Updated: 2/27/20

Cannabis Industry Trends and Dispensary Insights

  • Spending on legal cannabis worldwide is expected to hit $57 billion by 2027 (Forbes)
  • The largest group of cannabis buyers will be in North America, going from $9.2 billion in 2017 to $47.3 billion a decade later (Forbes)
  • Sales of medical and recreational marijuana are going to reach $4.75 and $6 billion in 2019 respectively. By 2023, both forms of marijuana will be higher than $20 billion before hitting $24 billion in 2025. (Statistica)
  • Medical marijuana sales are expected to account for between $5.9 billion and $7.3 billion in sales in 2022. Meanwhile, recreational weed should tally between $12.1 billion and $14.8 billion in sales that year. (The Marijuana Business Factbook)

Since the passage of SQ 788 which made medical marijuana legal for licensed Oklahoma medical patients, the market has literally exploded. As of today, there are over 1,200 dispensaries in Oklahoma, which is more than California, Nevada, Alaska, Oregon, and Washington combined, with only a small fraction of the population.

Navigating the world of dispensary marketing can be overwhelming and this article’s objective is to simplify it and increase the return on your efforts. Use the actionable steps in this article to tune out the noise and take care of the specific, actionable items which will enable your dispensary to become more visible to patients and increase your foot traffic and revenue.

This article streamlines the entire situation for you, allowing you to focus on improving the areas of your business where you will see the greatest returns on your time and investment.

As a digital marketing professional, I get to help business owners do more of what they love doing by doing what I love doing. Creating this guide is just one of those ways. Let this dispensary marketing and growth guide pave the way for your dispensary’s success in 2019 and beyond.

Table of Contents

#1 – Get a pulse on your marijuana market by connecting with the right pages and groups.

#2 – The Fundamentals: Cover Your 3 P’s (Product, People, and Pricing)

#3 – Optimize Your Digital Visibility

#4:  Simplify Your Transactions and Minimize Cash on Hand

#1 – Get a Pulse on Your Local Market by Connecting With the Right Pages & Groups

The resources here apply specifically to Oklahoma cannabis dispensary owners but you should have similarly equivalent resources in your state if you are not involved with those already.  

The r/OKmarijuana Subreddit

This group is highly valuable to you, as a dispensary owner, because many of Oklahoma’s medical patients are on here giving feedback about local dispensaries.  

Many of them complain or make recommendations for improvement. If you are not a member of this subreddit, you should join right now, and make a point to look through new posts on a daily basis (or hire somebody like me, to do that for you).  

Not only does this subreddit give you a pulse on the Oklahoma cannabis market, but it also gives you the opportunity to engage with customers and to promote your business (which I recommend doing, but go easy on it). Encouraging your patients to talk you up here would be the wisest way to utilise this resource.

If you have never used Reddit, I highly recommend sticking to the OKmarijuana group.  Reddit can consume your life if you are not careful.

Oklahoma Cannabis Industry Insiders Facebook Group

You will get the same value out of this that you will get from Reddit, however, there are a few reasons you may find Facebook to be slightly more or less valuable.  

For one, on Facebook, you can see exactly who the person is that is making a post or replying to yours.  On Reddit, there is a layer of anonymity as alias names are used.

Similar to Reddit, having your patients brag about your products is going to carry much more weight here, and keep you from being banned.

There are pros and cons to this.  Sometimes people will be more transparent when they know their personal name is not tied to what they are saying.  You can sometimes get a better idea of how people REALLY feel on Reddit. Whereas on Facebook, there will always be a hint of censorship as people can clearly see who is talking.  

Oklahoma Medical Marijuana B2B (LinkedIn Group)

I personally made this group as a resource for Growers, Processors, and Dispensaries to connect in a way that makes shopping for new vendors significantly easier.  

LinkedIn is significantly more lenient than Facebook and Reddit when it comes to product promotion.

The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority

Unlike the other resources, which are groups to join, with the OMMA, you simply want to make sure you follow their page.  

For bonus points, you might consider changing their post visibility so that you see their posts first.  Sometimes they post updates which are directly relevant to your business and there is no sense in not clicking this simple button to ensure you don’t miss out on any major industry changes that affect your medical marijuana business.

To do this, visit the OMMA’s Facebook page, and make sure the checkboxes indicated in the image below are checked.  

‘See First’  and Notifications – ‘On’

Now, you will see posts from the OMMA prior to seeing anything else on your newsfeed.  

