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Why Guilt Is Good for Marketing and Building Emotional Response

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Why Guilt Is Good for Marketing and Building Emotional Response

Marketing strategists know the importance of hitting consumers right where it hurts. Depending on the product or service, the creative pitch and delivery should tap into an emotion. Anger, joy, dread, anticipation, doubt, fear, confidence, guilt, or shame, emotion is what drives people to relate to a given advertising message. And it’s this relatability that will hold their interest, allow them to process the message and hopefully, engage response.

We Are Glutton for Punishment

It turns out that guilt is more than a quick go-to, and I might add desperate, tactic used by parents in getting their kids to do what they’re asking. The art of persuasion in marketing is used by creative gurus to make the audience believe that they will feel some sense of guilt if they miss the advertising opportunity presented. Moreover, if the viewers give the guilt-ridden message attention, there must be a moment that resonates with them and further accentuates the guilt already in place. Here’s an example.

The Blame Game

In a society that shudders at the thought of being accountable for anything, no one likes to be reminded of a faux pas, mistake, indiscretion or a flat out epic failure. When it happens, many quickly jump at the chance to point the proverbial finger on someone or something else as being the source of the snafu. Yes, there’s a lot of finger pointing going on—just look at our politics and how the media portrays these cat-and-mouse antics that denigrate personal and business brand.

But blame seemingly raises the eyebrows of consumers getting them to stop, watch, and share the information. In fact, this isn’t counterculture anymore but the natural process of social media channels in action. Decades earlier, when it was good business practice to admit to a problem and fix it or put out a retraction correcting the misinformation, there is no such content animal in existence today. In fact, we thrive on marketing mistakes and often devise them on purpose. Remember, bad press is still – good press.

Part public service announcement, part big pharma-to-physician-to-consumer play, this TV spot hits parents and their teenagers hard by pitting them against one another through the sharing of vital health information, and laying some heavy blame. The advertiser, Merck, provides new knowledge to its audience while simultaneously shaming them for not knowing the info beforehand. Compelling as it is, this shame and indirect blame reinforces the importance of the message, leaving the audience guilty unless they act on the message… or forever be held accountable by their children. A cheap shot? Manipulation at its highest level? Absolutely. Is it effective? Just ask any parent that’s seen it on television because if they remember then it worked, right?

The Fault of Our Own

There are certain subjects that get people and their panties rolled up too tight: children, aging parents, fitness, education, personal space, and health to name a few. But when it comes to diet and weight loss, it reigns supreme on hitting people’s buttons on the woulda-shoulda-coulda rant. Though it may not always be expressed, many Americans would own the notion that they do need to lose, at least, five pounds. But oh the list of reasons why it isn’t happening. I could get rich quick if I could cite them all.

Not only is our guilt, laziness, and frustration about diet and weight loss a popular topic of conversation, it sets consumers up for the continual cycle of triumph and defeat. It’s what weight loss program developers and fat-free product manufacturers hope for and make a hefty profit on. Nonetheless, people are like sheep. And advertisers and their clients love sheep.

Dangers of Guilt in Advertising

You’ve probably run across individuals in your life who appear to thrive on misery. It must be a ‘thing’ considering the programming across media outlets echoes the sentiment. However, there is a flip side or two to this type of story. America likes a good amount of sap with their misery. It’s our way of coming out ahead, rooting for the underdog and winning, or holding on to hope, faith, and that it matters and makes a difference. This Fiber One commercial blends the bad and the good, well.

When we use guilt in marketing, it’s important to remember who the target audience is and how they are likely to respond.

Consider adding the following to your guilt-ridden messaging:

  • Happy ending
  • Humor
  • Solution-based final thought or call-to-action
  • Non-profit or charitable mention

Other than the misery-seekers and negative Nancys you may know, guilt is not usually something we like to share. Typically, we keep our guilt hidden or quickly deflect it with a good shot of blame sent elsewhere. But if you have to use guilt to give your marketing campaign the attention it deserves, make sure to give the audience a way out of feeling bad, by offering something that feels good.

Shame and Guilt, the Double Whammy

As risky as it can be, there are inherent benefits to using guilt in your marketing as it is representative of some of the twisted aspects of our interpersonal relationships. Think of a best friend, partner, or spouse. In the best of circumstances, you have gained a level of trust where you feel ‘safe’ in sharing exactly how you feel.

Unfortunately, this isn’t just about the compliments, thoughtfulness, praises and other displays of appreciation. It also includes those moments that really put you in disbelief, shock, and awe. And it is in these moments that we may not feel empathy or sympathy, but are compelled to remind the other person of their idiocy. Yeah, reality bites.

Alka-Seltzer found the sweet spot in this human condition and nailed it on their award-winning campaign from decades ago. Some may say that the copywriter and creative director were way ahead of their time. Although, I’m thinking that indigestion is timeless.

Watch What You Say and the Way You Say It

When did having ‘no filter’ be more acceptable than common courtesy? This positioning trait can be effective in advertising. But before you lead with content that emotionally shakes consumers without giving them any positive recourse when it’s over, ask yourself and your marketing team this: How would it make you feel? Do they enjoy eating a crow sandwich topped with guilt-flavored jelly? Does it shame them into making a change? And if they simply start sobbing, blame it on the writers. It’s always our fault.

Ask Us to Review How Your Brand Speaks to Your Clients

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Melanie Stern

Looking at the world through word-colored glasses, I am continuously in awe of how we evolve as people in business. We strive to communicate in a direct approach and, when we see fit, through subliminal channels. As a content strategist, I look forward to sharing all perspectives to help entertain, enlighten and engage more in others.

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Why Agency and Client Business Marketing Expectations Disconnect

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Why Agency and Client Business Marketing Expectations Disconnect

Imagine yourself sitting at a negotiating table. You could be the business owner looking for the best way to market your company products or services to a captive audience. You might be the marketing executive, hoping to secure a new client. But no matter which side of the table you find yourself, there is an unspoken, yet crucial, aspect to forging this relationship. Hidden between the lines in even the best drafted agreement is the business marketing expectations that reside within each party. And seldom do the twain meet. Here’s why.

Not Everyone Speaks the Same Marketing Language

You may know your business, but it doesn’t mean you know marketing. On the flip side, marketing agencies know the nuances behind great copy and show-stopping design (or they should) but don’t count on them being experts at the differences between lug nuts. But if you manufacture lug nuts to a variety of industries, for example, how do you know which creative agency can help you effectively share the information, reestablish your brand, and build a following all about lug nuts? You don’t, initially.

Lug Nuts Don’t Help If They Don’t Fit

Allow me to expand on this makeshift scenario. You are the lug nut company. We Are Ego is the marketing agency looking to pitch and land lug nuts as a client. Here’s how a typical meeting might go down, whether you’re working at getting the account or desperately trying to keep it.

The We Are Ego agency believes they know everything about marketing. Its owners will tell you that as a fact. As such, they pitch you and pontificate in detail about how their knowledge and experience supersedes what you know about lug nuts. If they’re any good at their pitch, they’ll have you believing that. And if they’re just as talented at convincing your customers that you are the lug nut kings of the industry, this relationship will be golden.

But where there’s ego, there’s noise.

Your client’s customers won’t focus on the noise. Sure, they might be intrigued by the ad or promotion delivery. They could be intrigued by the marketing message or can’t get enough of the latest product offering. But the bottom line to the lug nut customer is… the lug nut.

Dialing this back a bit further, advertising agencies of the past reveled in their ability to spin their audiences through solid creative. Today, it takes a back seat to the most important aspect of marketing: The people who will consume your product or service. People are primary. Period…

…now back at the negotiating table. You’ve got two different kinds of people. How can you make them fit into each other’s square hole?

The Digital Debacle

If the lug nut company has a CTO, then you can banter beautifully about the analytics of social channels and the scalability of your preferred web design template and how it will lessen the cost and down-time in production, if they switch to your platform. Unfortunately, for the lug nut management representatives at the table representing sales, operations, manufacturing, legal, and logistics, all you’ve done is throw a slew of terminology at them that might as well be Greek. Because it is.

You haven’t impressed them. The lug nut team now feels out of step, out of touch, and belittled. How can they gage your value when they have no idea what you said? And so much for building trust. Good job We Are Ego. Great way to pitch a prospect (sarcasm overload here).

Technology and digital means of communication have allowed us to touch more people faster, but with much less efficacy. It has desensitized our ability to connect on the human level, which is where you truly need to be to reach people and make a positive, lasting impression. Isn’t that what marketing is all about? This goes for client interface too.

How did we get so lost in this data driven society?

Some People Read But Nobody Listens

Agency and Client Business Marketing This is a story of the chicken and the egg. The internet has reset the bar on how many media impressions a person can take per second and, with that, the attention level needed to take it all in. The result is that people cannot nor care not to truly digest what’s being thrown at them.

In addition, now that we (consumers) are expected to process more information at a quicker rate, we have less time to spend on each marketing message. This is a challenge for the marketing agency. Getting your creative to craft messaging that grabs the attention of the reader/viewer is the key to bringing a lug nut brand to market and growing it from there.

Unfortunately, people don’t read. And when it comes to marketing agency-to-client business agreements… these people don’t read either.

Where Egos Talk, Pigs Fly

Then there’s the art of listening. What? Exactly. People are generally more worried about what they are going to say than concern themselves with whatever it is that you just said. Right. This brings new meaning to the term circular conversation. People talk but the communication doesn’t have a purpose and seldom goes anywhere. Isn’t that productive?

We’re still at that negotiating table. While this meeting may just be an initial client pitch for their business, negotiations between a marketing agency and a client are always taking place – every time they communicate.

Swallow that truth, and you might change your communications best practices.

Marketing Agency and Client-Side Etiquette

  • Say what you mean
  • Mean what you say
  • Document it

The above points may require some extra work on both agency and client but it will save countless hours of frustration and heightened emotions along the way. And it will save your relationship, instead of having to salvage it.

If you’re the agency, perhaps you prefer boasting about your creative portfolio, stellar accounts, and trophy wall full of awards. Gloating doesn’t make pigs or clients fly. But some agencies try. They try.

Revisit Conversations, Often

Think back on the last conversation you had with your marketing agency or member of your internal marketing team. You have a recollection about a web-based initiative, the deliverables needed and the associated deadlines. There was scope creep involved but the deadlines stayed the same.

Unfortunately, that was just the part of that prior conversation that you chose to remember. The marketing guru emphatically remembers that the deadlines got pushed, because of scope creep.

People tend to remember what they want to remember especially when it serves them best. However, had there been additional conversations about the shift in scope, the misunderstanding would be caught and addressed earlier, without the agency/client standoff.

