If you’ve been paying attention, it’s likely you’ve seen the uptick in new businesses entering the cannabis industry. A lot of them are cooking up new ideas and introducing products designed to satisfy their customers and provide alternative options to achieve the relief so many of them need.
The rapidly evolving landscape of the cannabis industry presents tons of opportunities for savvy entrepreneurs looking to strike while the iron or pan is hot. And, with new legislation on the horizon and more states joining the legalization bandwagon, both medical and recreational cannabis brands are seeing a sudden influx of new competitors entering the market. As expected, it is becoming increasingly difficult to rise above the noise, build trust and stand out.
In this article, we’re going to take a deep dive into a few inbound growth strategies and proven tactics designed to help you attract and engage prospective customers transforming your company into a crave-worthy brand they excited to interact with, love and promote.
Along the way, you’ll learn about:
And walk away with strategies to
Ready to craft your recipe for mouth-watering marketing, sales, and services?
Let’s get cookin’!
Inbound, a phrase coined by HubSpot co-founder Brian Halligan, is a proven methodology focused on creating valuable experiences that have a positive impact on people and your business.
Inbound marketing is one part of a larger movement that is taking the business world by storm. That movement is inbound.
Broken down into three main stages, inbound focuses on attracting, engaging, and delighting customers to grow your business by providing value and building trust. As technology and the competitive landscape continues to shift, inbound works to position your brand as an empathetic guide in a human and helpful way. Simply put, inbound is a more human way to market your business, inspiring long-term growth at a steady and predictable pace.
In terms of business, the inbound methodology promotes growth by building trust, credibility, and momentum. In practice, it’s all about adding value to the customer experience at every stage in their journey with you.
To the point — inbound is a better way to market, sell, and serve your customers.
After all, happy customers provide the fuel that ignites growth with their continued business or by emphatically promoting your product or service, inspiring others in their network to do business with you too.
In contrast, it’s very important to be conscious of when you are delivering bad experiences, selling to people that are a bad fit, or overpromising and under-delivering. It it will surely have a negative impact and stunt your growth.
By aligning all of your teams around the inbound approach you are able to provide a holistic experience for any person that interacts with your business at any point in their buying journey. To cultivate long-lasting relationships, every customer-facing team needs to focus on how they attract, engage, and delight your prospects and customers while building trust in your brand.
Remember, no one department is accountable for a specific stage in the inbound methodology, rather it is the responsibility of the organization to collaborate and deliver an unforgettably positive human experience.
How people communicate and their expectations when engaging with a business continues to evolve. Noticeably, the same change in buying behavior that inspired the inbound movement has spread throughout the entire customer experience.
But, there is good news.
The inbound methodology continues to help brands adapt to the fast-changing needs of the market and we’re not just talking marketing here, we’re referring to the whole customer experience.
Implemented properly, inbound will serve to elevate your brand and attract your ideal customer avoiding the need to compete for their attention in this noisy and cluttered competitive market.
When your company adopts the inbound methodology, it is your goal is to attract new prospects, engage with them at scale, and delight them with individualized service. Partnering with your sales and services teams to get your flywheel spinning— and keep it spinning— will help effectively grow your business.
Let’s dig into the 3 stages of the inbound marketing methodology.
In the interest of attracting the right people to your website, crafting and sharing relevant content at the right time – when they’re looking for it – will bring people who are more likely to become leads, and ultimately, happy customers.
A solid content strategy will build authority in search and improve organic rank for topics that resonate with your prospects. Publishing content and repurposing it across all of your social media networks helps to spread your digital footprint.
Often confused with content marketing or content planning, content strategy is a deep dive into “creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content,” as Kristina Halvorson, co-author of Content Strategy for the Web, said. Content marketing is a support tool that focuses on building your audience, while content planning outlines how the strategy will be executed.
Is a content strategy really necessary? Quick answer - Yes.
Not developing a strategy can result in misaligned or varying brand messaging which will alienate and confuse your audience. Often this means content that is too generic or text that says one thing on social media but another on your website. That’s frustrating for customers and can leave a lasting impression.
