Advertising is about spotting boundaries and providing novel solutions to both immediate and long-term problems. I’ve been an account manager in the digital marketing industry for nearly ten years, and let me tell you this: Agencies do not have a monopoly on good ideas or novel solutions. We simply have processes in place to prevent us (usually) from proposing bad ideas.
There are three pillars to running a successful ad campaign: truth, resourcefulness, and diligence. Let’s look at how to make them work for you.
One of the first promotions I was asked to run for a client was a display advertisement calling attention to an early-bird special for senior citizens. There is a nugget of truth to the idea we should reward people who come in early, and there is a nugget of truth to the assumption early-bird shoppers skew older. I was intrigued and a little confused. Do seniors smoke weed? Would they show up to a dispensary at 8 a.m. for a 10-percent discount?
Yes, they smoke, and yes, they will show up, but not in the same numbers as twenty-somethings will show up for a night-owl special an hour before closing. There is no reason to restrict the age of a special unless you’re very intentionally trying to attract that crowd. The client was warned, but we ended up running the promotion anyway—and didn’t see much success.
There is a lesson here for business owners: Data matters, and sometimes your gut feeling isn’t reflective of reality. You need to know your demographics and how they interact with each other. If you don’t have time to look at the data and come up with a good plan of action, pay someone else to do it and be receptive to their findings.
There’s a lesson here for account managers, too. Advocate for your client, but sometimes you must advocate for your client’s best interest to the client. This means gently telling them their idea is terrible and explaining why. Numbers don’t lie, so show them the numbers. It also means offering alternatives they like as much as their own idea or convincing them your idea was actually theirs.
A more general lesson about deals also surfaces: Your deals should hit the people who are most likely to make a purchase and convince them to buy more than they normally would. Anything that drives up the order value to redeem the deal or incentivizes the consumer to add one more item to their cart (perhaps to get a discount?) goes a long way toward making a campaign successful.
Unlike in traditional retail, cannabis businesses typically can’t offer anything for free. However, they can offer some products, like a simple pre-roll, for a single penny.
You have more resources than you think you do. This is true for do-it-yourself (DIY) business owners, shoestring-budget marketers, and million-dollar agencies alike. Paid programs and tools are great, but most of the tools you need to use on a daily basis are completely free.
If you’re writing copy for a webpage, for example, all you really need is Notepad or Google Docs. If you’re designing a banner for your website, all you need is Canva. All the resources I use most often are free. The most useful resource is Google, and a close second is YouTube. If you don’t know how to do something, Google it. If you don’t understand what to do by reading the instructions, watch someone do it on Youtube.
I’ve built individual web pages and entire websites by digging through DIY Google guides. Podcasts and YouTube channels are dedicated to every part of marketing a business, and experienced small and medium-sized enterprises often share it all for free. Google Analytics, Search Console, and Trends all help neophytes learn about their websites, potential customers, and what people search for online.
Diligence isn’t a one-and-done affair. Persistence is key from the perspective of business owners, account managers, and everyday people seeking growth in any facet of life. As an account manager, this means following up with clients, coworkers, and yourself until you have everything you need to launch a campaign. Being diligent means having a primary plan and also a backup plan. It means having a content calendar and working it every day, analyzing what worked and what didn’t, and figuring out how to perform better the next time.
The most common and hardest-to-overcome pitfall is planning inadequately. Most people don’t start looking for information about avoiding business pitfalls or getting out of them until they’ve accidentally stumbled into a sizeable one. This is especially true of cannabis businesses. Having a good payment processor and a good-looking website before launching a campaign is of paramount importance, for example.
A related pitfall is failing to set realistic expectations. You need to know why you’re doing what you’re doing and set measurable, realistic goals for whatever it is you’re doing. The hardest conversations I have as an account manager are those that happen a month into a campaign when the client asks me why I haven’t made them a million dollars yet.
Prioritize trust, transparency, and vigilance. If your clients or customers don’t trust you, they won’t be your clients or customers for long. You need to give them a reason to trust you and work with you.
The best way to gain and keep trust is by being transparent. It’s okay to say, “I don’t know. I’ll do some research and get back to you.” Just make sure that isn’t your response to every question. Do some research before you speak with clients. Think about what you would want to know if you were in their shoes, and find answers before they ask the questions. If you’ve thought of something and they haven’t, that’s worth sharing. It shows you think about and care about their business.
Be vigilant, and watch for trends. Every market is moving at a breakneck pace right now, but the cannabis market is moving at light speed. Something might be legal one week and illegal the next. (Delta-8 gummies, anyone?) Legality is one thing, but trends have a half-life of about one day. Remember the Dyson hair dryer everyone clamored over? Or the last season of Stranger Things? Trends move fast, and you need to be three steps ahead if you want to grow.
Andrew Szafran is a team lead for digital marketing agency SM Services, where he facilitates connections and ensures campaign strategies stay on track. He brings half a decade in web development and experience in search engine optimization to his role. Szafran developed expertise in marketing and advertising while studying at Northern Illinois University.