Take it from us: the world of cannabis digital marketing is both deep and wide, suggesting a seemingly endless number of tactics, strategies, and philosophies.
It’s true: Constructing an effective digital marketing strategy is a complex task, and it demands experience, a keen eye on analytics and trends, and a willingness to fine-tune and experiment until you get the results you expect. But every great endeavor, they say, begins with a small step. We’re confident that effective cannabis digital marketing is something anyone can understand, given the context and the tools.
If you’re intimidated by this realm, we’ll help ease you in. We’ll start off with an introduction to three basic ad types you need to be using:
Ready to dive in? Let’s get started!
Cannabis Digital Marketing: Google PPC Ads
You’re already intimate with PPC ads, even if you don’t know it. Any time you do a web search, a number of web pages will display higher in the results because their owners paid for such placement. Depending on the specific search engine, those results might be included among the listings (typically with an “Ad” icon nearby) or they might show in a separate carousel or sidebar.
It’s not much of a stretch to say that PPC ads—short for “pay per click”—are the central pillar of digital marketing. And far from being just an online version of traditional print, billboard, or TV ads, they represent a true paradigm shift. With those ads, the cost of the ad spend is based on the number of impressions, or the total of consumers who see that ad. By comparison, the cost of PPC ads is determined by the number of consumers who actually click on them. Instead of paying for the opportunity for consumers to take action, you only pay when they do.
When done correctly, PPC can deliver some fairly astonishing results. While WordStream’s recent chart of average clickthrough rates by industry doesn’t include dispensaries, it’s a useful tool for understanding exactly powerful a well-designed PPC campaign can be.
Of course, there’s the question of how much all those highly trackable clicks actually end up costing you. Because there are any number of dispensaries competing for the highest ad placement for any given keyword, the answer’s a bit of a moving target. The exact cost of those search terms—such as “premium cannabis near me”—is determined by a sort of instantaneous behind-the-scenes auction. The higher number of marketers who are interested in that specific search term, the higher the cost of each consumer click will be. That’s one reason we focus on “return on ad spend” (ROAS) as one of the most crucial performance indices to keep our eyes on for each and every one of our customers.
Where do all these PPC ads actually run? Every search engine supports ads to generate revenue, but because Google dominates the search engine industry—currently representing roughly 92% of market share—we tend to focus our main efforts there. Foottraffik launched its Google Ads service in 2016, and since then we’ve added cutting-edge tools like AI/machine learning to deliver exceptional value to our customers.
If you’d like to learn more about how PPC for dispensaries works, start your learning here.
Cannabis Digital Marketing: Geo-Targeted Display Ads
Next up is a class of digital display ads that go by various names: “Geo-targeted, “geo-fenced,” and plain old “geo-ads,” to name a few. But whatever you call them, they’re a remarkably effective tool in the cannabis marketer’s toolkit. They run on platforms such as and via programmatic advertising networks, which run small graphic ads on those websites and apps that have agreed to host such content.
Because so many cannabis sales are made by consumers on the go—and because our culture is increasingly dependent on mobile devices—these nimble ads use sophisticated geolocation tools to target potential customers in specific locations. They’re a powerful way to capture consumers’ attention at the exact time and place they’re likeliest to be swayed by your ad.
There are a number of ways to target when, where, and how these mobile display ads appear. Here are a few of the most potent examples:
- Geo-ads constrained to a radius around your dispensary. Because of the aforementioned “on the go” nature of so many cannabis sales, targeting their mobile devices when they’re in close proximity to you increases the chance of a sale.
- Geo-ads set to show near a competitor’s dispensary. The same tactic can be flipped. Do you have a more alluring offer or promotion than your competition? Letting consumers know right when they’re ready to buy can win you the sale; thanking them with a robust rewards program can make them a customer for life.
- Targeting cannabis tourists. Is “cannabis tourism” a thing? You better believe it! Using geo-ads to target transit hubs, rental car facilities, hotel strips and other such areas can meet those consumers’ needs at just the perfect moment.
- Geo-ads around landmarks and attractions. Along the same lines, you can focus your ads on landmarks and locations your target audience is likely to congregate near. If there’s there a popular commercial strip or natural attraction, you’ll be reaching consumers when and where they play.
Of course, there’s more to the story. If you’d like to know more about the current state of geo-ads and how to use them, begin here.
Cannabis Digital Marketing: Retargeting
“Retargeting” is a method of reaching out to consumers who have interacted with your brand before, and while it’s less-known than the two types of ads we’ve shared above, when done right it’s a uniquely effective way of staying on potential customers’ radar.
The numbers don’t lie: Retargeting is efficient, effective, and a must for those who want to maximize their ROAS. Because the consumers you retarget are already familiar with your offerings, the chance of closing a sale increases greatly when compared with consumers who’ve never interacted with your brand before. And these multiple points of contact—especially when paired with a well-crafted display or other PPC ad campaign—strengthens brand awareness and builds that crucial relationship between customer and brand.