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Finding the Right Agency for Your Cannabis Business

Personal Ad: Cannabis Company Seeking Long Term Relationship with Talented Marketing Agency

Finding “the one” is hard, especially if you’ve never worked with an agency before. And hey, maybe working with an agency isn’t for you and your business. That’s okay. We just hope this blog post can help answer some of the more common questions that arise for cannabis businesses considering hiring an agency. First things first. Honestly ask yourself "Do we need an agency?" or do we have the necessary skills in-house to execute the vision? Let’s first start with what you’re looking for. We’ve outlined some standard profiles of cannabis companies that may be ready for an agency, here:

Established Cannabis Company Seeking Agency as…

  • Duties of marketing are getting too complex, need to add more depth and resources
  • Need a new perspective/refresh current positioning, marketing programs/campaigns
  • Not wanting to disrupt other company workflows

Cannabis Startup Company Seeking an Agency to Help…

  • Build a foundation/platform to present your products/services to the market
  • Define brand position/go to market, develop creative assets, messaging/channel selection, and how to assess effectiveness
  • Adding skills to team, discipline of approach, more marketing experience, more resources

Company Entering the Market Seeks Agency to…

  • Augment existing team in support of expansion to new markets
  • Provide experience related to new market, insights
  • Deliver competitive analysis and insights

If one of the above profiles sounds like your cannabis business, then an agency may be the right choice for you. But how do you pick the right agency for your cannabis business?

It starts with defining what your organization's needs are as different agency types offer different services. Agencies come in all different sizes and capabilities as well, from specialty agencies that do one type of work or service to broad full-service firms that can address many different needs. We’ve provided a quick overview of the three most common agency types you’ll encounter in your search: creative agencies, consulting firms, and hybrid agencies.

Creative Agencies

  • Often have strength in a particular skilled area (i.e. graphic design, animation, video/photography, events, etc.)
  • Often have strength in a industry vertical or channel (i.e. retail, business-to-business, consumer markets, etc. )
  • They may not have experience in your market
  • Or if specialists in high demand, they may work with your competitors
  • They may be unable to add skills and services as needs evolve
  • Execution or strategist? Agencies have differing levels of each. Most agencies claim to offer some degree of strategic advising
  • Project or retainer based


Hybrid Agencies

  • Offer strategic guidance and help executing the plan
  • Typically specific areas in which the firm is more skilled, capable or knowledgeable
  • Can lead or be a complement to an existing team
  • May have a better overall knowledge of the market by being able to develop strategy and execute in a manner that considers best practices but is also creative and unique for the client
  • A firm able to deliver with a depth of knowledge on; strategy and execution, digital and traditional, as well as experience with consumer and B2B markets is rare
  • Can be a retainer with room for special projects to be added as needed


Consulting Firms

  • Marketing consultants often do strategic positioning, brand development, market research and (maybe) planning
  • Facilitate and involvement in changing a company’s direction, change management expertise, more project management, more analytically inclined
  • Can have very deep experience in select skilled areas, industry verticals or channels. Areas of expertise may be more analytical in nature vs. creative which tends to be more of an agency
  • May not offer support executing the strategy
  • More often a project focus but may offer ongoing advising via a retainer

If you are clear about products, markets, who your best customers are and some understanding about why they buy, then we recommend choosing a creative agency. You’ll need strong creative and creative processes, which agencies of this type are known for. If you’re unsure about target markets, which products to offer, and to who and why they should be targeted, go with a strategic marketing or consulting firm. You’ll need an agency with strong research, analysis, and planning skills. If you need strategic direction, creative execution and bringing it all together in a cohesive well managed program – we recommend choosing a hybrid agency but be sure to do your homework. Ask questions that reveal if strategic and creative execution capabilities are of the same caliber. And keep in mind that agencies should not simply be "do-ers" executing a tasks list. The value of an agency or specialty marketing firm is the insights, knowledge and experience they bring. 

The Matters Group is a hybrid marketing services firm as we offer both strategy and program management. We’ve developed our Brand Activism™ methodology for activating brands, that is bringing them to life with an effective data-driven strategy and high performance execution leading to achievement of organizational objectives. This involves conducting proprietary market research to gain deep insights into the motivations of the target market. We then work with the senior management team to develop the brand positioning. With our client’s positioning and market needs known we translate the brand position into creative direction and assets. In parallel we begin work on messaging and evaluating marketing channels for their effectiveness at engaging the targeted market. Lastly we collaborate with the management team on defining a suitable set of key performance indicators.

The Brand Activism™ approach ensures the entire marketing system is aligned with company strategy. By continually assessing performance we’re able to make modifications based on facts about an market, not guesses.

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