Updated: Oct 7
Guest post from The Hood Collective
With more states legalizing cannabis in some form or other every year, there’s a growing need for ancillary services that cater to the unique demands of the recreational and medical cannabis industries. This includes accountants that fully understand the requirements of cannabis businesses and are not only properly trained, but also have a proven connection to the industry, as opposed to an accounting firm that’s just trying to capitalize on the latest trend.
For accountants that want to succeed in this new industry, implementing an effective marketing strategy is a must. It’s not so much about how much time and money you invest in marketing, but how you can best reach your target audience in an authentic and engaging manner. On the plus side, accounting and bookkeeping are highly in demand services that pretty much every cannabis business needs.
Your job is to convince cannabis business owners that you are the right accounting firm for them. Here are some tips on how you can make that happen.
Market Yourself as Cannabis Specific
As you transition into offering accounting services to the cannabis industry, there may be a period where you are still serving other clients. Or you may be part of a larger practice that will continue to work outside of the industry. There’s nothing wrong with this approach, but because of the unique nature of the cannabis industry, and the specialist knowledge involved, it’s highly recommended that you market yourself as catering specifically to cannabis clients.
If your plan is to serve only the cannabis industry, make that clear in all of your marketing content, from your website to your social media and everything else that is customer facing. Highlight your experience within the industry and any special training that you have undergone.
If you are still servicing other clients, I’d highly recommend that you create a separate website and separate social media accounts for your cannabis-specific practice. The bottom line is that accountants who market themselves exclusively to cannabis clients will have an edge over those who approach cannabis as a side business.
Avoid The Cannabis Clichés
For veterans of the industry, it doesn’t take long to spot someone who’s new to cannabis or doesn’t really know what they are talking about. One dead giveaway is when your marketing content and language relies on certain tropes and clichés that have been done to death already. For example, having “High” or “Green” or certain other phrases or puns in your name or slogan should be avoided whenever possible. A logo with a prominent pot leaf is another well-worn concept to watch out for.
The truth is that your clients won’t expect you to be deeply knowledgeable about the history of the plant or the latest growing techniques. That’s their domain. They just need to know that you are an expert when it comes to cannabis rules and regulations that pertain to bookkeeping and financial compliance. And one of the best ways to get that across is by showing you are serious about the industry and know enough to avoid the stereotypes and hackneyed logo and slogan concepts they’ve seen dozens of times already.
Attend Cannabis Networking Events
If you’re new to the industry, one option for getting your name out there is by networking aggressively. This is no different than any other industry, but it’s especially true of cannabis, which tends to have a rather close-knit community, and where word of mouth and reputation are very important. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, the last year and half has severely limited the number of events and networking opportunities for those trying to make connections.
Whatever state you’re in, there are likely several industry groups that have formed for lobbying or expertise-sharing purposes. There may even be cannabis-specific networking organizations in your area. You should join all of these groups that seem appropriate to your purposes, and attend every event possible. In the near future, these gathering will likely be virtual in nature, but as more states open up again, in person gathering will hopefully be returning soon.
Another good marketing investment is sponsoring or hosting a booth at industry trade shows and conferences in your area. These types of events are a great way to gain exposure for your services and actually meet potential customers face to face.
Promote Yourself with Customer Testimonials
As you start to gain some traction, it’s important to let people know about your successes. One great way to do this is by asking your satisfied customers to provide testimonials. These could simply be quotes you put on your website, but could even been filmed interviews in which they speak about what they like about your services. Research shows that positive reviews and testimonials are one of the best ways to influence and attract potential clients.
I know that for some people, it can be tough to ask for a testimonial. No one wants to be seen as imposing on a client’s good will. One good way to overcome this is by offering some kind of quid pro quo to make it worth their while. That might be providing your own testimonial in return, highlighting their business on your website, or even providing some kind of discount, similar to how you might offer discounts in exchange for customer referrals.
Take Advantage of as Many Digital Marketing Platforms as Possible
I’m often asked which marketing or social media platform is the most effective. The truth is there’s no perfect platform, and the smartest strategy is to try and reach potential clients through as many different avenues as possible. Leave no stone unturned, as they say.
Let’s take social media as an example. Instagram is a great platform for the cannabis industry, especially growers who are sharing lots of great photography of their flower and facilities. For accountants, you want to reach your clients where they are, so Instagram is a no-brainer. But on the other hand, Twitter is an excellent way for thought leaders and activists to share their ideas and communicate a point of view, which could be a useful niche for an accounting business. Meanwhile, Facebook is excellent for sharing events and generating interest for upcoming appearances. And of course, every cannabis accountant needs to be a constant presence on LinkedIn.
The reality is that your customers are probably only using one or two of the above platforms at most, just like they are likely only reading one or two cannabis magazines, and have joined only one or two industry groups. That means there are potential customers you will only reach if you cover the entire spectrum. This can be challenging when you are just starting out, but the goal should be to reach as many people as possible, and that means casting a wide net.
Partner With a Cannabis Specific Marketing Agency
It’s entirely possible to handle your marketing in-house, but you need to be committed to investing a great deal of time and effort to achieve the kind of success you’re probably hoping for. At some point as your business grows, you’ll almost certainly want to incorporate outside help to expand your marketing and reach even more of an audience. It’s highly recommended that you work with a cannabis-specific marketing firm that understands the cannabis industry as well as you
In the meantime, don’t wait to get your first marketing campaign started. Like with anything, you may find breaking into the cannabis industry is an uphill climb at first, but once you have a few clients, and the news of your expertise spreads, all of that hard work will pay off.
Decater Collins is the co-founder of The Hood Collective, a Portland-based digital marketing agency that focuses exclusively on the cannabis industry.