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8 Steps to Success in Dispensary Marketing

Sam Coonrod

Marketing for dispensaries is difficult. We know that. You fight regulations that prevent you from using tactics and channels most industries are allowed to use. Your digital marketing and traditional advertising channels are restricted, which limits your ability to acquire new customer leads and promote specials, events, or customer retention programs. 

But there is an upside to this level of difficulty.

Your physical retail location is an essential and irreplaceable part of the cannabis industry. Dispensary operators have a unique platform to connect with cannabis customers. While brands can sell directly to consumers through online marketplaces that offer delivery or pickup, the primary opportunity to engage (and influence buying decisions) with cannabis consumers is inside the walls of your brick-and-mortar dispensary. 

The trick is to figure out an effective marketing mix that establishes a profitable local audience and sustains growth through uncertain market conditions. 

The 8 steps outlined below are a roadmap to help you be successful in your dispensary marketing efforts.

  1. Research Your Local Market 
  2. Determine Competitive Positioning 
  3. Plan Your Tech Stack 
  4. Establish Customer Acquisition Channels 
  5. Develop a Content Plan 
  6. Foster Key Partnerships
  7. Promote Customer Retention & Growth 
  8. Measure Success with Data 

Digital mapping of local landscape

1. Research Your Local Cannabis Market

Start with local market research. That’s key. 

Know the landscape of your local cannabis market first. This will provide you with a full understanding of the behavior of your local customers and nearby dispensaries, which will inform your competitive positioning.

Why should cannabis customers choose your weed store over the others in the area? 

Choose a quality location. It’s an important decision. 

Whether near home, near work, or on the commute, convenience plays a major role in where customers shop. Parking, signage, and visibility from the street all play a part; sometimes the decision can even be as simple as a right turn instead of a left! Combine insights from data with physical visits to the location to create a more complete picture of the revenue potential of your dispensary. 

We know pulling cannabis industry data can be difficult. But you can save time and effort if you utilize dispensary software tailored specifically for cannabis operators like you! 

Local market research can help you make decisions about potential partnerships in your community, other advertising channels, and where you fit among your competitors.

Below is a quick list of six dispensary market research topics to get started:  

  1. Competitive Dispensaries
  2. Other Nearby Businesses 
  3. Local Audience 
  4. Commuter/Tourist Audience 
  5. Commonly Used Digital Marketplaces 
  6. Local Cannabis Advertising 

 

Get Local Market Data from Terrayn

One red ball stands out from the crowd

2. Determine Your Dispensary's Competitive Position

As you know, the competitive landscape for dispensaries is becoming more and more crowded. Convenience and product availability are important, but it often takes more than that for cannabis retailers to cement a place in the local market. 

Create Brand Consistency

You need to establish a consistent brand promise with competitive pricing, product quality, and a positive customer experience. This combination can help your dispensary not only be found by your cannabis customers, but keeps them coming back. 

Find a Niche Market

Align your business around a single position in the market, it will help you stand out from your competition and speak directly to your target audience. Do you offer top-shelf cannabis or value marijuana? Live resin, single-strain edibles or distillate options? 

You may consider speaking to a niche market. One of the most exciting segments of cannabis consumers is the “heady” dab market — with customers making decisions based on brand, terpene profile, and extraction method. Extreme focus on stocking quality cannabis concentrates offers an opportunity to drive traffic to your weed shop. 

Competitive Positioning 

When planning your strategy, consider the 4 ingredients of competitive positioning listed below: 

1. Brand Promise

What is the reason a cannabis customer should choose a specific dispensary in their area? 

2. Pricing

Low-cost or premium products are available at most dispensaries, pricing relative to the competitive market sets the perceived value of products. 

3. Products

Variety, sourcing, presentation, and brand equity of product mix reinforce the reason for pricing. 

4. Customer Experience

In-store and online experiences communicate value and set customer expectations.

Book a Strategy Session for More Insights on Operating a Dispensary

Dispensary technology puzzle

3. Plan Your Marketing Tech Stack

A cohesive dispensary technology system can increase the capacity of your team and reach the full potential of your cannabis shop. However, a disjointed tech stack will leave potential revenue on the table and hinder your team’s ability to reach goals.

Set your team and yourself up for success from the beginning. Training on new systems is a mental and financial drain for any dispensary operator. Not to mention the regulations on products, locations, and staff that add to the complexities of being a dispensary owner. 

