Sunday, April 20, 2014
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22 Top Marketing Tips from Cannabiz Execs
We all have arrived in this industry with a unique backstory. We began our journeys in different places, lived in different prohibition-era environments, embraced different career paths, experienced different “lightbulb moments”, and have enjoyed different successes and struggles since our venture into this wonderful world of cannabiz. Because of that diversity, there is much that we can learn from each other. Here we’ve compiled the top marketing and branding related insights from 22 of the industry’s brightest execs and entrepreneurs for your viewing pleasure.
As the saying goes, smart people learn from their own experiences—wise ones learn from the experiences of others. Tweet your own answer to the question, “If you could give only one piece of advice to aspiring ganjapreneurs regarding marketing, what would you tell them?” Use hashtag #CBGTopTips and we’ll be sure to retweet it!
Tip 1: Invest in photo & video.
"We believe a key to successful marketing in this industry is to develop high-quality content, especially video. Invest in professional photography and videography in order to stand out. Because advertising is limited to a great degree due to federal illegality and stigma, you will need to develop content can be shared across social media or in cannabis-industry focused media."
Tip 2: Think long-term.
"Just because the industry is "new" doesn't mean business basics don't apply. Your brand still needs a look and feel, a great customer service platform and overall vision. The challenge for a brand like Kizzle Kit is accessing consumers who are discreet and outside of the cannabis industry messaging. That is where social media is key, but even that has its own set of pitfalls. Although it can feel like the wild west, you still must exercise patience and long-term thinking to build your brand."
Tip 3: Benefits, not features.
"When it comes to marketing your product, you need to step out of your own shoes and into your customer's. All too often, I see aspiring entrepreneurs talking about the technical differentiators of their product. The first this, or the only that. Who cares? Your customers want a certain outcome, and your job is to provide that. Not what you are, but what you are promising."
Tip 4: Consistency + quality + creativity.
"High quality marketing is a formula. Brand consistency + product quality + creativity. You don't need to spend a lot of money to have very effective marketing if you have a consistent message and your product is high quality, then you just get the message out in creative ways and your customers will find you."
Tip 5: Messaging singularity.
"Cannabis companies, just like traditional businesses, need to make sure their brand stands for high quality at its core - brands that can message/communicate high quality are most successful. Consistency in messaging about the brand is essential and have seen many, many branding mistakes in the industry around multiple/not consistent messages."
Tip 6: Don't be a broken record.
"Using social media to build your audience and email list, the key is to engage with your audience in ways that keep them interested. This means posting no more than once a day, and that 80% of those posts should NOT be sales pitches. Constant sales pitches alienate your potential audience. Engage them with Cannabis news, new studies, great information about all-things-cannabis, behind the scenes look at your company, etc. The remaining 20% should be directly promoting sales. Always include a link and image in every post. Every time. Ideally those links are to your website. Lastly, respond to every neutral and positive comment and inquiry - engage. Do not respond to haters comments. Their minds are made up, it is a waste of your time and you can't win. Finally, always respond - privately - to legitimate complaints. When you are able to make things right, they will become your biggest fans."
Tip 7: Focus on your target.
"It is important to focus on your target market. Our industry is extremely fast-paced and it is easy to get overwhelmed and feel the need to market your company to everyone all at once. However, it is more important to stay focused on reaching your target market as they are the ones who will most likely be helping establish your business and the growth of your company from the beginning."
Tip 8: Remember to have fun!
"My advice is to do what you love and follow that path. Go to the source of the people you need to reach for marketing. The "no's don't count, only the "yes's". Maintaining honesty, transparency and always keeping your goals in front of any negativity you encounter will help keep you focused! There will be those that really need your service and this makes all the marketing steps worth the time. Mostly have fun!"
Tip 9: Think outside the box.
"Prepare to be creative, all the time. Want huge exposure on Facebook? Better put something awesome together that goes viral, because you can't pay for a boost like a normal company. Want to attend a local event? Then find a way to advertise without making your brand visible by anyone who isn't attending. There are many hurtles facing the industry that a creative and innovative eye can solve."
Tip 10: Nothing beats face-time.
"Get out and rub elbows and network with others in the industry. You have to meet the people you are asking to carry your product. Its invaluable to meet face to face. Give a few samples and your business card to them. Whatever you may be looking for, you can find at these meet-ups, expos, festivals and events. Its true that everyone is out to build their brands and make a living for themselves, but united we grow together."
