Entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry face different challenges than companies in virtually every other sector. Unlike other industries, cannabis businesses don’t have the same access to banking and advertising, forcing them to MacGyver their way through day-to-day business operations.
When it comes to advertising, cannabis companies are struggling to find good ways to promote themselves. Most mainstream media outlets are hesitant to accept marijuana-related ads, often because they have a stereotypical view of the marijuana industry or they fear a crackdown from federal regulators.
Further complicating the situation, billboards, TV spots, and other mainstream marketing options are prohibitively expensive–a hurdle for any young business. The cannabis industry is still in its infancy, and companies just starting out often don’t have a large marketing budget.
That leaves cannabis businesses forced to adapt and to find ways to promote themselves with nothing more than a metaphorical Swiss Army knife, duct tape, and a roll of twine.
So, how do marijuana businesses promote themselves effectively?
Data collected for the Marijuana Business Factbook 2017, found that developing an online presence and making connections within the cannabis community are key to compelling cannabis marketing and positive word of mouth, both online and off.
The data shows that for both plant touching businesses and ancillary cannabis businesses, word of mouth and social media are the most useful ways to market their companies, showing that good marketing and branding is essential for a cannabis business to capture an audience organically.
33.7% of plant touching businesses found that social media was the single most effective marketing/advertising method for their company, followed by 27% of plant touching businesses who found word of mouth most effective.
Ancillary cannabis businesses found the most success in marketing through word of mouth, at 38.2%; 17.8% of ancillary companies found that social media was most effective. Both plant touching and ancillary businesses cited the internet as their primary marketing tool, at 19.6% and 19.7%.
Of course, marketing on social media has its challenges as well. The rules are hazy when it comes to what kind of ads social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter allow typically only allowing advertisements that can prove “advocacy or community building”. Plus, it’s not unusual for social media pages promoting cannabis businesses to be taken down without explanation.