Updated on December 27, 2018.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Marijuana has been a proven and accepted form of medicine for thousands of years. The early Chinese listed cannabis as an effective herbal medicine, particularly for treating pain. Other cultures on other continents were also acutely aware of marijuana’s medicinal qualities, but over time, the legitimate medical value became overshadowed by the effects of recreational use. Marijuana’s image was tarnished, and governments responded by setting legal controls regarding distribution and possession of cannabis.
It’s only in recent years that marijuana has been legalized as a potent, yet safe, form of alternative medicine in America. Nearly half of U.S. states now legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes, and the movement continues. Today, the U.S. medical cannabis market is rapidly expanding. This creates commercial competition and presents a challenge for doctors and dispensaries to attract medical marijuana patients and customers.
Marijuana is a commodity like any other marketplace product. Cannabis is subject to the same laws of supply and demand that govern the production, distribution, sale and profit parameters that determine its value. Traditionally, marijuana was a black-market commodity, but it was still subject to consumer choices that were influenced by many mainstream marketing factors. These included quality, price, availability, selection, convenience, customer service and reflection of the product’s branding.
The old days of marijuana being underground brands like Jamaican Ganja and Acapulco Gold — represented by cannabis subculture icons like Bob Marley and Cheech & Chong — are going up in smoke. Now top-quality, medicinal-grade cannabis is readily available through legal and highly professional dispensaries, as long as it’s accompanied by a doctor’s prescription. However, the medicinal marijuana industry still responds to mainstream market factors.
Commercial Medical Marijuana as a Product and Service
Today, to attract medicinal marijuana patients, it’s vitally important for doctors and dispensaries to recognize that supplying commercial medical marijuana is an important service they’re delivering. Patients are their customers, and will determine if the dispensary businesses will be successful. Marijuana consumers respond to many conventional market influences, but the method to find medical marijuana patients and delivering effective marketing messages needs unique strategies.
Since the medicinal marijuana business has come out of the shadows, many forward-thinking entrepreneurs have focused their energies on how to boost their medical marijuana business. They take a holistic approach in attracting medical marijuana patients. That means applying what works in marketing conventional products and experimenting with new ideas and techniques unique to the medical marijuana industry. Many of these successful cannabis entrepreneurs are medical doctors and licensed marijuana dispensary owners.
Attracting medical marijuana patients requires intricate knowledge of the overall medical cannabis industry. It combines specific product information and precise patient expectations. Delivering value to patients is the end result of a careful and strategically crafted marketing plan that includes developing a recognized, easily identifiable brand that commands customer loyalty. Increasing a medicinal marijuana patient base and boosting customer traffic also requires knowledge and application of technology, such as creating a strong Internet identity.
Developing an Effective Medical Marijuana Marketing Plan
There are core competencies required to effectively market cannabis products and find medical marijuana patients. All of these require dedication and commitment to formulating a workable plan and carrying it out. Some steps can be done by a doctor who’s looking to boost medical marijuana patient visits, or by a dispensary owner wanting to increase customer foot traffic. Some of the technical steps might be too complicated or require exact technical expertise — however, general knowledge of these marketing components is necessary.
A marketing plan that’s effective in attracting medical marijuana patients encompasses these primary components:
Building business exposure through a central registration source
Conducting industry research
Knowing what the market wants
Knowing what the competition offers
Adhering to industry restrictions
Establishing professional integrity and credibility
Building a personalized brand
Developing online presence and search engine optimization (SEO)
Managing social media engagement
Creating informative content
Here is a breakdown of each of these important components that comprise a holistic approach to attracting medical marijuana patients.
Building Business Exposure Through a Central Registration Source
Making sure your business is easy to find is a critical component in attracting medical marijuana patients. In all businesses, it’s a key competency to focus on what you do best and sublet other activities to specialists. That strategy works for doctors who are interested in pursuing the lucrative medicinal cannabis market, and also dispensary owners who want to expand market share. A central repository for being located is a must.