#2 – The Fundamentals: Cover Your 3 P’s (Product, People, and Pricing)

Before we get into specifics of the digital marketing and business optimization strategies you can (and should) be using to optimize your cannabis market share, we need to cover the fundamentals.  

“All compromise is based on giv and take, but there can be no give and take on fundamentals. Any compromise on mere fundamentals is a surrender.”  – Mahatma Ghandi  

Additionally, ask any of the most successful NBA and NFL coaches of any time over the past 100 years and they will tell you the same.  

Fundamentals are everything when it comes to success.  And your business is no exception. It all starts with your product…

Sourcing Cannabis Product

If your business is closer to one of the larger cities in your state (like Oklahoma City, for instance), sourcing quality product should not be much of an issue. Dispensaries located in the more rural areas of the state are starting out having greater challenges finding suppliers, as many of the growers are maximizing their efforts by targeting metro areas.

There are several ways to ensure you are carrying the best products and to ensure, with a relatively significant degree of assurance, that patients will purchase the products off of your shelves.  

  • If you are looking for suppliers, post in the groups mentioned above, in section 1 of this article.  Be sure to get on email lists for all of your favorite growers (if they have them). I recommend building a simple spreadsheet with supplier names, contact information, license numbers, cities, products, pricing, etc.
    I personally had some great feedback mailing a postcard to every registered grower on the OMMA list and directing them to a landing page to learn more about their business.  
    If we end up working together, I am more than happy to help you source product.
  • Prioritize quality over getting the best deal.  It doesn’t matter how cheap you can sell flower.  If it’s not any good – you will never be able to sell it and your customers are going to complain on Weedmaps, Reddit, Facebook, Google, and everywhere else.  
  • Survey your customers to learn more about their preferences, or at least encourage them to speak up if there is anything specific they would like to see you carrying.
    Facebook is one great way to poll your customers and keep them engaged in conversation with your brand.  
    If you use a POS system (hopefully you do), that would be a great place to take notes about your customer’s preferences, look at their past orders, etc… so you can talk to them about how they liked their previous purchases.
    Not only will this increase customer satisfaction by keeping products in stock that your customers are specifically telling you that they want, but it also makes them feel all warm and fuzzy to know that their personal input was taken into consideration when you made your purchase.  They will also likely be more inclined to purchase from you – since they had a say I making it happen.
  • Make sure every product you purchase includes laboratory testing from a legitimate lab in your state.  Here in Oklahoma, patients seem to be coming to the industry with a heightened awareness of health considerations.  Patients need to know what is (and what is not) in every product you offer.

Attracting and Screening the Right People (Employees)

Finding quality people is one of the most challenging considerations for any businesses – particularly for marijuana industry businesses.  

Here are some important questions to ask, prior to digging into the market of eligible employees.

How do you (personally) differentiate between quality candidates and people who just want to get high?  Does it make any difference to you?

Do you even want to hire non-patients?

Is it more important that the candidates know how many grams are in an eighth, ounce, or pound or would you rather teach a newbie?

Do you want somebody who is familiar selling pot on the black market or somebody who is not familiar, that you can show the ways?

These are all important questions to ask yourself prior to hiring, and the truth is, there is not a single, correct answer that will work for every business. Once you define your most ideal candidate, structure your application and interview questions specifically to help you efficiently identify your most likely quality candidates.

I recommend adding a ‘We’re Hiring’ page/form to your website, which allows applicants to answer some customized questions and upload their resumes.  You never know when you might need additional help, and sometimes you have to screen through quite a few before finding quality candidates. It’s best to get this set up ASAP, if you have not done so already.  (or we can do it for you).

Offer Competitive Cannabis Pricing Without Losing Your Shirt

With tools like Weedmaps, this one can be tricky, however, there is a solution.  By providing your customers with a consistently high-quality buying experiences and cannabis strains, you can easily overcome the feeling that you need to have the lowest prices in order to maintain consistent business.  

Below are a handful of ways you can approach this pricing situation – which is only going to become more important as the market continues to mature.

