Create authentic content on your own platforms that tells a story and provides value to your audience. That was one of the main takeaways from CannBe’s “Marketing Strategies for Cannabis Brands” livestream last Friday, which answered viewer questions about how cannabis brands can navigate the advertising hurdles facing the industry and the complicated business and social environment we find ourselves marching through today.
Hosted by Elana Goldberg, CannBe’s Chief Content Officer and Oren Todoros, CannBe’s Director of Marketing, the Q and A livestream featured tips for cannabis brands and dived into the strategies CannBe uses to help customers increase brand reach and sales in a landscape that is far from simple.
Bottom line: here are eight tips to keep in mind for marketing your cannabis brand.
One of the main hurdles faced by cannabis brands are the restrictions that Facebook, Google, and other ad platforms place on cannabis advertising.
One way to get around this roadblock is by “creating your own communication channels on your social pages. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram. Each of these are very strong and potentially free marketing channels,” Todoros said, adding that brands should look to collaborate with groups on these social platforms.
And where there are restrictions, there are also opportunities. As Goldberg put it, “in the digital marketing space it's kind of an opportunity to really connect with users and potential customers in an authentic way — it's a bit of a blessing in disguise that we have to use these organic methods in order to communicate.”
With marketing on social media, there’s an inclination to seek out accounts and influencers purely based on the number of followers. This is by no means the only metric to look at.
“I think that one of the things that a lot of brands seems to fall into is that they get blinded by the amount of followers an Instagram influencer might have so they think that a big number like a million followers is going to do the trick that they're just going to pay someone with a large following and boom that's going to increase their reach and we know that's not the case,” Todoros said, adding that instead brands should look at the engagement an influencer gets on their posts and the type of communication they have with their fans and the impact of the content they create.
And once the campaign is up and running, make sure to track how much traffic the influencer posts generate back to your site — and how that translates into sales.
To Goldberg, any brand must first determine the goal of any campaign.
“If you have a campaign that's trying to drive sales, you're going to need to be looking at your conversion rate. If you're looking for brand awareness and a campaign to spread a message then maybe it is those engagement metrics, those could be the best indicator of if you’ve met your goals,” she explained.
But once you’ve defined your goals, how exactly do you find out what works?
“I’m all up for testing everything, I know what's worked in the past and what my gut would say, but basically I’m not going to know until I put it out there and see what works,” Goldberg said.
Have you ever seen a brand post with copy that’s heavy on aspirational buzzwords and seems to have been crafted by an ad agency with a legion of focus groups? What about brand promotions with extremely stock photo-y images and models that seem plucked from a model agency? These campaigns often work really well, but according to Goldberg, there’s something to be said for the stripped down, raw and real aesthetic.
“I often see content that’s too polished and the consumers have gotten too smart for this. If you can access any user generated content from your community and also tap into issues that are important to your users — be it current events, world events — it's about creating content that's uber relevant with whatever we’re talking about.”
She added that brands should seek to have “raw authentic content” that can “tap into what's important to your consumers.”
One viewer question hit at a consideration that is more pressing today perhaps than ever before: What would provide the most impact for a cannabis brand with a very limited budget?
As Todoros put it, this entails testing out which content formats work best, which platforms create the best response, and just focus on creating a lot of unique, original content across your channels that connect to “what resonates with your audience the most.”
You also need to focus in on a perfect target audience, do it justice, then head on to the next one.
“Be focused and know exactly what it is you'd like to work for,” Goldberg said, adding “if you have a small budget don't try to spend it on everything, pick one thing and nail it and then you can replicate it.”
In marketing you’ll hear the word “story” more than almost any other, often by people who are “storytellers.” There’s a reason for this — being able to effectively communicate your brand’s story can make the difference between connecting with customers, journalists, and potential industry partners, and just being another brand trying to sell stuff.
“If you have a unique story, a unique product, content creators are always looking for a great story to share with their audience. And it shouldn't just be about you and your brand but also what's happening in your industry and what you can bring to the table and focusing on that helps you get your message across on a limited budget,” Todoros told the livestream viewers.
“Journalists aren't there to pitch your product but will like to share information of value to the industry and to their readers,” he added.
But what type of stories should brands look for? According to Goldberg, a long-time former digital journalist, this is about providing value to your readers, and knowing what your product or outlet is. She did this by looking at what sets Cannigma.com apart from the crowd.
“The Cannigma is a medical cannabis platform and our modus operandi or tone of voice is all about providing very credible or science-based, research-based content,” Goldberg said, adding “it has to be something that has a specific value to our readers.”
And at the end of the day, it all comes back to storytelling.
“It's not about selling. It's not about converting customers. It's about telling a story. And sometimes that story is about the owners of the company. And sometimes the story is about the product and how it came to be. I think the brands that managed to carry out holistic and effective marketing campaigns are telling good stories.”
People like being part of a community and connecting with like-minded people, Todoros said, adding that creating that feeling of community can be more effective than the “hard sale” type of advertising.
This also plays into storytelling, in that creating a community is in many ways a matter of creating content for specific areas and audiences, and on different platforms.
This can involve artfully-crafted press releases, compelling podcasts and video content, effective email marketing campaigns, and repackaging content for different readers.
Many though, it comes back to the same principles — be your true, authentic self, create content that connects to your audience, and provide value that will have them coming back for more — and doing your marketing for you.
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