Right, Wrong and Fair

My father once told me, “Business is like life. No one ever said it was going to be fair.” The ins and outs of the marketing agency and client relationship parallel that statement. There will be times in your partnership (that’s what it should be) where volatility will rise and patience will falter. It’s okay to have differing viewpoints on what will work in marketing and what won’t. The essence of your shared dynamic is in realizing you want to achieve the same goals. How you get there may be the source of contention, which isn’t bad.

Opposing marketing ideologies keeps the agency and the client on their professional toes, acquiescing into learning new things, and staying competitive. And in that – everyone wins.

Establish the Preferred Method of Chatter

Have you heard about the 5 Languages of Love? I wouldn’t bestow those onto your business relations; however, there are languages of communication. Depending on many factors, every person will have their own preferred method for communication.

  • Text
  • Email
  • Phone call
  • Video call
  • Face-to-face

Whether the reasoning behind the preference is convenience, audio or visual sensitivity, as well as a combination of both, make sure to ask what the best form of communication is per agency and client representatives.

Restate the Obvious

Be it a phone conversation, text message, video conference or email correspondence, send a follow up communication and reiterate the major points covered in the communication. State your understanding of the takeaways from it, as well as the next steps needed. Then ask the other party to confirm your understanding or provide counterpoints that differ, in writing.

This will serve both sides well in the event of scope creep, memory loss or momentary lapses of reason during an overview of marketing budget, performance metrics or creative campaign presentation.

Nothing Can Replace a Face-to-Face

Most of us have been guilty of sending an email to the wrong person and hitting “Reply All” instead of “Forward” or “Reply”. What about your ill-thought response to a client or agency message? When you perceive it the wrong way and blew an incident way out of proportion.

Digital communication snafus happen. Often.

Derail the damage done by adding a monthly face-to-face with your client. If a client isn’t local, work in a trip to their office at least once a quarter or have them come to you. It’s the best way to get a comprehensive understanding of who they are, if they’re confident in your abilities, and whether they truly like you. Does that even matter?

Yaaass. People prefer to work with people they like. If a client has found two different marketing agencies with similar reputations and solid performance benchmarks, agency personality and likeability are the tipping point to securing the account.

Your Contract Is Your Friend

It may not be fun to enter into a business agreement between agency and client with a litigious mindset, but it’s worth its weight in preventing hassle down the road.

A well-crafted contract is your friend. A solid agreement provides the foundational support needed when missteps happen over the course of the marketing agency/client association.

But don’t think that the marketing service contract is all about numbers. Of course the budget, monthly retainer, KPIs and ROI is important. But what blurs the numbers and the mechanisms to achieve them are expectations that get glossed over from one side to the other.

Can you avoid assumptions borne from expectations? More than you might think.

Add specific provisions into the contract:

  • Cost for changes to deliverables
  • Cost for scope creep (production and timelines)
  • Call out preferred communications to be used

In addition to the above, revisit the contract (internally) every 90 days. You’ll know if you (agency or client) are in accord with the terms and conditions and can make adjustments before the other side calls you out on it. If you feel that a modification should be made to the contract, consider drafting an Addendum and scheduling a face to face to discuss the matter.

Here’s what can happen if you don’t.

The Agency Is the Last to Know

You’ve never been asked to meet with the business owner. But you received a call out-of-the-blue and now find yourself doing the two-hour road trip late on a Friday morning to get there. But you’re prepared. You’ve got the latest monthly reports ready to be presented showing the steady increase in site visits, social engagements, and followers. With any luck, you should be receiving the final edit to the latest video production creative has completed and know it will “Wow” them.

But something happened between contract and expectations that was never discussed.

You enter the conference room and find 10 angry-looking executives who scowl at your very presence. Instead of presenting numbers, representative of the fruits of your labor, you receive a lashing of untruths relayed in expletives. The core accusations?

  • Inconsistent communication
  • Skewing performance numbers
  • Missed deadlines

Justifiable? Not according to the contract. Unfortunately, the contract can be perceived in multiple ways. (Isn’t that how attorneys secure ongoing employment?)

This client/agency encounter didn’t end well, though it could have.

If the Relationship Can’t Be Saved, No Need for Sour Grapes

Never burn a bridge in business. It’s short-sighted, like cutting off your nose to spite your face and almost as painful.

Regardless of how you believe the other party wronged you, this is all temporary. And if you’ve served your client well, let them go gracefully. Time will show truth. They may come back at some point in the future when they see the value of your business and what you brought to the table.

Should that happen, follow the guidelines in this blog. But before you e-sign on the dotted line, come to a place where agency/client expectations meet and egos are left at the door.

Real Communication Brings Real Results, Faster. Ask Us How

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Melanie Stern

Looking at the world through word-colored glasses, I am continuously in awe of how we evolve as people in business. We strive to communicate in a direct approach and, when we see fit, through subliminal channels. As a content strategist, I look forward to sharing all perspectives to help entertain, enlighten and engage more in others.

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A Guide to Getting Started with Instagram Sponsored Posts

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If you are a business owner or marketer, you know that social media is one of the top ways to interact with potential customers and get your brand out into the public eye. You have probably used Facebook to interact with existing and potential customers, and likely have heard of Instagram as an advertising and interaction platform.

Did you know that there are 1 billion active users monthly on Instagram? Of those 1 billion, at least half are engaging with not only friends, but with brands, too. Instagram users actually engage with brands 10 times more than they do on Facebook.

Using Instagram properly can make a huge difference in the engagement levels your business sees each month. One way to increase your brand awareness is through Instagram sponsored posts.

What Are Instagram Sponsored Posts?

Instagram sponsored posts are organic posts made by you on the Instagram platform that you can then use as an advertisement for your brand, so long as you put money behind it. Unlike traditional advertisements, you will use an existing organic post and all of its engagement to reach more Instagram users.

These will look like any regular Instagram post, but will say “Sponsored” next to your company’s name. Like this:

If you want to be able to target a specific audience, you should make use of true promoted posts. These posts will only appear on the Instagram platform. But, you can target them to a specific audience based on age, location and interests. You can add your website URL and even an action button to help drive potential customers to your website.

If you want to run engagement-oriented sponsored posts, you can choose a past Instagram post from your profile and use the targeting options that are available for typical Facebook and Instagram ads. The benefit of this type of sponsored post is that all engagement on and off platform will be transferred to the original post while the sponsored post is running. This increases your user-generated content (USG) and helps to spread the word of your brand.

How Are Sponsored Posts Different than Other Types of Instagram Ads?

Promoted and sponsored posts both focus on promoting existing posts as they currently are. This includes all user-generated content. Other types of Instagram ads focus on brand awareness, lead generation, conversions and traffic.

These ads will create new posts even if you are using the same image and caption as an existing post; they will not carry over comments left by users in the past on similar/identical posts. By creating a blank slate, you can’t capitalize on the engagement that exists on the original post.

When you initially create your sponsored post, you will be asked what the objective is for that post. You can choose from the following options:

  • Traffic
  • Lead generation
  • Engagement
  • Brand awareness
  • Reach
  • App installs
  • Messages
  • Video views
  • Catalog sales
  • Conversions
  • Store visits

The option you choose will determine who sees your ad. Both Instagram and Facebook will only show your ad to people their algorithms identify as most likely to take your desired actions. This means you may have a hard time getting more engagement while also getting new leads by creating just one sponsored post.

Creating Instagram Sponsored Posts in Ads Manager on Facebook

Because Facebook owns Instagram, you can create sponsored posts that can populate both platforms. The Ads Manager is extremely easy to use when creating a sponsored post.

Narrow or Broad Target Audience?

First, you will go to Facebook’s Create Ad page and choose “engagement” as your objective. Once you have chosen your objective, you will then begin choosing your targeting:

  • You may choose to create a narrow target audience if your brand will appeal to only a certain type of person.
  • Or you may choose to keep your targeted audience as broad and general as you can.

This choice depends on your brand and to whom the sponsored post would be most relevant.

While having a broad and general audience may allow you to reach a higher number of individuals with your sponsored post, having a more narrowed target audience may just get you more engagement on the post coming from individuals who are truly interested in your brand and what you have to offer them.

What to Post, Where to Post

Once you have chosen your target audience, you will need to choose your placement and determine how much you want to invest in this sponsored post. Choosing the correct platforms will affect whether people will be able to view likes, comments and shares. This can affect the overall engagement the sponsored post generates.

Once you have handled all the logistics of the post, it is time for the fun part: choosing your creative. This is the step where you review all of your previous Instagram posts and determine which organic post you would like to use as a sponsored post. In many cases, you will have a similar post on both Facebook and Instagram, so make sure you select the Instagram version of the post.

The final step is to review your ad and submit it. During this process, you will want to check that you have chosen the correct post, the correct target audience and the correct objective for this sponsored post.

When Should You Create Sponsored Posts on Instagram?

Instagram sponsored posts are not ideal for every situation; whether you should use sponsored posts or the traditional ad system will depend on your ultimate objective for this campaign. Are you looking to simply get more attention to your brand, convert engagement into profit, or increase local store traffic? Then a traditional ad may be a better option.

However, there are four cases when a sponsored post can reap benefits for your brand and business:

  • Shoppable Posts: Instagram allows business owners to tag a product in their images and create a link for users to purchase a product they like immediately. These posts only work on mobile and the Instagram platform, so you will want to use sponsored posts with Instagram-only placements.
  • More Brand Awareness and Visibility: Even brick-and-mortar companies can benefit from sponsored posts on Instagram. These posts can raise the awareness of your brand while allowing you to engage with current and potential customers. This engagement level can lead new customers to your store.
  • Accumulating More User-Generated Content: Again, using an organic post with plenty of user-generated content will gain you more UGC on a sponsored post. When people see posts that already have a ton of UGC, they are more likely to take notice of the content of your post.
  • Leverage Your Existing UGC: Chances are you have at least one post that is doing really well in the engagement department. If this is the case, you should consider using this post in a sponsored campaign, as it will likely do well with a larger audience. As a bonus, the user-generated content it has already earned will carry over into the sponsored post.

Sponsored Posts and Traditional Ads Can Go Hand in Hand

Instagram sponsored posts in conjunction with traditional Instagram Ads can help you reach a diverse set of goals for your business. Traditional ads serve to drive specific actions, while sponsored posts are available to boost the momentum of your existing organic posts. When getting started, you should test out both and see which works best for your individual business needs. You will likely see differences in the way your audience responds to each type.

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The Psychology of Color in Marketing and Why Cultural Differences Matters

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Color Tells Your Story

In December, Pantone calls out its “color of the year,” dictating to many companies and consumers what the next 12 months will look like in trends and, hopefully, corresponding purchases. It’s a big deal to real estate and interior design businesses, textiles, apparel and accessories creators who want to make sure they garner appeal to their audiences and referring business partners. But there’s a methodology behind color choice. It’s multilayered and touches on where people are at in their hopes, dreams and current state of emotional flux. As such, this psychology of color in marketing isn’t only apparent at Pantone’s discretion but ongoing with every brand redesign and creative campaign. If you’re palette savvy, color will mean more to you than an afterthought. Done right, it’s the basis of shaping consumer behavior and responsiveness, both, on conscious and subconscious levels.

