Ecommerce Marketing

CBD Marketing 101: Strategies for Sellers to Stand Out in a Sea of Green

Bethan Rose / 12 min read

CBD Marketing 101: Strategies for Sellers to Stand Out in a Sea of Green

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It’s not every day that a product manages to grasp the attention of a global consumer market within such a short space of time.

However, cannabidiol – or “CBD” as most people call it – has contributed to a surge of enthusiasm in the medical market. Perhaps one of the most frequently discussed cannabinoids, CBD controls an industry of its own and is on-track to harvest a generous $16.32 billion in the United States by 2026.

Demand for effective CBD marketing is on the rise and there is no wonder why.

So far, scientists have successfully isolated 113 of the leafy green plant’s active chemical compounds. Formerly, the cannabis community firmly focused its attention on the plant’s psychoactive constituent THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) — but now, thanks to a swelling smorgasbord of scientific evidence pointing to the therapeutic potential of cannabis and hemp’s non-psychoactive chemical compound CBD, the market is constantly evolving.

CBD is enticing a diverse group of consumers from all ages — and even pets. If you are cashing in on the “Green Rush” and are wondering how to market CBD products effectively and legally, then you will need to use an effective strategy.

Before you kick-start an online business selling CBD oil and alternative products, understand the rules behind marketing CBD oil so you can align your business with statewide laws.

What is CBD?

A substance that does not induce feelings of psychoactivity, cannabidiol, or “CBD” as it is most commonly known, can be extracted from either the hemp or marijuana plants. The vast majority of products featured in CBD advertising strategies will be extracted from industrial hemp.

CBD falls into two main product segments:

  • food grade, and
  • therapeutic grade.

Based on a report by MarketWatch, therapeutic grade CBD constitutes the vast majority of market share, with this segment accounting for 59.90% of the market in 2018.

A Running History of CBD’s Legal Status

As more people start to learn about CBD’s non-psychoactive properties and discover that it could actually present consumers of all ages with an opportunity to amplify their health/wellness routines, minus the high, the Internet is becoming suffused with cannabinoid-rich content.

Before you start creating content for your CBD marketing campaign, take into account the following facts about CBD’s legal status:

1. Recently, legalization has swept across much of the U.S.

Up until a few years ago, marijuana and hemp were illegal across the entire United States on both the federal and state levels. However, public and political perception of marijuana is most certainly evolving. Thanks to a number of ballot and voter-approved initiatives, marijuana has been legalized in some form in a total of 33 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. However, it is still federally illegal.

While some states have legalized marijuana merely for medical purposes, others have gone as far as to legalize it on a recreational scale. Soaring demand for cannabis-containing products is putting pressure on businesses to properly navigate the complex patchwork of regulations associated with the nascent industry.

2. 2019: Farm Bill and FDA hearings.

In December of last year, President Donald Trump signed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill, PL 115-334) (the “2018 Farm Bill”) into effect, which removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act and maintains FDA’s authority to regulate certain hemp-containing products.

Despite the fact that commercial hemp cultivation was legalized throughout the U.S. following the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, there has been much confusion regarding whether or not hemp-derived CBD products can legally be marketed and sold.

The FDA must treat hemp-derived CBD-containing products just like any other regulated product. However the agency has vowed to explore various regulatory pathways that will safeguard the health of patients and the general public.

3. Is CBD legal now?

Pay attention to reputable sources that publish the most recent updates regarding the legality of CBD in the U.S., such as this one. Obtain advice from an attorney. The cannabinoid’s legal status is dependent not only of federal law but also on the state in which you reside.

Why CBD Marketing is So Important

The CBD marketing craze is well and truly upon us. Everywhere you look online, whether it is in the form of a CBD-focused advert that grasps your attention on Facebook, a search engine optimized CBD advertising campaign that points to an online store via Google, or a captivating Instagram story with a ‘Swipe-up’ link directing visitors to a website, the surge in CBD marketing is hard to ignore.

1. Finding new customers.

According to a study conducted by High Yield Insights, approximately 40% of U.S. consumers aged 21 and above claim that they would consider trying CBD. This figure will grow and so, finding customers by tapping into the power of CBD marketing is essential. Customers want your help and so, you need to be the one to give it to them!

