The Best Way to Market Your Cannabis Dispensary online
Dispensary owners should be aware of their options when it comes to choosing their strategy for growing their business and attracting the right customers. There are some very smart ways for local shops to compete with MSO’s and earn a good profit from their investment while not feeling a burn from the cost.
The obvious problem with cannabis ecom
After almost 6 years of digital marketing in both the CBD and Cannabis space, the great divide on E-commerce has become more and more obvious. CBD and hemp derived products have become more accepted by payments processors, hosting companies and banks, while cannabis feels like it is still operating on a beeper and a pay phone model.
In comparison, every year cannabis marketing tech rolls out another polished piece of dog shit with a shiny new paint job. While >3% THC, CBD, D8 and a whole ton of other variables are operating on a national level and running full blown ecommerce stores, cannabis business owner are forced to pay for overpriced directories and glorified menu services that up until recently have been their only option.
Do you Really NEED WeedMaps?
Any “city + dispensary” search, whether desktop or mobile will generally deliver a Google Maps or Apple Maps local search result above WeedMaps. This is where local seo for dispensaries really kicks in and becomes important.
With a properly optimized website and maps listing, you can show up in the honored 3 pack of maps. 90% of your website visitors are going to come from your local maps listing results.
As a consumer, if I am looking for the closest and highest rated dispensary near me my search is essentially over after a brief view of the businesses in Google Maps.
While Google Maps does not allow you to put your cannabis products on your listing, it does offer a great amount of info. Reviews, address, phone numbers, updates, photos, busiest times of day, etc are just a few of the data points customers can see to help them choose the best location to shop at.
WeedMaps does allow for you to list your products on their menu and offers a number of paid options to increase your reach on their platform. You can “order” online as well…. but realistically you are just hoping to reserve a cannabis product that may or may not be in stock. A lot of the listings on WeedMaps are not regularly updated which can lead to any number of issues when you drive to the store, stand in line and hope to pay for your product that may be in stock.
One of the biggest issues with WeedMaps is that smart black market sellers can create ghost listings to sell their products. There are a number of articles and reports written that show how black market sellers abuse WeedMaps.
In my own opinion, WeedMaps is Yelp or Angies List for weed. While both platforms serve their own purpose for businesses looking to cater to an audience, you don’t need to burn 4 or 5 figures a month paying for a menu, ads and extra services that you still can’t track for actual conversions (sales).
Ask yourself if any of your WeedMaps rep has ever told you to “hold off on your ad spend” or “not pay for the latest new update.”
If WeedMaps were to ever enter the market as a competitor (like Amazon) they would effectively put a ton of smaller shops out of business almost overnight.
WeedMaps is essentially a market place (like Amazon) that literally collects all of your customer data for their own ad serving purposes.
Imaging being a small shop that uses WeedMaps as a website instead of a listing. (I know it sounds silly, but you would be amazed at how many small dispensaries use their WM profile as their website URL instead of branding their own shop or website.
If you stop paying WM monthly, you lose your listing and your only online marketing.
In the meantime, they are collecting your customers info, what they like to shop for, when they shop, how much they spend, etc. AND if you aren’t paying the premium for their “ads”, your competitors get listed on your page and can literally run ads on your listing.
It’s Yelp…. for Weed.
Except it has an Iframe menu option that you can embed onto your website if you wanted to. If you don’t know much about iframes, please keep reading.
Iframe Menus hurt your search results
What is an Iframe?
“An iFrame, also knowns as Inline Frame, is an element that loads another HTML element inside of a web page. They are commonly used to embed specific content like external ads, videos, tags, or other interactive elements into the page.” Hostinger.
Here is what Google thinks about Iframes.
What is an example of an IFrame menu? Let me know if you have ever seen this as the “best solution” for your ecommerce marketing for your dispensary… WeedMaps isn’t the only one exploiting dispensary owners.
The Online Payments Issue
dutchiePay is overhyped – and so are most of the other platforms out there.
dutchiePay is the newest “solution” for dispensaries but at it’s core it is still just an IFrame menu that does nothing to help your website rank any better.
