With an open rate of near 98%, text message marketing is by far the best way for dispensaries to market locally to their customers. Email comes in second with a paltry 1-5% open rate. Given the restrictions across radio airwaves, television, and social media sites, there aren’t many other digital options on the table.
But SMS marketing providers aren’t all created equally. Below we’ve laid out a list of what all dispensary owners should know before signing up with one.
Deliverability should come first and foremost in any text marketing conversations you have with potential providers. We say this because text messaging within the cannabis space has been notoriously tricky. While not illegal, carriers have instituted a list of banned words that flag potential cannabis messaging and shut down senders accordingly. The list of banned words isn’t official, and new words are added monthly. Stemless has a published list they keep up to date, but as you can see, most words you need to sell your products or advertise your sales are on it.
Any potential text marketing vendor should be able to show you their deliverability rates. Or more specifically, their deliverability rates with other cannabis and CBD retailers. And if they don’t currently work with any? Believe us when we say they aren’t going to be educated enough in our industry to understand the nuances of getting your messages into the hands of your customers.
We’ve seen that some text message marketing providers are experiencing better deliverability by gatekeeping their content through message board style texts. This is when retailers send customers an ambiguous message directing them to go to a link. The link leads to a page with either a captcha or an age-gate asking recipients for their birthdate. Once that question’s answered correctly, the recipients are finally brought to your content.
If that sounds like a lot of steps for a customer to take to view your message, it is. From what we’ve seen, out of a list of 1000 customers, only 3.7% are willing to go through those hoops to look at your content. That said, your dispensary is still on the hook for the cost of all 1000 messages!
The next thing to consider is whether the vendor you’re evaluating has a point of sale (POS) integration with your provider. Mass text message blasts can be great, but the ability to send smaller, focused messages to the right people at the right time are far more likely to be effective. And not only that, but more focused campaign messages also cost less money to send and have lower opt-out rates. Take a look at the benefits the Grass Shack experienced when they switched away from sending out daily message blasts to their entire customer list to more focused campaigns.
And besides sending out an upcoming edibles special to your customers who have bought edibles in the past, a robust POS integration puts valuable automations right at your fingertips. Wish your customers happy birthday, say hello to first time visitors, ask repeat visitors to leave you a review, and even remind former regulars who haven’t been in lately to come back.
Lastly, let’s evaluate service contracts. Any vendor that tries to get you to sign up for 6 months or more without any sort of try before you buy is a text marketing vendor you need to be wary of. A company that stands behind their product will have no problem offering you short (or no) monthly contracts because the value of their service keeps their happy customers from switching.
And certainly beware of any vendor that can’t explicitly explain what their process looks like for dispensaries that want to switch to another provider. An upstanding provider will be able to confidently tell you that they will package up your customer list and data and get into your hands within a few business days. Bonus points go to any SMS marketing vendor that even give you references of happy ex-customers.
As you might remember from our point on deliverability, message board style texts are a lot more costly than they may initially seem, just by virtue of how few customers actually follow all of the necessary steps to finally view the message.
Other transparency price issues are couched in opaque pricing “credits”. Make sure that any credit-based pricing system clearly lays out what it costs to send out different types of messages. Lastly, be aware of hidden fees. Carrier messaging fees are the only ones you should ever encounter, and luckily, these are publicly posted. Any vendor should be able to easily provide them to you.
A Final word
Text message marketing can be tricky to navigate for dispensaries, but it doesn’t have to be. There are reputable companies with dispensary integrations, straightforward pricing, no service contracts and experience working with cannabis marketers. Some of them are even mentioned in this blog 😉.
This is a guest post written by the dispensary text message marketing experts at Stemless. Thanks for the great content, Stemless! You can check them out and request a demo of their software at stemless.co.