Do you have a local cannabis business? Want an effective way to market to people who are near you?
The Importance of Mobile
In 2017, every cannabis business should focus on mobile, especially businesses with physical locations and a local audience.
Mobile is important because people always have their devices by their side. For example, when someone takes their daughter to volleyball practices in different towns, you use Waze on your phone to get directions. Then after dropping her off, you go to Yelp to find a coffeehouse or asks Google or Siri to find the nearest supermarket so you can go shopping. While you wait in line, you explore Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram; play a game; or read a news article. This is mainstream stuff and mainstream is consuming cannabis.
Because people are always on their phones, local cannabis businesses can attract customers who are looking for information on the go and making immediate decisions. If those people are in your area, you can capture their business with a strong mobile presence.
Mobile Offers and SMS Messages
To engage people on mobile, you can create mobile offers, which are being redeemed at 10 times the rate of old print coupons.
Mobile offers take many forms. You can run a Facebook campaign on mobile (obviously, you must be very creative to get this approved in the cannabis industry but it is doable), promote an offer that’s available on a mobile device, or tell people they can download a deal onto their phones and show it at the counter. Another option is SMS text messaging.
SMS offers work a lot like email marketing. For example, a dispensary can send people discounts. A dispensary near me can give customers who opt into SMS text messages first dibs on discount times for special promotions.
To send SMS marketing messages, you start by finding an SMS marketing vendor in your area. These vendors work similarly to email marketing vendors, such as MailChimp, Constant Contact, AWeber, and smaller local players. Your vendor assigns you a short code and customers opt into your SMS messages by texting that code and confirming they want to receive your messages. A dispensary may tell customers, “Text cannabis to 004400.”
After you’re set up to send messages, you can start building your SMS marketing list. People will sign up to receive messages only if you offer an incentive for signing up. For a cannabis business, that incentive might be a discount, a free gram, or free delivery. Promote your SMS list on your social media profiles, website, flyers, and product packaging (if you have your own label or brand).
You can expect a smaller but more engaged audience for your SMS messages. Fewer people will opt in, but right now those who do are much more likely to look at their text messages immediately. Engagement with SMS messages may drop off if people become overwhelmed with text messages, but currently SMS is still new and can be a boon to a local business.
I treat my phone number as my last bastion of privacy so you need to be very respectful of your customers’ boundaries when you send SMS messages.
Keep your targets’ schedules in mind when timing your messages. To keep people from unsubscribing from your list, be careful about the frequency and length of messages. Limit messages to 160 characters, which is the original size of a text message. Otherwise, certain platforms will split your message into multiple texts. Timing is also critical. If you want people to stop by your dispensary on the way home, you need to understand exactly when customers start making those decisions.
A CRM (customer relationship management) database can help you manage SMS marketing. For example, if someone who opted in hasn’t bought anything from you in three or six months, that timeframe can be a trigger that automatically sends that customer a text message or email reminder about your cannabis business.
Social Media and Mobile
Social media platforms can be a great way to reach a local audience without asking for anyone’s phone number. The popular social media platforms were either made for mobile (like Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram) or have been overhauled so that they feel native (like Facebook). Even LinkedIn has a decent mobile experience these days.
For organic reach, you can create content directly on these platforms or with any number of cool apps. For example, Ripl is an app for creating interesting images that can help your content get noticed. However, you can’t rely solely on organic reach; ads are important as well.
To target mobile ads to people in a certain location, you can use three techniques: geofencing, geotargeting, and beaconing.
Geofencing is like a virtual line around a geographic space. As soon as someone enters or leaves your defined area, you can show them ads or offers. To receive these offers, someone must have downloaded an app with these capabilities or be surfing the web.
For example, if you have a local trimming service, you could set up a geofence around the county you are in. As soon as people (with their devices enabled) come into that geofenced area, you can show them an ad with a deal.
To build the fence, you typically work with a third-party vendor that specializes in geofencing. (To find one, try searching for “geofence app.”)
Snapchat is a popular app with geofencing capabilities. For example, you can offer a Snapchat filter in a certain location, such as a conference or in your trim shop, to advertise your services. However, you need to know that your audience is using Snapchat and then let customers know the filter is available.
Incentivizing people can increase engagement with a Snapchat filter. Incentives are especially beneficial when you’re asking people to participate in new activities.
If geofencing is a blunt instrument with straight lines, geotargeting is a much more nuanced tool with fuzzier lines. Start with a geographic area such as a state, 50 miles within a city, or a zip code. Then, within that area, you target potential customers based on additional information.
If your business draws customers mostly from the immediate area, geotargeting can help you target potential customers in that area. For example, if you have a testing lab, you can probably limit your ad to your local area, target only growers, and maybe focus on those within the extraction space. Another option is to upload your email list to Facebook and then target people within 25 miles of your city. You can also limit your ad to mobile users. Again, it’s tricky getting any Google or FB ad approved within the cannabis space.
Take a wide area and add specific criteria to geotarget your ideal customer. If you can target the dispensary next door, you would use geofencing. I have heard examples of a neighborhood dispensary geofencing the Starbucks across the street, telling customers they would receive half-price coffee by showing the ad.
Beaconing has a very small range, such as in-store displays, because it uses Bluetooth technology. For example, a big-box store might have a Bluetooth-enabled kiosk that can send messages to customers as they walk by. To receive these messages, a person needs to have a special app or surf a website that taps into the ad network. Or you can tell people they’re in a beaconing area, and if they want more information about something, they can click a button.
Local search is critical for a local business.
These days, Google serves customized results based on who you are, your search history, your location, and the intent someone on mobile or a desktop might have. For example, on a mobile device, you’re more likely to see the “snack pack,” which is a map and three location listings followed by the option to see more locations.
Small businesses with physical locations and a geographically targeted audience need to do everything they can to get into that snack pack, which appears above the organic listings. Even if your business is number one in the organic listings, the snack pack makes your number-one ranking less important.
The top three results (a.k.a. the “snack pack”) appear above the organic listings. To get into the snack pack, standardize your name, address, and phone number (sometimes called the NAP) online. For some reason, Google struggles when you abbreviate street as “St.” in one place and “St” in another, and spell out “Street” in a third. Make sure your company name, address, and phone number are identical everywhere: on your website, on all of your social media sites, and on all listings in online yellow pages.
Companies such as Moz.com (a paid local search service) and Yext have made this process easier. For instance, Moz tells you where you have duplicates and which information is wrong. Then you do a “claim and cleanse.” In this process, you prove you’re the business owner and then clean up your results for consistency. After you own that listing, you can add photos, clean up how your business is categorized, and more.
Positive reviews that accumulate organically can also help your business appear in the snack pack. The three critical review sites are Google, Yelp, and TripAdvisor. (Note: You’re not supposed to ask people for reviews on Yelp; you can only tell customers they can find you on Yelp.)
I, personally, never opt to see more choices than the snack pack. If your business doesn’t appear in the top three, it’s basically invisible in local search results. The snack pack is a big deal for local businesses, so get there!