  • Include tax with your pricing.  While this might make you appear to be more expensive to customers shopping you on Weedmaps, it will be a pleasant surprise when they do.  
    The alternative to this is obviously to not include a tax on transactions, which instead, provides a slightly negative experience when your customers are checking out.  It’s always better to plan to surprise your customers rather than tagging on extra cost at checkout.
  • Use a cashless ATM to process payments (generally a flat, $3-$4 charges which may be passed onto the customer).  Include that transaction fee in your pricing, assuming that everybody will be using a debit card, then offer the transaction fee as a direct discount for customers that pay with cash.  
  • Consider creative ways you can add value to every transaction.  Maybe stock up on half gram prerolls or edible sample packs to give away as surprises with every transaction.  
    This will leave your customers with a positive feeling when they leave your shop, they will be much more likely to tell others about their experience, and there is a much greater chance they will come back to buy whatever it is you just gave them a sample of.
  • Evaluate and optimize your customer’s buying experience and make improvements everywhere you are able.  Keep Starbucks in mind when you do this. Starbucks has some of the most expensive coffee but they also have some of the most loyal customers.  It’s not about the price their customers are paying – it’s about the experience they have when they buy it.

Here are some questions to help you get the experience optimization process started for your dispensary:

  • Are your employees wearing uniforms or lab coats?
  • Are your budtenders wearing gloves every time they handle product? (very important)  
  • How can you cost-effectively improve the vibe of your shop?  
  • Are you cleaning your shop consistently?
  • What kind of music are you playing?  Is it at the right volume?
  • How does it smell in your dispensary?  
  • Consider burning some Santo paolo to neutralize the marijuana smell naturally.
  • Is the temperature comfortable?
  • Are your products displayed in the most professional and interactive manner possible?
  • Are your customers being greeted in a way that makes them feel comfortable without adding pressure to their experience?

#3 – Optimize Your Digital Visibility

In today’s day and age, the key to obtaining new patients/customers is to attract their attention in the right way at the right time, online. Maximizing your visibility is essential because the more visible you are, the more patients you are going to attract.

For the sake getting the most bang for our buck, we can safely cover our bases so long as we have the following digital channels covered. There are actually many more required in order to optimize the visibility of these, but optimizing your visibility on these sites is the primary objective of working with all of the other sites.

  1. Your Website
  2. Weedmaps
  3. Google My Business
  4. Facebook
  5. Instagram
  6. Leafly

Set Up a Strategic, Responsive Website That Accurately Represents Your Business.

Dispensary websites don’t have to be an expensive undertaking, however, you don’t want to cut corners when it comes to this particular component of your dispensary marketing efforts.  

For the sake of the local SEO for dispensary domination you are about to embark upon with the help of this article, your dispensary website can be most effectively viewed as a central hub in which all of your other directory listings point/link back to.

It does not have to be expensive or complicated, but it does need to be professional, thorough, and include a privacy policy/terms of conditions (legal internet jargon).

Some of the features I recommend including on your dispensary website:

  • A page for potential employees to apply and upload their resumes
  • A page for potential processors to share information about their business, license information, products, pricing, and contact info
  • A page for potential growers to do the same
  • An ‘About Us’ page telling the story about how your marijuana dispensary came to be
  • A ‘Contact Us’ Page which includes your hours of operations, a contact form, your phone number, and an image of your business

You are also going to need a completed privacy policy, Schema.org structured data markup and lots of high-quality original content that is directly valuable to your medical (or recreational) marijuana patient

Set Up and Complete Your Weedmaps Business Page

Weedmaps, with over 6 Million monthly visitors, is the next most important consideration as you prepare to optimize your brand’s visibility.  

Patients visit Weedmaps to shop and if you do not have a complete profile, patients are highly unlikely to find you.  

You will have to call Weedmaps to get your business listing set up.  As of the date of writing this, all Weedmaps dispensary listings are free for Oklahoma dispensaries.  There is absolutely no reason why you should not be taking advantage of this situation.

Optimize Your Google My Business Visibility

Many of the patients/marijuana consumers in your market are going to simply use Google to find you.  

Your Google My Business listing is free, and provides you the best opportunity to get discovered by new patients looking for medical cannabis dispensaries near you.  

To set up your Google My Business profile, visit Google My Business and make sure you have created a profile for your business.  Once you provide the basic details about your business, Google will need to verify the information is accurate.  Most of the time they do this by mailing a postcard to your business. Once you receive it, you will need to follow the instructions on that card to make sure it is verified.  

Once you have a verified listing, the next step will be to optimize your visibility/positioning to new and existing patients/customers looking for a dispensary on Google.  

