevant sites that can appear on mobile, desktop, text, video, and the web. Campaigns are billed at a cost-per-click, known as a CPC, or cost-per-1000-views, known as CPM.

You can also purchase inventory (e.g. display advertising) directly from cannabis-focused lifestyle sites like Dope Magazine, Culture, Herb.co, and High Times.

Online Reputation Management (ORM)

You’ve no doubt you’ve come across some bad reviews of your competitors, or you’ve seen negative comments in forums, social media, or other places about various brands in the space. Your reputation is everything and affects everything from word-of-mouth to search strategies. So it’s important you closely follow your brand’s reputation online by monitoring and responding to reviews, tagged photos, blog posts, and other social media interactions.

For more guidance on digital marketing, visit Foottraffik’s resource center to learn more

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