Get ahead of your content development and make sure it’s working FOR you and not against you. Remember, it’s important to:
Video content is a highly engaging way to not only encourage clicks but also promote shares to new audiences and create brand recognition that has a lasting effect. Stats show that videos are 1200% more likely to be shared than social posts with text and images alone. Also, 80% of users recall a video ad that they had seen online in the past month; those are future customers.
Video use on various platforms — in social posts, business blogs, website landing pages, emails, and popular streaming apps like Facebook and Instagram Live — have resulted in:
What are the keys to creating successful video content?
Don’t forget to include a call to action or link back to your website. Your video content should show product use or inspire users to consult your brand for future purchases. According to SocialMediaToday.com, 64% of users are more likely to buy a product online after watching a video.
Blogging is a great way to keep your website up-to-date and establish yourself as an authority figure in your industry. It shows readers that you know the business well and can provide support or advice outside of sales. It also gives customers yet another content piece that’s easily shareable with their friends and colleagues.
Why is it worth your time to maximize your blogging space?
Keep in mind that your blog content is another tactic to support your business. Regular content should maximize SEO for good search engine placement to drive new, organic traffic to your site. Include call-to-actions to generate leads.
While not every blog post will become a huge traffic driver and may simply feed into your content plan, some blog posts may generate compounding traffic month after month. These are the posts that rank high on search engines and get shared repeatedly.
Actively include these compounding blog posts in your editorial calendar and use practices that encourage the development of compounding blog posts.
Social media takes months to develop and not days, but the effects mean increased traffic, an opportunity to develop a brand persona, and long-term brand loyalty. Optimize your social media tactics by tracking and making small adjustments to your post frequency, post type, and your overall content strategy.
Create a positive experience on social media by:
For cannabis businesses, there are few immovable situations that you might possibly encounter along the way.
One such situation is the inability to leverage paid advertising to increase brand awareness. Traditionally, paid ads are used to get you in front of your intended audience quickly and inexpensively. Sadly, due to political biases, stereotypes, lack of trust, and generally unfriendly policies, paid ads aren’t available for use on most popular paid advertising platforms— think Google Ads, Facebook, or Instagram— by companies selling cannabis products.
Other obstacles you might face are the restrictions placed on cannabis-based businesses on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Currently, these social media titans have a few restrictions and they’re very quick to shut down pages or suppress search visibility of cannabis brands. But! There’s good news! We’ve heard that change is on the horizon.
According to a few sources, sometime in March 2019, a few internal documents were shared stating Facebook (and Instagram) will be loosening their grip and peeling back some of the limitations that are in place. However, you’ll still have to be careful. This doesn’t necessarily mean you can do as you please — you’ll still have to respect and abide by their policies or they will shut you down.
With that said, there’s still hope if paid advertising is a tactic you want to include in your future marketing game plan.
There are plenty of relevant platforms where cannabis companies can leverage paid ads and promote their products and services — Leafly.com and Hightimes.com are among the largest. A quick online search will reveal plenty of industry-specific platforms to spend your marketing dollars.
Facebook and Instagram continue to work to update their limitations. In the meantime, create an efficient ad content development process by following the IAB’s (Interactive Advertising Bureau) framework and guidelines to develop content that can be displayed on various platforms and ad space locations. Once limitations on social networks are lifted, you may able to duplicate your ad work featured on industry-specific websites to other outlets.
In your ads, don’t forget to focus on the fundamentals. Use sales and unique codes in your ads to promote follow-through and link the ad back to your website to improve your search ranking results. Links back to your site from featured ads on industry-relevant websites also develops a strong connection recognized by search engine web crawlers, improving your results even further.
Taking a conversational approach to this stage will stimulate prospects, helping your brand build a lasting relationship by communicating with them on their preferred channels like email, chatbots, live chat, or messaging apps to name a few. Use of conversion tools like Calls-To-Action, web forms, and automated lead flows can help capture a prospect’s information when they visit your website.
Lead flows like pop-up boxes, drop-down banners or slide-in boxes, can sometimes generate a knee-jerk reaction from businesses to say, “Nope! They’re annoying.” Today’s advances in marketing technology and strategy have developed lead flow tools that are less invasive, more successful, and provide a positive interaction when capturing customer information.