Color Is the Visual Personification of Emotion

In simplistic terms, think back on when you were a kid, spending time on a rainy afternoon with a box of crayons and a coloring book. No one said you had to use brown, black, gray, or tan for hair color when you filled in between the lines (okay maybe outside the lines too). Perhaps you stuck with convention on colorization or maybe you felt that blue, green, violet or chartreuse were appropriate choices for Goldilocks. But why? What was the reasoning behind color choice? It has much to do about what choice made you feel good or feel right about crafting the complete picture.

How we feel about a product or service, even prior to having a direct experience with it, can be initially carved from the visual brand itself, evident in a logo, product or its packaging, associated merchandising, and web design.

Let’s drill it down into a harsh human moment. Have you ever met someone and just didn’t like them? You may not have been able to put your finger on it but there it was… that feeling of nonalignment, discomfort and disinterest. Yeah… the psychology of color can show up like that too, affecting brand marketing on a grand scale. So how do you know what color is right for your brand? It’s not an exact science, not even close.

Color Theory

Color Wheel of Feelings

If you search for the meaning behind each color, there are a variety of answers available, it just depends on where you look and the preconceived notions you may already have about them. Though the color wheel provides answers, it is meant as an overview of what many people believe defines the feelings or emotions of these hues. But exercise some caution. Think of it similar to the game show, the Wheel of Fortune. You turn the wheel and it lands on a color. There is no rhyme or reason behind where the wheel stops turning. It’s somewhat the luck of the draw. The same can be said about brand color and how your target audience(s) responds. Are you feeling lucky?

Beyond luck (and knowing your target audience) you’d be wise to include psychological, spiritual, and cultural aspects of their thoughts and behaviors that could affect their perception of color.

Life Experiences and Associations Shape the Meaning We Give Color

Why do you like turquoise while your best friend swoons over carnation pink? There could be an association between the color and a positive memory you have surrounding it. This is sort of like a subconscious word association but with pictures. For me, when I envision the color midnight blue (my favorite) it reminds me of the sky and the water at night on the beach. It was peaceful, calm and a personal place to escape. Can you recall why you have your favorite color?

Spirituality Brings Color to Light

Aspects of religious teachings or spiritual thought can enter into colorization preferences. Many people who believe in Judeo-Christian faiths refer to white light as the means to ascend into heaven, while dark and eerie shadows represent pending death. In addition, those who believe in hell may describe it as a violent place, full of red-colored demons surrounded by bright orange fire.

For the metaphysically minded, color is often used to define a person’s aura. If you are told that you emanate a yellow aura, it means your energy is full of spiritual power and the ability to harness new ideas and creativity. But if you weren’t a spiritual person and didn’t view color in this way, seeing a brand symbol in yellow might be a subliminal sign of caution. If so, how likely would you be to trust this product or service?

Culture Holds the Key to the Tone that Color Sets

Depending on where you are in the world, the same color can mean something entirely different from region to region or culture to culture. For example, many Americans hold the color white to mean purity or goodness. However, in some countries in Asia, including China, Korea and Japan, white equates to misfortune, loss, mourning or death. Often worn at funerals in Eastern cultures of the world, white is the antithesis in North America as it signifies light and purity in Western society.

Regarding the color black in the U.S. and Canada, for example, its underworld connotation may bring discomfort to some but not to those who resonate with Goth or Gothic culture. People who consider themselves Goth follow certain color guidelines in their fashion. Often misunderstood by the general public, Goth individuals will don heavy contrasts in their clothing and makeup. Stark white faces, deep red or black lipstick, eye liner and clothing represents Goth culture but not as an obsession with death. Rather, the use of black apparel and accessories is more about emulating a dark or mysterious allure, while paying respect to Victorian and Elizabethan eras as well as punk couture.

How Business Gets Color All Wrong

Perplexed yet? While there are no guarantees that you’re going to get brand color choice right for everyone, it’s more about what you need to be doing to maximize the possibilities of appealing to as many people as possible. Here are some points of contention that could make the difference between a marketing win and a complete snafu.

Disconnected Brand Impression

There’s a hierarchy of linear thinking that plays an important role in brand color. It isn’t about choosing the right color but more about understanding the relationship between your product or service and how color should properly represent it. Men and women will favor certain colors over others differently and it’s rooted in how they perceive the meaning behind the color. If you take that into consideration when picking your palette, your brand color will more likely hit the mark.

To illustrate this concept, imagine a company entitled Green Machine. For the executive, the name could imply a money-making endeavor. For a horticulturist, the name eludes to landscaping. And for environmental enthusiasts, there’s an expectation that Green Machine supports ecological initiatives. If their brand color is only green, expectations of who the company is will not meet expectations of many because the color doesn’t make it clear.

Now, if the brand palette includes brown, this favors landscaping business. If green is partnered with blue, this aligns with environment. And if the green is interspersed with accents of black, there’s a more corporate or hard-edge feel, aligning with financial business.

The use of color in your brand should instantaneously equate to what your business provides, what it stands for, or ideally both. When your color represents your business authentically, you will more likely attract the people who would be interested in what you have to offer.

Personal Choice Rather than Audience Specific

Ego often gets in the way of selecting the colors that fit a business. It sends chills up and down my spine when ego takes front and center. I recall a client in Scottsdale who was starting a new marketing agency and needing to pick his brand colors. This new business was going to be the next best thing since sliced bread in the creative world, showcasing strong work by the best art directors, writers and videographers in town. The brand positioning was edgy, bold and confident. Think about the colors you would choose. I can already tell, your ideas are better than what the client decided on. You ready? He was adamant about navy blue and gray for his brand. (pause) I know, epic fail.

Miscommunicating Focal Points

Even if you’ve chosen your brand colors right to a tee, how you place them will strengthen your decision or dull it. Color, used effectively, can draw the right attention to where it needs to be: on a tagline, a product, or a pricing CTA. Effective use of color can serve as visual cues to a customer, leading them to where you want them to go on your website, and throughout the user experience.

Why Brand Messaging and Color Should Complement Vision

Whether you’re just a getting your business off the ground or considering a marketing refresh, color is a crucial piece of the success puzzle. In fact, make it part of your marketing plan to revisit its use each year. I’m not suggesting that you need to ditch what you already have, but maybe add another color to make the primary brand hue pop off the page. Or select a more subtle hue that brings the existing palette together better, defining your brand story more succinctly.

All in all, color is a personal preference. Though when a business utilizes the power it possesses through audience assessment and strategic execution across all media channels, color not only gives your company the attention it deserves but leads people to your door.

Rethink Your Color, Reevaluate Your Brand. Hit Us Up!

 

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The Ultimate Guide to Pinterest Ads for Beginners

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The Ultimate Guide to Pinterest Ads for Beginners

If you are like most business owners, you probably have focused a lot of your social media advertising efforts on Facebook. With over six million advertisers, the competition is pretty steep!

The good news is that there is another social media advertising option you can test for your business: Pinterest! Pinterest only has approximately 1.5 million companies connecting with users each month and offer a great opportunity to get your business in front of more users and new prospects for your brand.

This guide will show you everything you need to know about running a successful Pinterest ad campaign.

Why Should You Use Pinterest Ads?

While many people see Pinterest as just another social media platform, it is more like a search engine. With traditional social media platforms, users connect with each other and share content with friends and family. Pinterest is a platform where users search for inspiration and new products or ideas. They are able to create boards to save the content that they are interested in.

Why Should You Use Pinterest Ads

Pinterest ads appear as promoted pins that are sponsored by a company. This makes it easier for users to find and purchase the items they dream of having. Promoted Pins list the brand sponsoring the product and contain links to a sales page to make purchasing easy.

The concept of Pinterest began as a way to replace scrapbooks and corkboards used by many for inspiration with digital boards that could be added to or edited easily. Pinterest began as a simple idea that has grown into the third most popular social media platform in the U.S. Users are able to create wish lists and dream boards and companies are able to easily showcase their products and simplify the buying process.

Getting Started with Pinterest Ads

The first step to advertising on Pinterest is to create a business account. If you currently have a personal account that you wish to convert you can visit the business conversion site and follow the steps to convert your personal account into a business account. This includes creating a business profile with your company logo, business type, and a description of who you are and what your company does.

Creating a new account for your business is just as easy. Simply visit Pinterest homepage and click the link that says create a business account.

Getting Started with Pinterest Ads

Enter the email address you wish to use for the account, create a password and enter your business name and type. Once you have entered the information click create account and you are ready to create your business profile and agree to the terms of service.

Once you have created a business account on Pinterest, it is time to create your very first board. This will make it easier for users to find your content. You will want to create business board that you can add relevant pins to. These pins can include blogs, special offers, new products, and so much more. As a business account you can create images and add summaries to each pin to grab a user’s attention.

Creating Pinterest Ads

Once you have created your business account and your first board, you are ready to enter the world of Pinterest ads. The advertising structure of Pinterest is very similar to that of Facebook and Instagram. You can create ad campaigns, ad groups, set the amount you wish to spend each day/week/month, and track the results of your advertising efforts.

There are three levels in the structure of Pinterest ads. The first level is the campaign. This is where you will set the objective of your campaign and the maximum amount you want to spend on a particular campaign. The second level is the ad group where you can decide on your budget, target audience, where to display your ads, and how long you want your ads to run. Depending on the objective for your ad campaign and your business type, you may have multiple ad groups within a campaign. The final level is the promoted pins that are the result of the process.

Creating Pinterest Ads

You will create your ads in the Ads Manager Dashboard. Once on the Dashboard, you will click create ad and begin the process. Pinterest makes creating ad campaigns simple by using a step by step process and giving you choices along the way. For example, there are four objectives to choose from when initially setting up your campaign. These include:

  • Brand Awareness
  • Traffic
  • App Install
  • Video Views

 

Set up your campaign

You will then be asked if you wish to create a new campaign or update an existing one. The next step in the process is to determine your budget limit and decide if your ad campaign is ready for an immediate live launch. If you are not fully ready to go live, there is an option to pause the campaign until you are ready to go live.

You will then select the ad group for your campaign and select a name for each group so that you can keep all of your campaigns organized.

Once you have selected your ad group, the most important part of a successful ad campaign is to select your target audience. This step is where you can very specific about who you want to see your advertisements.

