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How to create content marketing that sells in the cannabis industry

There are plenty of self-proclaimed content marketing experts around these days. The only thing these experts have ever seemed to market, however, is themselves.

Will this content marketing thing work in the cannabis industry? I think, fundamentally, the way people understand content marketing and the way that it’s taught is completely screwed up. Thus, the way that it’s defined is screwed up. Because if you look at the way that it’s defined, it’s generally “marketing speak.” And because it’s marketing speak, sales teams and leadership teams in organizations can’t get their arms around it.

In other words, there’s never been a CEO in the cannabis space that says, “I want to be the greatest content marketer in the world.” They don’t say that. The way that we define it really matters. If I’m teaching a group, especially a group of CEOs, I define it this way:  Content marketing is your company’s ability to be the best and most helpful teachers in the world at what you do — online and off.

I think this is critical. But yet, any marketer that hears that is going to cringe and say, “I hate that.”

Here’s what I know: If somebody views content marketing as teaching and solving someone’s problem, and you say to that person, “Okay, is great teaching, communication, and solving your customers’ problems going to be relevant to your business in 20 or 50 or even 100 years?” Most are going to say, “Yeah, absolutely.” But if you say, “Is content marketing going to be relevant to your business in 20 years?”, they’re probably going to say, “I don’t know. It’s a fad. It’s a phase.” Whatever that thing is.

Words matter, in and out of our cannabis space, and the way that we teach it and describe it matters. I think the reason why this message has resonated at all for me is because I never tried to sound smart with any of this stuff. Like the saying goes, “The moment you try to sound smart is the moment you begin to look stupid.” I just want people to say, “Okay. Now I got it. Now it makes sense.”

With my content, presented to this industry, I appreciate the fact that people are thinking things like, “Look, this is a very ethical, highly useful approach to marketing. It’s an educational approach to marketing.” That’s what marketing is. But if you’re afraid of the word marketing or selling, I don’t know why you’re in business. It doesn’t make any sense. Essentially, we all are in this position of asking people for their money. That’s what we are doing. If we’re going to do that, we better do whatever it takes to earn their trust. There is power behind that word “trust”- no matter who is reading this, it’s the one tie that binds all of us together.

In the simplest terms it means no “light” trust. But people fail at trust. There’s this lingering feeling that you have to withhold information to have leverage over the buyer. The buyer’s in charge. The Internet changed that. For 20 years at least people have been saying, “I don’t need to talk to a salesperson quite yet — if ever.”

Building trust through disarmament

Psychology impacts our copy. When I say “our copy,” I’m talking about the words we use in communication in text, video, audio — whatever it is. When we begin to teach and somebody knows that ultimately it’s our goal to sell them, there is a part of them that is thinking, “All right. When’s the BS meter going to go up? When are they going to get biased? When are they going to try to schlep me here with whatever it is that they’re going to try to sell me?” We, as great communicators, have to do whatever it takes to immediately make somebody feel safe and lean in – physically lean in and say, “Huh. These guys are different.” The cannabis industry has yet to learn this.

Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. Of course, the philosophy is “they ask, you answer.”

If I was doing a video, or if I was doing an article — whatever  it ‘s about— I might sound like this: “Every year we get asked by hundreds of people, ‘Alright, be honest, tell me why I should choose digital marketing over print?’ Well, you’ve got to understand a few things first. Number one, we only do digital marketing. Furthermore, we understand that digital marketing isn’t necessarily the best fit for everyone. In fact, there are times when print marketing is the better option. What this article, or what this video’s going to do, is show you the pros and the cons of both types of marketing. Then by the end, you’ll be able to decide which is the best for you.”

That is the principle of disarmament. It is getting rid of all the elephants in the room so that they say, “Dead on. She is totally being real with me right now, and therefore I trust this gal and I trust this company.” They start to listen.

Why businesses should not be afraid to run the wrong people off

Running someone off is a legitimate thing. It shows that you’re a straight shooter, but it’s also weeding out people you don’t want to spend any time with. That’s my next thing — the bad fits. Look, whether you want to call it authenticity or core values, you choose your audience. You choose your prospects. I think the first mindset is, “Let’s sell to everyone on the planet,” and then.. you sell to no one.

Number two, you’re afraid of offending someone. Guess what? In this day and age and industry, I don’t care what you say, you’re going to offend someone if you even express a belief of anything. Who cares? That actually connects better with the people you want to attract as customers. You always talk about, read about, or hear about all these people saying, “Know who you are.”

Finding who you are, your company culture and your mission statement — all that stuff is nice. But I’m here to tell you that business sucks until you learn to say “no.” You can’t say “no” until you know who you don’t want to do business with, or what services or products you don’t want to offer. This comes from knowing who you’re not a good fit for.

