Cannabis companies work incredibly hard to cultivate their own particular branding, voice, and culture around their products. Communicating their brand effectively and authentically has its challenges in this current market. Having the tools to express their brand directly to consumers through multiple, effective channels is the most important need for cannabis companies today.
In cannabis, communicating with your customers has its unique challenges. You would be hard-pressed to find a business, brand, or retailer that has not expressed the worry that their carefully curated social media page could be taken down, shadowbanned, or deleted altogether for violating the notoriously vague “community guidelines”. Many companies have had to face this reality and have had to rebuild their social media platforms and audience from scratch. While some businesses have seen success advertising cannabis on mainstream social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Linkedin, it’s far from a reliable outlet due to federal regulations. The ability to speak freely and candidly to your customer base is limited.
Direct message marketing has become one of the leading avenues cannabis businesses use to connect with their consumers. Text messaging marketing is extremely effective in communicating with customers or end consumers across industries. For example, according to Tatango, 90 percent of text messages are opened within three minutes. However, text message marketing for cannabis companies continues to experience increased scrutiny, such as carrier filtering, by major carriers because of federal regulations. Carrier filtering is when service carriers and connection software providers are blocking messages that contain cannabis buzzwords such as shatter, pre-roll, flower, and more. For example, a retailer with a 420 sale on concentrates will pay the messaging fees but will not be able to guarantee the delivery of the message, even if the customer has requested to be communicated with in regards to those types of promotions. This is an incredibly frustrating experience for business owners regardless of which side of the greenhouse you’re on.
The response from software companies that specialize in text message marketing is using safe and canned responses that the brand or retailer can choose from, or send a link to the consumer that redirects to a third-party page where the post can be seen. While deliverability is an important metric, these workarounds provide less comprehensive customer data such as click-thru rates and sales conversions. That is where we are right now as an industry, but given how aggressive the carriers have been with filtering contents, this may not be a modality that is available much longer. Expanding your online presence and having as many touchpoints as possible such as online marketplaces dedicated to cannabis listings such as Weedmaps, Blackbird, and Leafly, and cannabis-friendly marketplaces will be key to acquiring and retaining new consumers.
The importance of having an online presence for a business cannot be overstated in this digital age, especially during the global pandemic. Online ecommerce sales across all markets have been increasing throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and the trend remains strong even as the world returns to a level of normalcy. According to Statista, In 2021, there were 263 million digital buyers in the United States. This figure is projected to increase to 291.2 million online buyers in 2025.
Online sales aside, the digital space is where consumers are more likely to find you, learn about your brand, and make the decision to shop with you. Having an appealing and effective online presence is greatly beneficial to converting browsing customers to consumers. A successful online presence should bring you more customers. Digital platforms that include a user-friendly ecommerce experience and customer retention tools drive revenue, keep customers engaged, and enable you to grow. Having an online platform that allows the organization to communicate in their brand’s authentic voice is the best bridge between brands and consumers. The same site should enable the consumer to get to know the brand, gain information such as sales, promotions, upcoming events, or news, and most importantly, encourage them to shop the embedded ecommerce menu.
Emily Nelson is Blackbird’s Growth Marketing Manager. She is a second-generation cannabis professional from Humboldt County who currently resides in Sacramento, California. She is an experienced sales and marketing professional with a demonstrated history of success in software, distribution, and B2B marketing. In her free time, Emily can be found in the woods with her family or baking on a rock in the river.