2. Differentiating your brand.

The CBD space is well and truly bursting at the seams, with more companies being established on a daily basis.

This does not mean that you should give up on your dreams of earning money with CBD marketing but rather, learn how to stand out and differentiate your brand from the rest. This is possible by providing your audience with constant education.

Engage with your audience by creating compelling video content, carry out industry surveys and don’t be afraid to show consumers how they can benefit from your services. You might also consider focusing on a particular niche.

3. Retaining customers.

CBD marketing can help you attract recurring customers. Affiliate marketing is a great way of building high retention rates, but only the big brands tend to attract affiliates, proving the importance of building brand awareness.

Featuring legitimate customer testimonials on your website that make statements in compliance with all laws will boost your reputation and keep customers returning for more. Send out newsletters, offer discounts for recurring customers and encourage them to invite a friend in return for a free product if you want to achieve better overall engagement and increase the likelihood of customers returning.

Conducting surveys will make you aware of customer needs/wants and will alert you about areas where you might be failing to satisfy customers. You may also want to focus on problem-solving, providing ongoing support and of course, staying in touch with your customer base!

What Can’t You Say With CBD Advertising?

While it might be tempting to boast about CBD’s medicinal properties to the whole world via online CBD marketing, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve of this. Avoid the following to sidestep potential repercussions.

1. Health and Medical claims.

You might have read claims online hailing CBD as a miracle cannabinoid that can be used to combat a wide scope of medical conditions, diseases and ailments, such as epilepsy, cancer, arthritis, insomnia and chronic pain. It is imperative that you hold off on making any health or medical claims.

The FDA certainly does not approve of this and will take your marketing campaign offline before you can say “CBD!”.

“Deceptive marketing of unproven treatments raises significant public health concerns, as it may keep some patients from accessing appropriate, recognized therapies to treat serious and even fatal diseases,” reads an official statement from the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Scott Gottlieb, M.D.

2. Untested assumptions.

Although it is possible to spotlight the potential medical benefits of integrating CBD into a daily health and wellness routine, it is not possible to legally advise customers about treating their specific medical condition, disease or ailment with CBD. Only a doctor can do this, so don’t make the mistake of assuming that just because you read it somewhere, it is true.

Every single thing you say (including consumer reviews, testimonials, social media posts, marketing, and claims made on any forum where the consumer may see the product) when trying to lure in buyers with an online CBD marketing campaign must be backed up by reputable sources and cited where/when necessary. Claims must always be substantiated, credible and authentic and avoid making disease or health claims. Anything that cannot be proven simply cannot be used in your marketing material, so just remember this.

3. Anything that has not been approved by the FDA.

According to the FDA, all CBD products must comply with the applicable laws, including the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act). The FDA has taken the position that it is not lawful to add CBD to food, dietary supplements, and pet foods.

This rule applies, even if the product is defined as containing the hemp plant. Because of this, you must practice caution when conducting CBD marketing efforts. For example, cannabinoids cannot currently be sold as dietary supplements, nor can they be added to FDA-approved ingredients and sold legally.

CBD Advertising Restrictions in 2019

Despite being legalized following President Donald Trump’s signing of the 2018 Farm Bill in December 2018, advertising options are currently limited. The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act and was integrated into the 2018 United States Farm Bill, which was effectuated in December 2018.

When the federal government changes its stance on marijuana, likely so too will the rules for CBD advertising change. Until this time, entrepreneurs with online stores are limited to marketing their product and raising brand awareness through referral marketing and content creation. Unfortunately for ‘cannapreneurs’, Google and Facebook – two of the world’s dominating ad-buying platforms – have not yet permitted advertising for marijuana-derived CBD, but hemp-derived CBD products are now being considered.

Make yourself aware of the following CBD advertising restrictions in 2019 to avoid potential pitfalls:

1. Facebook.

You cannot advertise cannabis-derived CBD on Facebook. Then again, if your focus is primarily the hemp-derived product, you’re in luck.