The moment you know who you’re not a good fit for, now you have the power to say “no.” That’s powerful. I’ll tell you something else — this is for myself and a huge number of our clients — one of the highest converting pages of your website that almost nobody reading this has on their website is the page that says, “Who we are not a good fit for.”

Incredibly effective. When you say who you’re not, those that do fall in your category and under your umbrella now become dramatically more attracted to you, to your service, to your unique differentiators, whatever that thing is. There’s so many different ways to do this. But the companies that own it are happier because they’re not doing the thing that drags them down.

Companies have problems for two reasons: they took on bad customers, or they took on bad employees. It always has to do with fit – always. You get rid of those two issues, the cannabis professional’s life is good.

I think we’ve got good clients and I think we’ve got great employees. But we aren’t afraid to be us. We don’t go on — well, not normally –naked political rants, but people generally have a feel for where we are. Even the stories you choose to tell exposes your views on this growing cannabis industry.

Here’s the reality: Cannabis consumers aren’t dumb. They are going to find out. The company or the brand that’s willing to say, “They’re not stupid, they’re going to find out, so we may as well be the one that leads the conversation.” So much of this battle that we’re in, in terms of branding, is just being able to take part in the conversation. It doesn’t mean that you have to have the best thing, be the best one, or this or that. But you are there. You are present. You have a part in the conversation. If you do that, you’re going to be more successful.

The corollary to that is interesting in certain fields. The reason they don’t buy from you is not that they chose someone else, it’s that they didn’t have the confidence to think your business could solve their problem. You need to  answer that question, or overcome that objection. This is something that happens all the time. People don’t really understand who they’re talking to. They see it from their perspective as a seller without realizing the pain or the angst or the objections of the buyer.

If you ask somebody, “When you go to a website, are you more concerned about your issues, concerns, worries, and problems, or are you more concerned about the company that you’re visiting?” Everybody says, “Yeah, I just care about myself.” Yet, notwithstanding, for 90 plus percent of all websites, as soon as you go there, you have the question: What are they talking about?

They are talking about themselves. They’re not talking about the problems they solve. Everything comes down to the problems that you have solved.

Content creation advice for small businesses and solo-prenuers

A lot of our listeners are smaller businesses – solo-preneurs – leveraging technology in the cannabis space. You can’t outsource a vision, so my advice for the smaller people in that regard varies. Do they have to create the content themselves, or is it okay for them to learn strategy and manage execution with the help of others?

In a perfect world, you do have help. The problem is, your content really does represent the soul of your business. Sometimes when we outsource it, boy, does that soul start to look like a completely different person, a different entity, a different body. I would venture to say that you as the leader, unless you’re very engaged, you don’t have to be turning out blog posts late at night. You don’t have to be the one that’s always on the video. But unless you’re very aware and involved in that storytelling, in that content production process, there’s a good chance you’re never going to stand out.

You’ve got so much of the Internet police who are saying, “If it’s not amazing, if it’s not great, if it’s not awesome, or if somebody else has already said it, don’t do it. Don’t write it. Don’t produce it.” I fundamentally don’t believe that. I think we’ve all got to learn to crawl before we walk – I went through that phase.

Yes, if you can get somebody to do it for you that really is with you, that’s wonderful. If you’ve got a team, even better. If you have a team, if you have employees — daggone, they’re already doing “they ask, you answer.” They’re already producing emails and answering customers’ questions all day long, probably. Leverage what’s in their head and get it up on the screen. You might need some help. You might need a content manager, per se, or somebody like that. Yes, you’ve got to do it. It might be you late at night, or it might be your team.

But I can tell you, despite the fact that it’s 2017 and despite the fact that there’s billions of pages of content out there, the majority of businesses still don’t think like this. The majority still aren’t good teachers. Heck, there’s a huge portion of cannabis company CEOs that still don’t even know what the phrase “content marketing” means.

Make something worth paying attention to, and then people are more receptive to the fact that you may have something related to sell to them.

If you say it but don’t show it, “it” doesn’t exist

There is so much of this kind of conundrum in our space. I have a couple of philosophies about this. The first philosophy is this: I think we’re at the point that if we just say it but we don’t show it, “it” doesn’t exist. The reason for that is everybody else is probably saying “it” too. Case in point – tell me a company that doesn’t say, “It’s our people that make us different.” At this point everybody believes it’s their people that make them different, therefore, they all have special people that work for them. That may or may not be true.

If everybody is saying it in this industry, then what does it mean? It means nothing until you show the thing. Plus, the reason why video’s such a major focus is because everything we’re talking about comes down to selling. It comes down to earning enough of their trust that they will say, “Hmm, okay. I will give you my money.” In terms of great teaching and in terms of earning that trust on the front end, video’s dramatically better than text. Why? Do you realize how many salespeople are out in the marketplace right now, and the first time the prospect sees their face or hears their voice is when they have that first sales meeting? That, fundamentally, is flawed to the max — especially in 2017 and beyond.

