Updated on May 13, 2021.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
The medical marijuana industry and cannabinoid-based pharmaceuticals may reach up to $14 billion (U.S.) in revenues in 2020. Those predictions about the rapid growth of the medical cannabis dispensaries sector were made before the Covid-19 health emergency. Social distancing and other factors have substantially increased during the pandemic. We may see a much higher sales figure than predicted by the end of the year.
At the time of writing, 34 states have legalized medical cannabis for qualified patients. And many more have a State Question regarding cannabis on the November 2020 electoral ballot. It is unknown how many states will move ahead with Adult-Use or recreational cannabis legalization. But it is expected that by 2021-2022, most states will have a medical marijuana program implemented.
Cannabis Dispensaries Are Everywhere
As more business licenses are issued in legalized states, the competition for a finite group of qualified patients will increase. What we see now is a “build it, and they will come” strategy. However, as the marketplace evolves, medical dispensaries will have to work harder to develop a brand identity to crowdsource patients. The vertical competitive pressure is already present in markets like Florida, California, and Colorado.
If you are a medical dispensary business owner, start defining your messaging to your patient audience with these tips from our marketing team at Marijuana Doctors.
1. Differentiate Your Business from an Adult-Use or Recreational Cannabis Dispensaries
The medical cannabis dispensary industry is still emerging and evolving. Some states moved to legalize medical cannabis as early as 2014 but did not implement patient programs until 2018 and 2019. There are an estimated 7,490 licensed dispensaries currently in operation in 2020.
Adult-use dispensaries market in a very different way. It is pop-culture or cannabis culture marketing that draws its customers. But for a medical dispensary, it is important to make patients feel like they will have an informative, professional, and clinical wellness experience when they visit your location.
Believe it or not, many first-time medical cardholders experience anxiety about visiting a medical dispensary. After they have received their medical cannabis card, patients may not necessarily rush to the nearest dispensary. The stigmas regarding cannabis are still present and cause apprehension among patients.
The most successful medical dispensaries (independent or multi-location interstate operators) take a strong wellness approach to content marketing. You will want to address some of the apprehensions that cardholding patients may feel. And also assert that your dispensary is a safe, professional, and helpful retail establishment. Your content marketing as a medical dispensary should make patients feel comfortable before they visit your location.
2. Diversify Your Content to Appeal to Patient Age Groups
One of the fastest-growing consumer demographics for medical cannabis is patients aged 65 years or older. Many patients are looking for a more natural alternative to prescription opioid medications. Some are looking to medical cannabis with a primary care provider’s assistance to step down from opioid abuse.
Take a quick look at the marketing imagery and themes that are used by many medical marijuana dispensaries. The social media posts, graphics, videos, and blog articles tend to be geared toward consumers aged 35-45 years. That is only one segment of your potential customer base. The bias in visual and content marketing can dissuade seniors from choosing your dispensary to purchase wellness products.
Diversify your stock images and photography. Naturally, few dispensaries will share a picture of patients visiting to comply with privacy laws. But you can share photos that demonstrate that your dispensary is prepared to support patients of all ages. And ability levels. Reassure patients with disabilities that they will be accommodated at your dispensary.
3. Create Content That Demonstrates Empathy for Patient Medical Conditions
When you have a chronic health condition that you are trying to manage, you need resources. Information you can trust that can help you adopt more self-care strategies to improve your quality of life. While dispensaries cannot provide medical advice, they can share news and topics relevant to their patient audience.
Medical cannabis dispensaries should share new research and clinical studies supporting the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids when creating your content marketing; set up Google Alerts to email you when a new research study has been published.
Google Alerts is a fast and easy way to curate content on common qualifying health conditions like:
What happens when a dispensary shares content about medical health conditions? For compliance, ensure that you do not state that medical cannabis can cure or resolve symptoms. Even physicians cannot provide a guarantee that medical cannabis will work for a patient. It can help.
Medical marijuana may provide a new and effective way for patients to manage chronic pain symptoms. Ultimately the results depend on age, health condition, prescription medications, and lifestyle factors.
Closely monitor your communications for compliance to avoid legal problems. And be aware of communications and imagery that target younger consumers. There are federal advertising laws that prohibit targeting children and teens. And provide information about the health risks that can be associated with cannabis use on your website and terms of service disclosure.
4. Showcase Your Facility and the Patient Service Experience
What happens when a patient walks through the door of your dispensary? Does a customer service representative immediately greet them? Do they have to approach the counter to ask for help instead? Are there pamphlets or information about different medical cannabis products that the patient can take home?
These are all questions that patients ponder when they are choosing a medical dispensary. Many patients prefer to frequent only one medical marijuana dispensary, to create a relationship with staff. But did you know that patients also want to see what the dispensary looks like before deciding to visit your location?
Address the hesitation that patients feel by being transparent about your facility, your staff, and the services you provide. There are a number of different ways to approach this. Start with your website and include a gallery of images of your retail shop. A staff directory is also a good idea to introduce patients to your customer service team and budtenders before they arrive.
A Google My Business profile is essential for any medical cannabis dispensary. Unfortunately, Google prohibits advertising for accessories and cannabis. However, you can still complete your profile and add pictures of your location to the gallery. This will give your customers the ability to GPS your dispensary location on mobile, preview your facility, and leave you a review for products and customer service.
5. Utilize Facebook Livestream for Crowdsourcing Local Patients
Before your medical cannabis dispensary opens is an ideal time to create a Facebook Livestream video. Think creatively about the kind of questions that patients have. Showcase new product releases and the different brands of medical cannabis you sell.
Video marketing is useful because it is a “show” instead of a “tell” experience for your customers. On a Facebook Livestream video, you can also look at patients’ comments and questions and answer them live. When your Facebook Livestream from the dispensary is done, you can share the video again on a different day.
When you host a Facebook Watch Party, it is a great way to crowdsource patients. Did you know that Facebook sends an automated notification for Watch Parties? If one patient begins viewing the video, a notice is sent to everyone who is ‘friends’ with the individual on Facebook. That helps draw in a more interested audience and potential cardholders who are looking for a local dispensary.
6. Host Information Events with Zoom Webinars for Patient Privacy
In-person events may not always be possible at your dispensary location. Many cannabis dispensaries try to limit the number of patients admitted to the facility for health and security reasons. Patients who have qualifying medical conditions may not want to visit your dispensary in person. But they may appreciate and benefit from a virtual information event.
Consider different types of series that you can share with patients. Actively encourage cardholders to subscribe to your newsletter for special promotions and virtual events. You can incentivize RSVPs to the event by giving away branded swag or merchandise like hats, t-shirts, hoodies, etc. and award one attendee (by random selection) a complimentary gift for attending.
Zoom can be used to host webinars if you have a premium membership. A Zoom webinar is the best approach for live dispensary events. The patients that attend will be able to see the presenter(s), and the host (presenter) will be able to see attendees. However, patients will not be able to see other patients. And that adds a much-appreciated level of privacy to your webinar.
Medical cannabis dispensaries are not doctor’s offices. And they cannot legally provide medical advice. But understanding that patients want to have a clinical and professional experience is important. Tool your content marketing to help patients feel confident about your facility and support team. Create a community that patients will want to belong to, with intuitive content marketing.