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Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to promote and generate brand awareness, sales, and loyalty for businesses in most industries, including the cannabis industry. The proof is in the data.
Email marketing produces $44 in returns for every $1 invested according to research by Campaign Monitor. It’s also 40x more effective at acquiring customers than Facebook and Twitter combined according to McKinsey & Company. That’s good news for the cannabis industry where advertising on Facebook and Twitter is still extremely difficult (if not impossible)!
However, you need to know how to strategize, plan, and execute email marketing tactics correctly or you won’t get the results you need – no matter how many messages you send or who you send them to.
Following are a variety of email marketing best practices and tips for the cannabis industry, so you can fully leverage the power of email marketing for your business.
Your email marketing results are only as good as your strategy, plan, and execution of that plan. That means you need to define your email marketing strategy first. Your strategy encompasses what you’re trying to achieve through your email marketing investments. What are your goals? Answer that question before you do anything else.
With your goals identified, you can create a plan to reach them. How will you use email marketing to find the right audience and send the right type of content to reach your goals? And finally, you need to define the tactics that you’ll implement to bring your plan to life. What kinds of messages will you send? What will you say in those messages? What will you offer? What actions do you want people to take after reading your messages so you reach your goals?
You don’t want to waste money on email marketing that doesn’t bring you the best possible results, so put your strategy, plan, and tactics down on paper before you start sending campaigns.
You can’t promote your products and services if you don’t have a list of people to send email messages to. But for many entrepreneurs, the first email marketing obstacle is figuring out how to get email addresses to create a list of people who match targeted buyer personas.
In addition to your existing customer list (if you have one), you need to continually build your email marketing list to increase the number of leads you can communicate with and ultimately sell to. Start by casting a wide net and then use email marketing to push the people through your marketing funnel who are most likely to buy from you.
There are a number of ways to build your email marketing list. Here are three of the most effective for cannabis and cannabis-related businesses to help you get started:
Lead magnets are freebies that you give to people in exchange for their email addresses and permission to send them email marketing messages in the future. The trick is to offer a lead magnet that has a perceived value greater than the value people put on their email addresses.
Some lead magnets that are commonly used to collect email addresses from offline channels include in-store contests and event giveaways. Popular online lead magnets include free ebooks, checklists, worksheets, webinars, reports, and other useful content that helps the target audience solve a problem or learn something meaningful.
Online lead magnets are often promoted on company blogs, through social media posts, and via online advertising. Through promotion, larger audiences see the free lead magnet offer. When people click to download the lead magnet, they’re prompted to provide their email address and opt in to your email marketing list. Once they’ve submitted the form and subscribed to your list, they get access to the lead magnet.
When you have their email addresses, you can send targeted messages and promotional offers to them over time in an effort to convert them into customers and build brand loyalty.
Advertising cannabis businesses and cannabis-related businesses can be challenging through popular channels like social media and Google, but there are digital advertising opportunities available to you. Look for websites where your audience spends time and inquire about buying advertising space, sponsoring a newsletter, and so on.
In addition, look for targeted offline opportunities, particularly in the communities where your customers live or clients operate. Rather than advertising your products or services, advertise your free lead magnet to get more email subscribers.
Keep in mind, some publishers will be more willing to allow an ad for a useful ebook related to the cannabis industry than they will be to allow an ad for cannabis products.
There are many companies that sell email lists, but there is a long list of things you should do before you purchase an email list to ensure you’re following all relevant laws and you’re not hurting the deliverability of your email messages today and in the future. I can’t stress this enough – bad lists can do so much damage to your email marketing efforts.
First, research has proven bad data (including email addresses) can cost businesses at least 30% of revenue. That means you can’t run the risk of purchasing a list of email addresses unless you’re certain the data you’re buying (i.e., the email addresses) is accurate.
But there’s more to this story than simply getting bad data. You also need to make sure your email list is clean. Email service providers (like Google, Yahoo, Outlook, Apple Mail, and others) hide what’s called “honeypot” email addresses across the internet for the sole purpose of catching bad actors who scrape the web to collect email addresses. If you’re caught sending to a honeypot email address, email service providers will catch it. They’ll start sending all of your messages to spam/junk because they know you’re not using reliable lead sources.
Fortunately, there are solutions. For example, if your customer audience includes cannabis and hemp license holders in the U.S. and international markets, then the Cannabiz Media License Database is the leading source for reliable email addresses and contact information associated with cannabis business licenses. Cannabiz Media uses a multi-step process to verify the data in its database, so there is no more accurate source of cannabis and hemp license holder email addresses than the Cannabiz Media License Database.
Many of your lead sources, including lead magnets and advertising, will send people to your website where they’ll submit a subscription form to join your email marketing list. However, did you know the landing page people visit and the form they’re asked to submit could actually stop people from signing up?
