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Ask the Cannabis Expert: Guillermo Bravo, Chief Evangelist, MediaJel – Can Cannabis Companies Advertise Online?

Bridge West Consulting spoke with Guillermo Bravo, Chief Evangelist with MediaJel, to dig into the latest online advertising strategies and tips for cannabis companies. Guillermo is a leading expert in the cannabis industry, and his company, MediaJel, helps cannabis brands, retailers, and communities identify target consumers, execute scalable digital marketing campaigns, and engage in meaningful connections at every stage of the buyer’s journey―from awareness and consideration of purchase to retention and brand loyalty. This blog is a must-read for all cannabis companies!

Please join us for an upcoming webinar with Bridge West CPAs and MediaJel where they will be discussing the Valuation Process for Cannabis Companies. If you would like to attend this free webinar, please sign up here!

Can Cannabis Companies Advertise Online?

The short answer is yes, but there are many misconceptions about cannabis advertising. “Cannabis brands and retailers are under the impression that they cannot advertise, which is not the case. You must be aware of some hurdles that you have to jump through and comply with, such as legal age: some areas can range between 17-21 years of age to purchase cannabis,” Guillermo said.

Guillermo Bravo, Chief Evangelist, MediaJel

It is vital that when you are advertising your cannabis brand online that you are compliant with the state’s advertising regulations. Guillermo recommends reviewing your state’s regulations before starting to advertise your cannabis company online. He also recommends that you speak with an attorney specializing in advertising to ensure you comply with all the regulations in your specific state, and even nationally, to avoid fines that could arise. Fines can occur from cannabis regulators, but also from marketing regulators, so it’s important to verify that you are not conflicting with any laws.

Another part of cannabis advertising online is starting with your assets. The first step is to build a website. If you are managing business-to-business (B2B) lead generation, you need to have your contact forms built-out, clear ‘call to actions’ on the site for visitors, and to invest in search engine optimization (SEO) to build your website’s authority online. This will help to position yourself above your competition, assist with directing leads to your website, and generating sales by targeting the correct markets. This could be different depending on your marketing strategy.

In order of importance, Guillermo says, “B2B is one, cannabis retail is two, and brand is three. For B2B, you’re going to want to encourage people to fill out a form or download an e-book to capture their name, email, and phone number.

For retailers and delivery services, you want to install eCommerce on your website, such as Jane, Dutchie, etc., or any other available platforms.

For retailers, you want to make sure you have clear call to actions on the website to drive users to purchase online.

For brands, it’s about creating brand awareness, and if you have the opportunity, you can do co-marketing campaigns with a partner retailer of yours.”

From this point forward, it is essential to create your marketing strategy, and there are a few different approaches you can implement.  The first is digital presence, which is what MediaJel practices and preaches to its users. After your digital presence is built up, you should focus on your word-of-mouth marketing or out-of-home advertising. Having a combination of these ensures that you have all of your infrastructures in place, e.g., website, eCommerce, a loyalty program. You want to make sure you have a contact form front and center on your website to capture your customer’s information.

Once you put together your foundation and your technology is in place, you can start to create your marketing materials. These could include marketing communications and flyers for mailing campaigns, where you can categorize your customers based on location and send targeted mail to specific customers.

Content strategy is another important part of this process in tandem with an SEO  campaign. You’ll need to create your content strategy to do this properly. This can be a combination of white papers, blog posts, e-books, and anything other content that you think will add value for your clients. If you are a retailer, this could be strain information, top brands, or events happening in your local community. It is important to be active online when building your content strategy, which can be accomplished through email and social media marketing. LinkedIn is effective for B2B, while Instagram is good for business-to-consumer (B2C), so knowing the difference between marketing to consumers on different social media platforms is also very important.

In addition to this, creating an SEO strategy is essential to your marketing process. You want prominence on your website for keywords that you would like to target. You’ll want to create content around these keywords to drive your target market to your website and build authority behind it. SEO can take 3 to 6 months to see results and the impact of your efforts. If you don’t want to wait this amount of time for results, you can invest in SEM (search engine marketing), and pay for advertising on search engines such as Google Ads and Bing Ads. This would work for the same keywords that you are looking to target for organic traffic and SEO. You can use SEM by paying to rank higher in authority in searches and make your content show up above your competitors.

Another way to advertise your cannabis business is to pair SEO with programmatic advertising such as banner ads, video, or audio advertising to display your brand across publications and streaming video services. Using a platform like MediaJel, you can track the effectiveness of these programmatic campaigns. This will help you differentiate how effective one campaign is over the other and which generates the most clicks from users and converts to sales.

“You want to promote and own your assets, especially direct to consumers. Suppose you work with a company such as Leafly or WeedMaps, and you don’t understand what the relationship means. You are essentially leasing customers, which means that you are reaching customers, but all you are doing is getting their information, not ‘owning’ that client. We typically recommend a small budget for these directories, keep it limited, and focus more on investing in your assets. In the end, your goal is to build your customer base and get them into your loyalty program to nurture that relationship and retain that customer,” Guillermo said.

Another step you can take in programmatic advertising is that you can retarget visitors with ads. This will help to remind them that you’re available and to stay top of mind for any user who visits a specific page on your website. When marketing to a customer, it usually takes seven touch points before they take action. In other words, they need to see your brand or company seven times before filling out a form or purchasing online.