If this is your first Pinterest ad, you will be asked to create an audience by choosing from four options. This audience can be based on people who have been to your site before, a set list of customers that you can upload, audience that has engaged with pins in your domain, or an audience similar to one you already have.

create an audience by choosing from four options

Once you have created an audience, it is time to target your ads to certain groups of people. You can choose a specific gender, age, language, what device they are using, their location, etc. By targeting your ad at specific people who are more likely to show interest in your product or service, you are avoiding wasted money on advertising efforts that don’t garner more business so be as picky as you like.

Advanced Options

Pinterest has a number of advanced options when creating ads on their platform. You can choose how and where your ads are displayed. You can choose whether ads are displayed as users browse their feed or similar pins, when they search for items similar to yours, or both. Choosing both allows your business ads maximum exposure to potential customers.

Advanced Options

Another advanced option is to pick interests and keywords associated with your business. This will target ads to those who share the interests that align with your business and products. You can choose from over three thousand interest and it is recommended to choose at least 25 keywords.

Advanced Option 2

Setting Your Pinterest Ad Budget

There are two options when setting your bid for ad campaigns. You can choose a daily budget or a lifetime budget. A daily budget indicated the maximum amount you want to spend each day on your ad campaign. A lifetime budget is the amount you wish to spend for the total time that your ad runs on Pinterest. The budget options you select will depend on the amount you can afford to spend on an ad campaign.

Setting Your Pinterest Ad Budget

You will notice that as you change things such as your target audience and budget the estimated number of people that will be reached by your ad campaign will change as well. This is to help you get an idea of how effective an ad campaign will be based on the choices you make.

target audience and budget

Adding Pins to Ad Groups

The final step is your ad creation is to select the pins you want to appear in the ad group. These pins will become the Promoted pins shown to your target audience. There are a few rules that must be followed in order to guarantee that your promoted pins are seen:

  • You must save pins to your own profile
  • Include destination URLs within each pin
  • Don’t use link shorteners in the destination URL or in the description
  • Follow Pinterest’s Ad Standards
  • Don’t include third-party GIFs or videos

Adding Pins to Ad Groups

Once you have followed the step by step guide to create your ads, they will need to be reviewed. This takes no more than 24 hours so you should be sure to plan your campaign to include the review time so that you aren’t waiting on the review when you want your ad to be live.

Promoted App and Video Pins

In addition to traditional promoted pins, if your business specializes in app creation, you may choose to create a promoted app pin. These pins contain a link that allows users to download the app directly from their device’s app store. If you wish to create a promoted app pin, you will want to select “app install” as your campaign objective.

Promoted videos are short videos that users can watch to learn more about your brand and products. You can choose between a standard size which is the same size as one pin or a max width pin that is the size of two pins. These videos play automatically when at least half of the ad is visible on the user’s screen. Most users will stop scrolling to watch a video which makes it a great way for you to get exposure for new products.

Selecting Images on Pinterest

Now that we have explained how to create ads on Pinterest, lets talk about what you should use for ads on Pinterest. Pinterest is an extremely visual search engine, similar to Instagram. When users search an interest of keyword, the results display as images rather than text. You want to choose images that are visually appealing to users.

Here are some helpful tips for creating strong images for Pinterest ads:

  • Use bright, warm colors. Reds, oranges, and browns tend to increase the number of clicks a pin gets. Don’t exceed 50% color saturation as those pins get more repins than those with a higher color saturation.Selecting Images on Pinterest 1
  • Use images that are light. Images with medium light get more repins than those that are dark.Selecting Images on Pinterest 2
  • Close ups are a must. Avoid white space or too much background image that can detract from the product you are trying to showcase.
  • Avoid centered images. When you divide your image in thirds, you want to have a majority of the image in the top, bottom, left, or right. Never centered.
  • Did you leave room for text? Don’t layer text over your image. Rather, crop and shift the image over to leave room for text above, below, or to the side of the image you wish to showcase.

Pinterest Analytics

The most important part of any successful ad campaign is being able to track its performance. Pinterest makes tracking an ad’s performance easy. Head over to the Ads Manager Dashboard (the same dashboard used to create your ad campaign) and select the analytics tab.

From here, you can see every ad campaign you have run as well as how many times your ads were seen, saved, clicked on, and liked. These analytics are displayed in graph form on the dashboard. Want more detail? Click more on the graph you wish to see more detail on. This will show you how many people viewed, clicked, or saved your ad in the past 7, 14, and 30 days. These analytics tools even allow you to track engagement over time, so you can improve or change your ads to continue to increase your engagement rates.

Pinterest Analytics

Pinterest Advertising Tips for B2B Companies

Create Boards Your Audience Will Love
Pinterest boards should group together content with a similar theme. You will want to carefully piece together boards with content your audience will enjoy. Once you have created your awesome boards, you will want to link all of your content to your website or a landing page. This way you are drawing users into your organization not just your pinning abilities.

Up the Visual Content

Remember, Pinterest is all about visual appeal. Its easy to talk about your company or product but, users are more interested in visual content. Using infographics, charts, advice guides, etc., your brand can increase the visual content to reach a greater audience. You will want to create stunning images by using photo editing software or take our photos at different angles rather than the traditional straight on shot.

Put a Face to Your Company
It’s easy to show off products or services you provide, and while these posts may gain attention from your audience, they don’t help users connect with your organization. To build the connection with your audience, you should add in personal items such as showcasing the people within your company or even their pets. No one can resist a cute puppy. Plus it helps people see your organization as more than just a business.

Focus on Trends

Pinterest is a great place to show trends and patterns happening within your industry as well as what you are doing to make strides within these trends. Show potential customers how you can help them stay up to date with the latest trends in the industry by creating specific boards for these topics.

Don’t Forget to Test Your Pinterest Ads

Advertising on Pinterest can be done by any business or organization regardless of size or budget. The key is to work smart and maximize the results of any ad campaign you create. This guide should help you take Pinterest by storm, if you follow the steps and tips that were given. Remember, when first starting out on your Pinterest ad campaign journey, it is important to experiment with different ideas and concepts while tracking the analytics of each ad campaign. Keep what works, fix what doesn’t and you will be doing big things in no time.

If You Need Some Help, Check Out Our Approach

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How to Get Results With Social Proof Marketing

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How to Get Results with Social Proof Marketing: The Ultimate Guide

Have you ever wondered why customers choose certain companies or products over others that are similar? The number one reason for this occurrence is social proof. Social proof plays a leading role in purchase decisions. People will often follow the cues of others. They will often select restaurants based on how many people are in the establishment when they walk by. Because so much of a person’s purchase decisions rely on social proof, it is important to understand how social proof works and how to incorporate it into each of your marketing campaigns.

What Is Social Proof Marketing and Who Should Use It?

Social proof is the technological equivalent of word of mouth but on a much larger scale. It follows the idea that customers will choose a product or business based on the reviews and opinions of other people. Any business owner, advertiser or agency should incorporate social proof marketing into their campaigns. Here are a few examples of social proof marketing at work:

Social Proof Marketing image 2

One form of social proof marketing is to display the number of customer reviews on the main product listing.

social proof marketing

This is a great example of incorporating actual customer reviews with before and after images to back up your claims.

customer reviews

This gives a general number of subscribers to a blog newsletter.

blog newsletter

This type of social proof shows potential customers how many people have already purchased or downloaded a product.

All of these marketing tactics help companies establish trust with potential new customers by showcasing the number of existing customers that are already enjoying the product or service.

The Science behind Social Proof Marketing

Since the beginning of the human race, people have been pack animals. We desire acceptance and tend to be influenced by the actions, opinions and choices of others. Because of this pack mentality, people rarely want to stand out or go against the norm. How does this benefit your business? By using social proof in your marketing campaigns, you will be speaking directly to the pack mentality of people. By showing them the number of people who have purchased your product or used your service as well as their opinion of the item or service, you are grabbing the attention of potential customers.

How to Turn Social Proof in to Sales

Now that we have discussed what social proof is and why it works, let’s look at how to use this marketing method to convert website traffic in to sales. It is important to use a variety of social proof types in your marketing campaigns. Star ratings, number of items sold/customers helped, and customer reviews all play a large role in gaining new customers; however, there is one other method that some online retailers choose to use.

This method is the countdown. It is the same countdown that has been used in infomercials for years. “Call in the next thirty minutes to get this great deal” or “only ten remaining at this special price”. Both of these statements are designed to overcome customer hesitation before making a purchase. If they believe that there are only a few items left or the sale ends soon, they are less likely to put off the purchase for later.

sale

It is important to use an aspect of social proof at every single customer touch point. These include emails sent, company landing pages, and order pages. By doing this, you will be adding a layer of social proof at each step.

How to Fake Social Proof and Build Credibility

Chances are, your business is on a much smaller scale than that of Starbucks or Target. So, how are you supposed to use social proof if you don’t have many existing customers? Fake it. There are four ways to easily fake social proof to grow your brand and gain attention.

1. Get Certified
If your business has to do with technology, getting certified can build credibility for your potential customers. There are a number of websites that offer free certification courses for those in marketing or technological fields. Once you have received a certification, place it on your website to show potential clients that you know a thing or two about what you do.

Get Certified

2. Become a Partner Company
As a small business just getting started, becoming a partner company can bring huge benefits. Many large companies offer partner programs in the areas of marketing and information technology. By partnering with a large company, you will gain customer referrals while you work to develop more social proof. Many partner programs have a tier system so don’t expect to start out at the top. Be prepared to work your way up. Once there, you will enjoy numerous benefits from the partnership.

Become a Partner Company

3. Write Within Your Niche
When you are first starting out, avoid talking only about yourself and your business. Go out and find the important people in your niche. Interview them and publish the interview information on your blog. In addition to interviews, write about why your service or product is important in your niche. You will want to learn or hire a reputable company, familiar with search engine optimization for blogs. SEO will help you to gain more traffic to your website by pushing it higher in search engine results.

Write Within Your Niche

4. Show the Numbers
Share your company stats with potential customers. This can be done in a number of ways. You can create a counter that shows number of customers, number of downloads, or number of visitors. By showing how much web traffic, followers, and users, you are proving that you are a reputable company with customers and followers. This will push potential customers to try your product or service for themselves. Remember, pack animals.

Show the Numbers

How to Gain Social Proof by Asking for It

One of the easiest ways to gain social proof is to ask your existing customers to give it to you. There are a few ways to ask customers to help you gain social proof.

The first is to ask customers to leave a review of your product or service. To do this, you should have a customer review form on your website. This will allow them to provide feedback easily on your site. But what if they forget to leave a review? Send a follow up email with a request that they leave a review and a link to take them directly to the review page.

Another great way to gain social proof from existing customers is to offer specials to those who forward your email or refer a friend to your product or service. This will encourage them to share your business with those around them. This goes back to the pack mentality of people.