Although Google keeps their ranking algorithms proprietary, there is a method which I have used consistently to rank businesses in the top 3 local Google search results, which is where you ideally want to be.  Studies have shown most searchers will visit one of the top 3 local businesses they see in their searches within 24 hours of searching.

How to Dominate the Google My Business Rankings

Step 1: Verify and complete your GMB profile.

Use original images.  Choose ‘Cannabis’ as the business type.

Provide your hours of operation, a link to your website, a phone number, and everything else Google wants to know.  The more you give them, the more likely they will be to show your business to potential customers.

When you create your Google My Business account, you’re going to see a page that looks like the image above. Each of the tabs on the top of this page represent different types of images and

Step 2: List your business’ Name, Address, Phone Number, and Website, Consistently, Across All High-Quality Local and Industry-Specific Online Directories.  

These listings are called citations and keeping the quantity and keeping the quality, quantity, and consistensy of them as high as possible is one of the most important aspects of SEO. We have been doing this for a long time and we use the tools and resources necessary to make this process as seamless as possible and updated live.  

Another significant GMB ranking factor is the volume and consistency of your business citations across other relevant/high-quality online directories.  

Hear me out here as I’m about to give you the secret sauce.  

There are 2 categories of online directories: Local and Industry-Specific.  You need to be in as many of each, as possible (only high-quality, though).

The local directories are going to be sites like YP.com, BBB.com, Yelp.com, etc…  These are websites that are designed to provide information about businesses in a specific local area.  

The cannabis industry-specific directories are going to be any and every credible cannabis dispensary directory you can find.  

You are going to want to make sure that you avoid duplicate citations and that all of the citations include the same syntax on the business name, phone number, address, and website (NAPW). Duplicate citations with correct or incorrect information will hurt the trustworthiness and visibility of your business overall.

The consistency and authority of these and other quality back links will provide the foundation of the overall ranking strategy moving forward. The idea is to avoid the spammy crap websites and create opportunities to get links from the highest quality sites.

Step 3: Provide Well-Written, Valuable, and Relevant Content on Your Website.

Your ranking on GMB is significantly impacted by the quality of your website and the relevance of the content on your website to the search being conducted. Dispensary marketing is not as easy as just doing a certain amount of things and leaving it alone. The competition is fierce and ongoing efforts will pay off exponentially.

Be sure to include custom content on your website. Use custom images, make sure your website is mobile-friendly, that it loads quickly, and it’s easy to navigate using a mobile device.  (This is also something we would be happy to help you with.)

Step 4: Gather Real Reviews from Real, Satisfied Customers.

Gather real reviews from real customers on your Google My Business profile.  To leave a review, the customer simply needs to pull up your Google My Business listing (the way it shows up when you search for it), then click on reviews.  The user will then be given the option to submit a review.

You can get a good feel for approximately how many reviews you need based upon the profiles of your top competitors in your local market.  

Build a Loyal Following and Engage With Your Customers on Facebook

The trick to running a successful dispensary page on Facebook is to share engaging content that is relevant and interesting to your followers.  

I personally create a calendar for the month and plan out the types of posts that I will be generating on each day of the month.  Not only does this help me get more work done in a much more efficient way, but it also helps me to plan and strategize the voice/message that we are using as we speak through the brand.  

For my clients, I generally break the posts up into these categories: advocacy, humor, polls, promotional, random/off-the-wall viral stuff, and images of medicine – maybe through sharing images our growers are posting on their pages or by taking some original shots of our own.  

The content plan you implement should be in alignment with your overall business branding.  

I recommend scheduling out your posts, at least for the week.  That way you don’t have to keep messing with it unless you just want to.  I’m all about finding ways to minimize and reduce redundancies in my work, and this is one of the ways of doing that.  

Scheduling Facebook Posts | Dispensary Marketing

Pro Tip

You should always use an image with every Facebook post, whenever possible. The engagement stats show clearly that users engage with image posts much more frequently than they do with text-only posts.  

Canva is an excellent, free social media/image editing website which allows you to use your custom images and customize them with text and anything else you desire.  I highly recommend checking it out.

Build a Loyal Following and Engage With Your Customers on Instagram

This is fairly straightforward and is definitely worth doing.  Since you already have custom images you are sharing on your facebook page, share them also on Instagram.

In recent years, many Facebook users have made a transition over to Instagram.  You will be unable to capture the attention of these customers unless your Instagram game is on point.

