In September 2016, I attended MozCon, a B2B digital marketing conference that covered topics ranging from user experience (UX) to search engine optimization (SEO) to brand development and beyond. For the cannabis industry, there were three core takeaways from the event that dispensaries and other businesses can follow to improve their marketing efforts. Today I’ll go over the importance of marketing your business’s reputation in order to win customers, positive media coverage, and improve your digital performance.
Build Your Street Cred with Reputation Marketing
Cannabis companies can have a difficult time being perceived as reputable and upstanding businesses. It’s hard to shake the stigma after decades of prohibitionist propaganda, which is why it’s especially important for dispensaries to add reputation marketing to their strategy. Rhea Drysdale shared a few ways businesses can implement reputation marketing and measure the success of their efforts, highlighted below.
Emphasize Your Philanthropic Efforts
Dispensaries can lose the shady “drug dealer” reputation by telling people all of the ways they give back to the community. Don’t give back to your community? Maybe you should. A good example of this is can be found with Seattle’s own Dockside Cannabis. They have an ongoing “cats vs. dogs” competition that allows customers to donate tips either to a dog or cat no-kill shelter. Both organizations receive their share of the funds, and a “winner” is announced.
How can these types of efforts be better displayed to the public? Talk about all of your philanthropic efforts in a prominent, easy-to-find section of your website. A good place to do this is your business’s “about” page. Instead of a generic blurb or stale elevator-pitch copy, tell your story and emphasize the ways you’re a positive contributor to society.
List your company’s different charitable endeavors and link to any blog posts that offer more information about your business’s positive contributions to the surrounding community. Including pictures of employees doing good deeds can further deepen the emotional response in readers. The key here is visibility—remember, people’s views can’t be influenced by what they don’t know.
Bonus tip: If you’re donating earned money or spending money to actively help a charitable cause, you can write it off in your taxes. Just make sure whatever organization you’re working with is approved by the IRS.
Join the Conversation
Businesses constantly hear how they should be on whatever the trending social network is, a clear depiction of the “shiny object” syndrome. However, simply having a profile or using it as a bullhorn won’t do any good. Instead, actively engage with your followers (and non-followers), and listen to what they’re saying.
Join in conversations on various channels by responding to comments when necessary, and track the average sentiment of people’s comments to gauge what kinds of content they’re reacting to. When you have an idea of what type of message resonates strongly with your audience, you can deliver better crafted content that they’ll enjoy. It’s also equally important to not spread yourself too thin across too many social media accounts such that you can’t update or engage with each on a regular basis. Do your research and see where your target audiences are spending the most time, and focus first on those channels. And most importantly, make sure you’re connecting with people and providing value while evaluating which social networks make sense for you.
Bonus tip: Reserve your user name on all of the major social media networks, and focus on building/updating a couple at a time until you get the hang of each community. After you’ve figured out your publishing schedule, and if the channel makes sense for your business, you can experiment with another social network.
Create a Fun and Interesting Workplace
Not only should you be highlighting your philanthropic efforts, you should also show what makes your cannabis store or business so unique. If you don’t have a fun, happy workplace or qualities that make your store experience special, you should prioritize fixing that! Host events, hold fun contests in-store every week, or provide customers with some educational information to help them better understand what strains they want before talking to the budtender.
You should also incentivize employees who display the most exceptional customer service, seeing as they’re the person between your customers and the product. Make it a fun game by giving prizes or special accolades to staff who regularly go above and beyond. Your employees and customers can be your biggest advocates, and sometimes just fostering a positive environment causes the reputation marketing to happen naturally. Plus, happier employees = happier customers.
Stay tuned for Part 2, where I’ll outline how creating a personal connection to your user by customizing his or her digital experience can make a positive impact on your cannabis business.
If you’d like to dive deeper into any of the 2016 MozCon presentations, you can also request detailed notes from Unbounce for free.