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Online marketing is a daunting world, made considerably difficult with the limitations imposed on cannabis companies. Many of the largest online marketing services and social media platforms still don't allow marijuana businesses to advertise.

“When it comes to advertising the cannabis industry, options are extremely limited,” said Jared Leighty, Manager of Field Development at Weedmaps. “If a cannabis company doesn't quickly learn to adapt, think outside the box, or understand the rules of engagement on these platforms, they'll be surpassed by those that do understand the basic fundamentals of digital marketing.”

So how do you extend your reach to potential customers across digital platforms? Try these 5 online marketing tips for your cannabis business:

1. Content and Press

Organic reach is your friend. In a world without traditional marketing options, organic interest from content, including news or blog coverage, is an effective online marketing tool.

Organic reach is most powerful if you're able to create a relationship with the press. Cannabis companies should write thorough press releases to stir up excitement about their product launches. These can see huge payoffs to help reach new, prospective customers.

“The most important thing to any cannabis brand or dispensary is the acquisition of a new customer,” Leighty said. “A new customer provides that business the opportunity to convert them into a returning customer for life.”

If you want to get in front of the press more effectively, the money in your budget could go into hiring your own communication coordinator or paying a cannabis-centric press agency.

“We can't advertise in other ways, so press is really beneficial,” said Cyo Nystrom, CEO and co-founder of cannabis company Quim. While exciting articles are tougher to bring to fruition, the benefit is that customers tend to trust this type of content the most.

2. SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) remains one of the most powerful tools to tap into when finding customers online. While some online trends come and go, search engines are tried and true.

Ranking high on Google or other search platforms comes with its own challenges. Start with filling out the SEO section on every page of your company's website. Highlight your key search terms, location, and store or brand title in the SEO headline for your page. Keep the phrasing relevant to how consumers are searching for the page. Using Google Analytics can show you actionable movement from how consumers search to find your website.

3. Native Ads

Native ads refer to online ads that match the content that readers are already looking at on a media site. This is popular with news outlets and is effective on map or listing sites because of the sheer amount of impressions possible.

“The more impressions you earn, the higher the likelihood will be that you can covert that impression into an acquired customer,” Leighty said. “After that, it's up to you to keep that new customer with your quality product, competitive price points, premium customer service, and overall experience.”

Native ads bridge the gap between the look and feel of traditional digital advertisements and editorial content. Consumers appreciate having the complete story for brand awareness, and it makes the customer experience encountering online ads feel less intimidating.

4. Email and Newsletters

Why do dispensaries want to collect email addresses from their customers? To send newsletters, of course. If you start your own daily, weekly, or bi-monthly newsletter, you can inform your customers of deals or any company news you desire. It gives the business absolute control over its own message, so in the online ad world, unparalleled freedom.

Newsletters also allow you to cater to your customer base beyond the time that they spend in store. Targeted, helpful newsletters on weekend deals or promotions will pique the interest of customers you know have already spent money.

Another viable marketing options for email is newsletters is looking to advertise from within the newsletter of trusted publications. Move your focus to the larger cannabis publications, depending on who's eyeballs you want your content in front of. Newsletters come in a huge variety of cannabis news outlets, and most of them sell ad space.

5. Partnerships

Listing your business on Weedmaps is an invaluable tool intended to put your business in front of as many consumers as possible in your area.

“If you focus on getting creative with inbound digital marketing platforms like Weedmaps.com, where every single end-user is a potential new customer, not only is it easier to track its effectiveness as an advertising channel, but your return on investment will be much more fruitful,” Leighty said. “If you don't develop creativity in the digital marketplace, you'll just get lost in the shuffle and will constantly be struggling to stay competitive.”

Partnering up with a larger digital platform such as Weedmaps is also an easy way to bypass some of the more daunting tasks on this list, such as ranking higher in Google search results. Gaining first-page placements in search is no small feat, so by utilizing an authoritative digital platform in Weedmaps, your company reaps the benefit of Weedmaps' well-established Google rankings.

Feature Image: Photo from Weedmaps Archives

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