Professionals in the legal cannabis industry face multiple hurdles when it comes to marketing their business and products. The sad truth is that even if cannabis products are legal in a given locality, marijuana is still classified as illegal under US federal law. As a result, the majority of cannabis businesses are unable to use the most common advertising and marketing tactics.
As Marketing Director of Nug Avenue, I had to look for alternatives to marketing. I have found non-traditional or “guerrilla” marketing tactics to be the most effective in generating a strong pipeline of leads and customers. Guerrilla tactics help my business grow and scale at the B2B and B2C level. More importantly, they cultivate and keep loyal customers.
Here are some of the best guerrilla marketing tactics I’ve found for businesses in the cannabis industry, especially when more traditional methods don’t (or can’t) work.
Social media companies don’t look kindly on marijuana companies. After having our own accounts shut down multiple times due to anonymous complaints, I have learned to make them private.
Only Nug Avenue customers can view our posts. Although this may limit their reach, it creates the warm feeling of belonging to an exclusive club. Many customers also appreciate that their membership in our community remains secret.
According to Accenture, the majority of consumers today (about 63%) buy from brands with which they feel a more personal connection. So that’s the experience we aim to deliver with our social media presence, and it’s paid off with the loyalty of customers who bond with us through the experience of confronting social stigma. It’s one thing to buy a ticket and have a seat in front of the house. It’s another thing to be invited backstage!
Cannabis Business Rewards Programs
Like a report According to MJ Biz Daily states, about half of all cannabis companies in Washington State offer customer loyalty programs and the results are strong. Companies with loyalty programs saw an average 13% increase in spend rates by customers belonging to the program over a 90-day observation period compared to those without loyalty rewards programs.
The report also showed that customers who joined a loyalty program were more likely to purchase a greater quantity of products overall, with some willing to pay a slightly higher cost. All this translates into an increased share of customer portfolios!
With all of this in mind, I created and launched a rewards program for customers, Loyalty rewards for Nug Avenue. For every dollar spent by the customer, he receives one point. Points earned can be used to purchase promotional items or redeemed for “Nug Cash” for other products.
SMS advertising and guerrilla marketing Methods
Paid advertising is not available to dispensaries and other businesses that sell regulated cannabis products. For this reason, being able to reach customers through email and SMS marketing is important. Even these channels have their own challenges.
Telecommunications companies have expressed their refusal to work with our industry. Major carriers won’t let us text, promote or sell products they consider “drugs”. This means that a workaround is needed.
At Nug Avenue, we use a service that sends customers a text message letting them know they have a notification. If they click on the link, it takes them to a landing page that explains the promotion. While using a gateway like this may seem indirect, I have found it to be one of the best guerrilla marketing tactics available to cannabis companies.
Reaching customers directly has provided a reliable way to increase traffic to our website and increase sales.
Where are we going next with Guerilla Marketing?
All in all, these guerrilla marketing tactics have worked for Nug Avenue. While the specific laws governing your own business and industry should always be kept in mind, consider experimenting with them to help you grow your own market share and develop a loyal customer base.
Until regulations evolve further, this will be the playbook of successful cannabis retailers.