The Challenges of Marijuana Online Marketing in Canada
Marijuana online marketing using SEO and content marketing produces a high return on investment.
(updated) One of the few legal ways for a customer to buy cannabis products is through the mail from a producer, licensed by Health Canada. Those producers will only sell to people with prescriptions for medical cannabis.
There are approximately 100 licensed producers across Canada with many more yet to be approved by Health Canada.
The advertising rules for the sale of Cannabis products are defined in law, and while restrictive are not totally clear.
(*updated 10/2019 Marijuana Marketing Rules.)
WHAT PROMOTIONS ARE PROHIBITED?
General prohibitions on the promotion of cannabis
Unless authorized under the Cannabis Act, it is prohibited to promote cannabis or a cannabis accessory or any service related to cannabis, including:
- by communicating information about its price or distribution;
- by doing so in a manner that there are reasonable grounds to believe could be appealing to young persons;
- by means of a testimonial or endorsement, however displayed or communicated;
- by means of the depiction of a person, character or animal, whether real or fictional; or
- by presenting it or any of its brand elements in a manner that associates it or the brand element with, or evokes a positive or negative emotion about or image of, a way of life such as one that includes glamour, recreation, excitement, vitality, risk or daring. [Subsection 17(1)]
WHAT PROMOTIONS ARE PERMITTED?
Limited promotion of cannabis and cannabis accessories and services related to cannabis can be permitted under the Cannabis Act in specific circumstances, subject to the applicable prohibitions listed above and any other applicable prohibitions.
***The information above is for general information purposes only, readers are advised to seek specific legal advice by contacting legal counsel regarding any of this information.
The rules are restrictive! The Fines are large!
**Display Advertising - Perhaps! Seek legal counsel
Placing ads on third-party websites to create brand awareness, generate traffic
Examples: Banner ads, video ads, interactive ads, overlays, etc.
**Pay-Per-Click Advertising (PPC) - Nope
Bidding for placement at search engines for traffic when relevant queries are performed
Examples: Google Adwords, Yahoo! Search Marketing, etc.
**Social Media Advertising - Nope
Bidding for placement at social media platforms to get traffic
What's Left to market Marijuana online in Canada?
ROI - return on investment
Social Media Marketing
Category 1 Marketing Actions - Ranked For Effectiveness and ROI
1. Email Marketing - ROI High; Effort Middle, Cost Middle
- Collect email addresses from visitors and using email messages market to them
Examples: Email newsletters, conversion-focused emails, etc.
2. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) - ROI High; Effort High, Cost Middle
- First Page rankings in results pages of search engines Google, Bing
Examples: Keyword research, on-page optimization, link building, etc.
3. Content Campaigns - ROI Middle; Effort High, Cost Middle
- The process of generating creative content that will help spread your branding/marketing message and earn traffic
Examples: Articles, Linkbait production, videos
4. Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) - ROI High; Effort High, Cost Middle
- Test and Improve results from landing to purchase to get more leads/signups/customers
Examples: Split testing, click-through-rate improvements, purchase-process simplification, etc.
Category 2 Marketing Actions - For Effectiveness and ROI
5. Affiliate Marketing - ROI Middle; Effort Middle, Cost Middle
- Incentives to others to feature your product in exchange for a share of the revenue
Examples: In-house affiliate programs
Category 3 Marketing Actions - For Effectiveness and ROI
6. Online Public Relations - ROI Low; Effort Middle, Cost Middle
- Generating media coverage from outlets to get branding and traffic
Examples: PRNewswire, PRWeb, Internet media focused PR agency work, etc.
7. Social Media Marketing (SMM) - ROI Middle; Effort High, Cost High
- Using social media platforms to earn visibility and traffic
Examples: Facebook Group pages, Twitter posts, content on Reddit, etc.
Considerations to Help Choose Where to Focus First
Sales - clear market demand on the web that needs to be drawn to your site and converted into leads/sales
Brand Awareness - marketplace doesn't have much familiarity/comfort with your brand to search, visit, or purchase from you
Education - the market for your product/service needs to be created
Your Marketing Budget
Very High: in excess of $1 million
High: $100K - $1 million
Moderate: $25K - $100K
Low: $5K - $25K
Available Company Talent (or trusted providers)
Site Resources - technology staff to make changes to your site to support marketing goals
Creative Resources - writers/artists/videographers
Search Resources - search marketers, seo's
Social Resources - online networkers for Twitter-Facebook-Reddit
Where you focus your marketing team depends on the intersection of these above and any other factors, like your optimal time frame for sales results.
Based on our experience, to generate sales as fast as possible requires an investment in All the above top category marketing actions - Email, Content, SEO and Conversion Optimization.