Cannabis business trends

Is Cannabis Content Marketing the Future?

The legal Cannabis industry is exploding into the modern mainstream, but how do you market a Cannabis-associated event or product when paid channels are still off limits? We spoke to some key players in the event and brand space to find out what works and what doesn’t.

Legal cannabis is now a $6 billion industry in the U.S., and analysts expect it to be worth $50 billion by 2026. Ancillary cannabis-related accessories, gifts, and even software platforms are now considered bigtime moneymakers at modern, mainstream retail.

It’s also everywhere on some of the most influential business, fashion, lifestyle, and wellness media outlets — and, of course, on Instagram. The New Yorker, Inc. Magazine, Refinery 29, and Elle Magazine have all gone deep into cannabis content and are reaping the benefits in terms of views, clicks, and engagement.

There is even a wave of chic new Cannabis lifestyle magazines and a slate of influential women-focused industry events driving the industry.

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There’s also a major whiff of the early days of the World Wide Web when there were business opportunities always just about to happen. But what can companies do to develop and promote B2B or B2C content that drives leads?

In a recent piece of cannabis business content marketing we created for a trade show client, John Morgan of SVP of Client Engagement at Simplifya, a compliance app, summed it up nicely:

“With cannabis businesses, you are really in the compliance business.”

This statement accurately describes the challenges that most content marketers face today when running even the most basic paid amplification and PPC campaigns for this kind of B2B content.

Facebook and Google PPC for Cannabis Content Marketing (or Lack Thereof)

For businesses of any size, creating audience-focused and pay-to-deliver content across Facebook, Instagram, and Google to generate customer leads is pretty straightforward.

At this point, even though cannabis is legal in almost 50% of the country, Facebook and Google don’t allow any paid ads or content promotion even for the most evergreen, cannabis-related business content.

According to Digiday, the one area this duopoly isn’t dominating? Cannabis ads. This has led to a rise in smaller digital ad networks that specifically allow for Cannabis ad units, such as Choozle, MoPub, and Adistry.

Facebook and Instagram have also been particularly aggressive (and cryptic) when it comes to suspending cannabis-related social accounts without notice. The risk is just too great for businesses in this space.

This will probably be an issue until prohibition disappears completely or the business really does become too large to ignore.

Going Back to Basics: Offline Meets Online, Once Again

How do B2B content marketers get around this PPC “blackout”?

We spoke with executives at some of the top business conferences in the space and learned that they’re having the most success going back to basics: combining personal networks, “old school” digital tactics, and promotional partnerships to supercharge lead flow and “earned” media.

A top executive at the Vegas Cannabis Summit gave us his content marketing and lead-gen checklist:



1. Create audience-focused, journalistic content designed to convert readers to conference attendees or sales leads

2. Establish partnerships to leverage mutually beneficial audiences

3. Insert Unbounce lead-gen landing pages into blog posts and email newsletters

4. Promote the speakers at your event rather than the products directly; they, in turn, promote your event

5. Leverage Media partners (Print ads, website ads, newsletter sponsorships)

6. Influencers who have your exact audience

7. Email marketing — building your own email lists

8. Traditional PR — mainstream media and non-Cannabis lifestyle media outlets

9. Writing and placing thought leadership articles

10. One-to-one in-person networking at Business conferences

Objective:  build your target audience in-between events all year-round via blog publishing, social media and regional meet-ups (the WomenGrow Conference is great at this)

The Culture+ trade show and conference at ASD Market Week leverages their media and influencer partnerships to attract retailers and vendors to participate in their event.

So far, these tactics have been an effective way around paid PPC marketing, but more importantly, they represent a well-rounded, integrated marketing approach all types of companies should be re-looking into.

PPC is coming — we may have to wait until legalization spreads and the business matures — but it’s definitely on the way.

The Future of Cannabis Content Marketing Is Now

Remember the olden days of the internet when all those smart people said, “No one’s ever going to buy clothing online”? Well…this is bitcoin-esque.

if you’re in the cannabis or a cannabis-related business, get ready to build your content and lead-generation apparatus just like all the other “mainstream” businesses, lifestyle media, and global corporations do.

Cannabis entrepreneurs and venture capitalists are preparing for the business floodgates to open any day now — we should all be prepared too.

by Jed Wexler, CEO and Content Chief of 818 Agency

Read more B2B Cannabis content by our team here.

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