MarijuanaDoctors.com is a trusted gateway for patients searching to find medicinal marijuana treatment in states where legislation allows it. The entire goal is building a connection with patient-consumers with credible and legitimate facilitators of delivering medicinal cannabis products. www.marijuanadoctors.com is the No. 1 link in the chain of supply and demand, and it’s the first stop every doctor or dispenser should make while building a workable plan.
This online platform provides patients with transparency when selecting a doctor who can prescribe medicinal marijuana. It allows users to set appointments for evaluation to determine whether medicinal cannabis is the right form of alternative medicine, as well as providing a portal for profiling information and giving ratings and reviews. This is enormously helpful to both patients and practitioners, and is the starting point of building a long and loyal relationship.
www.marijuanadoctors.com strives to make it as easy as possible for doctors and dispensaries to attract medical marijuana patients. It’s also the easiest way for prospective patients to find credible and professional facilitators of cannabis products within their legal jurisdiction. Participating doctors and dispensaries are listed state by state, and have been carefully selected through a detailed screening process. This ensures protection for the patient, as well as providing credibility for the facilitator.
This online search and booking platform is more than just a digital directory. Beyond introducing interested parties, www.marijuanadoctors.com allows for scheduling of appointments and booking functionality for doctors, medical clinics and medicinal marijuana dispensaries. It’s a trusted patient referral system that includes these benefits:
Saving time by pre-qualifying all parties, including patients and providers
Reducing overhead for professionals with automated payment systems
Achieving recognition for legitimate, board-certified industry professionals
Assisting in attracting new medical marijuana patients
Registering with www.marijuanadoctors.com should be the basis of every doctor and dispensary owner’s marketing plan. Finding qualified patients is critical to running a successful business that promotes medicinal cannabis. It’s also necessary to expand upon this online referral and registration platform by increasing industry understanding and building a trusted brand that connects in many ways.
Conducting Industry Research
If you’re a medical practitioner wanting to attract new medical marijuana patients or operate a medicinal cannabis dispensary, it’s an absolute must that you’re informed and knowledgeable about the medical marijuana industry. This includes all legislated requirements in your state or area of operations, specific product information and how each strain of cannabis can help a particular ailment.
You’ll find many prospective patients seeking to use cannabis for medicinal purposes have done their homework. That’s not just in using information and referral sources like www.marijuanadoctors.com. They’ll also have done their own research into what their medical issue is and why their current medications aren’t suitable. Consequently, in their search to get better, they’ve spent hours on the Internet, reading publications as well as conferring with others who have the same interests.
Knowledgeable patients will immediately tell if you’re up to date on medical marijuana treatments. The world of cannabis comes with its own specialized jargon, and if you’re not conversant with the terms and conditions, it’s going to be very hard to instill confidence and credibility in a patient-customer. On the other hand, if you’ve done sufficient industry research and have a sound understanding of how you can help a customer seek relief, you’re going to develop a trusting relationship that’s a vital part of your holistic marketing plan.
Obtaining factual industry information takes time and dedication. There are countless sources of information on medical marijuana online and in professional publications. While conventionally accepted studies into medicinal cannabis are emerging, there is sufficient information to justify that medical marijuana is a proven form of alternative medicine. Considering the source of information applies to researching medical marijuana just as with any other topic.
Knowing What the Market Wants
A good deal of attracting medical marijuana patients lies in knowing what their market wants and expects. Many new patients are expecting definite relief to their medical symptoms, but not necessarily a cure for their illness. In many ways, patients are the experts in their symptoms, and they’re the ones to judge effective relief.
Being a facilitator of medicinal cannabis products requires effective listening skills. A patient will have certain expectations besides you being relatively knowledgeable about the industry. To know what your market wants in order to accommodate them as a valued customer, you need to recognize the difference between what they want and what they need. It’s your job in building a medical marijuana business to find the balance needed to properly serve your market.
