Marketing to Ontario’s Retail Cannabis Consumer

Marketing to Ontario’s Retail Cannabis Consumer

Marketing to Ontario’s Retail Cannabis Consumer

Photo by: Matthew Henry


There are two big problems when it comes to marketing retail cannabis. Knowing who our ideal cannabis consumer is and knowing how to market to them without breaking the law?

Google Adwords and Facebook Ads won’t let you advertise. Instagram, Youtube, and Facebook have shut down accounts before. And according to Canada’s Cannabis Act:

  • Products cannot display prices.
  • Products must show disclaimers that content is intended for 18+.
  • Testimonials and endorsements cannot be used.
  • Brands elements cannot be presented in a way that “evokes a positive or negative emotion” which includes presenting a lifestyle of “glamour, recreation, excitement, vitality, risk or daring”.

To put more obstacles in front of you, you’re a busy owner. Your time is short. In fact, you’re the business’s most valuable asset., a digital marketing company, found that less than half of small businesses (44%) like yours did any kind of digital marketing. A little more than a quatre engaged on social media more an once a day, but most either let it go or posted once a week.

But ignoring your digital marketing for your cannabis could cost you sales and customers who otherwise would return, go somewhere else because they feel more connected to go elsewhere.

So what’s a cannabis business to do? The old marketing rules aren’t going to work. You’re going to have to believe in digital marketing.

Bottom line:

When social media, search engine optimization, and email marketing are managed properly, your cannabis business can see huge dividends in your brand reputation and customer engagement as fans and repeat business.

Connecting Cannabis Consumer Demographics  with Social Media

According to the National Cannabis Survey, third quarter 2018 survey data, cannabis consumer demographics shows 15% Ontario residents reported using cannabis in the previous three months. Sherpa Marketing reported 67% of Ontario residents have a social media account. You can’t go wrong with setting up a social media business account and engaging with your cannabis consumer there.

Which social platform should you start first to connect with your cannabis consumer demographics?

Forget Facebook, go with Instagram. That’s my recommendation. Instagram a favorite for many cannabis consumer demographics and businesses.

Yet you might have heard that Instagram and other social platforms are shutting down accounts that have anything to do with cannabis. Well, that’s true. But it all comes down to playing by the rules.

If you follow these rules, your chances are better than most of not getting shut down:

  • Do not sell any cannabis.
  • Do not post photos or videos of people consuming cannabis.
  • Add an age disclaimer “Mature Content 18+ Only” to your profile description.
  • Add a disclaimer in your profile section that says “WE DO NOT SELL ANYTHING”.
  • Keep the membership to your social accounts private.

Whether you like social media or can’t stand it, you need it for your cannabis business.

Here’s the deal:

Building a social media presence takes time to build, but it’s also one of the easiest areas to work on, needing very little experience to manage. However, in the hand of a professional who understands the cannabis consumer demographics, there’s a lot more to be gained.

Getting on Google First Page Matters for Cannabis Expos

Cannabis SEO

Photo by:  Jakcob Owens

It’s going to get more competitive to get people’s attention to think of your business. cannabis expos are becoming the way most consumers are learning about cannabis.

Foot traffic at cannabis expos around the country is showing an ever-growing hunger by consumers to answer their questions. If you understand your audience and where cannabis consumer is in their journey, you can position yourself to answer those questions.

I can’t emphasize this enough:

When people search online for cannabis expos, they rarely scroll past the first few results – let alone the first page. This makes search engine optimization (SEO) an essential marketing tool for cannabis businesses.

Google doesn’t care your website looks pretty. It matters that your website loading speed works and that your content is of high enough quality that people want to come to you.

Google is a place where people ask questions. People at first don’t know what they want and plug in simple keywords. Then after learning more, they ask more detailed questions.

SEO is About Understanding Your Audience

It’s important to understand your target audience since this tells you the keywords they use to search.

Statistics Canada found that more men (18%) than women (12%) reported using cannabis. Men not only report using cannabis more but also more likely reported using it almost daily.

I wonder how many men and women can tell you the difference between an Indica and a Sativa plant? Or what CBD is compared to THC?

Miner & Co Studio, a social analytics company in Colorada, reported from a survey of 800 the following demographics:

    • Average age is 30 years old
    • 84% working full-time
    • 65% household income of at least $75,000
    • 35% female
    • 65% male
  • 63% either living with a significant other or are married
  • 42% parents with children under 18

I wonder how many soccer moms prefer vaping over dried cannabis? You might live in a college town, but your biggest market might come from moms and dads on weekends.

