By Amber Mayo
In this new world of exploding cannabis marketing, it seems like all bets are off. Plenty of people are offering great ideas, great opportunities and great deals. When someone approaches you about marketing help, it can be a bit of a wild west. How do you know who to work with? How do you know who is legit and who isn’t? Marketing decisions are harder in this space, but that just means a bit more due diligence is needed. Here are a few ways to identify how to find the right partner for you.
First, the good old over-promise. Is the agency making absolute promises? It doesn’t matter if it’s increases in sales, followers or unicorns, absolutes in marketing (and public relations) are few and far between. If they are making amazing promises and it seems too good to be true, it is.
Here’s my favorite example: An agency promising increases in social followers may not be transparent about how they are getting the followers. There are 4 main ways to get followers and engagement: 1) great content (which takes time), 2) follower campaigns (you follow a ton of people, then you drop), 3) influencer activation and 4) paid. If you see a ton of follows and a ton of likes on social accounts, chances are someone is paying and not telling you. Followers and likes are cheap to buy so they can easily bury these numbers in their bottom line. Good social takes time to build, it should be interesting and drive to the business goals.
Competition and Conflicts
Another way to evaluate your potential marketing partner: are they telling you who they work with? Competitive separation for your partners is important. It’s hard to find good marketing partners with cannabis experience so some crossover is bound to happen, but there are limits. If you are sharing critical business information, make sure you know who else your marketing partner works with. For instance, if someone runs 25 social accounts for producer processors, do they have your best interest at heart if you are the 26thproducer processor? In the same 2 or 3 states? Yeah, there’s going to be some crossover there, but it should be minimal and ideally, they shouldn’t be representing two of the exact same things in the exact same geographic area with the exact same target audience.
If you can’t truly trust the person running your social accounts with your strategic information, then it’s not a partnership and it’s not going to benefit you. While we aren’t in Coke vs. Pepsi territory (yet), it is important to make sure that the heart of your partner is in the right place and that transparency is key.
Experience Beyond Cannabis
The third way to evaluate if they are the right partner for you is a bit more controversial: do they only work in cannabis? With the limitations in cannabis marketing, how are they learning and pushing the envelope if they can’t continue to learn across business units? If someone only has cannabis experience, you may not be getting the best marketing ideas for your product or service. It’s not just a cannabis world. Now is the time to determine the marketing tactics that are successful in cannabis not just limited to cannabis. Learning from other areas across the same marketing platforms important.
Here’s a quick hit list of questions you should keep in mind when evaluating partners:
- What is the background of the key players of the cannabis agency or consultancy? (Check out their LinkedIn!)
- Who are their clients?
- How do they handle competitive separation?
- Will they share examples of creative or other work?
- Have you asked for at least 2 companies or consultants for bids? Also compare how they handle this process.
- Who will be working on your business? Make sure you know who is handling the work, day-to-day. Who will be your main person? Who do you go to if there’s an issue? What’s your comfort level with your key contacts?
- If needed, how do they provide tracking or monitoring reports? Heads up, if an agency runs a social media account and monthly reports aren’t an option, that’s a flag. It may cost more to add reporting to your agreement with the agency, but if it’s not available at all, that’s the issue.
- Do they understand your business? A good agency team will have done their homework on what you do and will take the time to understand your challenges. Give them the information they need to fairly evaluate if they are the right agency for you.
By using this approach and thinking through questions and answers, you should be able to better vet a good partner for your business. The most important part of this to remember is that you don’t want an “agency” or a “marketing firm” – you want a partner. Finding that right partner will save you money in the long run as you build your brand!