What to Look for in a Cannabis Digital Marketing Partner

cannabis digital marketing

Having a successful cannabis company doesn’t only require a great product, but also a superior marketing strategy. In this day and age where new cannabis companies emerge every year, positioning your product on the market the right way is extremely important. 

That being said, focusing on digital marketing requires both time and expertise. Moreover, with so many advertisement restrictions for cannabis, creating and managing such a campaign is not always possible if you don’t have a dedicated marketing team. This is why partnering up with a marketing agency or contractor might be the best solution, and in this article, I’ll explore how you can choose the best cannabis digital marketing agency for your business.

What to Look for in a Cannabis Digital Marketing Partner

There are a few factors to consider before choosing a marketing partner to promote your cannabis business, so let’s see what they are.

Your Budget and Goals

Before you start talking with potential contractors or agencies, there are some things you need to do beforehand, like determining your company’s ultimate goals and the budget you have set aside for marketing purposes. It’s important to define your short-term and long-term company goals and outline your expectations from collaborating with the marketing agency. By doing this first, you’ll be better prepared once you start talking to potential agencies about what you expect from them. It will also help the agency better understand your goals and help them to better determine KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) when building a strategy for you. 

Note that your budget and goals should align. A general rule of thumb is that the larger your goals, the larger your budget will need to be, especially in an industry like cannabis.

Once you’ve figured out your goals and budget, or at least what you think it should be, it’s time to reach out to a few agencies to get the ball rolling. 

Choose a Partner with Experience in Cannabis Marketing

It’s imperative to choose a company that already has experience with marketing in the cannabis business so you have someone who knows how to navigate the industry and can create a marketing strategy based on previous experience. 

If they have a portfolio or case studies available on their website, go through them and see which projects pique your interest. This way, you’ll be more informed about their previous experience and what you can expect to gain by working with them.

If not, you can always schedule a meeting and ask them questions about the marketing strategies they’ve been working on previously and whether they can speak to examples of previous work they’ve done with cannabis companies. This information may make it much easier to decide on an agency when the time comes.

Different Options for Cannabis Marketing Partners

While marketing agencies can be good partners and typically have more resources, they aren’t always the best option for cannabis brands. Sometimes a contractor, specialty agency or consultant are better options. Let’s see what the marketing options are for business owners in the cannabis niche.

  • Hiring an internal team. This is a great way to build your brand as you’ll have a whole team that focuses on brand image every day, however, this will be a more costly option.
  • Hiring a big agency. This offers you an option to leverage the expertise of a large agency that has people who are experts in the marketing field, however, this is also a costly option and not all big agencies have experience when it comes to marketing cannabis products. And cannabis industry experience is important. You don’t want to have to educate the agency people about cannabis or the cannabis industry as you are too busy running your business to do so. One other note about bigger agencies is that they may require a longer contract commitment compared to some of the other options on this list.
  • Hire a speciality agency or contractor. One of the best options when it comes to your cannabis digital marketing strategy is hiring a contractor or speciality agency, like an SEO agency for cannabis businesses, or an advertising partner. These businesses have the best knowledge about the specialty they focus on, and if they have cannabis industry expertise will likely offer the most value. The only caveat is they may not do all the marketing services that you require, so you may need to hire other specialty agencies or contractors for other services. I’m seeing many cannabis companies deploy this strategy along with having an internal employee or a small team. This way, the internal employee(s) can focus more on certain marketing channels like social media, or email that require people to be more closely related to the brand day to day, and then the contractor or specialist can focus on what they do and interact with the internal employee(s), which is usually a marketing director, specialist, even CMO/COO, or all of the above. Speciality agencies and contractors typically have shorter term contract requests or allow you to go month-to-month, thus giving you more flexibility in case they don’t work out.
  • Hire a freelancer or a consultant. This is a great way to cut on the cost and still get your marketing needs met, however, a freelancer is only one person and a consultant will most likely help with strategy and steering you in the right direction, but not do the actual executional work it will take to get results. So you may need to hire an additional contractor(s) in order to support the freelancer or execute the work the consultant recommended you to do. Freelancers and consultants usually are able to offer shorter term agreements as well.

Factors to Consider

Before you commit to a certain person or agency, it’s always best to check their previous work, as well as ask them questions about what they see for your business going forward. This way, you will not only make sure that they will meet your needs but that they also possess the expertise and the skills to get you the results you want. Note that while you want to ask questions about these items and they should have some answers for you, they will likely not have ALL the answers as a good marketing partner will likely have a process they work through in order to determine the strategy and best path forward for their partners. So, they likely won’t be able to give you that information on an initial call, nor should they, as they’d essentially be doing free work at that point because you could not choose them. 

A prime example of this is the popular Coinbase Super Bowl commercial with the bouncing QR code. While it performed well and got lots of attention, they took the idea from an agency who gave it to them during the proposal process of Coinbase searching for an agency to partner with. So marketing contractors and agencies are moving away from giving away their best ideas during proposals as these things happen more than you’d think.

