The cannabis market is projected to become a $41.5 billion industry in the United States alone by 2025. Even without legalization at the federal level, it’s already leaving craft beer and other similar product categories in the dust—and legal cannabis is even catching up to the economic scale of more traditional forms of agriculture.
That’s great news for the industry overall, but it also means there’s more competition in cannabis than ever. If brands want to get ahead, they need to have strong, consistent messaging that’s exactly where potential customers will be looking for guidance on what to buy and why.
Enter content marketing—a powerful category of owned- and paid-media tools that brands can use to distinguish themselves even in a rapidly growing industry.
Cannabis content marketing services include a combination of strategy and storytelling tactics that reach target audiences through various mediums—informative blogs, shareable video and audio content, inbox connections and more.
When potent content is coupled with SEO best practices and promotion on social media and paid ad networks, a business of any size gains a competitive edge with an enhanced digital presence that boosts brand awareness and creates meaningful relationships with more customers.
WHAT IS CONTENT MARKETING?
Content marketing can take many different forms, including:
Social media posts
Content marketing is all about sharing your brand’s expertise with your existing audience and reaching potential customers. It might look like setting up a blog on your website, producing vlogs to upload to sites like YouTube or Vimeo, recording podcast episodes, designing infographics, and sharing all of the above in posts on different social media platforms.
So why should cannabis companies take note? Content marketing can do a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to educating customers about cannabis consumption and the wide array of products and services available today. That’s important in a field where, according to data from FlowHub, just 12% of Americans are active cannabis users, although 68% support legalization at the federal level. That means there are millions of Americans who are interested in trying cannabis, but haven’t yet connected to a particular brand, product or form of consumption.
Content marketing is a powerful tool to reach those potential customers—and to help change public perception of cannabis from one distorted by the propaganda of the War On Drugs to one informed by the latest scientific and market research. As more and more cannabis companies use content to inform and inspire, it contributes to a culture shift that increases legitimacy for the whole industry.
Good content marketing isn’t about promoting yourself the way you might with a traditional advertisement, however. Instead, it’s part of a robust digital marketing strategy that positions your brand as a trusted resource. You don’t just provide cannabis products or B2B tools for cannabis businesses—you also have the information that potential customers or clients need to make a decision or solve a problem.
Think of content marketing as an additional service you provide to your customers, one which helps them understand why they should trust your brand above your competitors. This is your opportunity to demonstrate not only the level of expertise that went into the products and services you offer, but also how well you understand your customer’s pain points and goals.
HOW TO BUILD YOUR CANNABIS CONTENT MARKETING STRATEGY
So where can cannabis brands get started with content marketing? There are boundless possibilities, but here are three top tips for building a content marketing strategy that grows your business and bolsters long-term success.
Develop a Strong Brand Voice
Consistency is as important to content marketing as it is to building a relationship with your target market. Identifying your brand voice and the tone with which you would like to communicate to customers across all channels is a key part of establishing the expertise, authority, and trustworthiness to which customers respond.
In other words, how do you want to sound online? B2B-focused brands might want to have a more formal and reserved tone than B2C brands, which might benefit from a tone that’s more conversational and playful but still authentic and knowledgeable. For example, customers interested in health and self-care have come to expect a certain reassuring, positive, upbeat voice frequently found in the wellness industry.
Carrying that voice and tone from your blog to social media channels to podcasts and news releases helps customers know what to expect wherever they might find you, and helps strengthen your brand. That’s just another way that content marketing can help reinforce the image you want to project. That’s the voice of a powerful cannabis brand.
Keep Strategy on Track With an Editorial Calendar
Ultimately, content marketing is as buildable as a construction blueprint. Each individual piece of content serves multiple purposes. Just one blog post is enough to parlay into your first newsletter. Positive customer feedback on a review site can become fodder for a social media post. A well-written news release could become a future podcast episode. A how-to guide could eventually become the script for a vlog series on sites like YouTube or Vimeo.
The key to successful content marketing is the strategy for how each piece is layered and interconnected to maximize attention. For that, you need an editorial calendar like those used by journalists in newsrooms and magazine offices. Plan ahead at least a quarter at a time and line out when it’s advantageous to release various pieces of content—for a product launch, that could include a blog post targeting a new SEO keyword, a newsletter teasing to the exciting development, a market research-based white paper published in time for a major industry networking event or investor meeting.
Once you have those timely pieces of content mapped out, you can start to see where more content marketing efforts can fill into a regular cadence that keeps customers and clients coming back to your digital platforms again and again for fresh updates and expertise.
Set Reasonable Goals and KPIs
You might have a general sense of what you’d like to get out of your content marketing strategy, like a higher profile for your brand. But until you pinpoint specific objectives for how your content marketing strategy will help achieve primary goals, you might be wasting a lot of time and energy. Instead, set realistic key performance indicators (KPIs) to chart your progress for long-term projects, catch what’s not working early and make sure your efforts stay aligned when priorities change.
For example, if you want to improve your SEO rankings, you might set a KPI to track and improve your brand’s Average Position of Unbranded Terms—that is, how well you perform on search engines for keywords that aren’t the name of your business but are relevant to what you do. Or if your goal is to generate new sales leads, you might set KPIs that show how website visitors are moving from the top to the middle of your marketing funnel by tracking the number of organic visitors who come to your site as compared to the number of new signups for your newsletter or gated content.
Taking a data-driven approach to content marketing can help you see what’s working—or not— so you can make the most efficient use of your time and resources. It can also help determine which types of content marketing to focus on at any given time, and capitalize on unforeseen opportunities as your business grows and you get to know your audience better.
Meghan O'Dea has honed her skills as a writer and content strategist for over a decade. She cut her teeth writing film and music reviews and a weekly opinion column on the 20-something experience. Early success in personal essay led Meghan to earn a Master's degree in Creative Nonfiction at UT Chattanooga, during which she attended the international MFA program at City University in Hong Kong as a visiting scholar. She has served as a digital editor for Fortune Magazine and Lonely Planet and earned bylines in The Washington Post, Playboy, Bitch magazine, Yoga Journal and Subaru Drive Magazine, amongst others. Meghan began writing cannabis stories for Willamette Week, Nylon and Different Leaf while working in the travel and outdoor media industries in Portland, Oregon. In addition to covering the intersection of travel, hospitality and cannabis, Meghan's work as a travel journalist took her from Los Cabos to Yellowstone, from San Francisco to Jamaica. She has also taught composition and travel writing at the college level and guest lectured on topics such as literary citizenship, urban history and professional development at conferences and universities throughout the United States as well as Madrid, Spain.