Once a patient has received the expected results from a cannabis prescription and you’ve met their needs, you can expect a satisfied customer who will repeatedly return and form the base of the most valuable and powerful marketing tool in the world: word of mouth.
Knowing What the Competition Offers
There’s no such thing as a monopoly in the medicinal cannabis business. The industry might be new, but there’s no shortage of competition in trying to attract medical marijuana patients. The ones who stand out — and, eventually, succeed — are the ones who have taken time to get their marketing plan right. Fortunately, marketing to medical marijuana customers is a process and part of it is by knowing what the competition offers.
A good place to start researching medical marijuana competition is to examine who has already joined the database at www.marijuanadoctors.com. These early starters will be progressive entrepreneurs who understand the value of a referral and assistance network. They’ll also be legitimate competitors who have been pre-screened to establish their legitimacy and honesty in serving the medical marijuana community. That’s part of their strategy in attracting new patients.
Go online and view these competitors’ websites. Get a feel for their professional presence and sense of the message they’re sending. Do they seem like the type who’d be knowledgeable of the industry and up to date on the array of cannabis products offered to clients? Are they aware of what the market wants and what the competition offers? Can they deliver what they’re promising and build a following from their brand?
It’s important to sort the good from the bad when checking out the competition in the medical cannabis industry. There are unscrupulous individuals and businesses out to make a quick buck. However, many are professionals who are new to the industry and also working on their marketing plan to attract new patients. If they’re registered with www.marijuanadoctors.com, it’s a pretty good bet that they are legitimate and serious competition.
Adhering to Industry Restrictions
This is extremely important. The medical marijuana industry is highly regulated by government legislation, and there are also severe restrictions to how you can operate within it. Even if you’re in a liberal state that has legalized medical cannabis or the recreational use of marijuana, be aware that all cannabis products are still illegal under federal laws.
Legislation varies by state in regards to medical marijuana, but one of the common denominators is how you’re allowed to do conventional advertising when selling cannabis services or products. Open media advertising like newspaper ads, billboards, radio, television and storefront displays are controlled, similarly to how alcohol and tobacco products are regulated. In fact, the marijuana industry is more tightly controlled, especially in how young people are exposed to advertising.
The Internet is less restrictive than open-source media, but there are still controls in place. Running afoul of marijuana regulators can threaten your most valuable asset — your license to prescribe or dispense cannabis products. Protecting your assets is a vital part of business survival and should not left to chance. This is an area where outside consulting helps in ensuring you’re compliant with all the regulations.
Establishing Professional Integrity and Credibility
Nothing is more important for business success than establishing and maintaining professional integrity and credibility. This takes time and is an ongoing process. It can also be destroyed in an instant.
Attracting medical marijuana patients also takes time and is a continual process. Like any client base, some will leave and more will arrive. Retaining customers is critical. A basic business rule is that it’s easier to serve and retain existing customers than it is to replace them. Maintaining your integrity with existing patients has a trickle-down effect. They tell others through that word-of-mouth network, which should be a core component of your marketing plan.
Your integrity comes from setting a proper example and making continuous efforts to maintain it. It serves to establish credibility that you’re a trusted expert in the medical marijuana field and provides social proof to attract new patients. Make sure professional credibility and integrity are prominent parts of your holistic marketing plan, and that they’re evident in everything you do. Remember, your reputation is the most integral part of your brand — and it’s impossible to fake a good reputation.
Building a Personalized Brand
The term “brand” is continually used in modern marketing. Brand marketing is one of the most effective tools in the cannabis industry, because it works. Your brand is how your customers see you. It’s reflected in your personal demeanor and presence. It’s displayed through your online communications. It’s even shown in how you present your services through ease of customer engagement and follow-up actions.
Brand is what people trust. New medical marijuana patients are attracted to the brand of product and service they need. They’re seeking security in knowing the brand of cannabis facilitator is trusted by others, and that everything the brand displays or stands for will be in their best interest. This is especially true when a patient’s best interest is their health.
