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Marketing for cannabis brands sounds like a dream job, and it actually can be. The wave of legalization and cultural acceptance has been amplified by the success of earlier adopter states, making your job easier in the years to come.
During this transition period, however, you will face some unique challenges calling for highly creative solutions to connecting with your customers.
At the top of that list of challenges is that the central channels for low-cost, wide dispersion marketing (i.e. social media platforms) are currently shutting down and erasing the accounts of many cannabis brands.
It’s hard not to take that personally. The answer is to take your message to customers personally instead -- through in-store events and experiential marketing (XM). Marketing leaders can gather all the metrics they need to refine their message using data collection technology build specifically to support the live event marketing.
The upside of the current climate is that large marketing brands are still hanging back, according to research by the Harvard Business School. Boutique brands and creative marketing teams can dominate the sector with more accurate segmentation and prioritizing the customer experience.
Harvard marketing professor John A. Quelch wrote, “You really have four markets: medicinal, individual grower, recreational, and the illegal market." Each one displayed a slightly different dynamics in terms of prioritizing price, convenience, and marketing messaging.
It makes sense to invest in XM now, not only because it engages cannabis customers in a way that online marketing simply can’t, but also because only about six percent of marketers are currently confident in their ability to pin down the ROI of live events. That leaves plenty of room for forward-looking marketers to prove their value and build a competitive advantage around a comprehensive, data-driven view of your customer.
Approximately three out of four of millennials surveyed said they would rather buy a great experience than possess a great object. That is precisely where cannabis brands can deliver results like no other sector. The war for customer attraction and retention is being fought in the field of unique, offline events that are digitally monitored and analyzed, according to a report by Econsultancy.
Take a look at the top three best practices trending in cannabis marketing:
Cannabis brands are increasingly combining their resources to make customers feel more comfortable interacting with their products in a public forum. That’s evident at trade shows like the NCIA Cannabis Business Summit & Expo and the California Cannabis Business Conference, which attract thousands of attendees annually.
Increasing media coverage of XM events like these helps to bring legitimacy to the fledgling cannabis industry because 79 percent of marketers across the board generate revenue with event marketing, and 93 percent of consumers choose live events over TV ads as the experiences that have a bigger influence on their buying decisions.
Cannabis brands that are able to collect and learn from XM data can more easily create a single line of sight around their customer experience.
Hard numbers and demographic data is notoriously hard to find in the cannabis sector due to the lack of research and the nature of biased reporting. However, social data analyst Miner & Co. was able to assemble what they see as representative cannabis consumer persona data for a report in Forbes.
They concluded that average users are:
Starting with this data set, cannabis brands can research prospects and then refine their own customer profiles based on demographic data they collect from live events.
At this early stage of the industry’s development, many cannabis companies are small to mid-sized enterprises without the resources of a multi-national brand. They tend to have a patchwork of technologies and operate with a lean workforce. An internal data analytics team is a luxury that few can afford. Yet about half of executives across industries say that data analytics is a critical skills gap necessary for mapping and improving customers’ journeys, according to Forrester.
To fill the gap, marketers can now access tools for data analytics that integrate with any third-party partners. If a marketer wants to use a contractor to run a live contest for customers, they will need data collection tools that integrate easily into a wide variety of back office software.
Although there are unique aspects to the cannabis industry as it stands today, marketers here face essentially the same challenges as their peers across sectors: rising above all the noise to connect with prospects and building relationships.
XM has proven particularly effective in achieving both goals because it provides personalized and incomparable experiences for this highly sought after demographic. The secret to making XM effective, however, has combining creative planning with new, secure data collection technology that helps marketers empathize with their customers.
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