Sharing Social Proof on Social Media

Social media has a large reach when it comes to potential customers, but only if you do it correctly. There are two ways to capture the attention of potential customers using social proof on social media.

The first thing to remember is that numbers speak volumes. In this method, you will use the number of satisfied customers, volume of products purchased, or number of current clients you have. You want to keep these posts short and sweet such as:

Sharing Social Proof on Social Media

The second way to use your social proof is to post excerpts from customer testimonials. Remember when you sent out those emails requesting feedback? Look through the comments you received and choose a few to use in social media posts. This will help you to reach people that may not otherwise view your company website. A great example of this is:

social media posts

Other Types of Social Proof

As your business gains new customers and begins to grow, you can begin to use a wider variety of social proof in your marketing campaigns. These types of social proof are designed for larger scale marketing campaigns and have proven to be highly successful.

Expert Social Proof

Expert social proof involves hiring celebrities or professionals that your target audience tends to relate to. This person will endorse your product in your ad campaigns. You may choose to use testimonials from influential people within your industry or, if your budget allows, a celebrity who will help to get your product out to their followers. Many celebrities will advertise for select companies on their own social media feeds, if the deal is right.

Celebrity endorsements can however cost thousands of dollars, so you should determine if the outcome will be worth the cost. Some celebrities can charge anywhere from $150,000-$500,000 for one social media post featuring your product.

The best way to use celebrities to endorse your products is to have them use the products themselves. You should also use celebrities with a connection to your niche market. This will make them a more reliable source of social proof for potential customers.

User Social Proof

User social proof refers to the reviews and testimonials from existing customers. Studies consistently show that people tend to research the opinions of others when they have already researched a product and need to justify a purchase. These reviews are often trusted just as much as personal recommendations.

You should also include testimonials from existing customers. Testimonials give insight into how your product or service has changed the lives of those who have used them. You may include a section dedicated to these testimonials on your website. This will allow potential customers to review a variety of testimonials while making their final decisions.

While testimonials give potential customers a snapshot into an existing customer’s experience, a case study will allow you to provide a deeper look into the customer story. These show the initial problem the customers were having and why they were searching for a solution and how your product or service helped them solve their problem.

These types of social proof do not always have to be in written text. Try using video or audio testimonials to further draw potential customers into the story.

Wisdom of Crowds

Remember that herd mentality we discussed in the beginning? Well, it comes into play with the wisdom of crowds. This theory uses the crowd mentality by showing potential customers how many people have bought a particular item as well as cumulative ratings from those customers. When potential customers see that hundreds of a particular item have been sold, and the overall rating is good, they are more likely to purchase that item.

Wisdom of Friends

The wisdom of friends relies on a version of word of mouth. When a customer purchases an item, have a prompt to share the purchase with their friends on their social media feeds. You should provide links to each social media platform to make it simple for customers to share their purchasing experience on each platform. To further drive customers to share their experience, you can offer special deals to customers who share their experience and tag your company in the post. You can also offer special deals to customers who forward your promotion emails to their friends.

Now that we have discussed the types of social proof and how to implement them into your marketing campaigns, it is time for you to put these ideas into action. You should begin by experimenting with social proof placement in ads, on social media, and on your website. The more you can remind a customer of how many satisfied customers you have, the better off you will be.

Reach Out and Ask About Our Social Proof

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Is Cannabis Marketing Out from the Shadows and into Mainstream Legitimacy?

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Cannabis Marketing Going Legit - Eminent SEO
Marijuana. Legit. Are these two words separate entities or do they belong in a singular phrase? Wishful thinking or the reality in the not-so-far future? Depends on which side of the fence you sit on. But for   those who work within the cannabis industry, it’s legitimate and many advocates and customers can attest to it.

Just by looking at this specific business sector on its own merit, the numbers and associated forecasts for growth not only support a serious consideration but stands to be the next, big, missed opportunity (if you haven’t jumped in with both feet yet). So, whether you’re a grower, wholesaler, distributor, retailer or anyone with an ancillary product, how do you differentiate yourself from competitors? It’s all in the cannabis marketing you do and the way you do it.

Facebook Changed the Dos and Don’ts of Marijuana Marketing, Again

Legal Cannabis Recreational Sales 2021 ArcView Group - Eminent SEOJust when we thought it wasn’t safe to swim with the sharks of Facebook, they actually stepped up to the plate of public outcry and accountability. After listening to their users – and most notably their former platform users – who were up in arms about the recent shadow ban on cannabis marketing, they copped to it.

Before Facebook made changes that support the industry, it prohibited user access to:

  • Marijuana advocacy group pages
  • Cannabis-related events (public and private sectors)
  • Licensed caregiver info for medical marijuana patients
  • Dispensary searches for CBD products
  • Information about new laws or regulations
  • Meetings, conferences and other educational series from cannabis-related associations

While Facebook has theoretically opened its doors to the cannabis community, at least for the time being, individuals, groups and businesses will need to be Facebook compliant in order to come out from the shadow bans effectively and be visible to the community.

The following are the new Facebook guidelines that enable medical marijuana advertising, dispensary marketing and others in the industry to maintain a viral presence:

  • Requires specific Facebook verification for users and pages.
    • Blue Verification Symbol – applies to brands, media and public figures
    • Grey Verification Checkmark – applies to individuals and businesses
  • Verifications allow for ranking/presence in search results.
  • Without verification, individuals, business entities, etc. will be blocked.

So now that you know what the new playing field is for Facebook, where do you go from here for advertising your thoughts, resources and the marketing information that’s pertinent to marijuana-related business?

Agility and Collaboration in Digital Ad Agency and Cannabis Client Partnerships

Digital Ad Agency and Cannabis Client Collaboration - ESEOYou know what you know; now, admit what you don’t know. In marijuana business outreach, there isn’t much room for faking it. Let me illustrate.

Not everyone is comfortable with recreational marijuana – some prefer the use of alcohol. On another parallel, many consumers prefer pharmaceutical drugs compared to CBD oils and other products for relief of health-related symptoms.

But for those who truly don’t understand the obvious faux pas in the advertising copy italicized above or subtle nuances in design for cannabis marketing, you would never know I just stated something that compromised the business. If you know cannabis marketing, you understand. If you don’t, I just made a medical claim about CBD oils. That’s a no-no.

If you are the owner of a dispensary, distribution channel or retail store searching for ways to increase your visibility in the marketplace, knowing the legal limits of your advertising and public relations content is immeasurable.

However, as a digital ad agency with expertise in cannabis marketing, our clients don’t have to know everything. We don’t expect them to. But what we do need from our marijuana-based clientele is a level of collaboration that is transparent and agile. It has to be, because it isn’t just that you’re competing with other dispensaries, other growers, or other advocacy groups, for example; you’re competing against what you can’t see – the black market of the trade.

Much of what is needed to effectively promote within the marijuana mainstream is founded in the same tenets recommended for the advertising agency/client partnership as a whole: It’s all about a relationship of fluidity and collaboration. It might entail more ego-headbutting … but the results are astounding and support building long-term, successful relationships.

Subject Matter Experts Are Worth Their Weight in Gold

Not all weed-related businesses are owned by people who partake in the product. Many don’t even possess the basic knowledge about what’s entailed in the various business verticals within the industry, but they do know numbers and when an investment shakes out as a lucrative endeavor. They might even know marketing. They could have the background in traditional marketing that provides a deep-rooted know-how of the importance in brand story, the need to promote local, the use of trade publications, online communities, and boosting community outreach.

If a marketing company or advertising agency tells you that they know cannabis marketing but don’t have the clients to prove it, don’t just walk away; run!

Marketing Marijuana Is Like Alcohol Branding, Seriously?

This Marijuana Buds For You - Eminent SEOTo pull from a well-known, popular tagline, “This Bud’s for you,” from Anheuser-Busch, imagine using it to promote a specific retail shop that has an exclusive strain of marijuana.

Let’s take it further: This particular product has been known to promote better sleep, though there is no U.S. scientific proof, merely the feedback from those within the cannabis industry who have used it.

Let’s say you’ve got a friend of a friend whose brother-in-law is in this amazing alternative-gone-country band, and the members commit to creating a jingle for this-bud’s-for-you. You can use it in your videos, email campaigns, website and radio campaigns, and maybe even television. I mean, why not? They did it for alcohol, right?

Yeah. So … NOT.

Legal-Ease, No Such Animal in Cannabis Marketing

Cannabis remains prohibitive on the U.S. federal law level. Although alcohol manufacturing, distribution and sales went through its drama decades ago with prohibition, etc., they came out of it and legalized it. Marijuana isn’t there yet … but the industry is changing seemingly on a monthly basis. And because it’s evolving that fast, businesses need to align themselves with marketing agencies that are knowledgeable.

We can also look at this sideways. Marijuana, as a business, is already more legit by the sheer fact that it has a pharmaceutical component to it. Research continues worldwide in uncovering the benefits to patients with various health issues that experience a reduction in symptoms or enhanced well-being due to cannabis use. Alcoholic beverage manufacturers and distributors can never tout that. But we still can’t claim it via marketing efforts either.

Without trademark protections available from the government, competitors within the industry can exercise bad ethical practices without a lot of backlash. In a way, those committed to the cannabis industry are virtual pioneers, navigating through unforgiving mainstream methodologies and advertising pathways yet to be discovered, let alone accepted.

Brand Identity Is Everything

Once you’ve got a handle on the legal and ethical best practices, it’s easier to be able to focus on the creative aspects of branding for cannabis marketing. One major consideration should be made for consumer persona or your audience. Especially in ad campaigns and social strategies that are trying to tug at non-marijuana enthusiasts, your prospects. You have to compete for their interest and convince them to step away from traditional mindsets and explore something new.

In a recent interview with Entrepreneur.com, Cassandra Farrington, Co-Founder and CEO of Marijuana Business Daily, defined the challenge as such, “Mainstream society … they don’t want to feel edgy, they want to feel like it’s as normal as having a glass of wine.” Yes, in the short term, it’s a tall order.

Some use celebrity endorsements to boost brand credibility and awareness, which can carry a lot of weight, but for those not wavered by star status, product quality will always reign supreme in brand loyalty. And celebrity popularity can change with a tweet or two. Though product quality can only be shared through word of mouth, and strategically placed trade communications.

Getting in Front of Your Back Story

Marijuana Plant Grows In Dirt - Eminent SEOKnowing your audience helps you generate your strategy but it also helps you define the overall tone of your campaigns: the language, cadence, look and feel of the copy and design.

If you want to reach baby boomers that are open to alternatives for pain management, what you say and how you say it should be congruent to them and what they care about. Again, you cannot make product claims, per se, but you can exude a lifestyle in your marketing.

If your audience is made up of Generation Z or millennials (especially for recreational use product offerings) create more of a buzz about your brand by providing a compelling story (or back story) about your business. This story could be something unique about the owner, the company mission or vision, or the employees.