From a branding standpoint, you have once again lost control of your brand when your platform places a banner across your website “shop” that goes beyond the point of blatant advertising.
Beyond the obvious “look at me” banner, their IFrame menu only helps build their brand and their search results…. not yours. If you take the time to fully write out a product description on each strain you carry, it really just helps dutchie (and WeedMaps, Blaze, LeadLink, DispenseApp, etc) rank higher for strain searches.
Also, their shop option is pretty lame.
The shop button is basically just the same as WM, Blaze, DA, or any of the other menu options. You still don’t really shop online, you mostly just reserve the purchase. One more thing to consider is that the IFrame can often break when embedded onto your site.
In todays economy the price point for some of these bigger player solutions can be looked at as almost predatory. Without any real solutions, dispensary owners have been forced to pick what pig they want to kiss. Just pick your less distasteful lip stick color.
Just about every large cannabis commerce company is an IFrame menu with some minor add-ons to make them “unique” from each other.
These include but are not limited to:
Tymber is an interesting platform because their whole website basically talks about how IFrames suck, so their solution is an embedded HTML code… potato, potahto LOL.
Proteus has some awesome features, but if you are not using their custom coded website builder, you are still embedding their IFrame.
All in all, even after paying for these platforms, you are still a cash business. Cash carries it’s own issues and security concerns.
Choosing the right hosting and site building platform.
I already wrote numerous articles on this. Wix still seems to be a popular choice for DIY builders, but cannabis still goes against their TOS.
They do allow CBD, but you need to use a 3rd party payment processor.
You really run a good risk of getting your site taken down without notice if you build on their platform. The same goes for Squarespace.
Without a viable payment option, they are essentially really pretty (or really ugly) billboards.
Shopify doesn’t allow cannabis at all. They do allow CBD though.
BigCommerce doesn’t allow cannabis. They do allow CBD.
Weebly is just ancient… but they do allow CBD.
A self hosted WordPress site is the best choice in my personal opinion. There are a number of great builders and themes that you can use to build out a good looking store.
We had the pleasure of helping to build out a really bad ass solution for cannabis businesses… we are going to talk about it now.
What can a dispensary owner do to stay profitable and still market effectively?
Why we helped build WeedMart.io
WeedMart.io took a few years to figure out. We knew we needed a solution to all of the problems listed above. Proper SEO was almost impossible for dispensary sites since we were forced to use IFrames.
Once we found a solution to online payments, we started to roll it out quickly.
Yes, read that again. We found a solution that allowed dispensaries to accept credit card payments both in store and online.
Finding a payment plan that allowed cannabis dispensaries to operate like a real ecommerce business was an absolute must. Without being able to fully use your own website as a tool, nothing else would ever change.
WeedMart has partnered with a high risk processor that already does millions a month in online payment processing. There were some time intensive tweaks that needed to be done to get it to work with an online store, but David Desilets, a dispensary owner, grower, coder and much more figured it out.
Credit Card Processing for Cannabis is real.
With the ability to process credit cards, dispensary owners can finally get a full idea of their sales, and where those sales are coming from.
This also allows for the ability to accept online payments, and offer safe delivery options. Imagine being able to collect payments from your customers and running deliveries to them (much like doordash or ubereats) compliantly. While there are only 14 or so states that fully allow delivery, this is still a huge benefit for those that can take advantage of local laws.
Cannabis Websites that rank
While most of the MSO’s seem to have had a massive advantage in the past, WeedMart allows local shops to compete from a search level. You now have the ability to rank in Maps, strain searches and other relevant buyer intent terms.
If you are looking for a real solution that is cost effective, secure, simple to use AND will finally put the power into the hands of the small business owner.
The website template is essentially designed to be an online store, but can be updated to be some much more. There is a wholesale option for growers and manufacturers. There is an events calendar, referral marketing, points and rewards and so much more that can help any small business owner.
While there are plenty of billion and million dollar companies that promise “results”, this one is built by stoners for stoners.