Think long term and set up a workflow that maximizes the interaction: adding a possible customer to your mailing list, providing a thank you with a unique discount, or simply logging the interaction in your customer relationship management (CRM) software.
Dedicated CRM software comes in handy when personalizing the website experience and in some cases, depending on the software you choose, can make use of smart content that dynamically shifts the content they’re viewing to coincide with where they are in their buying journey. Targeting specific audiences with your social content or ads can cultivate brand loyalty and ultimately drive more business and improve your bottom line.
Use email marketing to create and develop a direct connection to your audience. With the current hurdles that cannabis businesses are facing with digital paid advertisements, your email communications are the best possible way to reach your customers about your products and services. This is a direct connection that your audience signed up for. Nurture and take care of your lists, as this will give you an advantage over competitors.
What are the hallmarks of successful email marketing? They include:
When you think of bots, you might think of impersonal and limited responses. However, technology has changed; with the support of CRM software, conversational bots can help you:
Bots are increasingly common on social media pages, messaging apps, and website live chat. Customers expect immediate responses to their questions. In fact, according to HubSpot, patience wears out after only 10 minutes and 90% of customers believe an immediate response is very important.
Developing a relationship with your customers is a two-way road; it requires not only reaching out to them but also responding and answering their inquiries.
Communication is a 24/7 job, but marketing automation can help you save time, meet your customers’ expectations, and propel your relationships forward. With tools like HubSpot, you can streamline your recurring tasks and maximize the use of your CRM to ensure that engagement is consistent, personalized, and high quality. This frees up your time to focus on content strategy as well as the new developments in the cannabis industry.
Benefits of marketing automation include:
In fact, Marketing & Growth Hacking Publication reports roughly 75% of brands using automation see an ROI in under 12 months and about 6 hours of saved time per week.
Email, marketing automation, and direct conversations serve to continuously provide the right information at the right time to the right person, every time.
Leveraging tools to align your organization across your marketing, sales, and services teams can create opportunities to tailor contextual conversations with the people you do business with and create memorable content they’ll want to share with their friends and family in several different formats – like video, infographic, downloadable assets, etc.
The satisfaction of your customers is a requirement for success.
Use automation techniques like Smart Content in your email marketing, CTAs, rich-text or coded modules, to leverage your CRM database and delight your customers with a personal touch. Smart Content evaluates the customer’s country of origin, for example, or referral source (based on how the user began interacting with your content) to present them with useful, relevant information.
Other criteria types may include:
The goal of any business isn’t just to sell a product. It’s to delight a customer so that you have repeat business and so that they develop into organic spokespeople. Testimonials and recommendations directly from your customers are priceless for both growing and established businesses. Repeat customers spend 67% more than new customers, according to a Bain & Company report.
Without measurement and review of your current practices it’s difficult to identify your unhappy customers and areas in need of improvement. All businesses, no matter how established, large or small, have room for improvement. Use surveys and send them quickly for the most useful feedback. Delays in surveys can result in skewed results.
Keep your business goals in mind when developing surveys. Ask questions that tie back to what your business is aiming to accomplish. You may want to send surveys:
Without your customers, you wouldn’t have much of a business. Show them your appreciation with unexpected discounts and offers. Use spontaneous outreach to thank a customer for their feedback or patience with a problem to establish an emotional, memorable connection.
Think long-term when it comes to nurturing the relationships you’ve identify and develop with your business. Not enough can be said for the power of a small, personal “Thank you.”
Remember, your customers are your community! They are your business.
Let’s be real for a moment — nobody wants to be sold to, ever. And, with so much information on the internet at our fingertips, why do we need a salesperson to pitch their product?
The truth is, we don’t... nor do we want to deal with what is typically perceived as a sleazy, pushy and void-of-real-value pitch-fest.
The internet has removed the power from the traditional salesperson and gracefully placed it in the hands of consumers, supercharging their ability to detect sales-y BS when it rears its ugly head.
This is exactly why inbound sales is part of the inbound equation to growth. It uses a personal approach that respects and takes into consideration where the buyer is in the buying process. There’s no pushing at all. In fact, inbound sales allows you to more efficiently allocate the right resources at the right time. Take the time to better understand your customer’s challenges and goals.