What really resonates with the younger audience (over 21 years old only; have to remain compliant) is any story that speaks to sustainability. If you can espouse to lowering the environmental footprint related to the growing, packaging and distribution of the cannabis, that’s the kind of marketing tale that will go a long way.

Check out these 10 cannabis advertising and marketing strategies and see if your current program meets the criteria.

Pick a Niche and Then Be the Source of the Source

While cannabis companies cannot push product like traditional CPG marketing, industry advocacy is the best position to start with to set up for success. Over time and a solid, organic, digital marketing strategy, brand identity, market reach, customer retention and consistent referral business will come. Focus on being “the source of the source” within your market – part advocate/part teacher. Be the quintessential resource and, if possible, pick a specific niche and lead with that.

COO Joe Hodas of General Cannabis, an investment firm, and formerly a high-level Dixie Brands marketing exec, believes that “the increased growth of the overall market will allow niche products to proliferate and thrive.”

Is your cannabis marketing buzzworthy to consumers and referring businesses? We can help.

See How We Help Cannabis Businesses

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Melanie Stern

Looking at the world through word-colored glasses, I am continuously in awe of how we evolve as people in business. We strive to communicate in a direct approach and, when we see fit, through subliminal channels. As a content strategist, I look forward to sharing all perspectives to help entertain, enlighten and engage more in others.

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Ethical Addiction Treatment Marketing Alternatives to Paid Ads

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Ethical Addiction Treatment Marketing Industry Paid Ad Obstacles - Eminent SEO

Dear Rehab Owners: Beware of Shady Marketers and Lead Generators

I am part of an ethics in addiction treatment group on Facebook. Some of the members are marketers, like me, but most of the members of the group seem to be treatment providers. What they have to say about the shady practices is pretty disturbing, and it goes well beyond digital marketing.

One member asked about the ethics and legalities around addiction treatment marketing, and after reviewing the comments, it was clear that there is still a lot of gray area.

Some acted like all marketing is bad. Others implied that it was how the marketer was paid.

Can You Legally Market Your Addiction Treatment Center?

Marketing is an umbrella term for so many tactics and channels. You’ve got ground marketing, referral partnerships, online advertising, lead generation, traditional and digital forms. You’ve also got branding, content development, local, paid ads, organic, etc. etc.

The problem is all of these are legitimate forms of marketing, yet all can also be easily distorted and manipulated. So, when the law gets involved, they’re not always sure where to draw the line. There is a lot of gray area and the people writing and enforcing the laws don’t always understand the full scope of what’s going on. This leaves a lot of loopholes for anyone looking to scam the system.

Unfortunately, with technology and the law changing so fast, rehab owners can’t keep up with it all. Think about the implications of even owning and operating your own website. Is it safe and secure? Can you be sure your content is medically accurate, even blog posts from years ago? Do your leads go to a HIPAA compliant tool?

Don’t think this matters? Think again.

If you’re making claims and can’t back them up, you’re going to be in trouble. Not just with generating leads, but with insurance companies and, yes, the law.

Certain aspects to what falls under ‘marketing’ can be looked at as illegal. You can’t lie and manipulate. You can’t patient broker, fee split or take kickbacks. If you violate HIPAA compliance, they’ll be coming for you.

Defining Ethical Addiction Treatment Marketing

So, what defines addiction treatment marketing and how can you ensure you’re doing it ethically?

Most will agree that “marketing” is neither illegal nor unethical. To further clarify, addiction treatment marketing is when a treatment business hires an agency or salaried employees to:

  • Create a website with proper SEO and messaging.
  • Perform outreach and networking tasks on behalf of the facility.
  • Utilize digital marketing channels and assets to promote the brand.
  • Run paid ad campaigns to raise awareness and generate leads.
  • Attend conferences, man a marketing booth and network to promote the facility.
  • Educate other providers, such as EAP groups, unions and other potential referral sources.

All of this is legitimate and ethical, assuming you are working with honest people. Where you get into a gray area is when the individuals are also paid a commission based on admissions to the program. Many legitimate marketing positions, where all business is conducted in the light of day, include such incentives.

Many in my ethics group are confused why commission is allowed, but fee-per-referral is not, or is at least frowned upon. There are still hordes of websites and social media pages that seem to be making money from addiction treatment referrals.

Can You Refer Addiction Treatment Leads Legally?

Whether you are a facility owner or not, there are plenty of reasons why you might have to refer a lead to a treatment center. If you are an MD, psychologist, psychiatrist, counselor, run EAPs or have some other related affiliation, from time to time you may need to refer clients to an effective addiction treatment provider.

Please note that I am not a lawyer and therefore I can’t give legal advice. However, based on popular public opinion, I can say there are a few things you can do to avoid violating HIPAA and professional codes of ethics:

  • Pre-qualify any treatment center you partner with.
  • Only refer patients to facilities qualified to treat the specific needs of this client.
  • Host and transfer your treatment center leads in a HIPAA-compliant system.
  • Never sell your leads to the highest bidder.
  • Don’t accept kickbacks for patients you refer.

The laws around lead referral seem to vary per state, so if you are in the business of referring leads, you should definitely consult a lawyer and make sure you understand what you can and can’t do legally.

Alternatives to paid ads

Generating Addiction Treatment Leads the Ethical Way Isn’t Easy

I can’t say I don’t understand why so many treatment centers resort to buying leads. Generating your own leads has always been hard. But, generating leads for addiction treatment is harder than ever.

At one point, before Google decided to eliminate the ability for addiction treatment centers to bid on treatment-related keywords, the cost per click on their paid ads had skyrocketed to $100 to $150 per click. This meant that Google ads were altogether too expensive for some of the smaller rehabs.

Alternative forms of marketing, such as branding and social media, can also be expensive and take time to get results. Plus, there are no guarantees. Take Facebook ads for example: After Google crushed AdWords, many rehabs moved to Facebook paid ads. So much for Google’s plan to stop shady rehabs from advertising, right?

Wrong.

Per this post from LegitScript on August 8th, 2018, LegitScript Addiction Treatment Certification Expands to Include Facebook:

“Starting today, Facebook will require LegitScript certification for providers of drug and alcohol addiction treatment who want to advertise in the United States. This partnership follows the official rollout of our program, which began at the end of July after an initial pre-launch phase. Now both Google and Facebook will require LegitScript certification for addiction treatment providers looking to advertise.”

So, now you have to have a LegitScript certification for both Google AND Facebook ads.

Viable Marketing Alternatives to Paid Ads for Rehabs

Here’s what to do/try if you’re a rehab business and not LegitScript certified:

#1: More of What’s Already Working

SEO Client Organic Rankings Growth Chart

Want growth like this? An organic approach to multi-channel marketing can rank your website for thousands of keywords and drive countless qualified visitors to your site and branded assets:

  • On-page SEO
  • Organic Link Building
  • Local Marketing
  • Strategic Blogging
  • Content Marketing
  • Asset Development
  • Branding
  • Outreach and Engagement
  • Email Marketing

#2: Test Other Ad Platforms

YouTube Stat 2018

Google and Facebook are not the only tech giants selling ad space. Why are these other channels of marketing and paid ad opportunities not being more heavily tested? Someone give us a budget so we can test this stuff already, such as:

  • YouTube
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Bing
  • Yahoo

If you do decide to test other ad platforms, just keep in mind that each work differently and may need to also utilize a supporting lead nurturing campaign.

When considering the buyers journey most ads on social platforms will reach buyers at the top of the funnel, or beginning of the journey. These leads can be nurtured into sales with the right strategy, but don’t expect to convert the majority of your visitors from the first touch.

You can learn more about this strategy here: How to Convert Leads into Sales by Understanding the Buyer’s Journey

#3: Get Listed on Relevant Sites

There are numerous high traffic sites that still sell ad space or offer directory listings. Trusted sites, such as PsychologyToday.com, offer brand visibility and referral traffic for a monthly fee.

Our good buddy, Jim Peake, of Addiction-Rep, has a good-sized drug rehab directory list on his site here. Some of the listings are free, but most decent websites want to charge you for valuable real estate on their site.

You do have to be careful about what sites you buy ad space from, however, as there are still so many shady third-party sites that fake their statistics and the quality of their traffic, banking on the ignorance of their buyers.

#4: Everything Else I Already Said Before

I don’t want to be redundant, so if you missed it, I provided some other interesting marketing ideas in my previous article here: Can Rehabs Survive Big Changes to the Addiction Treatment Industry?

In Closing

Unfortunately, there are no cheap solutions or quick fixes here.

Effective marketing requires addiction treatment center owners and advertisers to work together on reaching clients where they are with the right messaging. If Google and Facebook can eliminate your ability to bid on paid ads practically overnight, then your other channels of marketing and lead-generation sources could dry up in the same way.

The key is to diversify, test everything and use a smart marketing strategy that is always focused on what is working NOW … and focused on the tried-and-true solutions that provide long-term gains, like SEO.

See How We Approach Rehab Marketing

Avatar for Jenny Stradling

Jenny Stradling

Owner and CEO at Eminent SEO in Mesa, Arizona. I started doing SEO and marketing in 2005. I'm a busy mom of four of my own and two step kids (and a grandbaby!). I owe my sanity to my partner in work and life, Chris Weatherall. I love sharing and engaging in business and marketing conversations, and I'm heavy into social media and blogging on these topics. I focus on quality, ethics, strategy, data and getting results. I work with a variety of brands and businesses with a special focus on addiction treatment marketing. I do this work because I care about making a difference.

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Cannabis Marketing Challenges – and 10 Strategies You Can Try

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Cannabis Marketing Challenges Paid Advertising - Eminent SEO

Most Advertising Platforms Will NOT Accept Cannabis Ads

If you own a medical dispensary or work in the cannabis industry, you might already know this by now, but hear this: The big ad platforms are not your friend.

I know, I know, this is totally counterintuitive to our typical multi-channel marketing approach, but hear me out.

The United States is a big place and our country operates at the federal and state level. So, even though states like Arizona, California, Colorado, Washington and 24-plus other states have made the drug legal in some form, it doesn’t mean the big advertising platforms are happy to host paid ads.

In fact, with the changing political landscape, four of the major ad sellers – Google, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – have all decided NOT to allow marijuana brands to run paid ads on their platforms, at least at this time.

Facebook and Instagram Shut Down Cannabis Accounts

But, it’s not just paid ads the big tech giants have cracked down on. Both Facebook and Instagram are infamous for taking down cannabis-related accounts.

Look at what others are saying:

Facebook Cracks Down on Marijuana Firms with Dozens of Accounts Shut Down

“We tried to log into Instagram, and a message said we violated their policy, but they won’t say what that violation is,” said Rick Scarpello, CEO of Incredibles, a Denver-based edible company. “I’ve written them every day, saying I’m not doing anything illegal and please reinstate my account.”

