In California’s competitive cannabis market, the cost of turning people who know your brand into loyal customers is more challenging than ever—with previously underutilized channels having become over-saturated since adult-use legalization in 2016.
As the U.S. slowly marches towards federal legalization, more brands, dispensaries, and cultivators are popping up each day. This means that California cannabis consumers have an endless array of options when it comes to purchasing their favorite products—including continuing to support the illicit market.
To maintain growth and success, dispensary operators need a customer acquisition playbook that will help them find, engage, and convert prospective customers. Unfortunately, like nearly everything else that falls under the umbrella of branding, marketing, or advertising, it’s a little harder to do in the cannabis industry.
In this article, we’ll cover:
How do you make sure a customer who wants to purchase a cannabis product doesn’t go to your competitor when they’re ready to shop? Simply put, customer acquisition is the process of getting potential customers to buy your products. Essential for dispensaries of any age and size, cannabis customer acquisition allows your business to:
Being able to systematically attract and convert new customers keeps any business healthy and thriving.
Since cannabis is still federally illegal in the U.S., all plant-touching businesses are banned from traditional marketing and advertising practices. Facebook and Instagram in particular have strict rules regarding cannabis and cannabis-adjacent brands, which makes it difficult (but not impossible) for retailers to reach a younger demographic. Just last year a legislative bill was vetoed by the Governor to allow cannabis billboards on highways tha dissect state lines that also limited the marketing potential where many dispensaries are located throughout the state.
Pro tip: You can use your existing loyal customers to do social media marketing for you with user-generated content. More on that here.
Prop. 215 legalized the medical-use of cannabis in California back in 1996. Twenty seven years later, there are over 800 brands and 12,000 active licenses to cultivate, manufacture, distribute, retail, and deliver. But the most inexpensive hookup still comes from the illicit market, with the average eighth costing anywhere from $10-$40 (compared to $40-$80 in the regulated market).
It’s not the “old days” where dispensaries were far and few between with a ‘get-what-you-get’ product offering and customer experience. Today, customers are looking for:
It’s no secret that customers’ attitudes directly affect the size of their purchases and where they shop. If you make shopping (and paying) for cannabis more convenient for your customers, you could likely encourage them to keep returning.
Providing your customers with a modern retail experience is a crucial competitive advantage in the cannabis industry. Secure dispensary payments like PIN debit and ACH transfers allow your customers to escape the cash trap while boosting your sales volume and reducing the security risks associated with operating in all-cash.
Cannabis Point of Sale (POS) systems are so much more than checkout software. They provide data about your dispensary’s inventory, hold customer records, and generate reports that help you analyze customer behavior. If used correctly, your POS can be a valuable resource for customer information that can help you acquire and retain customers.
Your POS data can tell you a lot about your customers. From the products they buy, to average spend, favorite brands, and preferred shopping times, it gives you access to a wide range of insights. From here, you can segment your audience and deliver personalized shopping experiences, based on individual purchase histories and shopping habits.
Because dispensaries are local businesses, ranking in Local Search and Maps is key to being discovered by new customers. And while SEO is more of a marathon than a sprint (you won’t see results overnight) here are three action items you can take right now.
1. Claim your dispensary’s Google Business Profile
If you haven’t claimed your dispensary’s Google Business Profile, stop everything you’re doing and head over to Google Business Profiles ASAP. Complete it thoroughly, and keep it updated. This is step one for appearing in Google Local and Maps results.
2. Get noticed in other online directories
Next, claim and complete your dispensary’s profile on Yelp, Facebook, Apple Maps, Bing, Foursquare, Better Business Bureau, and other regional directories you’ve identified.
Make sure your location data (address, phone number, etc.) is exactly the same across all directories, too. If your address is 123 High Street on your Google profile, use that (and not 123 High St) on other directories. This will help your dispensary’s rankings on Google Local Search.
3. Start collecting rave reviews
Google reviews are essential as the quality, quantity, and freshness of your Google reviews factor into your Google Local rankings. Yelp is crucial, too, since Yelp ranks in Google’s top 5 positions for 92% of search queries containing a city name + business category, e.g. [san diego dispensaries].
Looking for a more in-depth lesson on dispensary SEO? Check out our 15 SEO tips for dispensary websites.
A well-rounded training in customer service will serve your budtenders well. Here are some of the skills they’ll need:
Check out our Dispensary Guide to Budtender Training and Onboarding for more staffing and hiring best practices.
Dutchie is an all-in-one technology platform powering the cannabis industry with Point of Sale, Payments, Ecommerce, and Insurance solutions. Through our technology, we’re helping cannabis businesses of all sizes start, operate, and grow with confidence. Get in touch today.