Navigating Cannabis Careers in Marketing and Sales

Ben Mervis/Aug 24, 2021

hero-graphic-Navigating Cannabis Careers in Marketing and Sales

There’s incredible growth happening within the cannabis industry around the United States. Now is the time to consider a cannabis career, and how your current skills might translate to the marketing and sales jobs within brands and businesses working to claim market share and attract loyal customers.

Have you ever heard that some of the best sales people never intended to hold such a role? Maybe that describes you now, or in the past, as it once applied to me.

Here’s a little about my cannabis crossover story: The foundational years of my marketing career were in public health and behavior change, and when asked what I was marketing, I would proudly respond "healthy lifestyles", but at some point — 2018 to be exact — as a result of being in the right place at the right time, and with the right mentality, I found myself managing sales teams for cannabis brands.

So, what type of marketing and sales jobs exist?

Marketing and sales as functions are inextricably linked, but that doesn’t mean that roles must include responsibilities touching each. However, it does mean that professionals considering these positions in the cannabis industry must understand how the marketing and sales ecosystem works.

The 2020 Vangst Salary Guide highlights four common positions in Sales:

  1. VP of Sales, covering all strategy and leadership and owning all revenue, profit and loss for the team.
  2. Director of Sales, delegating day-to-day activities while handling management, budgeting, and training.
  3. Account Executive, the front-line worker dedicated to new business and expansion.
  4. Sales Representative, responsible for post-sale relationships and upsells and account administration work for the Account Executive.

While this year’s Salary Guide does recognize Digital Marketing as a hot job, it does not include any marketing position breakdowns or salaries. From first-hand experience, I can say this might be because so many companies handle marketing differently.

  1. VP of Marketing, similarly to the VP of Sales, covers all strategy and leadership, calculating and owning all return on investment (ROI).
  2. Director of Marketing, managing team members, budgets, and sub-contractors/agencies.
  3. Events and Partnerships are often the focus of one higher-level position, but sometimes split into two specialists.
  4. Digital and Social Media, drafting strategies and managing the brand’s online presence and engagement.
  5. Creative Producer or Designer, creating assets from product packaging to brand creative and advertisements.

Anecdotally, I’ll also speak to a few of the crossover roles, often merging sales and marketing into one position.

  1. Brand Ambassadors often serve the dual purpose of marketing products to consumers while supporting sales accounts and relationships with education.
  2. Customer Insights Analysts take a near-scientific approach to customer behavior and data, informing the strategies and execution of both marketing and sales teams.
  3. Retail Marketing Managers own dual-purpose branding and sales tasks such as product merchandising, promotional calendars, and product education.

Once you have a cursory understanding of these roles, it's great to connect with professionals within a company to get a sense of their specific team makeup and opportunities for growth. Connect with these folks through LinkedIn, Twitter, Clubhouse, and of course, the Vangst Network.

How do these jobs compare to other industries?

In the five years that I’ve been a part of the cannabis industry, we’ve come a long way to offer competitive employment opportunities with other consumer goods and services. These opportunities vary from state to state, and company to company. Whether a brand or business is bootstrapping or working with a healthy balance of investors’ money, salaries in the cannabis industry are in line with other comparable industries. Benefits including a 401k and health insurance are becoming more commonplace, and equity in the business is often a strong pull for professionals considering a cannabis career.

If you’re wondering if you should take a pay cut, check out this AMA with my friend and colleague Kelsea Appelbaum, Head of Strategic Partnerships at Vangst. This part of career negotiations can be tricky, which is why it’s great to have an external advocate such as Vangst on your side.

Any job-seeker must understand the need for adaptability in cannabis. Even the most corporate of cannabis companies has an air of startup culture… it is unavoidable as long as state and federal regulations are in flux and as markets adjust to keep pace with what’s going on at a local level.

With that in mind, some hurdles you can expect

Just like any career, cannabis professionals face their own unique set of hurdles to overcome. It's important to understand these both legally and in practice.

  1. Federal status: cannabis is currently still a schedule 1 drug and federally illegal.
  2. Each cannabis market, new and established, develops differently and on its unique timeline.
  3. Brand marketers in most states face major restrictions on how and where they are allowed to advertise:
  4. Branding must not “appeal” to minors under the age of 18.
  5. Digital ads are often not allowed by social media platforms and websites, partly due to audience control and federal regulations.
  6. Facebook and Instagram are notoriously harsh on cannabis accounts, while Twitter and LinkedIn remain safe spaces for cannabis content.
  7. Packaging regulations are strictly enforced and vary state-by-state.
  8. Negative stigma and stereotypes continue to proliferate among the uninitiated and uninformed (or misinformed).
  9. Finding a brand or business that’s “the right fit” for you can be difficult in an industry where many companies are new and still defining their ethos and culture.

Ready to start your cannabis career?

Vangst has resources that can make this so much easier, including people who genuinely care about your success in the cannabis industry. A great place to start is with Vangst’s Community forums, where professionals from inside and outside the industry ask questions, share tips, and lessons learned.

Sign up and join the discussion today!

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