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Lessons Learned in Cannabis Marketing

With cannabis marketing, I like having a very clear goal. It’s challenging. I think your goal should have some time frame and it should be kind of scary – not impossible but realistically impossible.  For me, the unknown of life is the most interesting part.

If you’re doing things that are super-known, there’s not really that much growth that’s going to happen in it. That growth generally comes when you’re scared or you’re trying something new. When you determine your goal, you must be, “Okay, what is changing the dial in this industry?”.

I think people need to spend a little bit of time observing what’s working in this space, and then figuring out that diagram for what they want to do and what the market wants. Then, find that happy medium in the middle.

Everyone wants more customers. I’ve never met any business person who says, “We can’t have more customers.” So maybe make a list of the 10 people that you’d love to work with in the next six months. Then, once a week, spend 10 minutes just emailing them and trying to connect with them or setting up a phone call. By the end of the six months, I promise you, you would work with at least one of them and you’ll get some results out of that.

We created a short list at of 10 brands that we might be interested in doing some sort of co-promotion with in the future. We gave that list to our social media coordinator and she started mentioning them in tweets and distributing their content and kind of trying to make social media friends with them.

It’s kind of like the “Customer Journey” for your business. You probably want to run ads for something of value before you ask someone to buy. I think these relationships work in a very similar way. A good way to start is email them once a week or tweet their content. Make sure that they see you doing it. Try to play nice before you ask them to do something for you.

As Stephen Covey said, in one of my favorite books, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, you’ve got to do urgent stuff but you’ve also got to think about the important, not-urgent stuff. That’s where you get a lot of big wins. Some of my biggest growth in business success is because I spend a lot of time building relationships, setting up dinners, hosting events, etc.

What I’ve tried to do at a conceptually high level is called “Content Multiplication Framework.” Basically, instead of taking one thing and then having each channel, you must keep figuring out new things. Different products have different marketing needs. With some clients, ads have worked well, content marketing has not worked well and vice versa. I think you must be aware of what channels are working for your medium and then go deep on that.

The second part of content multiplication is how can you not keep starting over? I made a cannabis marketing video and put it on YouTube and then I put it on Facebook ads. Then I put it on my blog and on Quora. Then I put it on LinkedIn. I eventually wanted to find out “Okay, which channels are actually the most effective and how do I make that systematic each week?”

Our team has a video guy and I said, “Hey, I wrote the original idea. Can you help me edit and multiply the ideas that I’m already creating?” I did that instead of always trying to find new things. Take what’s already working and then spread that to a lot more places.

So how do you multiply what’s already working versus always trying to find the next new thing?

It’s so specific to each product and each avatar that you’re speaking to. People ask me questions like: “Does Instagram work for the cannabis industry?” or “Does Pinterest work?” My answer?  “Of course it works but it depends on your business and your product.”

It’s not, “Does this platform work?” It’s not a black or white answer. I think that you’ll find that the different distribution networks are going to depend on your market and who you’re speaking to, even if within the one industry.

I once did an “ask me anything” on Reddit about cannabis marketing.  It was fun and I actually got a ton of traffic. We have to give downwards as much as we want to take from upwards, is kind of the mentality that I look at. I want to meet people that are more successful and have done things that I aspire to do. But I also think to get there, you have to make sure you’re giving back to people who want to get to where you are today.

It’s what old people say: “You know, in my day, let me tell you about the birds and the bees.” So what happens though is that, as you get more experience, you kind of just start saying, “Well, I did that before and it’ll never work again.”

That’s not good. Just because one date didn’t work out, doesn’t mean that you’ll never date again. It’s just that the date didn’t work out. I think, as a marketer, you have to stay naïve.

I hear people all the time say, “We tried video ads, they don’t work.” It could be something subtle that you did with that strategy, or it could be the wrong timing. It could be anything.

I’ve been apologizing to my team because I tend to take a long time creating a storyboard for a video, even if it’s a short video or a long copy post or something like that. It’s interesting because it usually comes out and works really well. But I end up taking a long time, sometimes two to three days to write one post.

But then, I look back a few months later and I am like, “Wow, that’s a post that I can run for a year straight.”

I was just listening to an amazing book called “Pitch Anything”, and it’s about framing and stuff and pitching to start-ups and funding and stuff like that.

The point was, the writer and narrator, Oren Klaff, was using the example of Jerry Seinfeld, how he spends about a month prepping for a three-minute segment, and how the first three minutes is everything. But even for his typical 20-minute segment, he spends about two to three months prepping.

We go and we look and we see these guys and we think that they are just so naturally funny, which they are typically. But nobody realizes the amount of prep that’s put into some very, very short pieces of content. It’s amazing.

Sometimes that prep time is game changing. That’s why sometimes I tell people, “It’s okay if you spend too much time thinking about what you want to say on a message, because that’s what’s going to make the biggest impact.”

If you want to do something and make it good, sometimes that extra research that you put into it changes the game. It makes that video, post or Instagram that much better.

So, if you were starting from scratch and you wanted to generate new customers for your cannabis business, and you wanted to create content to do so because you know that’s a good way to give value first, where would you start?

All right, check out this idea – it’s a stupid idea but those are my favorite.

