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Email marketing is essential to the cannabis industry. With some of the most effective marketing opportunities unavailable to businesses operating in and with the cannabis industry, email is a channel that both cannabis and ancillary businesses can use to move more people through the buyer journey successfully – from prospects to loyal customers.
Unfortunately, email marketing isn’t as easy as sending a single message out to a huge list and waiting for sales to start rolling in. The truth is sending generic messages to bulk lists is a recipe for failure today because it doesn’t follow the written and unwritten rules of email marketing.
If you don’t know what the current rules and best practices are, then your email marketing messages will go straight to recipients’ spam folders and your efforts will fail. In other words, you’ll waste your time and money.
To help you improve your email marketing results, this article provides a compilation of tips and links that – when read completely – gives you a comprehensive guide to B2B email marketing in the cannabis industry (most of these tips and insights are also applicable to B2C email marketing as well). If you want to up your email marketing game, everything you need to get started is included in this ultimate guide.
In addition, you can learn so much more and become a true B2B email marketing expert in the cannabis industry by getting certified! The Cannabiz Media Email Success Academy offers free online, self-paced courses to get your email marketing technical, audience, content, data and lead scoring, and professional certifications – five must-have credentials to add to your resumé and LinkedIn Profile!
Email marketing in 2023 is not the same as email marketing was a few years ago. Today, email marketers are at the mercy of email service providers (ESPs). These ESPs are the interface providers that people use to access their email messages – like Google, Outlook, Apple Mail, and so on.
ESPs are the gatekeepers to people’s inboxes, and they use sophisticated algorithms to keep unwanted messages out. If you don’t know the do’s and don’ts of email marketing (i.e., what ESPs do and don’t like), then your email marketing results will be poor. And if you don’t keep up on email marketing best practices, your messages will end up in spam and junk folders rather than inboxes.
Recommended reading to learn about email marketing do’s and don’ts and best practices:
Sending the same generic message to big lists of people (i.e., spray and pray) is dead. If you want to get good results today, you have to send personalized messages to hyper-targeted lists, and you have to make sure you’re only sending to people who positively engage with your messages (i.e., open quickly, click links in the message, file it in a folder, forward, reply).
If you’re not, ESPs will see you’re sending content people don’t want and more and more of your messages will go to spam/junk rather than inboxes.
Currently, Google is the only ESP that allows you to get a sense of what it thinks of you as a sender – and only if you’re sending from your own domain rather than a shared domain. Using Google Postmaster Tools, you can see your domain reputation (also referred to as sender reputation) according to Google, which rates your reputation as high, medium, low, or bad.
The better your reputation, the more Google trusts you, and more of your messages will go to inboxes. The lower your reputation, the more of your messages will go to spam or be blocked entirely.
It’s up to you to make sure you’re not sending messages or doing anything that ESPs could consider to be spammy – even if it’s unintentional. Otherwise, no one will see your email campaigns and your return on investment will tank.
Recommended reading to learn about domain reputation, deliverability, and spam:
Remember, spray and pray is dead. To be successful in email marketing today (and to ensure your messages keep getting to recipients’ inboxes), you should only send content that people want.
To do that, you need to first identify your target audiences. Second, you have to segment your audience into unique buyer personas and separate email lists. Third, you must personalize the messages you send to each list.
The more segmented you can get your lists and the more personalized you can get the content of your messages for each audience, the better your results will be.
Before you send any message, always ask yourself, “Does every person on this list truly want this message?” If the answer is no, then you haven’t segmented your list enough or personalized the content enough.
Recommended reading to learn how to define your target audience(s) and segment your lists to get the best email marketing results:
Email marketing isn’t just about selling. Not everyone is ready to buy at the exact moment they receive your email message. This is especially true for B2B email marketing. Furthermore, the higher the price of your product or service and the longer the buying cycle typically is for your product or service, the less likely someone is to positively react to a sales-oriented email message from you.
Today, email marketing is about acquiring and moving prospects through the marketing funnel – from cold but viable leads at the top of the funnel to warm, marketing qualified leads in the middle and hot, sales-qualified leads at the bottom.
With that in mind, leads at the top of the funnel need to receive messages that raise brand awareness and recognition while leads in the middle of the funnel need to receive messages that build trust and nurture your brand’s relationship with them. Only leads at the bottom of the funnel are likely to respond positively to promotional email messages.
Therefore, you need to learn how to write email marketing content that intrigues and motivates recipients across the buyer journey. This requires a comprehensive strategy and creating calls-to-action (CTAs) that lead to a variety of goals that are appropriate at different stages of the buyer journey, not just sales.
Recommended reading to learn more about how to write effective email marketing messages:
How do people engage with the email messages you send? Are they opening your messages and clicking on links inside once or multiple times? The more engaged people are with your email messages, the better your results will be (and the higher your domain reputation and inbox deliverability will be).
When you track recipients’ behaviors and engagement with your email messages, you can use the data to create “next step” campaigns that lead them through the marketing funnel and buyer journey. You can also identify your hottest leads – the ones who are ready for a sales-oriented email campaign or one-to-one outreach from a salesperson on your team.
Recommended reading to learn about email marketing results and using data to improve:
Email marketing won’t drive the results you need if you’re not sending content that recipients want. Therefore, you need to understand your audience(s), send them the right messages, and nurture them through the buyer journey. That’s where email marketing comes into the picture, but it’s just one piece of the puzzle.
You also need to manage customer relationships and integrate your marketing team, your email marketing strategies and initiatives, your customer relationship management (CRM) processes and tools, and your sales team to get the best results.
In simplest terms, email marketing alone is probably not enough to turn prospects into customers unless your products/services are low-priced and/or the sales cycle is very short. As mentioned earlier, if your products and services have higher price tags and longer sales cycles, then the buyer journey will be longer.
As a result, prospects will spend significantly more time in the middle of the funnel, and you’ll spend a lot more time emailing useful content to build trust than you’ll spend sending sales messages.
Why? Because most people won’t be ready to buy at the moment you send email marketing messages to them. You have to meet each recipient where they are instead of assuming they’re ready to instantly jump to where you want them to be in their customer journey.
Therefore, you should develop processes that integrate your sales and marketing teams so email marketing campaigns can be tracked and leads can be categorized as unqualified, viable, marketing qualified, or sales qualified.
By tracking engagement and scoring leads, your marketing team will only pass sales qualified leads to the sales team for one-to-one sales outreach. As a result, your sales team will spend less time chasing the wrong leads and more time closing the right deals.
Recommended reading to learn how to integrate email marketing, CRM, and sales:
Don’t underestimate the importance of understanding current email marketing trends, staying up to date on best practices, and following the tips included in this guide. The success of your email marketing investments depends on it!
If you’re a B2B email marketer targeting the cannabis industry, it’s also essential that you take the time to understand the basics of the cannabis industry to create successful email marketing campaigns. With this knowledge, you’ll be able to develop a B2B email marketing plan that delivers the results you need.
Ready to launch your email marketing campaigns to cannabis and hemp license holders using the Cannabiz Media License Database? Schedule a demo and see how a subscription can help you reach your business goals.
Originally published 3/29/22. Updated 1/27/23.