Last week in Boston, Hubspot held their annual Inbound event. Thousands of marketers gathered to learn about the latest trends and strategies in inbound marketing. We went from panel to panel gathering some of the top marketing insights that apply to cannabis retail.
What Does Inbound Marketing Mean?
You can think of inbound marketing as 'pull' marketing (as opposed to 'push' marketing which includes advertising, cold calling, and purchasing lists). Inbound marketing consists of everything you use to drive people to your website...and pull people into your dispensary.
The backbone of inbound marketing is content, which can take many forms including blog posts, website content, social media posts, and SEO optimization. When you pair this content with modern approaches to lead generation and nurturing, you get inbound marketing.
Key Takeaways for Dispensary Marketing
Though the panels covered a multitude of topics, there were several themes that kept coming up over and over again. Not surprisingly, both of these were related to the customer experience and loyalty. These prominent themes were have a 'customers first' approach and market to humans...not numbers. Keeping these overarching themes in mind, our Baker marketing team identified the key takeaways for cannabis retailers.
1. Branding Over Claims
The cannabis retail market is a saturated one. In some markets, there are more dispensaries than there are Starbucks coffee shops. Companies with ubiquitous competition, such as dispensaries, should use their brand experience as a way to stand out from the competition.
“Companies no longer compete on features, but they compete on brands. In a world with infinite supply... the brand is what keeps customers.”
– Ryan Deiss
The dispensary brand experience should focus on humanizing the brand and making it easy for customers to engage with the brand. The first step is to put yourself in your customers' shoes and identify any points of friction in the customer experience.
2. Remove Friction in the User Experience
Attempt to remove any points friction you identify in the customers' experience. It's important to consider the entire customer journey – from their first impression of you, to using the products you offer. You can often find friction points in customer communication, how you talk about your products and your in-store user workflow.
To get the ball rolling, there are a few questions to ask yourself. Do you personalize customer communication using smart targeting? Do you have an in-store express line? Do you offer an e-commerce solution such as online ordering or product reservation? In general, is it easy for customers to buy from your dispensary?
Some common points of friction we have identified within dispensaries are: no self-serve alternatives to access useful product information, inability to order or reserve products from your website, long wait times and no express line, unavailable inventory, inconsistent product restock communications, and blanket communications that are not relevant to the customer.
3. Changing the Definition of Loyalty
Customer loyalty isn't just about having a loyalty program that offers points and rewards. Almost everyone has one these days...so how does yours stand out? How do you transition customers from satisfaction to genuine loyalty?
To achieve genuine customer loyalty, you have to put your customers first during every stage of their customer journey. Where many dispensaries lose track of this is after the initial stages of customer retention – happiness and satisfaction.
Just because they’re happy doesn’t mean they’ll stay. Ask yourself how you can create a better experience that will move a customer into the next stages - pride and loyalty.
When someone is proud to be your customer, there's no deal in the world that would get them to switch to a competitor. They'll be your brand ambassador, and they'll share their experience with friends and family, bringing new referral-based customers to your door.
4. Where the Customer Journey Starts
Not everyone is ready to buy from your brand. Think about the first time you heard of a product, and how long it took you purchase it. You first discovered the product (usually online or through an ad), then explored more information about it as you began to consider making a purchase. Next, you may have gone to the store to take look in person.
Customers aren’t always ready to buy. Sometimes it takes years. When it comes to cannabis, people may not be ready because, unfortunately, the stigma still exists. But, that is changing with each passing day as legalization spreads and there's a growing use of cannabis for wellness. Imagine if you weren’t there when they were finally ready? To avoid losing future customers, start thinking about long-term marketing strategies that will bring in new customers down the road.
5. Content and Communication Trends
With technology and trends rapidly changing, it's not surprising to see that content and communication methods are changing.
Because email has been the go-to marketing communication for so long, it's effectiveness is diminishing. At Inbound, we learned that only 23% of emails today are opened. But that percentage drops to just 10% when you remove transactional emails such as a password reset or receipt. This is why we continue to emphasize the use of text message communications dispensary customers.
Alternatively, two-way communication on social media is on the rise. Customers spend their time messaging and are more than comfortable messaging with a brand than exchanging email.
Final Thoughts on Inbound Marketing Takeaways
There's no denying that customer experience and loyalty will continue to be important aspects of dispensary marketing. The Hubspot Inbound event certainly reinforced this, as these themes kept popping up throughout the event.
You can expect these trends to remain consistent and the most successful cannabis retailers will be those that can humanize their brand and provide an unmatchable customer experience.