A smart marketing strategy does not just appear, like magic.

Nope, don’t care who you are or how many wands you wave around in the air, it just doesn’t work that way.  We all fall prey to getting on the merry go round of good ideas, jumping at a new implementation, and then falling short all the way around since we hadn’t really thought the whole thing out past next week.  Definitely not smart marketing strategy.  Or much of any kind of strategy when you think about it.

Skip to the end if you just want the short version and the list of things to do. 

[LISTEN: California adult use legalization leads to falling profits – PODCAST EPISODE]

It can be irritating to spend a good amount of time and effort working on collateral, creating graphics, writing copy, producing content, only to watch it sit there, producing nothing.  Ok, maybe irritating is not a strong enough word for it.  Pissed off and disgusted with wasted time and effort is more like it?

What’s the secret to developing a smart marketing strategy?

Ah grasshopper, I never thought you’d get around to asking…  let me tell you a little story about something that happened in our office a few weeks ago; let’s breakdown the parts and see if there’s a way to substantiate whether or not we’re using a smart marketing strategy to organize and deploy campaigns and all the associated buzz that goes with the same.

[READ: What happens to cannabis after the mid-term elections – ARTICLE]

One of the web properties we work with extensively – CannabisWallet.net – is, as you may have guessed, a cannabis related product.  This means that the big boys of the internet, Google and Facebook, don’t allow for advertising, and they can be very restrictive in the amount and type of promotion they allow for any business with cannabis related goods or services – even if the company isn’t directly (or indirectly) selling cannabis to anyone.

There are really only two mainstream places that cannabis is tolerated – LinkedIn and Instagram.  Yes, we know that Instagram is a Facebook property, but at the moment, they still have their own policies and procedures.  Instagram won’t sell advertising spots to cannabis companies, just like Facebook, but they do allow very cannabis specific user accounts.  LinkedIn has pretty much the same policy.

Didn’t realize there were hoops to jump through, did you?

This means that developing content and a user base on these two platforms is the most viable method of mass distribution when it comes to cannabis brands and products.  Going the route of print ads in magazines and other periodicals is also doable, but that’s a different type of campaign and the distribution potential is limited geographically for the most part.

[CHECK IT OUT: See how the platform works and what it does  – DEMO]

Not bad if you want to advertise in Denver, for instance, but very time consuming and costly if you want to also advertise in Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Boston.  So we’re going to focus on digital only for the purpose of this blog post going forward.

Back to the topic here, smart marketing strategies –

We decided to really ramp up our Instagram account and how we use it, as part of our new year, new plans (doesn’t everyone do something like this?) initiative.  Kind of like that Belt & Road thing that China’s got going on but realistically we don’t have the capitalization that China has, so we’re focusing on Instagram and what sort of returns it might bump in the grand scheme of things.

In the past, our IG strategy really wasn’t.  I admit that without shame, we hadn’t paid much attention to IG, other than as a platform the millennials used since they publicly won’t admit to looking at Facebook.  When we categorize all the different social media options, we just always lumped IG in with FB and kept on moving.  It wasn’t fun like Pinterest, people are so polite – unlike FB, nobody much talks about their job, and so on.

We hadn’t really grasped that Instagram is about checking out other people’s stuff.

The nature of IG – post a picture (or 10, max), if you want to post, that’s a game changer from the beginning.  And you can only post that picture on your own account.  WTF????  And there are no hyperlinks?  Honestly, I had paid zero attention to it as a platform; my use case was occasionally posting a food picture that also went on Facebook.

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Color us dumb, and thankful that we figured out that we needed to really re-think our attitude about the platform if we wanted to create collateral that would fall under the category of smart marketing strategy.  Stories and Feed are two entirely different animals, and can’t be treated the same way.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking they are interchangeable.  Take your shitty old pictures that look like you snapped them on iPhone without a flash in the dark and park those suckers on Stories.  That stuff doesn’t last anyway.

You have to really create some compelling images for the feed if you want followers and likes and comments.  Tossing a stock photo up and slapping a bit of text on it with Canva is not going to net you anyone who might actually want to use your product since they’ll be too busy thinking your product sucks.

TL:DR – Oh right, back to the plan.

Here’s the Instagram smart marketing strategy in bullet points for all you short attention span types –

  1.  Topics –  You want to choose your topics carefully.  If you have existing collateral that can be repurposed (with some graceful upgrades to the artwork if needed), that’s a great place to start.  CannabisWallet, for instance, focuses on Dispensary/Delivery Marketing, Product Branding, and Events as the three primary uses for the platform in the cannabis industry.   Showcasing these three ideas in a variety of ways offers a huge set of options for smart marketing strategies, since there are an infinite number of mini-combos outside of just targeting the single topic.
  2.  Scheduling –  This is HUGE.  It’s nearly impossible to find a good autoposter that has nicely formatted IG posts available and includes the #hashtags and @shoutouts and looks good in a mobile scroll.  We backed off doing anything automated and are managing our Feed and Stories manually, at least for the time being.  That doesn’t mean we are creating new content every day, not at all – we spend a few days each month working on Feed content, and then we schedule Stories content around those posts.
  3.  Organization – How are you going to keep up with manual posting (every day, once a day, at least for Feed, multiple times throughout the week for Stories) if you don’t know what’s going to post and when you’re going to post it?  We have a dedicated Trello board with multiple lists and every days Feed post with the hashtags, caption, shoutouts, and time it should be posted (and a reminder alarm) to help keep it straight.
  4. Tending the field –  This is my own way of referring to the amount of time that you’re going to set aside to follow, like, comment on other people’s content.  IG is NOT a set it and forget it situation, and if you think that, you can go back to posting random food pics once a month or so since you’ll get about as much response.
  5.  Find your tribe – I think this is the most simple, yet hardest to grasp, part of all this.  If you are selling a B2B product, then getting 10k followers isn’t going to get you 10k potential customers (although it will get you the ability to use Swipe Up without being verified, and cannabiz companies can’t get verified), so it’s very important that you make every attempt to tag your posts with stuff that makes sense.  Don’t bother tagging stuff that’s got 8 billion posts attached to it, there’s so much noise in those hashtags that almost no one sees much of anything.  Be creative, use the hashtag tool, and find other, related tags that have a slower burn rate – this usually means there will be better quality content and a better demographic for nearly any business.

If you do these simple things, you will be well on your way to implementing a smart marketing strategy.  There will be, or course, blips in the road, posts that don’t get likes, days when you are sick and tired of being chained to the platform.

Added syrupy footnote because it’s my article…

But the people are really nice on IG.  Of course we’re not IG models posting bikini pics of ourselves (nope, not going to be either) so we don’t end up in groups where people are yelling obscenities over touch pad keyboards and making threats they’d be unlikely to so much as peep out in person.

If you’re not sure how to get going with the smart marketing strategy that’s going to convert for you, now is probably the time for me to mention that we are a consulting firm, and therefore, we do consulting.  Not just for cannabis companies, and we don’t specialize in social media.


We work with companies to develop their mobile strategies as part of their overall customer acquisition and retention plan.  Talk to us.