There are 3 primary components to running a successful dispensary instagram page:  

  1. Complete your profile, including a custom description, your address, website, phone number, logo, etc…
  2. Post engaging, informative, funny, and entertaining images (preferably original).  Pro tip: Instagrammers like pretty bud pictures, especially ones you have in stock and available for purchase.
  3. Identify the most beneficial hashtags for your particular market and use those consistently, with every post.   Check out this list of the top 21 tools for instagram hashtags (many are free) to help you compile a list of the most beneficial hashtags for you to be using.
  4. Follow and engage with your customers.  

Establish a business profile on Leafly (optional).

Leafly is significantly more expensive than Weedmaps (which is actually free for Oklahoma dispensary owners right now) but it does have its place.

Here’s the deal.  

Leafly has the top Google ranking for nearly every kind of marijuana strain out there.  This generates a significant amount of traffic – no doubt – but, as a medical marijuana patient myself, I personally prefer the Weedmaps dispensary locator over the Leafly setup when I am interested in making a purchase.  

As a patient, I personally find Weedmaps easier to use.  I still use Leafly, I just use it for strain research – as do most others.

Additionally, most people are not shopping for specific cannabis strains. In my experience,most customers want to come in to the dispensary to check out the inventory at the shop and make a decision from there, not the other way around.  

If you do decide to get in with Leafly, I am sure the investment (a few thousand $/year) will more than pay for itself if you use it to its full extent.  

Just be sure to upload your entire menu and complete your profile to your best abilities.

#4:  Simplify Your Transactions and Minimize Cash on Hand

Since SQ788 passed here in Oklahoma, I have been diligently researching all different kinds of merchant and ATM solutions to help my clients implement solutions that make life easier on customers making purchases.

As a result of these efforts, I have identified the 3 different ways that dispensaries are going about helping customers/patients experience seamless transactions.  

Provide Easy Access to Cash With an ATM Machine

The first of those methods is to purchase or lease an ATM machine that dispenses cash to your customers who don’t have cash on hand.  If you set up an ATM with transaction fees, you are charging your customer to do business with you.  Sure, it is a convenience over not having one, but it still takes away from your customers’ buying experience.  

Additionally, having the additional ATM cash on hand poses additional security risks to your business.  

ATM’s can (and do) work, but I couldn’t help myself but ask, “is there a better way?”

There are a couple, actually.  

Pre-Paid Rewards Cards… At the Potential Cost of Customer Loyalty

One of these systems works on a pre-paid rewards card system, where customers upload cash onto cards that can be used to make purchases in your dispensary.  

Since Visa and Mastercard refuse to knowingly process medical (or recreational) marijuana transactions, these pre-paid cards provide a means of circumnavigating that entire system.  

Instead, customers upload money onto their card, then the money on that card is deposited into your bank account.  While there are aspects of this system which appear at first glance to be advantageous over the ATM, there are also some downsides.  

Many of the companies that offer these services have programs that incentivize your patients to buy throughout their network of dispensaries.  Essentially, your patients are, in some cases, driven to your competitors because they are also using the card system.

The question with all of that becomes, “How are you supposed to go about establishing customer loyalty when customers are being offered incentivized discounts and promotions to use their cards at competing dispensaries?”  It’s a question worth asking/investigating prior to jumping into anything.

The ideal system would make it easier for customers/patients to use their debit card, allowing for a simple, hassle-free transaction, that does not incentivize them to take their business elsewhere in the future.  

And I just so happened to find one.  

Make Life Easier on You and Your Customers With a Cashless ATM

Cashless ATM transactions work similar to normal ATM’s, however, rather than withdrawling physical cash, the money is digitally withdrawn from the customer’s account, and deposited directly into your bank account.  

Here are some of the advantages I found for using cashless ATM’s for your cannabis dispensary business:

  • Accept PIN-based transactions.
  • Give your customers the convenience to withdraw money in your store when they make their purchase.
  • No operating costs. No credit or debit card fees.
  • Earn money on each approved transaction.
  • Does not require merchant to change from current bank.
  • Eliminate cash from sales transaction: savings cash handling and management, reduce risk of employee theft when you have cash on hands
  • Quick, easy approval setup. No integration with POS system necessary

That’s about all for now! Check back for updates, as this is an evolving work in progress. As always, please feel free to reach out if you have any questions or if there is anything I might be able to help you out with.

Looking for more digital marijuana marketing resources? Check out these 8 ultra-dank local SEO strategies for dispensaries.