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From Budtender to Cannabis Marketer – How to Make a Career Transition

by Daniela Furtado |

Written by Daniela Furtado from Findable Digital Marketing for the Budtenders Association

They say the better you know your customers, the further you will go. For cannabis producers, the bridge between a company’s customers and their growth is budtenders.

Budtenders are the first to hear about consumer questions, desires, concerns and complaints. That’s the kind of “data” cannabis businesses need when discussing how to improve their products and stand out from competitors. Your experience and interactions with customers is what businesses need to grow and improve. Why hire fancy market researchers when you can talk to a budtender? 

Budtending is not a “dead end” job. It’s a springboard to other careers within the cannabis industry. It’s just a matter of having some direction and proactivity to get there (as with anything in life).

As the owner of a digital marketing agency, I often work with and mentor writers and designers that come from budtending and trimming. In this blog post, I’ll share my two-cents on how to transition from budtender to cannabis marketer. 

A Transition into Cannabis Marketing

The cannabis industry is made up of dozens of winding career paths. From cultivation, production, distribution and packaging all the way to research, data and compliance, and anywhere in between, the avenues are endless.

The career path I know best is marketing. If you’re someone that … 

  • Gets bored easily and prefers project-based work.
  • Strives to be empathetic and a strong communicator. Either with words or visuals.
  • Has a combination of creative and analytical skills.
  • Wants the option to work remotely or in another industry.
  • Believes everything is “figureoutable”.

… then marketing may be a good fit for you, too.

Simple put, marketing is the practice of persuading people to take action. Cannabis being a consumer packaged good (CPG), there are typically two types of marketing: trade and digital.

Where a trade marketer’s job is to get a product on a store’s shelves, a digital marketer’s job is to get it on consumer’s screens. 

Marketing Avenues

Most marketers, including myself, start off as generalists. As a generalist, you’ll do a little bit of everything. 

Some days, you’ll orchestrate an email marketing campaign. Sometimes you’ll find yourself designing graphics or negotiating with influencers. In between it all, you’ll research, brainstorm,  strategize and analyze.

While some generalists go on to become department managers, others prefer to specialize in a specific skill set or marketing channel. Here are some examples:

  • Copywriting and content writing
  • Email marketing 
  • Graphic design, photography and video
  • Branding
  • Search engine optimization
  • Online advertising * 
  • Public relations and influencer marketing *

* Paid advertising is a gray-area in the cannabis industry and there aren’t many opportunities. However, this could change if Big Tech changes their advertising policies.

Learn from the Best

A career in marketing means you’ll constantly be learning. 

Start with learning as much as you can. Learn a little about everything before you specialize in a specific area of marketing. There’s no need to jump into a formal education program from the get-go. The internet is your oyster and there are plenty of free resources available online like articles, videos, podcasts and short online courses. 

Choose a company you admire and stalk the marketers behind it. Follow them on social media, study their careers and cadence their style. When learning any new skill, it’s natural to copy the best until you have enough knowledge and confidence to make your own decisions and opinions.

Lastly, read books about marketing, communications and psychology. My favourites are This is Marketing by Seth Godin, Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins, Make it Stick by Chip and Dan Heath, Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller and Influence by Robert Caldini.

Dabble on Your Own

In my books, lessons from real-life experience will always triumph lessons from a classroom.

Instead of enrolling in a formal education program, take on a project of your own. Start a blog, a YouTube channel or an e-commerce website. It can be about whatever you want. Learn what it's like to create something from nothing and market it from the ground up. This will be a part of your portfolio.

It probably won’t make a profit. Heck, you’ll probably lose money. However, you’ll learn tremendously from the first-hand experience and that’s worth so much more than a college tuition.

Pitch Your Skills at Work

Once you have a baseline, pitch your new skills at work. Could the check-out counter display be improved? Do you see a way to increase engagement on social media? How can you negotiate and increase sales with cannabis brands? What about your ranking on Google Maps? Look for an opportunity to improve something about the business’s marketing efforts and offer to help.

If your employer isn’t willing, offer your skills elsewhere. When I first wanted to specialize in search engine marketing, I offered to get local mom-and-pop shops on Google Maps for $100. Now, I do it for a couple grand but it takes me a quarter of the time to do the same job and my results are tremendously better. 

You’ll only get so far applying your skills to your own projects. Venture out and take on projects that are bigger and different than what you’re comfortable with.

Keep a catalogue of your best projects on a portfolio website. Graphic designers do a great job of this. When applying for marketing jobs, having a website portfolio of 1 or 2 excellent projects will be stronger than a PDF resume.

About Daniela Furtado 

At Findable Digital Marketing, Daniela helps businesses get quality traffic and sales from their website. Her specialization is cannabis SEO. Connect with Daniela on LinkedIn or Instagram

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