As of June 26, 2019, Facebook announced it would be lifting its ban on CBD products, meaning that advertisers can now publish ads promoting topical hemp products via the social networking platform.

The great thing about this is that advertisers have the privilege of including a direct link to a landing page, from which consumers can promote products and link directly to their website. However, this is subject to change and may not last forever; Facebook has always forbidden CBD ads due to the cannabis plant’s illegal status and previously, CBD-focused ads were blocked outright.

2. Google Ads (Adwords).

If you decide to run a Google AdWords advertisement promoting CBD products, you run the risk of your ad being taken down and will possibly be penalized from publishing future advertisements, even if they are not CBD marketing ads.

On a more positive note, Google recently asked a number of companies in the CBD space to participate in a trial run for CBD advertising on its platform. The results are yet to be revealed.

3. Twitter.

Unfortunately for CBD marketers, you won’t be able to run ads on Twitter.

Why, you ask? Because Twitter does not permit advertising for illicit substances, not to mention herbal drugs, thus eliminating CBD completely. This is not to say that you have to stop using Twitter for marketing efforts however, since this platform’s advertisement policy is only applicable for products that are being promoted by means of paid advertising.

Examples of some effective ways in which you can reap the rewards of Twitter include posting information about new products and linking back to your website, publishing informative and relevant information that will be well-received by the cannabis community, as well as building brand awareness with frequent posting and engagement.

Refrain from making any health or disease claims about CBD, because this could cost you your account and possible FDA enforcement.

4. Instagram.

The policies put into place by Instagram regarding CBD advertising are fairly similar to the rules laid out by Twitter. However, Instagram users are not penalized as often as Twitter users when advertising CBD oil and related products, since Instagram does not seem to monitor CBD marketing quite as much as Twitter does. Nonetheless, you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket with Instagram; the app can permanently shut down your account if you try to specifically sell a product. Instead, focus on educating your audience by linking back to your blog or resharing content from other CBD-focused Instagram pages.

Stay on top of your Instagram game by posting exciting and relevant images that reflect your CBD marketing campaign and brand. You can also use Instagram to publish videos. What’s more, the social media platform enables users with a business profile to include direct web links via the ‘Story’ feature, as well as on their profile bio.

The Key to Marketing a CBD Company: Brand.

CBD might just be a cannabinoid, but it’s not just any old cannabinoid. This unique naturally-occurring chemical compound has victoriously leaped over hurdles that skeptics once thought were impossible to overcome.

It has successfully broken through barriers and filtered its way into the mainstream market, where branding is critical for staying afloat.

6 Strategies to Market CBD Online

Estimated retail sales of CBD consumer products could reach $16 billion by the year 2025. This is according to industry analysts from Cowen Research. Tapping into this consumer market requires a great deal of diligence, consistency and patience. By marketing hemp-derived CBD effectively with the following methods, you can master the art of learning how to sell CBD online.

1. Focus on SEO.

Perhaps one of the most organic ways to build your brand on the Internet is by paying close attention to search engine optimization, better known as SEO. Although this method can be somewhat difficult to execute, the cost is usually a lot lower than it is for alternative methods of advertising. Hiring an SEO expert to help is often the best way to ensure your money and time are well spent. Additionally, you need not fret about breaking the CBD marketing rules. However, please be aware SEO “key words” will be considered as marketing and advertising materials if the FDA is investigating any health or disease claims. Practicing proper SEO will ensure that you are seen as a trusted thought leader in the nascent industry and will enable web visitors to find your site based on what they are searching online.

2. Grow content.

Content creation can fit in seamlessly with your SEO plan, due to the fact that SEO focuses on the implementation of suitable high-volume keywords and phrases throughout blog posts, articles, product descriptions and web content. Get in the habit of sharing your content on social media platforms and watch the traffic grow! Carefully curated content will bolster your credibility as an authoritative and influential leader in the CBD industry.

3. Attend trade shows.

Word of mouth marketing has always been (and continues to be) one of the most powerful forms of marketing. Consider attending industry trade shows for an opportunity to meet with other industry players face-to-face, as well as to assess the competition. Not only this, but at trade shows like World CBD Expo and the CBD Expo Tour, you can also demonstrate what your brand has to offer and get people on your side. By doing so, there’s a possibility of attracting a new audience and potentially, investment for your CBD advertising strategy.