I want you to create packing lists as if you are going to be traveling. Like hey, here’s a few of my preferences, here’s where I’m going, check the weather, figure it out and just tell me what to get. And maybe I don’t have to follow it, but at least make my life easier.

There’s two separate things. Number one, when you’re starting a business, you want people to have that feeling of, “Yes! That sounds great. Okay, here’s the money.” Most people have a business and it’s like “Oh yeah, that’s kind of cool.”

So, you’ve got to find things that people want. With content, my thought, as I was kind of saying earlier, is that not every marketing strategy will work for every business.

If something doesn’t work, I say, “What’s my goal? What’s my time frame? What are my targets each month?”, and then, “What are the marketing activities per month that I’m willing to test out? What is the expectation?” And then every month, I review the performance of it – I cut some and then I increase others.

So, I say, “All right well, content did well, let me do more of that. Ads didn’t do well, cut that. PR did well, partnerships did well, affiliate.” Those are pretty standard ones – I think that’s more important than me saying that content is the only way to grow a business.

For people that are saying, “Well, I have nothing. I think content’s it.” Fine, sure. Most importantly is that you have to actually put out great content that people want to read – which people know, but they don’t put in the work for it.

Let me make it very clear. If you’re creating content, do two things. You have to put in a minimum of eight hours of writing it. If you do not put in a cumulative minimum of eight hours of writing it, it’s not great.

I’ve never seen a great article that lasts in the minds of readers forever with an hour put into it. There’s a direct correlation of the articles that I’ve taken the longest to write. I’ve had editors and I’ve paid people to help me review them and how well they’ve done. It could still be short but I put a lot of hours into it.

The second thing – if you’re just starting out, I would probably spend the majority of my time writing guest posts on other people’s platforms because they already have a reader base. It’s kind of like throwing a party and you’re a DJ and you have great music – but you’re home alone and it’s kind of awkward. So, go DJ at someone else’s party.

You can learn a lot about marketing from rappers. One of my different strategies is that they all feature each other on their music. Why do they do that? One, it makes their music better and two, they each expand the pie for each other.

Drake got big because of Lil Wayne, and he has good music. The thing about Justin Bieber is that now he’s been with all these rappers no one thinks he sucks anymore.

These musicians create these little tribes. They’re all cross-promoting one another. They each help each other grow and it works out. Symbiotic.

Figure out the thing that you like doing that you’re good at.

Blogging does not equal content marketing. Blogging is like one-one-thousandths of content marketing. Find something you’re good at.

I hear, “I should be doing this”, “I shouldn’t be doing that.” Find the things that you’re great at. So, I’m great at starting. In terms of marketing, I’m great at finding new opportunities. So go find your strength, whatever it is, and don’t apologize for your weaknesses. Focus on your strength and then find other people to complement that.

I don’t go into medical school, I just go to a doctor. You don’t need to know everything.

I mean marketing is just the articulation of how your product takes someone from an undesirable “before” state to a desirable “after” state. Marketing is just the articulation of why your product is good.

I think one of the biggest mistakes that people who are running traffic make right now is getting over-analytical and trying to turn off everything that’s not a winner because one might be a little bit lower performer, or cost a little bit more, on a per-click or maybe on a per-lead basis.

But that person might end up spending more money with you. Unless it’s way outside your range, you have to understand that there are so many different personality types. It’s okay.

Everyone gets excited about AB testing. But most AB tests, even though AB tests get 99 percent confidence, there’s still 1 percent confidence that’s not going to work. What happens, though, is that it’s not longitudinal enough.

That means that, when you’re testing things – we tested our email templates and it was like a 20 percent increase – or we changed some of our pricing, it was literally a 10 percent increase in revenue. Most of our tests are one month long, give or take. What happens, though, is that you don’t realize that there’s sentiment that’s poor, or it’s a crappy customer experience, and six months later things are down.

I think it’s important to just be sensitive and aware, and not jump to conclusions right away.

Think about your marketing. Treat people like you would in the real world. Like yeah, you might be able to be fake nice to somebody for 30 seconds to get them to give you their business card, or get them to set an appointment with you. Yeah, you win in the beginning. But you don’t win in the end because he walks away with a crappy feeling.

The same thing happens with your leads and your customers, which goes to exactly what you just said. So sometimes that’s hard to measure. But if you really think about how all of your marketing and messaging can be making a positive impact on people, whether they take action or not, then you’re going to win in the end because they’re going to come into your funnel, into your world, with open arms instead of closed arms and kind of skeptical.

Part of the problem is that when you get some level of success or notoriety of accomplishing what you want, you kind of stop doing the things that got you there.

The number one marketing tactic and traffic tactic – it’s literally works 100 percent of the time – is that, once you’ve run your company for a year or five years, say, “All right, well what worked in the beginning?” You’ll discover “Oh, well we used to do this a lot,” but you don’t do it anymore. Then you go do that and it works again and you’re like, “Why did I stop doing that?” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had those conversations with people.

I think the bigger thing is that it’s boring, and I think that’s the part that a lot of us have to overcome in marketing. If the boring stuff wins, and if you can outlast your competition and if you can stick with something that’s working longer, you’ll generally win.

We all want to kind of find the next new tactic that we can go try. When more often than not, most people already have something working. What they don’t do is say, “How can I double what’s working today?”

Celeste 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]

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