These things in mind, it’s useful to consider the following factors:

  • The unique qualities they possess compared to other agencies
  • What previous clients say about working with the company
  • Whether they outsource their work or not
  • How the agency measures its results
  • How long they expect before you see results
  • How efficiently they communicate their message
  • How they speak to their past experiences with cannabis companies and the cannabis industry
  • How long of a contract they are requesting

After you’ve gathered all the information, it’s time to choose one to partner up with. Apart from the factors we’ve mentioned above, it’s always important to trust your gut when making the final decision. If an agency or specialty freelancer has left a good impression and their strategy aligns with your company’s goals, it may be a safe bet to go with that one.

Types of Services Offered

There are a number of services that you may want to think about when figuring out what the right agency is for you as not all agencies offer the same services.

Search Engine Optimization

When thinking about the cannabis industry as a whole and what is the best marketing strategy, you should first think about SEO. This should be one of the first things that you consider when you search for a cannabis marketing partner, and that is whether the agency has experience with using SEO in the cannabis niche. Remember to review the past projects of the potential partner you’re considering in order to determine whether they know how to create organic growth for your website.

Email Marketing

This type of marketing allows you to communicate with your potential customers much more effectively and increase your sales. Email marketing can be used to inform customers about new products, discounts, and other promotional offers. You can also use this to build leads and target prospective customers. So choosing a partner that has effectively implemented this strategy is very important, if email marketing is what you are looking for. Many companies handle this service in house with a member of their marketing team, which is a good thing as someone internally working on your emails will always have a better idea of your brand voice and all things going on in your company compared to an external agency or person. 

Overall Marketing Strategy

If you are looking for a company to support creating the overall marketing strategy, but you’ll handle the execution internally, it may be best to use a consultant vs large agency. If you are looking for them to create the overall strategy as well as execute it, a medium to larger agency or solopreneur could be the best route to take.

A well-established agency or consultant with a lot of previous experience will definitely know how to take your business to the next level, but keep in mind that they may require more money compared to smaller agencies or agencies with less experience.

Display Advertising

Programmatic advertising is one of the newest marketing strategies in the cannabis niche as it allows you to choose potential customers based on what type of content they’re consuming online. This can help you target customers more efficiently and finding an agency that has experience with this type of marketing will definitely be beneficial for your brand. 

An important note here is that while there are more places cannabis companies can advertise these days, display advertising isn’t always the best driver of traffic. It can help you increase visibility and support branding efforts, but depending on the type of company you are and product you sell, it may/may not be as beneficial as other marketing channels. But hey, if you have the budget, do it.

Billboard Advertising

Out-of-home advertising is essential for some cannabis brands, especially local dispensaries and similar shops. This type of marketing isn’t just limited to billboard advertising as it can also include bench ads, car ads, etc. It can be difficult for brands to measure the success of billboards, so get creative with your campaigns and find unique ways to measure billboard success.

Text Messaging

SMS marketing is another marketing method that you can incorporate in this industry where a lot of the traditional marketing options are limited. Depending on the state you’re in and the laws associated, you can inform your customers about new deals and discounts, send targeted offers, or inform the customers about news related to the cannabis market or your brand specifically. This one can be tough as all states have their own laws, so you’ll need to get creative, but it can be really beneficial, especially for local cannabis businesses like dispensaries and growers. Being able to send a text to someone who’s been to your store, or purchased your brand before is an excellent way to get them to purchase from you again.

Print Marketing

Print marketing can be a great way to educate customers or first-time buyers about your products, as well as cannabis in general. Many dispensaries or cannabis brands today include various printed educational and marketing materials with sales of their products as it not only helps keep your brand top of mind but can also be truly helpful for people new to cannabis. The more quality and helpful the material you give out is, the more likely people are to hang onto them, thus increasing the likelihood of your brand staying top of mind.

Final Thoughts

Since the cannabis market is ever-evolving, cannabis brands require a superior marketing strategy to succeed in this highly competitive market. As a result, choosing the right cannabis digital marketing agency can be the difference between your company becoming very successful or not even ranking as high as its inferior opponent. 

To stay in front of your competition, you not only need to choose a cannabis digital marketing partner that will make your vision a reality but also a partner that will be able to stay on top of your competitors in this highly competitive market. At the end of the day, all you can do is review the agencies or contractors you are considering and make a decision on what is best for you and your business needs after reviewing all of the information gathered. 

Finding ways to mitigate your risks with shorter-term contracts, options out after certain periods of time, and similar are also helpful. Remember, get really clear on expectations. Explain your understanding of the agreement so your potential partner can either agree or give their thoughts. The best partners will be direct with you as well and want to work with you to manage expectations upfront. 

If you are a cannabis business looking for a marketing partner to help grow your search engine optimization efforts this year in order to rank higher on Google and other search engines, contact us today to learn more about how Evergreen Digital can help you gain visibility and increase traffic to your cannabis website.


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Brady Madden

Brady Madden

Brady Madden has been working in performance based marketing and digital marketing with a specialty in SEO for 14+ years. Brady primarily works with cannabis companies (hemp and marijuana), ranging from CBD e-commerce stores, MSOs and dispensaries, cannabis devics, B2B manufacturers, cannabinoid water soluble suppliers, SaaS companies and more. Brady has helped create and update web pages generating over 10 Million page views as well as millions of dollars in revenue.

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