By this point in time, if we can help it, before we arrive at Starbucks or to that office for that sales appointment — whatever that thing is — they should have seen our faces, they should have heard our voices, they should have listened to our teachings. When we get there like that with them, we’re already way down in the funnel because they get us, they respect us, they like us and trust us.

Is video necessary for digital entrepreneurs?

Sometimes we get sick of stats. And I know you have heard this one. But the stat that I’m obsessing about right now is the one that says by the year 2019, which is basically 22 months away from right now, 80 percent of the content consumed online is going to be video or visually-based content. I just think my gosh, now, even if it takes a little bit longer than that, if that is true, am I setting up my business so that it is consistent with what the buyer wants? The big part of “they ask, you answer” — it goes so much further than, “answer their questions,” because it’s also includes addressing their needs and wants. Part of that is, “How do they want to buy?”

If somebody wants to buy in a way that they say, “I just want to feel comfortable with this company before I give them my money,” what’s going to allow them to feel the most comfortable? If they see a face and a voice behind simple words and behind copy. Now in your case, you’ve got this huge advantage because you’ve got this amazing foundation, you’ve got this amazing brand – that’s a little bit of a different story. But if somebody gets into the game now, then I would argue yes, they have to be ready to get into doing videos. Frankly, those that are figuring out video today are going to be primed to possibly figure out virtual tomorrow.

But I know everybody’s like, “Oh come on, Celeste, virtual …?” It’s the reality. It’s a way that we’re going to learn. It’s happening right now. It’s going to happen more often. That’s why I am all-in on video, because I want to be ready for virtual reality when the stuff hits the fan. It’s starting to happen.

That’s the goal. I think it’s going to be possible. This applies to everything. Everything we’re talking about is just as service-based, it’s just as B2B-based as it is B2C. The cannabis companies that recognize the consistent principles across the board will be the ones that tie it all together and say, “Oh yeah, I see the application. Yeah, we’re a human business. Yeah, we’ve got to be more human than ever.”

Celeste MirandaCeleste Miranda

Celeste Miranda

Dedicated to what she does and successful in her savvy business-minded ventures, Celeste Miranda is an entrepreneur, author, founder and CEO of Miranda Marketing Labs and The Cannabis Marketing Lab. Undertaking the critical challenges of marketing an emerging industry, Miranda opened a specialized division focused on providing businesses with innovative and affordable marketing strategies. Since then, The Cannabis Marketing Lab has become a highly regarded organization in Cannabis related ventures. Comprised of a 16 person team, Celeste’s staff has years of experience and expertise in a myriad of areas such as Social Media, Search Engine Optimization, Graphic & Web Design, Creative Content Production, Advertising, PR and much more. Celeste can be reached at [email protected]

This Post Has 4 Comments
  1. What is this I have just read…or fallen asleep to, rather? The incoherent ramblings of a self-obsessed, “cannabis marketing
    professional”…..please

    1. I disagree, though it was a bit long winded, it wasn’t incoherent nor did it come across as self obsessed.

      If her “about me” blurb at the end comes across as “self obsessed” then that’s understandable since that blurb is meant to explain why this person is worthwhile to listen to. Who are YOU again?

      What I saw was what people seem to have forgotten here on the internet, that real communication and information transfer does not happen in 140 characters or less.

      Karen, you seem like a particularly rude and ignorant person, quite possibly even a direct competitor of the author. IF you are in the cannabis-touching business sphere, then it gives me hope for the future of my own cannabis business endeavors.

      1. bbarakti, thank you very much! These articles I do take time I really don’t have, but as long as they can help so many people that call my office, I will continue to do them. There is so much jealousy and haters out there, that I no longer take it personal, rather it’s a compliment. Sometimes people feel as though they need to take someone down in order to move themselves up. Personally, I don’t concern myself with what other industry marketers do, as I’m busy enough just taking care of my own staff and clients, constantly working to make us better and our services valuable. I’m the least “self promoting” person you will find, but that wasn’t really the target of the above comment. You hit the message of the article on the head! Real communication is authentic. Anyway, thank you for the compliments and defense. I wish you well and if I can ever be of service to your endeavors, don’t hesitate to contact me. 😉

    2. Karen,

      Thank you for your opinion, as everyone is entitled. This particular article has been published on a wide basis and has received very favorable feedback. So as long as my articles continue to help cannabis entrepreneurs, I will continue to do this and you can continue to read them if you like, however, you also always have the choice to “keep scrolling”. I believe we are in the same arena, so my best to you. 😉

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