10 Ways to Take Your Digital Cannabis Ads to the Next Level
By Brett Konen, PrograMetrix
At PrograMetrix, we help cannabis marketers run digital ad campaigns on mainstream websites. One of the most common questions we get is how to maximize those ads’ chances of conversion.
Whether that means online orders, B2B sales, newsletter sign-ups, or something completely different for your brand, conversions are the golden metric by which campaign success should always be judged. While engagement and click-through rates can be helpful for gauging your audience’s interest, at the end of the day, a click doesn’t mean much if it doesn’t lead to one or more actions that directly align with your brand reaching its business goals.
Luckily, there’s plenty you can do to maximize conversion rates for your online cannabis ads. Whether you’re a grower pursuing brand awareness, a manufacturer advertising to retailers, a dispensary looking to increase online orders, or an ancillary business able to make sales on your site, the following best practices are broadly applicable to every brand in the space.
Your digital cannabis ad campaign starts long before you launch
Conversion rates increase when you’re able to show ads to your most likely buyers. In general, your most likely buyers are people who’ve already visited your website, signed up for your emails, or even purchased your products before.
To start building a pool of people that you can retarget with digital ads once you launch the campaign, install a tracking pixel on your website two or more weeks in advance of your launch date to catalog your website’s visitors. Along with other first-party data from places like your CRM or POS systems, this visitor data can be anonymized, uploaded via a secure data onboarding service, and used to “pre-optimize” your campaign for conversions before it begins.
Every state’s guidelines for marketing and advertising cannabis are different, so it’s your responsibility to do your homework and understand what’s legal before you launch.
We’ve compiled a reference list of cannabis advertising guidelines, but it’s still important to check for any recent changes or rules specific to your state. (If you’re working with an agency or ad platform that caters to the cannabis industry, they will likely also double-check your ad creative for compliance prior to launch.)
Reach the right people
In addition to leveraging your company’s first-party data, modern digital ad tech allows brands to use third-party data sets to select their exact audience based on millions of available data grains. You’ll first want to ensure that you’re targeting only ages 21 and over in locations where you can legally advertise, but your audience targeting options go far beyond this basic information.
When you’re smart about selecting an in-market audience that’s interested in what you’re selling, conversion rates go up. An example of this would be choosing to show your ads to people who’ve downloaded cannabis-related apps like Leafly, Weedmaps, and Eaze.
Keep copy succinct
Ads are small, so don’t try to cram everything in—focus on one or two key selling points. For display ads, keep your headline between 20 and 35 characters (including spaces), and keep your body copy between 50 and 75.
If you’re not sure which of your unique selling propositions will be of most interest to your audience, split them into two ad concepts and A/B test to determine their efficacy—trying to wax poetic about everything at once may cause otherwise curious audience members to lose interest.
Make the CTA unmissable
Your call to action should be front and center. For display ads, make it a brightly colored button that stands out against the background imagery. The text of the button should be short, straightforward, and actionable—think Order Now, Sign Up, or Learn More.
Offering discounts and promotions tends to increase the likelihood of conversion, particularly when combined with a sense of urgency (think “Offer Expires Tonight” or “Today Only, 50% Off”).
Don’t direct traffic to your homepage
In purchase funnel terms, your homepage aligns more closely with the top than the bottom, and the further you can take the consumer down that funnel, the better.
For the best chances of conversion, we recommend building a dedicated campaign landing page, ensuring that the ad creative matches the look and feel of that page. The page should lead the viewer on a clear and compelling journey toward conversion, whatever that means for your campaign.
Test multiple digital cannabis advertising formats
The current digital ad ecosystem goes far beyond static display banner ads. Your brand might see its best conversion rates on native ads, video ads via connected TV, or digital audio ads on podcasts—but you won’t know that unless you test them out.
Many cannabis brands have yet to invest in video and audio ad creative, meaning that brands who do run these types of ads stand out. These ad formats are able to reach consumers in new places—for instance, commuters listening to podcasts as they drive or people watching Hulu in the comfort of their home.
Advertise where your competitors aren’t
The prior pro tip leads into this one—your ads will make more of an impression if they’re not surrounded by similar ads from all your competitors.
We recommend that every cannabis brand advertise on mainstream websites, rather than just endemic cannabis ones. Ad blindness changes depending on context, and cannabis enthusiasts may pay more attention to a cannabis ad on Huffington Post than the same ad running on High Times, since they’re not used to seeing it there.
Unless your cannabis business is ancillary, your customers won’t be able to make actual purchases on your website. To increase conversions, you can still devise ways to get them as close as possible to the eventual point of purchase, which may include co-marketing.
For instance, your sun-grown cannabis brand may wish to promote flower sales in partnership with the dispensary location that sells the most of it. Rather than simply driving brand awareness by a campaign that leads to your own website, split the cost of a digital campaign that leads customers to a place they can order your product (e.g. for curbside pickup).
Learn from your digital cannabis ad campaigns
One of the most important things you can do to increase your likelihood of conversion going forward is to dig into the data gained from your past and current campaigns. Modern digital ad campaigns yield a wealth of data, and the insights gleaned from this data will make you a better advertiser over time.
Too many people leave their data behind with the close of a campaign and don’t leverage it to improve their digital marketing the next time around. If you can do the latter, you’ll have the key to taking your conversion rates up and to the right with each new campaign.
Brett Konen has been in the cannabis industry since 2015, previously as a senior editor at Leafly and currently as the marketing manager at PrograMetrix. PrograMetrix is a programmatic advertising agency in Seattle serving cannabis and CBD brands alongside Fortune 500 clients. To learn more, visit PrograMetrix.com.