Your brand — your personal and professional persona — needs to consistently and constantly portray that you’re a trusted source in the medical marijuana industry. Patients must trust that you have their best interests in mind. That includes being knowledgeable on the quality, price and selection of products, as well as giving sound advice in treating their ailments with the right cannabis products.
Developing Online Presence and Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
The Internet should be an absolute anchor in grounding your brand and attracting medical marijuana patients. Today, Internet searches are the foundation behind almost every purchase decision where consumers looks for reviews and other credible information about how to find a solution for problems. The cannabis industry is a prime example of how new patients find a compatible doctor and dispenser.
There are two main parts to using the Internet to help medical marijuana patients find you. One is your website itself. The other component — which many small businesses make the mistake of overlooking — is how well you optimize your website so that search engines can help your patients find you easily. Building websites and making them SEO-friendly can be complicated. Unless you are competent, you’re best off working with a professionalwho specializes in website design and SEO best practices.
Your personal website design and SEO strategy should make you rank high in search engine results pages, or SERPs. These are the sites Google suggests when you search for keywords or key phrases like “how to attract medical marijuana patients.” The better use you make of SEO tactics and overall website design, the better you’ll rank when new patients are searching for a medicinal cannabis business or facilitator.
Another tactic for a great online presence and SEO effectiveness is to network with other industry-related websites that have excellent reach and great SERP standing. www.marijuanadoctors.com is the perfect example of a specialized site that serves to connect the facilitator and end user for cannabis solutions. Being listed on www.marijuanadoctors.com as an approved professional in the medical marijuana business ensures that your Internet presence will populate high in SERPs. It’s a major benefit to your holistic marketing plan.
Managing Social Media Engagement
Social media can also be a huge component in your marketing efforts to attract new patients. Managing your social media accounts can be time-consuming as well, and this is another area where your payback can be greatly improved by hiring someone with expertise in social media management. If handled correctly, social media can result in a high rate of return of investment with little financial outlay.
Social media is all about having a credible and professional online presence. Patients look for social proof that a business is reliable and trustworthy. They look to others in the online community to assure them who is recommended to help them with medical problems. On the flip side, patients also look to social media to find out who to stay away from.
Using social media in promoting your cannabis services is not about taking a hard-sell approach. It’s about building relationships and networking to increase your presence and supply potential patients with informative pieces and interesting links to sites where they can learn more about cannabis benefits. Through this, they’ll also learn more about you.
Something to take into account when developing your social media strategy as part of your marketing plan is that many sites are careful about what’s presented about cannabis. Facebook and Twitter, which are the most popular and widely used social media sites, have clear policies in place about what type of information they allow people to post. You could easily find yourself in trouble by posting information, even if you have good intentions.
We’re solidly in the information age. Our world revolves around finding and sharing information, and that requires producing informative content. That means content has to be relative to the user, useful for their purpose and appreciated so it can be shared. It also means informative content must be easy for users to find.
Having a regular blog as part of your holistic marketing plan is important. Writing a blog takes time, but it definitely pays off. A blog forces you to research the industry and formulate content that’s informative and relevant to the patients you’re trying to attract. A good, well-maintained blog will establish you as an expert in the field and enhance your professional image and credibility. You’ll learn new things about the industry and your competition, as well as enhance your brand.
Making a blog part of your online presence enhances the value you add to your client base. A blog causes people to return to your site and share it with others. This increases your traffic and, when combined with good SEO tactics, makes your rank higher in the SERPs. This eventually becomes a cycle of creating repeat business and generating great word of mouth — or, as it might be better to say, word of mouse.
Let www.marijuanadoctors.com Help Attract Medical Marijuana Patients
Building your medicinal marijuana business’s holistic marketing plan should include all these practical and proven strategies. www.marijuanadoctors.com is proud to offer you the opportunity to parlay business success from our online presence. It’s working for hundreds of your competitors, and it’ll work for you to attract medical marijuana patients.