Where to Begin

Start with your point of sale. This software is important, but the way your team uses it matters even more. Make sure your point of sale is also the point of truth for your dispensary data. The point of truth simply means that this is the location where data must be complete and correct. 

Data is pulled from this central location for marketing, compliance, customer analysis, budtender analysis, financial reporting, and more. Good data and operational procedures in your point of sale software informs decision-making and marketing campaigns. 

This is especially crucial because other systems will consistently pull information from this central location. 

Are you wondering what makes a good tech stack for dispensaries? Below is a list of 5 top types of software for dispensaries: 

  1. Point of Sale 
  2. eCommerce 
  3. Customer Loyalty 
  4. Data Analysis 
  5. Digital Display Management 

Learn About the Complete Dispensary Tech Stack

Magnet to attract a web of customers

4. Establish Customer Acquisition Channels

Plain and simple, the ability to earn new and returning customers is essential to your dispensary’s survival. You can be sophisticated with customer segmentation and strategically target your messaging to pull customers into your shop, or just put your logo and dispensary everywhere you can. 

Either way, the goal is to earn new customers and increase their lifetime value. 

Unfortunately, regulations prohibit many traditional marketing channels for customer communication and acquisition — digital, physical, and even audio messages can be difficult to push to your target audience. 

Think through the complete path to purchase. Make the most of each impression with a strategic and coordinated message at each step. 

A complete tech stack is important. An effective system of software and standard operating procedures can convert potential customers into actual purchasing customers. It can also collect customer information and enhance your audience for future messaging. Don’t forget the time savings and increased capacity for your team! 

Reliable customer acquisition channels give you the ability to influence revenue. 

8 Ways to Acquire New Customers

Below is a list of 8 of the best ways for dispensaries to acquire new customers:  

  1. Search Engine Optimization 
  2. Website & Proprietary eCommerce
  3. Cannabis Marketplaces 
  4. Industry Listings 
  5. Traditional Advertising 
  6. Cannabis & Local Events
  7. Community Partnerships  
  8. Social Media Collaborations

Book a Strategy Session to Get More Customers

Content planning with color coded sticky notes

5. Develop a Cannabis Content Plan

You may have heard the phrase “content is king”. This is a true statement for most industries but especially in cannabis. Branding, custom content, and other organic growth strategies have a greater impact in an industry with limited paid acquisition opportunities. 

Because some traditional marketing channels (including social media, billboards, radio, and digital media) are so heavily restricted, it's critical that you understand the guidelines and regulations (and audience) for each.

Content planning goes way beyond writing copy or assembling photos and is among the best items in the marketing toolkit for your dispensary and brand. Find opportunities to deliver your message along the entire customer journey. From initial brand awareness to purchase and ongoing customer loyalty: content is key. 

A cohesive message among all channels can be difficult to achieve retroactively. Content guided by a strategic plan from the beginning will reinforce a consistent message inside the shop, through digital channels, and through traditional advertising. If you’re already past that point, you can still correct course! Start with an audit of your messaging across all channels to paint a complete picture of your current situation. 

It's also important to note that some content should be reused across different channels. Strategically frame your message for each specific audience.  

4 Channel Categories for Content

Plan your content around these 4 channel categories: 

  1. Direct Customer Outreach: Email, SMS/MMS, Push Notifications 
  2. In-Store: Product Displays, Signage, Customer Handouts, Budtender Talk-Tracks, etc. 
  3. Social Media: Utilize Direct Messages (Customers, Brands, Local Influencers
  4. Other Channels: Guerrilla Marketing, Billboards, Paid Ads, Flyers, etc. 

Download a Content Strategy Roadmap

It's a joint effort when we work together

6. Foster Key Partnerships

Partnerships are crucial to your dispensary’s continued long-term growth. You can receive spikes in traffic from tactics like HyperLocal SEO. To continue to grow year over year and plant deep roots that can survive saturated markets, you need to establish strategic partnerships within the cannabis industry and your local community. 

As a dispensary owner, you have a unique platform to reach a specific audience within the community. This platform can be used to partner with local artists, organizations, and businesses that fit with your shop’s brand. 

Create mutually beneficial relationships in your community. Trade access to your platform and audience for content and customer engagement opportunities. 