Sound familiar? You’re not alone.

Did Instagram Change its Marijuana Marketing Policy?

“Instagram does not allow people or organizations to use the platform to advertise or sell marijuana, regardless of the seller’s state or country. This is primarily because most federal laws, including those of the United States, treat marijuana as either an illegal substance or highly regulated good. Our policy prohibits any marijuana seller, including dispensaries, from promoting their business by providing contact information like phone numbers, street addresses, or by using the ‘contact us’ tab in Instagram Business Accounts. We do however allow marijuana advocacy content as long as it is not promoting the sale of the drug. Dispensaries can promote the use and federal legalization of marijuana, provided that they do not also promote its sale or provide contact information to their store.”

Read this line again: Our policy prohibits any marijuana seller, including dispensaries, from promoting their business by providing contact information like phone numbers, street addresses, or by using the “contact us” tab in Instagram Business Accounts.

Wait, what?

A Long Way to Go – Another Example

The Cannabis Industry Is Still Fighting for Legitimacy on Social Media Platforms

“It’s been frustrating for us not being able to advertise on Facebook and Google because of our involvement in the cannabis industry,” said Jeffrey Zucker, co-founder and president of Green Lion Partners, a business strategy firm focused on early-stage development in the regulated cannabis industry. He added that he has had to deal with influencers who have spent a lot of time building up their followings suddenly seeing their accounts deleted without any prior messaging or warning, and often with no recourse.

So, what can you do?

10 Cannabis Advertising and Marketing Strategies

1. Play by the Rules

You can still create branded social accounts. However, if you are going to use Facebook and Instagram, then you MUST play by the rules:

  • Add a disclaimer: “You must be 21 or over to follow this account.”
  • Don’t EVER post a product for sale.
  • Don’t use a “Contact Us” direct contact button on Instagram.
  • Avoid claiming any direct medical benefits.
  • To advocate for legalization and use, give strain and product reviews.
  • Don’t offer a physical address or phone number to buy any products.
  • To promote your store, direct people to your website for location information.

And, don’t think this is everything. These popular social platforms tend to update their terms of service quite frequently. As a cannabis business owner, it’s imperative you understand and keep up with the laws and changing restrictions.

2. Use Engagement and Outreach

If you’re going to play nice and use social media for your cannabis brand, you really need to get creative with your strategies. Even with ads, clients can have a hard time standing out online and getting new followers.

If you expect to grow your organic reach, you must identify, target and engage with your prospects. Try this on:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • Tumblr
  • YouTube

Bonus engagement tip: Your biggest fans may already be engaging with your brand regularly. Don’t ignore those users. Instead, focus on building a relationship with them first. When relationships are nurtured correctly, fans can turn into powerful brand advocates who actually create engagement and viral opportunities for your business.

3. Brand Your Business

As this industry grows, the marketplace has become saturated with new products and brands. With so much to choose from, branding is key to ensure your marijuana business gets found. Try:

  • A stand-out logo (don’t be like everyone else)
  • A quality website
  • Online video
  • Public relations
  • Product swag and giveaways
  • Brochures and flyers

No matter which marketing channels you choose to leverage for your business, you need a memorable brand identity with a solid personality in order to gain customer engagement and brand loyalty.

Why does loyalty matter? If people like your brand, they might come back to buy again. If they love your brand, they’ll pick you over your competition every time. And, if they just can’t get enough of your brand? Well, they’ll tell all of their friends too.

4. Buy Media on Relevant Sites

Sure, Instagram and Facebook might not allow you to buy ads, but there are some digital advertising networks that do allow cannabis media buys, such as banner ads and other dynamic display ads.

Popular networks and media ad sites include:

However, buyer beware: As with any form of paid cannabis advertising, having rented ads on these sites isn’t cheap. Most will cost you at least $500 to $1,000 per month. Want to play with the big boys? An ad on the HighTimes.com online magazine starts at about $5,000 per location.

5. SEO Your Website

As an SEO agency, we might be a little biased. But, the data doesn’t lie. Websites with the right search engine optimization are getting the most traffic and best conversions. With the ongoing social media roadblocks and paid ad restrictions, organic website marketing is even more crucial to gaining visibility for your marijuana brand online.

Effective SEO tactics today include:

  • Identification of your ideal buyers
  • Keyword research and selection
  • Optimized metadata and image alt tags
  • High quality, unique and keyword rich content
  • AMP and mobile responsive pages
  • Rich schema markups
  • Local business citations
  • Mixed media for user engagement
  • Outreach and link building

The right SEO strategy can drive huge amounts of qualified search traffic to your website. Check out this organic case study on one of our local medical marijuana dispensaries. Now, after just a few more months into their campaign with us, they are getting HUGE amounts of organic traffic to the site.

In the last 30 days, they have had more than 8,000 visitors, 6,700 of which are organic. This is what expert SEO can get you.

Marijuana Dispensary Website Traffic Data - ESEO

6. Tap into Local

From Google My Business to Yelp, if you are a geo-targeted business, you MUST have a local presence. Did you know that your Google My Business page can rank for hundreds of keyword phrases? Just like organic SEO helps drive relevant traffic to your website, local SEO helps drive geo-targeted traffic to your Google My Business page.

Think about this: Most users are searching for cannabis-related products and dispensaries “nearby.” Google understands search behavior and therefore assumes specific keyword phrases are intended to produce a local result. Because of this, many terms will return the Google My Business listings before any organic website listings, even if they don’t include a geo-target or the words “near me.”

For example, I searched “medical dispensary,” a generic keyword phrase, and Google assumed I wanted local help:

Medical Dispensary Google Search - ESEO

Having a Google My Business for your cannabis shop, medical dispensary or marijuana product line is a no-brainer. If you don’t have one, go make one now: Google My Business

@eminentseo
@eminentseo

“In cannabis, it's an education-first mindset, not product first.” – Matt Rizzetta, CEO of public relations agency N6A

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7. Share High-Quality Content

For decades now, cannabis has been illegal, forcing a lot of misinformation and stigma around the plant, including its uses and benefits. Many cannabis businesses are left with the task of raising awareness and spreading education around the facts.

Quality content can help a brand reach prospects and partners. If doctors are going to prescribe marijuana, they must understand it. By educating doctors and other health care providers on the benefits of the plant, dispensaries can earn trust, respect and new partnership opportunities.

You can develop and host high-quality content on:

  • Your own website
  • The company blog
  • Your public social media platforms
  • Your local listings

You can also write and share a company newsletter, offering users a gateway to other relevant content on your website and other branded platforms.

8. Leverage Email Campaigns

Another great way to share and spread quality information is through email marketing. In addition to a monthly newsletter about your brand, why not tap into targeted email marketing campaigns?

The Direct Marketing Association says for every $1 spent on email marketing, the average return on investment is $40.56. Not a bad ROI, huh? However, there’s a lot more to an effective campaign; sending out emails is only part of the strategy.

For effective email marketing, try this:

  • Develop specific landing pages to match your email offers.
  • Create multiple opportunities for new users to subscribe to your lists.
  • Organize your existing contacts into related groups.
  • Send each group offers and content relevant to their specific interests.
  • Use catchy headlines to increase open rates.
  • Test various send times and dates, and use analytics to optimize your delivery strategy.
  • Use your social media platforms to build a bigger audience.
  • Include personalized visual content, such as videos and GIFs.
  • Showcase client testimonials, case studies and other social proof.
  • Hire a designer to create a custom template and awesome graphics to wow the audience.
  • Always include a desired call to action. And, track everything!

Bonus Tip: Don’t oversell. Remember, when a user subscribes to a list, it’s because they believe they will receive something of value from it. Oftentimes, prospects are not ready to “buy now.” Instead, personalize your emails and become a trusted friend, someone your readers rely on for information they need. Provide value and the sales will come.

9. Try Text Messaging

Did you know that you can send short messages right to your employees, partners and customers using a text-messaging service? What better way to share daily quotes, specials, event updates and other important information with your clients? With text messaging, you can get your message directly to your audience in a cost-effective way.

With group texting services, you can:

Run Drip Campaigns:

  • Welcome texts
  • Updates on new products and sales
  • Detailed information about the service you offer
  • Transactional messages
  • Reminders about events
Send Business Promotions:

  • New offers and deals
  • Product announcements
  • Invitations to exclusive sale events
  • Announcements about sales
  • Product promotions

You can also segment your subscriber lists and send different messages to various groups based on their specific interests and buying patterns.

10. Traditional Marketing

This isn’t as much a tip as it is an option. Traditional marketing is expensive, but for cannabis?

“You have a handful of websites; you have print ads, which are abnormally popular, [and] dispensaries spend more on a cost-per-impression basis than a Super Bowl commercial to get into a local print publication,” Joel Milton, CEO of Baker Technologies, told Adweek.

Trying radio or TV? Good luck getting a prime spot:

“Most TV companies will only let you advertise if you can prove that the TV station or radio station has less than 30% of listeners that are under 21 years of age,” says Celeste Miranda, co-founder of The Cannabis Story Lab.

However, billboards might still work:

“We’re seeing a lot of marketers turn to out-of-home in place of digital opportunities,” says Kyle Del Muro, a consultant with several cannabis clients. “In Vegas, billboards are becoming a big thing,”

But, similar to online magazine ads, billboards are not cheap. To run a billboard ad in most small to mid-sized cities in the US is roughly $1,500 to $4,000 per month. Larger markets can reach $14,000 per month!

Canna King Billboard Oregon - ESEO

(Twitter Photo/@420dispensary)

Final Tip to Overcome Cannabis Marketing Challenges

Cannabis marketing and advertising isn’t easy. As the political and legal landscape continues to evolve, expect even more changes in the way cannabis businesses do marketing.

Get ahead of the curve, implement effective, long-term marketing strategies now, such as cannabis SEO, and reap the rewards for years to come.

Avatar for Jenny Stradling

Jenny Stradling

Owner and CEO at Eminent SEO in Mesa, Arizona. I started doing SEO and marketing in 2005. I'm a busy mom of four of my own and two step kids (and a grandbaby!). I owe my sanity to my partner in work and life, Chris Weatherall. I love sharing and engaging in business and marketing conversations, and I'm heavy into social media and blogging on these topics. I focus on quality, ethics, strategy, data and getting results. I work with a variety of brands and businesses with a special focus on addiction treatment marketing. I do this work because I care about making a difference.

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Grow Your Cannabis Business with These Marketing Tips

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Cannabis Marketing Tips Dispensary Businesses - Eminent SEO
Marketing cannabis businesses is actually pretty nuanced. For example, you can’t just start a new Facebook account about your marijuana brand and say whatever you want about your products like any other business would. Nope. Facebook does not like that.

