I’m sure you’ve heard by now that you can’t simply advertise your Cannabis related business on Facebook and Google. Anything related to Medical Cannabis is often flagged and shut down even if you’ve poured hours into trying to get everything together.

Marketing in the health industry is especially tricky. Marketing in the Cannabis industry is even trickier. If you have the right strategy it can be done, and quite frankly it can be done more effectively than simply buying traditional ads.

You Absolutely Must Build a Website, even if it is a simple one.

Your website will serve as a hub for your online marketing. I’ve spoken to a lot of people who assume that they can just promote their business on Facebook without having a website for their business. The big problem is that you’re putting your business in the hands of someone else. They don’t know your values, your ethics, and can arbitrarily shut your Facebook or other social media pages down at any time and often without any real appeal.

As big as Facebook is, you never know if your audience will continue to use that particular social media site over others. By branding your custom domain name for your website on all of your materials, customers will be able to find your business from any device, regardless of the social network they prefer.\

Focus on Building Your Email List.

Dollar for dollar, email marketing is still the most effective way to quickly reach your best customers. You also have control. If Facebook or Google decide to not let you advertise, you can go directly to your best customers and ask them to share your business events and offers with their friends and family. There are dozens of ways to encourage that, but the most important part is that you have the ability, and as long as you have your list, it can’t be taken away.

Always keep a current backup of your mailing list in a secure area. I prefer DropBox, as it fully encrypted, never crashes and your data will never be trapped on someone else’s device. There’s nothing wrong with having your data in more than one place. So add it to Google Drive as well. Just remember that if your Gmail account is compromised, then your data is too.

Create Buyer Personas of your Ideal Customer.

Focus on a niche, and even a sub-group of that niche. This will help you create content that your customers and friends will actually want to share. I’ve heard a thousand times “we want everyone to buy our stuff.” The problem is that you’re just a drop in the ocean, rather than a very big fish in the right pond. Become the big fish in your pond. You can always add more ponds.

Create an Online Community around your Business.

Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube are all great places to build up a community of people who absolutely love your business. They are your ambassadors and are essential to effectively marketing your business. If you can’t advertise, spend those ad dollars networking and building up loyal communities. You obviously can’t be active on every social media service. Find the ones where your customers enjoy spending time. You may find that Pinterest, Instagram, or Snap Chat works better for your business. Experiment and give it time to grow.

Consistently Create Interactive Content

Content is king, queen, and everything. One of the biggest problems with advertising is that as soon as someone clicks or views your ad, it’s gone right along with your money. If you focus your time and energy on creating amazing interactive content, then you not only build up loyalty and reputation, but your content lives on forever.

Your website can contain an ever-growing archive of all of your articles, videos, memes, and more. Use social media to get the content shared. But even if the content gets removed or simply buried on your social sites, it will continue to live on forever with your website. Then when new people visit, they’ll likely share that content, and it brings new life to it time and time again.

Don’t be afraid to repurpose content. An old video can be mashed up with others to create entirely new content. Videos can be transcribed to create great articles and vice versa.

Stay out there. If you want people to talk about you, then you have to give them something to talk about. If you just don’t have time, pop out your cell phone and “go live” with an impromptu 3-minute video. Tell people how busy you are if you’d like, and then give them something amazing to share. Videos are the best way to quickly connect with your followers, and they’re incredibly powerful.

Remember to Backup Everything.

Do not assume that anything that you put on YouTube or Facebook will live on forever on their networks. There’s always a way to backup your videos and other content, even if you’re creating native live streams on social networks. Do it consistently as a matter of policy and procedure.

Events are a Very Powerful Form of Content.

If you don’t know what to say, then ask your vendors to come to speak. They may even promote your event for you. The event doesn’t have to be physical. Create a weekly webcast and be sure to archive everything.

Contests, Surveys, and giveaways are an excellent form of grass-roots marketing. These are essentially limited-time events. Get people to share for a chance to win something they already appreciate. If you can’t think of anything, then print t-shirts, stickers, and other novelties. This is all sharing content, and your “ad-dollars” are now being used to build your brand in a way that will grow virally.

Network with Like-Minded Businesses.

One of the best ways to quickly grow your business is to network with other businesses. They could even be your competitors in another market. Teaming up with competition doesn’t have to be scary. You may be able to learn from one another as you all grow your businesses.
Joining associations, groups and forums are an incredible way to do this. You may find that some of the best people to help you promote your business are in these groups. Don’t forget to tap into the minds of your suppliers and vendors too. They often know how to reach your demographic audiences because they see what works across the entire marketplace.

Advertise with Specialty Websites, Networks & Events

Facebook and Google may not want your ads, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of specialty magazines, websites, live and virtual events and other places to spend your ad dollars. These places often are more effective simply because they already have a relationship with your desired audience. You also get a type of implied endorsement when their fans consistently see your sponsorship of a brand that they already admire.

Review, Reviews, Reviews!

The most powerful form of advertising is word-of-mouth advertising. Statistics show that online reviews are now just as effective. People see reviews as a way to get an idea of how the business works when they don’t have a friend to tell them.

Consistency is essential. One of the best ways to consistently get reviews is to automate the process. Automatically send out an email or message to your customer an hour after they leave. This can be done with WiFi social logins at your location and/or with your point-of-sale software.

With the right setup, you can even head off any negative reviews before they get posted online. If someone is upset, giving them the opportunity to vent and explain themselves directly not only gives you the opportunity to address and repair the situation, but it is less likely to live forever online.

By automatically and consistently asking for reviews, you can worry less about the occasional negative review by an unhappy customer (or even a competitor in disguise.) It happens, but if you have hundreds of amazing 5-star reviews. Then your reputation is insured.

Grow and Protect Your Business with Confidence.

Create a simple non-disclosure agreement with anyone that you work with. It should define who owns the data to your business. This should include your domain name, web hosting database and files, mailing lists, customer relationship management data, and any proprietary information. Likewise, always be certain that your agreement specifies that you “must” have full administrative access to any and all social media profiles built for your business.

You Don’t Have to Figure Everything Out for Yourself.

Let’s face it. Technology changes fast and if digital marketing isn’t your passion, then you’ll likely spend more time trying to learn everything you need to do than you will spend actually doing it. Outsource everything that you can with a marketing and technology project manager that knows what needs to be done and why.

For 10 more tips on how to effectively grow a Cannabis Business when you can’t advertise, please visit www.WinWithCannabis.com.

Tony Darrick Baker is the Co-Founder of Illegally Healed, the largest Cannabis patient advocacy group. Baker is a digital marketing consultant specializing in Medical Cannabis marketing and publicity, as well as the latest technology required to efficiently train dispensary staff and patients about Medical Cannabis.