SEO is About Making the On-Page Technical Fixes

Deloitte reported roughly a third of cannabis consumer they surveyed were interested in buying cannabis online. Deloitte estimates that 35 percent of cannabis purchases will come through these online and mobile channels.

What this means:

You need to be sure your mobile optimization speed and website’s keyword placements are ready. If you understand what cannabis consumer is interested in and searching for online, then you can showcase information that will help them buy. Once you understand your audience and their search patterns, you target directly to them through your marketing messages and education blogs.

Here’s the catch.

SEO is something you should hire out for — unless you have a good developer who can swap in as an SEO marketer – since optimizing your website requires handling everything from performing a keyword research to monitoring site speed and blog writing for off-site optimization.

Today, right now…

Google’s ranking algorithm sees content marketing as the must-do for getting noticed in an increasingly competitive cannabis business space. A well-written and relevant content with the right targetted keywords will boost your SEO.

In the hands of a good SEO content writer who understands your cannabis consumer, you won’t have to worry about content calendars or moderating comments.

Drive Cannabis Consumer Trends with Email Marketing

Deloitte also reported that in cannabis consumer trends, consumers are willing to pay extra – especially in Ontario for lab tested, quality cannabis compare to illegal cannabis. In Ontario, consumers who pay an average of $8.33 per gram for illegal weed are willing to pay up to $9.33 per gram.

When it comes to cannabis consumer trends of spending habits over the past three months:

  • one-quarter of cannabis users spent more than $250,
  • about 14% of cannabis consumer (more than 650,000 Canadians) spent from $251 to $500,
  • 7% spent from $501 to $1,000, and
  • 3% spent more than $1,000 (or $333 per month, on average).

Interestingly, one in three consumers reported not paying anything. It seems many casual consumers will use cannabis during social occasions – like Friday nights after work or on weekends – shared with friends as part of cannabis culture of sharing (‘a friend with weed is a friend indeed’).

Emails Marketing Can Play a Role in Reaching Out to Consumers

The Cannabis Act does allow this form of marketing when people who subscribe voluntarily give their emails and names.

This is how it can work:

Each week or so you can send subscribers an update of what’s come into the shop and events they would be interested in. Some consumers at the high and low ends of the spending scale would prefer different offers tailored to their needs, thus making them more loyal to your retail business than any other who doesn’t do email marketing.

That’s not all…

There’s a strong appetite for edibles. The federal government currently only allows dried cannabis, oils and capsules to be sold. However, Deloitte estimates that six out of 10 likely cannabis customers will choose to consume edible products over other alternatives.

Here’s an idea.

Hosting events at your dispensary or manufacturing facility is one way to educate consumers about the safe consumption of edibles. Email marketing extends the retailers reach in building a loyal and repeat business. Email marketing may sound old-school, but it works. It remains one of the most powerful tools in your marketing arsenal.

Like other areas of marketing, it can take time to grow and manage your email list. Whether you do it in-house or outsource, you’ll need to set aside time to write and proofread the emails and newsletters, as well as send out mass emails and respond to any questions.

Thankfully, email marketing is one of the easiest marketing tools to set up.

This video by Neil Patel offers helpful advice on setting up your email marketing.

Marketing to Ontario’s cannabis consumer will feel time-consuming and distracting for many new cannabis businesses, especially if you are juggling too many things for the start of a business. It gets easier over time, especially if you’re working with a good team.

The real story is that every cannabis business will do its own marketing in its own way.
These are some of the quick tips that you can consider if you want to market to Ontario’s cannabis consumer and connect with your cannabis consumer. There are many more things that you can do for your online marketing, but these are the most basic and important ones to keep in mind while working on starting or managing your cannabis business.
Milton Wani is interested in the business and regulation side of cannabis. Learning about cannabis is new for everyone. That’s why I wrote a book: Retail Cannabis Handbook. It’s meant for people who want to open and run a retail marijuana dispensary and for people who want to learn about the industry. You can also subscribe to the monthly newsletter and receive a selection of news stories from Canada and around the world. 
Article Name
Marketing to Ontario's Retail Cannabis Consumer
When social media, SEO, and email marketing are managed properly, your cannabis business can see huge dividends in your brand reputation and customer engagement as fans and repeat business.

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