Does your dispensary have buzz?
When people talk about where to buy weed, is your shop on the tip of the tongue, or are you left out of the conversation?
Every dispensary wants to be THE PLUG. Few get to wear the crown. One strategy that can help is event marketing. When done right, it’s a buzz builder. But event marketing is about more than just making noise.
It can also:
- Earn Loyalty
- Build Community
- Educate Customers
- Inspire Engagement
- Grow Brand Awareness
- Create Lifestyle Content
- Forge Brand Partnerships
- Support SEO
According to Jeff Bezos, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” But what does it say about your brand if people aren’t talking about you at all? Make sure that never happens with this event marketing roadmap to make sure your dispensary is the talk of the town.
1.Grow Brand Awareness
This is a biggie. If you want people to visit your dispensary, it helps when they know your name and what you stand for. There are a couple of ways to approach event marketing as a brand awareness/buzz play:
- The Big Net: This type of event targets cannabis users in general. It’s designed to have broad appeal. A grand opening party is “big net” event marketing and a great way to plant your flag from Day 1. 420 and 710 are also amazing opportunities for big net event marketing.
- Targeted: With this type of event marketing, start with the demographic you want to pull into your dispensary’s gravitational field and promote an event that appeals to that demo.
As founding partner and CMO of Tropicanna, one of the most significant growth moments we achieved came from our second 420 party. We went hard. It was off the chain, and when it was over, more new people knew our name than we thought possible from one event. Visits and sales increased by 20%, and we retained that growth.
Likewise, we committed to creating a dispensary that welcomed women. We also supported brands owned and operated by women. We communicated this brand value with a Women’s Event that featured a brand drop from Slim Pen and had brand education from Kush Queen and Yummy Karma, free yoga classes, and a mani-pedi station.
Following this event, in combination with our “Women Own Wednesday” promotion, our percentage of female visitors climbed well above the industry average. Beyond that, it was the right thing to do, and it supported our brand values of equality and inclusion.
The best dispensaries do more than just serve their community. They build community. Event marketing can be just the thing to draw people to your dispensary by uniting people around a shared interest or common cause.
The previous example outlined above is just as effective at building community as a targeted brand awareness play. It created shared experiences and made Tropicanna a platform that united people with a sense of belonging and connection to others with similar interests.
Regardless of the type of event, event marketing always offers the opportunity to build a community around your dispensary because your dispensary is the platform that unites and connects. Don’t sleep on this opportunity.
Cannabis is new and complex. The average consumer doesn’t know that much about it, and the dispensary is one of the primary places to learn about it. This starts with well-trained budtenders, but it shouldn’t end there.
Event marketing can effectively educate people about cannabis and the different brands/products your dispensary carries. By showcasing brands and products and discussing their benefits in person, you help your customers understand how the products benefit them.
Building an event around a brand or product drop is one of the things we did at Tropicanna to increase visibility and educate our customers. It helps when it’s a brand that’s already got buzz because they have their own gravitational pull.
- 710Labs Event: 710 was one of those brands for us. They dropped their new brand/product line, “It’s Purpl,” at our shop with their brand partner Jaleel White (famous for playing Urkel on “Family Matters”). The event brought out his fans and introduced them to Tropicanna. Jaleel and 710 brand reps were there to answer questions, educate, and promote the product.
- Napalm Grenade Event: The Napalm Grenade is a controversial and compelling product from the hip hop star Xzibit that features an 8g infused pre-roll in a glass grenade. Xzhibit rolled out to Tropicanna’s last 420 bash to meet, greet, and answer questions about Napalm. His fans became Trop’s fans, and it made a lasting impression on everyone.
A third example of educational event marketing is the “Farmer’s Market,” where the dispensary invites a collection of brands to feature their products and educate customers on the same day. I never tried one at Tropicanna, but our neighbors at People’s OC and From The Earth ran them on the reg. I can’t speak from experience, but it seemed to work for them.
Finally, education shouldn’t be limited to large-scale event marketing. While opinions are mixed on Customer Appreciation Days (benefit or nuisance?), they can be effective when the brand gives a strong promotional push and supports it with a deal that moves the needle.
Choose wisely here.
All of the previous examples are interactive experiences that promote engagement. But the more memorable and enjoyable the event, the more attendees are likely to engage
by sharing their experiences on social media, using branded hashtags, and telling their friends and family about it.
One of the most successful events for engagement that we promoted at Tropicanna was when the Weedmaps Sports Team made a tour stop at the shop. The team featured some of the biggest names in skate, BMX, and surf culture, and they put on a skate and BMX demo with a customer meet and greet.
