How to Choose a Cannabis Marketing Agency
Originally published on Hearst Bay Area. Read the full post here.
You’ve picked an excellent time to run a business in the cannabis or CBD industry.
Why wouldn’t you do it now? It’s quickly becoming one of the most productive sectors in the world.
So, do you need a cannabis marketing partner to help you grow your business and get your brand in front of the right audience?
Keep reading to find out.
4 Signs It’s Time to Outsource Your Cannabis Marketing
Whether your efforts have failed or you need some additional help, here are four signs that you should consider hiring an agency.
Sign 1: You’ve tried marketing your business on your own and saw poor results.
Maybe you’ve tried advertising in magazines, but you want some way to measure your return on investment.
Perhaps you’ve tried a cannabis-friendly ad network, but not seen as many clicks as you thought you should’ve.
There’s a chance you’ve tried live events, without success.
Marketing is a marketer’s game, and if you’re not a born marketer, you might always struggle with it.
There’s nothing wrong with that as a business leader, but it is a clear sign that you should seek the wisdom of an outside source.
Sign 2: You’ve been successful so far, but now you’re overloaded.
Success, unfortunately, often breeds more work.
In the booming cannabis industry, your business may be expanding quicker than what you can manage on your own (a good problem to have!).
Even if you built your business from the ground up and have been controlling the marketing the entire time, employing an agency will give more freedom to focus on your business as it continues to grow.
This allows you more time to focus on overarching strategy, which inevitably will help you scale even faster.
Sign 3: Your business or brand hasn’t needed a cannabis marketing agency in the past, but you want to rebrand.
If you’re ready to re-arrange how people see your business, a creative agency may be able to provide you with everything you need from logo designs to social media management to advertising strategies.
Having a second set of eyes from an advertising industry expert may help you identify areas where your brand falls short. They will also be able to provide you with innovative ideas to breathe new life into your cannabis marketing strategy.
Sign 4: You have a great product, but don’t know what to do with it.
Building the hottest new product or inventing some exotic extraction means little if your customers never hear about it. A cannabis marketing agency will be able to analyze your product and specifically target the customers for whom you’re looking.
As experts in the field, an agency will be able to help you position your products and services in a way that maximizes exposure, all within your pre-defined budget.
So, if you are a brand located in the Bay Area, or you are looking to reach a Bay Area audience with your cannabis company, you may consider working with a local San Francisco marketing agency for a number of reasons.
- They will have a deep understanding of the local landscape. Local agencies are engaged with the demographics you’re looking for and possess a fluent understanding of their psychographics.
- They’re real. National, faceless agencies may have methods to produce results for some companies, but local, Bay Area cannabis advertising agencies know the nuances involved in marketing in our region.
- Legal consultation. Cannabis marketing is unlike most industries. Federal, state, and local laws for cannabis advertising are often strict, and they vary wildly. Bay Area cannabis marketing agencies understand the details and keep your business out of legal trouble.
Choosing a Cannabis Marketing Agency: Five Steps
Just as the cannabis industry has expanded, so too have your options for cannabis marketing agencies.
Before selecting the first agency you see on Google search, get more value out of your budget by running through this quick checklist.
Here are five steps to choosing a cannabis marketing agency.
Step 1: Define Your Goals and Budget
There’s more than one way to market your cannabis business or product, which is why there are so many cannabis marketing agencies to choose from. To help narrow the field, identify your budget, and outline your underlying marketing philosophy.
Do you have a considerable budget to dump into magazine advertisements? Or, would you rather find a cannabis advertising agency that deals solely online?
As you research your options, having your goals and your budget outlined will help you efficiently narrow the field on who you will and won’t work with.
Step 2: Research Your Options
Utilizing a marketing agency that focuses on cannabis may be key to your success. However, narrowing your search leaves with a host of things to consider.
- Local vs. Global or National Cannabis Advertising Agencies: We touched on this briefly before, but local agencies will likely be able to help you identify your target customer with laser precision at the expense of a massive team behind them. National agencies may know your audience well and have significant resources, but they won’t take you overseas. A global agency can take you as far as you can dream, but it may be highly impersonal and difficult to deal with.
- Specialized vs. Full-service Cannabis Marketing Agencies: Since you’ve defined what you need, you may be able to find a cannabis marketing agency that focuses on just that. Some cannabis advertising agencies focus solely on digital advertising; others run the gamut but lack niche-specific expertise.
- Cannabis Industry-Specific vs. Non-Specific Marketing Agencies: There are only two reasons you should consider getting a non-specific marketing agency. You need to save some money, or you know of a non-specific marketing agency that continuously outperforms the pack.
Consider what the industry says, as well.
Recently, High Times and Clio announced they were joining forces to launch cannabis marketing awards.
Now, the Clio Cannabis Awards rank categories such as Brand Design, Digital/Mobile, and Print & Out of Home. This collaboration may be a good place to start your search and see if anyone philosophically agrees with you, who is also in your price range.
You could do the same with the winners of the recent MJBizDaily Awards.
Step 3: Audit Their Online Presence
Does the cannabis marketing agency excel in what they claim?
How compelling is their copy?
How is their use of imagery and colors?
If you’re looking to get started advertising your business online, check to see how the agency performs there. Consider:
- Their engagement rate on social media; do they connect with their audience?
- Does their website work? Is it simple to navigate?
- How often do they post on their blog? Is the content helpful or “salesy?”
- What is their email marketing strategy? Is it spammy or useful?
If you want to spend more time spreading awareness in traditional media, look to see how the agency performs in:
- Magazines and printed media; do they have any relationships they can leverage to your benefit?
- Cannabis events and expos; how active is the agency within the community?
- Billboards; does the marketing agency know how to utilize billboards properly? Do they know international highways, for example, are off-limits for cannabis marketing in California?
- Radio and Digital Audio; does the potential agency partner know how to spread awareness through voice?
Step 4: Narrow the Playing Field
You’ve defined what you want and how much you’re willing to pay.
You’ve looked through your options and narrowed it down to a few you like.
Now, it’s time to begin comparing your favorites. (Use this agency vetting spreadsheet to keep track of the pros and cons for each!)
There are a lot of essential questions you should be asking yourself at this stage.
- What are the metrics and KPIs that will be used to track results?
- Does the agency have any case studies available?
- Does the agency outsource the work to anyone else?
- How many client accounts does an account manager oversee?
Moreover, take a look at what those around you are saying. Consider:
- Professional certifications, if applicable.
- Who the leaders of the agency are, and
- Other forms of social proof, such as independent reviews.
Step 5: Choose the Best Fit
Want the one final thing to consider when you finally select your advertising partner?
There’s no industry more volatile than the cannabis industry. Effective communication is the best way to stay informed and keep your business aligned with the legal and structural frameworks of any shift in cannabis advertising regulations.
If the agency doesn’t communicate well, it may be time to move on.
- The cannabis industry is expected to show a compound annual growth rate of 14% over the next six years, and cannabis businesses and brands can utilize cannabis marketing agencies to take them to the next level.
- There are at least four signs that you should consider utilizing a cannabis marketing agency for your business. If you lack the marketing skills to handle the strategy in-house, you’re already overloaded and looking to scale, or you want to rebrand.
- Choosing a cannabis marketing agency requires defining what you want, discovering what’s available, and answering a series of questions to narrow down your list of partners.
Want to learn more? Contact the Hearst Bay Area Cannabis Marketing Team to see how we might be able to work together.