Offering access to your budtenders, retail display space, and loyalty program members adds value to key brand partners. Brands can support budtenders' compensation via incentives and rewards in addition to expanding your audience and enhancing customer experience in your shop. 


The main takeaway here is you can engage new audiences through strategic partnerships.

3 Partnership Types

Below are 3 types of partnerships that dispensaries should consider: 

  1. Cannabis Producers & Brands (Farmers, Processors, Chefs) 
  2. Cannabis-Adjacent Industries (Smoking Accessories, Hardware and Storage)  
  3. Local Community Members (Business Groups, Artist Collectives, Non-Profit Organizations) 

 

Book a Strategy Session to Learn How to Leverage Partnerships for More Traffic

Customer service cubes

7. Promote Customer Retention and Growth

Getting new customers to walk into your dispensary is a challenge. You can set your cannabis shop apart from your local competition and lay the foundation for long-term success by making the most of each opportunity.

Customer Experience Matters

You want your customers to leave your dispensary with a positive, lasting impression of their experience at your dispensary. This means your staff, product selection, convenience for the customer, and the atmosphere of your retail space need to work together. 

Don’t forget the impact of your online presence! Provide a positive experience for your customers, regardless of how they shop. 


Budtenders are Difference-Makers

Great budtenders are game changers for the in-store experience. They not only create a memorable, personal customer experience with their energy and knowledge, but they also take advantage of cross-selling and upselling opportunities. 

If you can increase the average ticket and combine that with return visits to your dispensary, it sets up a high potential, lifetime value for every customer who walks through your doors. 

Engage Your Customers

Customer engagement at events or on social media is a great way to round out your brand identity. More touchpoints with customers create a multi-faceted relationship and encourage customers to feel like they are a part of your shop’s community.  

Dispensary Loyalty Programs

Having a loyalty program opens up a direct channel of communication with your best customers. It also data to identify opportunities to increase both the quality of customer acquisition and the lifetime value of your customers.

Below is a list of 4 loyalty program ideas:

  1. Sign Up Incentive: Promote your program in-store with signage and your budtenders 
  2. Exclusive Member Offers: Discounts, prizes, experiences or other value adds  
  3. Auto-Triggered Messages: Birthday deals, brand incentives, come-back offers, and more 
  4. Tiered Reward System: Increase the value of offerings to keep high-value customers loyal 

Download Our Checklist of 9 Loyalty Programs Ideas

Measure success like kids measure growth

8. Measure Success with Data

Solid, reliable data can be difficult to come by in the cannabis industry. Accurately tracking results is a challenge because of limited digital channels. Segmented software providers also increase the difficulty of gathering accurate information with data that is categorized and handled in completely different ways.  

However, difficult as it is to get, data can be one of the most valuable assets for your dispensary. 

The more you can measure the success of a campaign, the more informed decisions you can make to maximize the ROI of marketing spends. It’s important that you use your marketing budget wisely, especially since dispensary owners don’t have access to federal banks.

By understanding cannabis consumer behavior in your dispensary, it gives your marketing efforts  a leg up on the competition. It provides insights on the right inventory to keep in stock to attract customers, how to price products with optimal margin, and run effective promotions to boost cashflow, to name a few. 

Point of sale data is valuable. Make sure your team uses the system correctly, from purchasing managers to budtenders.

3 Dispensary Data KPIs to Track

Below are 3 KPIs that every dispensary should be tracking: 

  1. Number of Transactions 
  2. Items per Transaction 
  3. Average Order Value 

Take your cannabis marketing beyond the basics. Measure customer acquisition by channel, segment customer purchase cycles, and lifetime value. Savvy marketers can learn a lot from their customers and create fantastic results.

Book a Data Analysis Consultation with Terrayn

How to Get Started

If that feels like a lot to digest and you just want to talk through how to put an effective marketing strategy into place, we’d love to help. 

Our primary value is driving traffic through retailers doors, using our HyperLocal SEO service. But we’ve grown in the industry by adding value in whatever ways we can and would be happy to do that for you. 

The team of account managers, seo specialists, and tech developers at Terrayn have experience in all seats on the dispensary team. From budtender to marketing manager to owner, we have the expertise to accurately aim our tactics to directly impact dispensary goals.  

Get started by booking a strategy session and meeting with our team to discuss your goals and challenges. 

Book a Strategy Session with Terrayn

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