Social media was on fire that night. The team posted. The fans posted. The crowd loved it. Even the athletes had an amazing time (they got hooked up!). This next level of engagement made it a big night for brand awareness. Tropicanna was exposed to hundreds of thousands of people on social media who would have never heard about the brand without this event.
Whoever said loyalty can’t be bought never checked out a dispensary loyalty program. They all offer financial incentives for loyalty. That said, it’s money well spent. I’ve said this before here, but it bears repeating:
Marketing burns bandwidth. It’s also expensive. Loyalty programs maximize the value of your time and spend. Check out these fun facts:
- Customer acquisition may cost your dispensary as much as 5x more than a customer loyalty program.
- Improving customer retention by just 5% may increase your dispensary’s profits by 25% or more.
Loyalty programs are one of the best ways to increase revenue. Not visits. Not gross sales. No. We’re talking about the one number that matters more than all of them — revenue.
So, now you know how important loyalty is. But there are also ways to earn real loyalty without offering a financial reward. Event marketing can do that by providing value with community, education, and experiences.
People may not always remember what you said or did, but they always remember how you made them feel. Targeted events, building community, providing education and entertainment are all things that make people feel good. That is one of the most positive associations a person can have with your brand. Event marketing can deliver that for your dispensary.
6.Forge Brand Partnerships
Brand partnerships are key to the success of your event marketing strategy as your event marketing objectives align. Brands must increase visibility, build community, and provide education even more than dispensaries. Moreover, they’re motivated to partner with you because you have the two things they need most: Shelf space and customers. One of the only places brands can talk directly to cannabis consumers about their products is the dispensary. Leverage that.
When considering what brands to partner with, build partnerships with the strongest brands on your shelf. The ones that sell. The ones with gravity. The ones with engaged followers on social and other channels. These brands can drive traffic for the events you co-promote to maximize buzz.
The best brand partnerships are win/win. Help each other.
7.Create Lifestyle Content
If you’ve ever had a cannabis account on social media, you may be familiar with the term. Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok all ban cannabis content. If you post cannabis content on any of these platforms, there’s a serious risk that your page may be suspended or banned. It happened at Tropicanna 2 times, and I’ve seen it happen to other brands countless times. Ugh.
While it’s sweet that Twitter permits some types of cannabis marketing, and progress is always a good thing (Thanks, Elon), who looks for weed on Twitter? It’s possible this could develop into a powerful marketing channel with real ROAS, but for now, it’s far from a silver bullet and looks more like a brand awareness tool. This one’s a wait-and-see.
That said, event marketing offers a social media content workaround with lifestyle content. In this context, lifestyle content is any content that does not show cannabis, cannabis products, cannabis sales, or people using cannabis.
- At Tropicanna’s Women’s Event, we shot content in the yoga classes and mani-pedi stations.
- When Weedmaps came, we shot skate content.
- At our 420 and 710 events, we shot big wheel races, dodgeball tournaments, and dunk tanks.
Anyway, you get the gist. Event marketing can be a great source for lifestyle content to keep things fired up on social without getting BANNED.
8.Support Search Engine Optimization
Last but definitely not least, event marketing also improves Search Engine Optimization by driving engagement.
- Google Likes Video Content: Google looks at more than just the text on your site. It also looks for other types of media. If you have a mix of text and video, it can boost your SEO. So shoot that lifestyle content.
- Event Marketing Drives Traffic: Google monitors the traffic on your site. Events drive more site visits, and potential customers will likely explore your website when they watch your event video content. It’s a win-win situation! Woot woot.
- Engagement Improves SEO: Events drive engagement, and engagement improves SEO. Simple.
- Lifestyle Content Drives Backlinks: Organic backlinks are key in Google’s SEO rankings. The more viewers that link to your content and domain, the higher your site will rank, and video content from your events will drive those links.
Build Buzz (and more) with Event Marketing
I know we covered a lot of ground but that’s because events hit so many aspects of dispensary marketing. To recap, Event Marketing can grow brand awareness, build community, educate, engage, forge loyalty, grow brand partnerships, provide lifestyle content, and enhance SEO. If you’d like some help integrating your event marketing strategy with your SEO strategy, hit up deeproots partners anytime. We’re always here to chat and help you sell more weed!
Hold up. What’s that sound I hear around your dispensary? I think it’s the early stages of Buzz. Keep it up and one day, your shop could be THE PLUG.
I bet that crown looks good on you!
JP Donahue is a former corporate litigator turned successful writer, with over 25 works produced for major film and TV studios. He’s also a founding partner of Tropicanna, one of Orange County’s top cannabis retail brands. Leveraging his experience in both Hollywood and cannabis, JP advises dispensaries on branding, marketing, and operations. He’s a Jiu Jitsu Black Belt, certified Yogi, meditator, dog father, and a member of the New York State Bar and Writers Guild of America West.