The marijuana industry and hospitality industry have similar challenges. The marijuana industry can learn a lot from the history of marketing hospitality businesses online.

Lesson #1 The hospitality industry was slow to launch well-designed websites when the Internet became relevant many years ago. They were even slower to apply sound search engine optimization (SEO) techniques to their websites. Hotels who were late to the Internet party, are still paying a price for it 20 years later. The overlooking of the importance of a solid web presence is a lesson that the Marijuana industry can learn from without having to experience the consequences firsthand. There are only so many good spots available in Google. Don’t miss out.

Lesson for Marijuana Industry

Let’s be real. Most cannabis website designs suck. It’s as though they were made 10 years ago. Before you do another thing, get a responsive, professionally designed website with professional photography and video.  Your website is the only online marketing tool that you have 100% control over. You never get another chance to make a first impression. Your website is your brand. Make sure it kicks ass.

Lesson #2 The hospitality industry was very slow to adopt Search Engine Optimization strategies (SEO). Consequently, their websites dropped in Google. SEO matters more in the cannabis industry. Google search volume for cannabis businesses is on fire. Grab your share of the market and be visible with good SEO on your website. SEO is also your best bang for your marketing buck. It pays dividends 365 days a year!

Lesson for the Marijuana Industry

If you do not add professional SEO to your website today, you cannot outrank your competition tomorrow. You will also be missing out on millions of dollars in lost Google revenue. Make sure your search engine optimization is done by a reputable online marketing agency. You want an agency that can explain what the current Google best practices are, and show you that they have implemented your SEO properly. Proper SEO is vital not only for search engine rankings, but also to keep you in the game legitimately. Some agencies may not follow best practice procedures which can do you more harm in the long run. Don’t get banned by Google. You pay to stay ahead of your competition, and ahead of marijuana businesses who employ less skilled marketing agencies.

Lesson #3 Some hospitality businesses have relied too much on travel websites such as Expedia, Travelocity, and Orbitz. As a consequence, they are now paying 30 percent commissions on reservations from these sites. Directories are a useful search tool. But as a consumer, you have to wade through all the steps, look at multiple businesses, and you don’t really get to talk to the hotel yourself.

Lesson for the Marijuana Industry

It is amazing how many marijuana directories there are already. Weedmaps charges $420 monthly for a basic listing. You have to pay more for additional locations. And, you have to bid against other marijuana businesses for higher placement. Other online directories cost even more. These prices are very high for the ROI that I have tracked for my cannabis clients using Google Analytics. Directories only drive a small part of all traffic to your business. As a general rule, never spend more than 20-30% of your online marketing budget on directories.

Lesson #4 Print advertising has always been relatively expensive. For years, hotels would purchase yellow book listings, send out snail mail special offers, and purchase expensive ads in magazines. However, these types of ads are very difficult to track to actual revenue. It was not until the past 5-10 years that hotels created ads with call “tracking phone numbers” on their ad copy. A call tracking number is different from your regular phone. It rings at your business, but comes from a unique ad phone number. It makes tracking print advertising easier.

Lesson for the Marijuana Industry

Everyone seems to have a new Cannabis publication today. And, they all want you to advertise with them. Some of my cannabis clients have purchased full page ads in multiple magazines, and other print publications. It has always been difficult to track the ROI from print advertising.  Ads that include unique website landing pages are one way to track print ROI. Another way is to have a unique phone number on each ad. There are companies who specialize in “call tracking.” They help you display a unique phone number on your ad, that rings to your business phone. The ROI is then tracked.

My clients have also purchased online banner ads in cannabis directories, etc. Google Analytics has been telling hotels for years, which directories drive the most traffic online. Cannabis businesses already have access to the very same information. If you are spending thousands each month on ads, make sure you are getting the best bang for your buck.

Lesson #5 Many hotels have a limited marketing budget. For years, these hotels would hire an employee to become their “Internet specialist.” That employee would say, “I can do online marketing for you.” No matter how smart your in-house employee is, do not turn your business future over to them. Those who seek to “save money” on in-house Internet marketing, lose even more money every day because of it. You get what you pay for. Many businesses in the hospitality industry have already learned this expensive lesson.

Lesson for the Marijuana Industry

I have been doing online marketing for 18 years. One pattern I have noticed is that many cannabis business owners are not web savvy. They are too busy. Sometimes, there are also too many cooks in the kitchen. Do not do your Internet marketing “in house.” If your employees were really “good” at Internet marketing they would not be working for you. Employees come and go. Your brand is forever.


Cannabis businesses can learn from the lessons of the hospitality industry. Make sure you invest in a professionally designed responsive website immediately. Anyone can throw up a website design and Internet marketing shingle. Work with an Internet marketing agency that has a proven track record in other industries. Always get references. A proven track record is what you want. Finally, track your print and online marketing results. Google Analytics is a powerful tool. Use it to track your ROI from online advertising. It will also help you adjust your budget, and save money on wasteful spending.