You need to invest time and money into professional copywriting and design so your landing pages and opt-in forms are tailored to the right target audience and include an appropriate call-to-action that motivates people to provide their valuable email address (and any other personal information you request in your opt-in form) in exchange for the email messages you’ll send to them.
Your landing page needs to prove that your email messages are of equal or greater value to them then their email addresses are. If your copy doesn’t give enough proof or your opt-in form makes them hesitate, then they won’t subscribe. Optimize your opt-in forms and landing pages and more people will subscribe who meet your target audience profile.
Every business in the cannabis industry should build goal-oriented message sequences to move prospective customers to complete an action that helps you reach your goals. If you just send one-off messages with no strategy in place and no plan to lead recipients through the marketing funnel – from prospect to customer – then you’ll never succeed. Instead, you should develop sequences of messages to raise brand awareness, build trust, nurture relationships, convert prospects into buyers, and engage customers.
Think about the type of information customers at each stage in the buyer journey need in order to move to the next stage and/or avoid leaking out of your marketing funnel entirely. Then, create campaigns to connect with them at each stage.
For example, you could create a sequence of four messages for people at the top of the funnel – leads who aren’t close to being ready to buy from you yet. The purpose of this sequence would be to raise brand awareness. Therefore, you could send three educational, relevant messages (one per week) that each link to a blog post or video on your website where recipients can learn more about the message topic. The final message in the sequence would offer an ebook (or another lead magnet) on a related topic. That’s the goal of the sequence – to get people to download the ebook so they can learn more about your brand and start trusting it as a reliable source for valuable, relevant information.
Remember, the audience in this example is at the top of the funnel, so the goal isn’t to sell. In fact, trying to sell would probably lead to poor results and possibly some spam complaints. You don’t want to get those or your future email deliverability could tank!
Want to improve your email marketing results? Remove the phrase “email blast” from your vocabulary. Replace it with "laser-targeted and personalized” campaigns.
To avoid annoying the people on your email marketing list, you need to make sure you send messages that matter to them and add value to their lives rather than just trying to sell to them all the time. Think about your target audience and what their needs and problems are. Send messages that solve those problems.
Pay close attention to how you format your messages. Most people read email on mobile devices today, so it’s essential that your messages look great not just on desktop computers but also on smartphones and tablets.
In addition, spend time not only writing great message content but also great subject lines and preview copy. You can learn how to do it here.
You should track your email marketing results to find ways to improve your results in the future. What’s working? What’s not working? You won’t know what decisions to make unless you collect the right data and analyze it.
Therefore, identify your email marketing key performance indicators (KPIs), track them, and monitor them so you don’t waste time or money on campaigns that aren’t delivering adequate returns on your investments.
For example, you can use email marketing metrics to identify your hottest sales leads. Once you know who they are, you can create targeted email campaigns and/or have a sales representative reach out to them directly for a one-on-one conversation. You’ll miss these opportunities if you’re not tracking your results.
Deliverability refers to whether or not an email message has a chance to actually land in someone’s email inbox where they can see it. There is a long list of things that affect if your messages go to inboxes or spam, but they can all be rolled up into three key factors:
The biggest piece of the puzzle is #1 – your sending history and reputation. If you send your email marketing campaigns from your own domain (e.g., yourcompany.com), then you can track your sender reputation (also called domain reputation) with Google using the free Google Postmaster Tools. If your reputation is high, then most or all of your messages should make it to inboxes, but if your reputation isn’t high, some of your messages will go to spam. And if your reputation is bad, all of your messages will go to spam. Learn more about domain reputation here.
The most important thing to understand related to deliverability is that email service providers tend to be unforgiving unless you do some work to repair your domain reputation. If you send messages that they flag as spam using their internal algorithms or that your message recipients flag as spam, delete without opening, or block, then the chances of your messages getting to any inboxes in the future drop significantly.
Positive engagement with your messages matters a lot, which is why generic email blasts to large audiences often do more harm than good. Instead, send personalized messages to laser-targeted audiences, which are more likely to generate positive engagement from recipients. The result? Your sender reputation will stay high and more of your messages will get to inboxes.
Deliverability is extremely important, so do your homework. Follow the links in this article to learn about spam and deliverability best practices, and you’ll be far more likely to reach inboxes and avoid spam folders.
Email marketing works, but to get the results you want, you need to develop a strategy, have a reliable and clean list, write messages that add value to recipients, monitor and improve your results, and follow best practices to stay out of spam folders.
If you want to use email marketing to connect with cannabis and hemp license holders, the Cannabiz Media License Database gives you the email addresses and tools you need to do it. Schedule a demo today!
Originally published 8/7/19. Updated 3/4/22.