Tip 11: Cultivate community.
"Look for ways to build community and culture around your brand. That means focus on nurturing relationships with people who care about your solution, vision, product, etc. and creating a space for them to engage with each other. Get creative, social media is blooming, the industry is blooming, and we're all beneficiaries in this movement." - Omari Harebin
Tip 12: Don't be afraid to innovate.
"The cream always rises to the top -- Nothing sells better than strong content and concepts. By remaining innovative, marketing becomes a fun process that fosters curiosity and organically garners traction."
Tip 13: Do your homework.
"It's important to create a realistic budget and marketing strategy from the get-go. Finding the optimal marketing mix for your product or service is a learning process that takes time, money, and a lot of testing. If you are on a strict budget (and most cannabis companies are), you should do your research and compare the different offers using metrics that are universal (such as CPM) before choosing how to spend your marketing dollars. There are a lot of companies coaxing you to spend money with them, but only a few services can really offer the reach and network you need to launch a successful branding campaign that reaches millions of people. To get started, I recommend splitting up your budget across a variety of marketing channels, test different creatives / messaging, and track conversions all along the way to figure out what sticks."
Tip 14: Refresh your look.
"As cannabis legalization has advanced over recent years, so has cannabis marketing. There is no need to be stuck in the 60s and 70s. Bring your marketing efforts into the current times. Looking cartoonish and old school will not attract potential clients nearly as well as new, fresh, clean, looks will. Marketing and branding can appear organic and professional with the right studied combination of fonts, colors, and layouts."
Tip 15: Target very specifically.
"If you’re thinking about jumping into the cannabis industry with a new business, identify exactly who your ideal customer is and laser-focus your marketing on that one person (you’ll naturally find more just like them). Its tempting to try to reach customers from everywhere, but quantity of customers is not going to be what launches your business — its perfectly serving a specific need for a very specific person which builds loyal, high-quality customers."
Tip 16: Identify emotional drivers.
"Marketers have an arsenal of tools at their disposal, and while analytics and insights are invaluable in helping reach and target prospective customers, don’t forget to build emotional connection and engagement with them. It’s easy to focus on the features and benefits of your product or service, but successful brands are based on enduring and rewarding relationships. Make sure your communications key into your audience’s emotional drivers, and that you’re giving them something of value…whether that’s insight, information or entertainment."
Tip 17: Protect your brand.
"If you want your brand to matter treat it with care. Mom always used to say ‘fool’s names and fools faces always appear in foolish places’ so keep that in mind when you’re placing advertising - or even stickers!"
Tip 18: Prepare to evolve your plan.
"Having a product or service is not enough. Having a marketing gameplan is imperative to build your brand. This process doesn't need to be expensive. Find a company to work with that suits your personality, your budget, and resonates with your company ideals. Marketing and branding is ever-changing, so plan to evolve with them."
Tip 19: Put people first.
“Cannabis is leading a community of like-minded folks to success in business through their lifestyle. This is a blessing that must be tended to with great care. Simply, efforts to market start-up businesses will determine the success of “lifestylers” in a business that will soon be dominated by big money investors. Making your brand relevant, top-of-mind and deeply rooted in the cannabis community will take your business to heights you may not have even imagined. And remember, sustainable businesses value people over money.”
Tip 20: Distribution is golden.
"Focus on creating an outlet and establish multiple platforms to help distribute the product or service you are offering. And by distribution I don't mean selling your product or service. There are many ways to do this through social media, partnerships, etc. There is a lot that goes into creating a business and even more when wanting introduce your brand to the world."
Tip 21: Communicate your USP.
“Tell your customers specifically how your company’s expertise in the cannabis industry translates to the product or service you offer and how it benefits them. This requires a solid understanding of your customers’ business needs, as well as the marijuana-related laws of the states where they preside.”
Tip 22: Market & iterate concurrently.
"Marketing in the marijuana industry can be tricky. Marketing after launching your product/service wastes energy, time, and money. If you start your marketing first you can build a loyal audience so that when you do debut your product/service you will be able to get feedback right away. Listening to your audience will only help you move forward. Even if it’s not always what you want to hear."
Mary Jane Resource
Bonus: Forget about the money.
“Revisit your childhood. What was it that got you excited before you learned how the world worked? If you focus on doing the right things—and putting your heart and soul into doing them—the money tends to take care of itself. People see that. People feel that. That's the stuff you can build a brand around. Making a human connection with people at scale, that's the true magic of marketing.”