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Targeting the Cannabis Industry on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the platform we get the most questions about from our B2B clients focused on lead generation. At Canna Con in Seattle this weekend, most companies with booth space were companies marketing their services and products to Cannabis producers and processors. Including all types of businesses, from soil and seed companies, to HVAC equipment manufacturers, to ERP software providers, and much more. These companies’ target audience are marijuana producers, processors and retailers, but how do they find them? Well Canna Con and other marijuana industry events are a good start. But there are also online options, like LinkedIn, you can use to reach this audience. Legal restrictions from state to state prevent most cannabis related businesses from marketing directly to consumers. Facebook and Google’s advertising policies related to cannabis advertisings are opaque at best. They tend to shut down most ads with any reference to “cannabis” or marijuana”. LinkedIn is a little different. It’s Ad Guidelines state in pertinent part:

Drugs, Illegal Substances and Related Products. Even if legal in the applicable jurisdiction, LinkedIn does not allow ads related to prescription pharmaceuticals, drugs or any related products or services. Ads that promote illegal drugs, highs, herbal medicines and treatments, psychoactive effects of substances, or aids to pass drug tests are all prohibited.”

While you can’t market cannabis products on LinkedIn, B2B marketers in other industries still have the option to target marijuana and cannabis related businesses. LinkedIn will allow you to run pay per click online ads to this audience. You just need to know where to look.

here are 4 ways you can find an audience using LinkedIn Ads

1. targeting cannabis businesses by location

Starting with location targeting. This is interesting because it gives us an overview of how many people LinkedIn thinks are living in states where cannabis is legal. I included California because we think it will vote for legalization in the 2016 election. While it’s sort of interesting to know the population of the key target states, it’s not exactly what we’re looking for, so let’s move on.

2. targeting cannabis and marijuana businesses by company name

Another option is to select companies by name. Typing the first few letters of a word will get you a drop down box with suggestions. Once you actually select a company, LinkedIn will show you suggestions for other companies it thinks are similar. This is a good option if you know specific companies you want to reach. But for a broader audience, it’s inefficient since there are so few national cannabis related companies.

3. targeting cannabis and marijuana businesses by company category

So what other options do we have? We can search by industry category. Unfortunately, the categories are broad, and Cannabis or Marijuana are not included.Okay, we don’t need to spend any more time on that particular targeting option. And I think we can agree Job Title would also be inefficient.

4. targeting cannabis and marijuana businesses by groups

So that leaves us with groups. Which it turns out, may be a pretty great way to find your audience. You can even add location targeting to refine your audience further. However, how this works in LinkedIn could be improved significantly.

Currently, you don’t really have a sense of how large or active the groups are without doing some independent research first. 

However, you can use the ‘Consider Adding’ feature to quickly add multiple groups. After adding 12 groups located in the US and Canada, we were able to find a large audience of people who are in groups related to medical or recreational marijuana.We ended up with an audience of over 100,000 people to share our post with after using the ‘Audience Expansion’ option.

a few additional tips for advertising on LinkedIn:

  • Ads with photos do much better on LinkedIn
  • Define what action you want taken after someone clicks on your ad
  • Use landing pages with a strong call to action, otherwise you’re wasting your ad spend  
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