There are many roadblocks and rules you have to navigate in order to sucessfully market your Cannabis Business in Canada. Between CASL (the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation). The federal Cannabis Advertising rules AND the rules the phone carriers have imposed.. well, we feel your pain. I am happy to tell you, that it infact possible to sucessfully run targeted SMS campaigns for the Cannabis industry with some creative marketing techniques. These techniques have proven very effective in not only keeping all of the rule-makers happy, but also doing great things for the companies bottom line.
Because you are in the Cannabis Industry there are a few more rules and procedures that you will have to follow to keep from getting your numbers blocked and stopped dead in your tracks. So its very important that you read this carefully. If you have questions, I encourage you to reach out to our sales team so that we can walk you through the nuances. This will save you time and keep you from getting blocked.
I have seen many companies try to sucessfully pull of SMS Marketing for the Cannabis Industry and I have seen equally as many of them fail. I cannot stress enough how important the “Golden Rules” are when it comes to any kind of marketing in this space (especially regarding Cannabis).
Before I get started, I strongly reccomend that you do not take my advice as legal advice – it is not. It is based on the research we have done and the experiences we have seen with companies sucessfully navigating this industry. I strong urge you to see legal advice to confirm what I am saying.
From the Governments perspective, one of the biggest things they focus on is ensuring that your audience is 18 Years Old (or more) – or the age of majority in whatever province you are advertising in. They DO NOT want advertising being seen by minors (for obvious reasons). I am in Alberta, so this is going to be mainly talking about your viewers being 18+ years old. However, just because I don’t say throughout this article, it SITLL means that they must also be above the age of majority in whichever province you are advertising in. This means they must be 19+ years if they are in BC. They will hold you completely responsible for ensuring that your Marketing Lists are only people that are 18+ years old. The burden of proof remains strictly on your lap (meaning if questioned, you are required to prove that you list in accurate, that everyone is legal age and how you know this to be true.
You also cannot actively promote the USE of Cannabis. This means that showing any media items that depict any type of Cannabis Product being used or consumed is a BIG No No, regardless of if the audience is legal age or not.
CASL – If you don’t know what this is, it is the Canadian Anti Spam Legislation (CASL). It dictates what you are allowed to do as a business, who you are allowed to market to through digital means (email, sms, mms), for how long, how you are growing and maintaining your marketing lists and dicates your un-subscribe requirements. If you havent taken a look through it, I suggest you do. Mainly, you need to understand the difference between Implied Consent and Express Consent – they are very different. There are a number of sites you can go to that will explain the act in detail without reading through the entire Legislation Itself. Nonetheless, you can find info on the legistlation here: https://fightspam.gc.ca.
I will post an article on this in our blog that goes into more detail. This is just a high level overview of what you need to be aware of.
From the phone carriers perspective, you are not allowed to send any direct Cannabis References out over their network. Doing so will get you filtered and if you continue, you will eventually get your number blacklisted.
After all of this, I’m sure you’re wondering how you can actually do it… well, its actually pretty simple – you just need to think creatively and outside of the box. Hense, the “Golden Rules”. The Biggest thing to keep in mind when building your SMS message is to focus on the offer not the product. This will allow you to reach your customers and get your offer across without tripping any alarms or getting blocked.
There are 4 main things every sucessful SMS campaign should have. Keeping in mind, you want to keep your entire message UNDER 160 characters if you can, otherwise your message will get split into 2 messages – not the end of the world (but your costs will go up). So take your time, play with words and make it as clear, concise, and as short as possible. You should always ensure your messages include:
- Your Brand: Identify your brand without using Cannabis verbiage or terms. IE: “Hey Its Nova here!” instead of saying “Hey its Nova Cannabis here.” This will let your reader know who you are.
- Your Promo or Offer: Something Clear, Concise, to the Point ie: “All orders get 20% off for the next 24 hours” or “Save 20% today only using code [XXXX].
- A deep link or call to action: If you receive orders on your website, include a link to the page that allows them to purchase quickly and easily (as simple as possible), if your URL is short enough (and does not include Cannabis references or verbiage) use it, this will help with brand recognition. If it contains Cannabis Verbiage or References use a URL shortener (like bit.ly) or a landing page. Keeping in mind, a link (especially a bit.ly) can increase your spam score. If you take orders via phone and not online, simply tell your reader to reply to that message to order, or to call/text the number that will take their order.
- An Opt-Out: ALWAYS include a brief message at the end “Reply STOP to Unsubscribe” or something similar. The carriers LOVE seeing this as it follows protocol and lowers the chances of you being a spammer. When they don’t see it, In my experience, its only a matter of time before you get shut down.
This seems like a lot of items to fit into every single message in order to stay compliant, but if you play around with words, think outside the box and watch your character counts you can be highly sucessful with SMS marketing. Not many companies have figured out how to navigate all of these rules and therefore, there is not alot of competition in this space.. yet.