Between the onerous state and federal regulations on advertising and an increasingly crowded retail landscape, medical marijuana marketing is a special challenge. But take it from us: With a combination of cutting-edge tools and old-fashioned street smarts, it’s far from an impossible task. In today’s post, we’ll lay out a few of the best practices for those focused on medical marijuana marketing, including:
- Tools to identify your target audience
- Speaking to your audience
- Using your toolkit
Ready to dive in? Let’s explore the special challenges—and great rewards—of marketing medical marijuana.
Medical Marijuana Marketing: Tools to Identify Your Target Audience
All successful endeavors—whether they’re business ventures or personal quests—begin with a moment of clarity. And if you’re in the process of identifying and marketing to an audience, being specific tends to be far more effective than trying—and failing—to be everything to everyone.
As we’ve written before, even retail giants such as Amazon.com began with a simple mission, and they succeeded because they reached the people who were ready to try their service at the right time. Applying this logic to the topic of medical marijuana marketing, let’s start with the central task: Identifying your audience.
Reaching consumers interested in medical marijuana is different than reaching adult-use consumers. Compared with the adult-use sphere, medical marijuana consumers are more likely to make a considered decision as opposed to an impulse buy. They’re more likely to be swayed by authoritative and convincing evidence-based content, rather than an “unbeatable”—and thus possibly unprofitable, from your perspective—offer.
But that still doesn’t tell us who medical marijuana consumers actually are. For that, we’ll have to dive into the world of good old-fashioned market research. We recently published an article on understanding the cannabis consumer landscape. If you missed it the first time, now’s a good time to get acquainted.
In the article, we referenced cannabis consumer demographics courtesy of dispensary technology platform Flowhub. They provide some highly actionable and data-based insights on who uses cannabis and why. One of the key takeaways is that use generational use patterns are remarkably consistent when we compare sales of medical-use and adult-use cannabis.
- Gen Z: 17% medical and adult-use
- Millennials: Ages 42% medical; 48% adult-use
- Gen X: Ages 23% medical; 21% adult-use
- Boomers: Ages 17% medical; 13% adult-use
- Silent Gen: Ages 1% medical and adult-use
Aside from a 6-point disparity among millennials consuming medical vs. adult-use cannabis, there aren’t a lot of notable differences among the generations. (Note: Some analysts believe that many Gen Z’ers with access to a medical marijuana card at age 18 will switch to adult-use marijuana once they’re of legal age, but at this stage that’s largely speculation.)
All in all, this data is great news when it comes to marketing medical marijuana. They indicate that demand—in addition to being at historically high levels—isn’t restricted to specific demographics. But by all means, dig deeper. Look for state- or region-specific studies and surveys—such as this Florida-based paper from 2020—that provide a closer look at actual medical marijuana use patterns.
This last part is important, because even if data suggests that the demand for medical marijuana isn’t strictly age-based, not everyone uses it in the same way. Using consumer-reported data and drawing some logical conclusions, we can begin to segment these specific age groups and demographics.
According to market research by multi-state dispensary chain Verilife, Gen Z and Millennials are more likely to seek out medical marijuana for chronic pain. (Note: We would include anxiety here, through the research categorizes that under “recreational” use.)
Additionally, they might use it to access deeper mindfulness or to combat disorders such as insomnia or depression. By comparison, surveyed Boomers cited arthritis, chronic pain, and cancer as top reasons for using medical marijuana.
In other words, medical marijuana serves many different functions for different people. And that’s a perfect segue into the next section: Speaking to—and even in—the consumer’s voice.
Speaking To Your Audience
When it comes to crafting compelling content, Job #1 is identifying consumer segments and their specific needs and goals. When we’re creating an overall content marketing strategy, this is the first step towards crafting highly targeted and effective appeals that touch people where they live. When we’re talking about medical marijuana marketing, we are—quite literally—saying: “We understand your pain, and we have something we think can help!”
But there’s a way we can go into an even deeper, more granular level. All it requires is a little bit of visualization, and a willingness to inhabit the consumer’s shoes for just a moment. Bear with us, and you’ll come away with a major insight—you can even call it a “superpower”— about how to connect with potential customers and subtly communicate your ability to help solve their problems.
First and foremost, we invite you to think first about your tone: The overall feel of what your marketing content is communicating. Does it convey the qualities we’d seek in a caregiver? These include:
- Compassion and empathy
- Patience and understanding
- Access to valid, evidence-based information
As a marketer of medical marijuana, you occupy a special place: Not a doctor or a clinician, but also not quite a peer. This doesn’t mean that you need to be solemn or grave in your tone, but it’s important to not communicate so informally that your content feels lightweight or trivial. Think of how you’d like to be communicated with if you were seeking relief from a chronic medical condition, and then apply that to your content creation practices.
Are you ready for the “superpower” part? Let’s take this practice one step deeper: If you really want to know what drives the consumers seeking medical marijuana, you needn’t go any further than their own words.
Say what now?
You read that right. Your potential customers are—literally—telling you what they want. And they’re doing it everywhere there’s a forum to share their thoughts and questions about medical marijuana: In the “Reviews” section of GMB profiles, the web pages dedicated to specific medical marijuana products, and booksellers such as Amazon.com.
Here’s an example: Go to amazon.com right now and look up Cannabis Pharmacy, by Michael Backes. Scroll down to the “customer review” section and start reading the reviews. Spend a little time here—it doesn’t really matter if the reviews are positive or negative—and you’ll start to pick up on recurring themes:
“I have osteoarthritis, psoriatic arthritis, fibromyalgia, migraines – and more. And I’m ready to try just about anything.”
“Especially like the details on dosing, not the usual generic ‘take sativa for daytime, indica for sleep’….”
“I needed sound advice for using CBD oil/tincture for anxiety relief, and was hoping that this book would include something.”
These are all actual quotes from the customer reviews for a single book on medical marijuana. These customers are telling you what their problems are, and how you can help solve them. What’s more, longer and more personal reviews will give you valuable insights into what tone of voice might resonate better with specific age groups and demographics.
This is a very specific type of market research, and it demands an investment of time and energy. But take it from us: Focusing on consumers’ wants and needs—and then applying the data-gathering and organizing skills you possess as a skilled marketer—is what sets the best, most effective, and most talked-about (and shared) content.
Using Your Toolkit
We challenge you to try it: Spend some time reading actual customers’ wants and concerns, and then begin writing as if to those specific people. Create customer segments based on their generational traits and conditions, and craft your appeals to them directly. The truth is that marketing anything—not just medical marijuana—works best when it’s specific, clear, and oriented around solving people’s real-life problems.
There’s more to medical marijuana marketing, of course; much more. In addition to creating compelling content, you need to be leveraging all the tools in your toolkit: Powerful branding, effective email campaigns, conversion-oriented SEO, influencer marketing and all the other tricks of the trade.
You can read all about them on our Academy page. Or, if you’re truly ready to get serious, you can take the next step: Reach out. We’ve helped countless dispensaries take their dreams to the next level, and we’d love to help you expand your reach and grow your revenue.