Depending on your state, another strategy to look into are deals and discounts you can offer to your customers. If you are a retailer or a cannabis brand, it is highly encouraged that you offer incentives such as 20% to40% off their first order, which gets customers excited to make a purchase.

“The first purchase is significant, so understanding the goal of marketing as a company is to capture customers. Getting them through the door the first time is important, but retaining those customers is really dependent on your budtenders to retain those customers. We recommend anything below $50 is a good return. That customer typically is not going only to purchase one time if you have exceptional customer service and a product catalog with pricing, Guillermo said.

“You should be able to retain that customer and get up to $1,500 of lifetime value from that customer, and this is how over time you get that incremental growth in revenue.”

A few strategies that are not related to digital marketing are out-of-home marketing, including billboards, gas station advertising, restaurants and bars that are 21 years and above, jukebox streaming in bars, and digital billboards in metropolitan areas.

If you do everything right and have a great offering, word-of-mouth is your best investment. Ask your customers to share with friends and family by offering a referral program to incentivize them to share your business with others. Ask current customers for reviews or testimonials because there is nothing more important than your reputation online. MediaJel recommends using Google Reviews because that will help with your presence on Google, which is 93% of where all search traffic is generated in the United States.

Event marketing is another form of cannabis advertising and networking that you can utilize to build your cannabis brand or market your company. Offering webinars to educate your users  is a reliable way to gain new customers. You can also partner with current customers to create product reviews offered by your brand or business. This technique can encourage others to buy the products you offer at your store or through your brand. Creating recommendations on how to use products is also helpful in educating your customer base either through blog posts or video content.

Overall, your marketing strategy it is a fully integrated plan, and you need to invest in everything as if you were any small business.

“Remember that you are selling a product or trying to generate leads, which should be prominent across your website. You should ask for the business, and you’ll be successful if you follow all of these steps,” Guillermo said.

“It is helpful to keep in mind that reporting is an essential part of all these steps to make sure your cannabis business advertising is effective. You should be tracking everything that you’re doing. Make sure that you have Google Analytics on your website, or you can install the MediaJel pixel in your website. You need to track the performance of everything to toggle on and off and reduce budgets on campaigns that aren’t working.”

What is the best and worst social media platform to advertise your cannabis business?

LinkedIn is the friendliest social media platform to cannabis companies regarding digital advertisement and social media marketing. They don’t regulate any content, shut down campaigns, and don’t prohibit any content. LinkedIn  also works well for personal brands if you want to build your followers as a cannabis influencer and share your industry knowledge. It is also suitable for companies and is better for B2B lead generation, but isn’t so good for retailers.

Instagram is B2C which is powerful for cannabis delivery services, retailers, and brands. The problem is that they can shut your account down at any time without a  reason. Many brands and businesses have invested a large amount of money into advertising and content only to be shut down. The same warning applies to Facebook as they are owned by the same company. Twitter is more designed for media and opinion-based items, and it hasn’t been seen as a good platform for cannabis advertising so far.

Guillermo said that another warning to keep in mind when advertising on these platforms is that you cannot post pictures of “drug” usage. The advertising regulations include not posting pictures of people consuming your products, you can’t promote the prices for the cannabis products you are advertising, and you can’t promote ordering online or link your posts to a shopping cart.

Guillermo recommends, “Keep your social media platforms clean. Don’t send anyone links to purchase your products. You need to remember that social media promotes brand awareness, and it’s not used to get people to purchase your products.”

When it comes to advertising on these different platforms, it is essential to know what you can and can’t do in terms of language and regulations across social media. Staying up to date on the policies is important. Following current best practices and regulations, you can’t use cannabis terms in your ads or on your landing pages. In addition, you have to be more conservative on the content that you create for your advertisements.

What is your background?

Guillermo Bravo grew up in Sedona County in Northern California, which is the cannabis capital of the state. He never got into it professionally until a friend  was diagnosed with a brain tumor and given a year to live. She used a combination of cannabis, chemotherapy, and a plant-based diet, and a few other dietary changes in her recovery process. She is still with us today, and  runs her own cannabis dispensary. This experience was the catalyst that encouraged Guillermo to get into this market, and that’s his passion behind it, and wanted to make it easy for people to access cannabis.

Guillermo’s background has always been in digital marketing and advertising, and that was his natural path to begin his journey in the industry. He started with one client in Washington state, and after that, he started to build referrals and gain a reputation in the market. He was focused on building content and educating people in the cannabis industry as there wasn’t any information on marketing a cannabis business or brand when he first started.

The advertising space was empty, so he envisioned creating a marketing software that would make it easy for retailers and brands to reach customers. The end goal was to make it easier for people, which is why MediaJel is designed the way it is. Their in-house staff make sure their clients are compliant with their state’s rules and regulations and help clients with all their digital advertising and make it easy to understand their strategy and reporting. Many people in the space are busy running their stores are usually not proficient in marketing or have the time for it. MediaJel’s primary goal is to make this easy to understand, see the results, and share this information with management and the owners.

In his free time, Guillermo enjoys yoga and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

We Can Help.

If you own a cannabis business or are thinking about starting a cannabis business, we’d like to help. Bridge West Consulting’s team of highly skilled and seasoned cannabis industry consultants and advisors is ready to guide you through this exciting and challenging landscape. Feel free to reach out to us anytime to schedule a consultation.