Cannabis marketing is still evolving with the changing industry, and there are things we can and can’t do. On top of that, the industry is young and many companies didn’t have to worry about strong branding and forward-thinking marketing because the demand was so high. But, with increasing demand always comes increasing competition.

Here are a few cannabis marketing tips to help businesses navigate the changing landscape of marketing and stand out from the competition:

Be Careful Your Marketing Messaging Doesn’t Target Minors

Cannabis is still in its early stages in terms of its legalization and acceptance in many ways. You must always keep age restrictions in mind and be careful about where you choose to advertise.

Marijuana businesses should make marketing messaging a top priority. Using a lot of jokes and incorporating cartoon mascots, like Joe Camel, will give the wrong image of your brand. It will also undermine the goal of the cannabis industry as a whole: to be taken seriously.

Make sure your social media AND your website both ask the user to confirm that they are 21 years or older in order to proceed. You might not be able to verify each follower yourself, but the disclaimer gives the platforms some assurances you are trying to do your part.

Don’t Try to Sell Your Cannabis Products on Social Media

The big social media sites, such as Facebook and Instagram, are being pretty particular when it comes to what you can and can’t say about cannabis on their platforms. Some cannabis business owners have reported being flagged, getting posts removed and their accounts taken down altogether. It seems like marijuana is all over social media, so why are some accounts getting shut down while others are not?

We turned to the Instagram Community Guidelines to see if we could find any answers. This seems to be the closest thing to an answer: “Offering sexual services, buying or selling firearms and illegal or prescription drugs (even if it’s legal in your region) is also not allowed.”

Okay, we get it. But, why then do some accounts seem to remain unrestricted for years while others are taken down over and over? With cannabis only recently becoming more legally available, it doesn’t surprise us that Facebook and Instagram are a bit paranoid about what they allow on their platforms. But, if cannabis is treated like other substances, this wouldn’t be such a common issue for dispensaries.

Just look at alcohol. Who is monitoring the Coors Light account to make sure the 82,000-plus followers are all over 21? No one. But, better believe they are promoting the sale of their product. It appears to be fine to share product pics and talk about the product as long as you don’t directly suggest that fans purchase it.

Unfortunately, this is a bit of a gray area for some. It’s hard to know what you can and can’t say. And who has time to read all of those guidelines, anyway?

Are You Recreational or a Medical Dispensary? Why? There’s a Big Difference.

If you are marketing yourself as a recreational cannabis business, then social networks should treat you like it treats tobacco and alcohol industries. Meaning, you should have to make specific warnings and then be allowed to market your product as you see fit.

However, if you are offering a medical product and making medical claims about cannabis, then it makes sense that they would view you as a pharmaceutical company, which has its own process for proving a product has medical benefits.

Decide What Type of Cannabis Business You Are

Recreational Or Medical What Type Of Cannabis Business Are You - Eminent SEOUnfortunately, if you want to play by the rules, you are going to have to decide. Are you going to market yourself as a recreational brand? Or, are you going to push the medical benefits?

If you are going to share health advice, be advised: Certain platforms will see this as a violation of their terms.

There are two main rules you should remember:

  1. If you are talking about medical benefits, don’t take a solid stance as a brand. Instead, refer to studies and other third-party information to support your comment, such as patient testimonials. For example, write, “Many patients claim CBD helps them with their arthritis,” instead of, “CBD is known to help with pain from arthritis.”
  2. If you are a dispensary, you cannot push your cannabis products. If you have some new products to sell, they don’t want you publishing a picture with a caption that says how and where you can buy the products. Yes, even if you are dispensary and require visitors to present a valid card before they can purchase anything. The social platforms don’t care. These types of posts will be removed, and your whole account may get banned or suspended.

Branding Your Cannabis Business Beyond Recreational vs. Medical

Of course, there is more to it than simply knowing whether your brand represents a recreational business or medical company. What does your brand stand for? Do you have a company mission statement? Why did you get into the cannabis business? What is your story? What is your long-term vision for your brand?

If you hope to stand out from the competition, you must first define what sets you apart. Ask yourself what makes you unique?

Start with a Mission Statement

Marketing Tips For Cannabis Dispensary Businesses - ESEOA well-crafted mission statement aligns the company officers and employees with the same goals and objectives. The mission statement can act as the framework for decision making and provide a clear path to change if the company gets off track.

Without a mission statement, a company can easily lose track of its values, stability and specific goals.

Here at Eminent SEO, we have our own Mission Statement clearly stated on our website:

“Eminent SEO seeks to create and promote beautiful brand collateral, expertly optimized websites and well-crafted marketing messages as a means to push the boundaries of internet marketing, and to help companies, corporations and government agencies be more successful.

“It’s our mission to deliver ethical, high-quality services while simultaneously working on creating meaningful relationships with our clients, partners, each other and those in the community around us.”

If you want to get to work on your own mission statement, here are some things to consider: Mission Statement vs. Vision vs. Company Culture

Examples of Cannabis Business Mission Statements

TheCannabisIndustry.org:

To promote the growth of a responsible and legitimate cannabis industry and work for a favorable social, economic, and legal environment for that industry in the United States.

“The National Cannabis Industry Association was founded on the principle of power in numbers. The thousands of American businesses involved in the state-legal cannabis industries represent a tremendous economic force in this country. As the industry’s national trade association, NCIA works every day to ensure our growing business sector is represented in a professional and coordinated way on the national stage.”

EarthMed.com:

“EarthMed prides itself on providing the highest quality compassionate care to patients who truly need it. We understand that for many, pain is a daily part of life and that nobody should have to live in pain when there are treatments available. Medical Cannabis has many medical benefits that ease the pain that traditional medicine cannot offer. EarthMed’s focus is to provide a safe and legal venue for patients to receive treatment using Medical Cannabis.

“Another ideal EarthMed strives for is community outreach and education regarding Medical Cannabis. These include educating the community with regards to the benefits of Medical Cannabis and how to legally obtain it.”

KindMedsAZ.com:

“Kind Meds is a medical marijuana dispensary that is focused on cultivating top-quality medical cannabis flower and similar products to help patients overcome illness, pain, and to live happier.

“Our company is passionate about supplying grade A cannabis flower as well as being a reliable resource to help educate individuals about quality cannabis medicine, because we feel that it can help change people’s lives for the better.”

Define Your Buyer Types

Before you can market to new prospects, you must define who they are. If you have a luxury cannabis brand, for example, your buyer might have a higher income, certain profession and live in a specific geographical location. You also need to consider age, gender and interests.

Buyer Personas for Cannabis Businesses

Depending on your specific brand and goals, you may have one, two or several buyer persona types. If you are just getting started, don’t overdo it.

Define your top two to three revenue-generating buyers and build your strategies around them to start. Consider:

  • Medical patients
  • Cannabis advocates/fans
  • Professionals
  • Advertising partners

Let’s say you are a medical cannabis dispensary that offers top-shelf products in Mesa, Arizona. You may ask yourself:

Who is my desired customer? What motivates them? What do they need to make a decision?

Define:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Income
  • Location
  • Occupation
  • Goals
  • Challenges
  • Favorite websites
  • Shopping preferences
  • Typical buying concerns
  • How they found you

Once you have your buyer personas identified, you can create better marketing strategies for each one. If you know your buyer hangs out on Instagram and watches YouTube videos but never goes on LinkedIn, then you know where to focus your marketing dollars and effort.

Cannabis Business Logos

We always tell our clients to think about how their logo will look on T-shirts, hats, mugs, letterhead, business cards – all kinds of swag and print. Your branding should be cool enough to wear on a hoodie, and professional enough to use on the website and marketing collateral.

James L. Bowie, a sociologist at Northern Arizona University who analyzes patterns and trends in logo design, wrote in Slate’s design blog “The Eye” in 2016:

“Analysis of United States Patent and Trademark Office records shows that 44 percent of logos registered as trademarks for marijuana-related businesses feature the familiar cannabis leaf.”

Too many cannabis brand logos and websites look the same. If your competitors are all using the same colors, fonts and symbols, maybe – actually, definitely – you should do something different. How else will you stand out among the endless sea of green marijuana leaves?

Marijuana Cannabis Dispensary Logos All The Same - ESEO
Where’s the creativity, people?

Cannabis Digital Marketing

Branding is just the beginning. Next, it’s tagline, messaging, website and marketing strategy. In today’s marketplace, people are consuming more digital content and less traditional media.

You might still rely on some forms of direct marketing, such as billboards, radio spots and print. However, if you expect to be successful long term as a brand, you’ve got to incorporate digital.

Our outline for a successful cannabis digital multi-channel marketing plan includes:

  • Quality Website
  • Expert SEO
  • Well-Researched, Relevant Content
  • An Engaging Website Blog
  • Google My Business and Other Local Listings
  • Organic Search Marketing
  • Social Media, such as: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc.
  • Email Marketing
  • Text Messaging Marketing
  • Video Creation and Promotion
  • Branded Asset Development
  • Banner and Ad Network Campaigns
  • Influencer and Brand Partnerships
  • Event Sponsorships (with Online Event Promotions)
  • Reputation Monitoring and Management

We then track all marketing channels and evaluate the data each month to determine what the strategy will focus on in the following month.

The cannabis industry is evolving at a fast pace. If you want to be part of the future of cannabis, you might want to consider upping your branding and marketing game.

The Public Demands Quality Cannabis Content

Matei Olaru, CEO of Lift, a cannabis media and technology company in Canada, said that putting the right data, instruction or knowledge in front of consumers, sellers and medical professionals is a need that cannabis entrepreneurs can fill.

“Decades of misinformation has been perpetuated by prohibition,” Matei said. “As the number of legal cannabis consumers increases exponentially, so will the opportunities for information and media companies (in print, video or on the web).”

Before Applying These Cannabis Marketing Tips, Share Your Story!

Have you found success with a specific marketing strategy for your cannabis business? What about an epic fail or a big lesson learned?

Share your cannabis branding, marketing or business strategies in the comments and help budding entrepreneurs grow their businesses (pun intended).

Together, we can create and share cannabis content that matters. Learn more here: Professional Cannabis Branding and Marketing Services or call to speak with a pro: 800.871.4130.

Avatar for Jenny Stradling

Jenny Stradling

Owner and CEO at Eminent SEO in Mesa, Arizona. I started doing SEO and marketing in 2005. I'm a busy mom of four of my own and two step kids (and a grandbaby!). I owe my sanity to my partner in work and life, Chris Weatherall. I love sharing and engaging in business and marketing conversations, and I'm heavy into social media and blogging on these topics. I focus on quality, ethics, strategy, data and getting results. I work with a variety of brands and businesses with a special focus on addiction treatment marketing. I do this work because I care about making a difference.

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