In short, successful inbound sales:
Inbound sales focuses on attracting new leads to boost your pipeline, engaging with prospects who are at the perfect point to have a sales-driven conversation, and delighting them with real solutions to their very real problems. At this point, inbound marketing and sales combine to identify where and how you can deliver value to your prospective customers.
While the four stages of Inbound Sales Methodology is more-often used for B2B (Business to Business) where companies need to identify opportunities to connect with vendors and distributors. However, it can also be applied in a B2C (Business to Customer) environment when taking Inbound calls from current and new customers, developing and maintaining strong account relationships, ensuring a positive customer experience by educating, cross-selling or upselling customers on services and products that would benefit them/their business, as well as responding to questions and overcoming objections.
While more applicable to B2B scenarios, learning to identify the right opportunities to develop “strangers” to “leads” is important to creating a predictable sales funnel.
Most importantly for cannabis businesses, Inbound Sales focuses on prioritizing customers that are already in the buying phase. You don’t need to convince them of your product or services. In fact, these are people that are already visiting your website and may have even signed up for your email newsletter list.
Your goal in Stage 2 is not to sell but to develop a relationship and to educate.
Once you have identified potential customers or leads, you need to sort through those to decide whether you should prioritize the goal or challenge that your leads are facing. What are they trying to accomplish or what problem are they trying to solve? Do you have a possible solution? Qualified leads are those that are worth prioritizing right then.
This is where the industry connections you developed through Inbound Marketing come into play. Participation in trade shows and industry events are great ways to directly interact with leads and, if you’re looking to accelerate leads, capture data on the spot.
Using CRMs or sales acceleration tools like HubSpot’s atEvent integration, you can review the captured data to immediately determine your event performance and adjust your event strategy. You’ll also gain a better idea of which events are worth attending for lead generation and which may not be.
With the current dynamic nature of the marijuana industry - changing laws, new investors and entrepreneurs – tradeshows and events are where most B2B and B2C connections are made.
Here is where your qualified leads turn into opportunities. Budtenders should connect with their customers to build rapport and trust, explore and assess their needs, and advise which products would be best for them. Wait for them to indicate if they’re looking for a different solution or agree before moving any further.
Use this opportunity to showcase how your cannabis business is different than your competitors – what can you offer to meet their needs that your competitor does not or does not do as well?
Use a personalized approach and steer clear of templated-language. A customer knows when you are repeating what you have said to a prior customer. The last thing you want is for a customer to walk away thinking “were they even listening?” Stage 4 is an opportunity to create a stronger bond with your customer and to show how your company is a good fit.
As more and more dispensaries join the cannabis industry, organic leads like word-of-mouth referrals will help you stand high above your competitors and gain repeat customers. Remember, repeat customers spend 67% more than new customers, according to a Bain & Company report. Attract, engage, and delight your customers to develop an invaluable, organic lead generation funnel. Nothing speaks louder than your customer’s testimonial!
Like marketing and sales, apply the Inbound Strategy to develop a customer-focused team. Your budtenders are your direct tie to your customers and potential leads. They work with the customer from the first impression to closing sales.
Successful customer-focused teams don’t just conduct a transaction, they:
They are available and happy to answer any and all questions that your customers may have. Don’t assume that the customer knows exactly what they are looking for. A good budtender and team will identify your customer’s challenges and goals.
They’ll tie together how your company fits those needs best and if you can’t fulfill those needs immediately (out of stock product, for example) they’ll advocate for your customer by jotting down their phone number to give them a call as soon as the product arrives.
Don’t neglect customer-service basics:
All in all, taking a conversational, human-centered approach is what Inbound is all about. Actually listening when you engage with customers— through marketing automation, conversational bots, or customer satisfaction surveys— establishes rapport early on and promote deeper, long-lasting relationships that are built on trust with those whom your product or service can really help.
Incorporate that feedback knowledge in your content strategy and customer-service approach. Answer the questions they are seeking. The cannabis industry is just getting off the ground. Marketing advertisement rules will change over time, but focusing on how to attract, engage, and delight your prospects and customers now, at every stage of the buying process, will elevate your business above your competitors.
Transform your company into a crave-worthy business that they trust.