4. Build an affiliate network.

Affiliate marketers are valuable people who can help to inform the world about your product, without you having to lift a finger. According to industry data, affiliate marketing expenditure will inflate by 10% over the next few years. Worth a whopping $12 billion, affiliate marketing accounts for 15% of all digital media revenue and back in 2017, web users clicked on affiliate marketing links over five billion times! If that wasn’t enough to blow your mind, consider the fact that global affiliate marketing transactions surpassed $170 million during the same year! Some trusted affiliate networks include ShareASale, CannAffiliate and Clickbank.

5. Use influencer marketing.

Aim to include as many marketing tactics in your CBD campaign as possible. The more diverse your marketing campaign, the better the chance of attracting your target market and turning over a rather healthy profit from CBD marketing. Influencer marketing is a fantastic way of doing this and it is one of the fastest-growing segments in the marketing world today, with 17% of companies claiming to spend more than half of their marketing budget on influencers. This year, 65% of influencer marketing budgets are predicted to inflate. Of course, an influencer that is compensated in any way must follow FTC guidelines and conspicuously disclose their connection to the brand being promoted.

6. Utilize email marketing.

Another marketing method that should not be ignored is email marketing. Although this is one of the oldest forms of online marketing, it maintains its efficacy at attracting customers from all corners and all walks of life. Sending coupons and deals to your existing newsletter subscribers/customers is a fantastic way to get the word out about products and improve customer relationships and retention.

Keep Your Eyes and Ears Open

The nascent CBD industry may present you, the marketer, with some challenges; regulators are still smoothing things out. Nonetheless, the results can be incredibly rewarding if you learn to stay abreast of federal,  state, and local laws pertaining to hemp-derived CBD marketing and selling CBD-containing products online. Focus on the following:

1. CBD legal changes.

It’s no secret that cannabis consumption is becoming normalized. More than 94 million people in the U.S. have admitted to using it at least once and with legislation spreading like wildfire, this figure is increasing by the day. Nonetheless, hemp-derived CBD marketing poses some challenges due to market volatility. Often, this is triggered by the hazy status surrounding CBD legality. Local, state and federal laws are shifting constantly, so stay alert.

2. Advertising restrictions.

The information contained in this article is accurate at the time of writing. However, information pertaining to CBD advertising and marketing is subject to change, depending on whether or not advertisers decide to amend their rules in the foreseeable future.

3. Cannabis news.

Remember to pay close attention to any news about the cannabis space, both marijuana and hemp, since there’s a good chance it will have an impact on CBD. Some of the best cannabis news resources include:

Subscribe to RSS feeds and email newsletters – just as a customer would do on your website/blog/online store, once it is up and running – so as to ensure you never miss a trick.

What Advertisers Need To Do Next

For newbie marketers who want to capitalize on the profit potential associated with the CBD market, there are certain steps worth taking to get one step ahead of the competition. Some of the best CBD oil marketing strategies include:

1. Keyword research.

Before a customer lands on the homepage for your online CBD store, they will have typed a keyword or query relating to the product they want into a search engine like Google.

Be the website that Google ranks on the first page by conducting proper keyword research! You can integrate keywords into titles, meta tags, picture descriptions, video descriptions and more.

2. Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

With your chosen keywords and phrases, integrate them into an SEO-optimized site that is targeted to your niche market. Submit your website to directories, create meta tags and always include strategically-placed search phrases on pages for the maximum return on your SEO-optimized CBD marketing strategy.

3. Content marketing.

Whether you decide to outsource your content marketing to an expert in the industry – this is a highly recommended time-saving strategy that ensures quality content and rules out plagiarism – or write the content yourself, you should not ignore the potential of curating keyword-friendly, informative content that keeps people returning for more.

4. Link building.

The link-building marketing technique never gets old. Guest posting on authority sites in return for a link back to your website will enable your site to climb higher on the search engine rankings. In addition to getting inbound links, don’t forget to create outbound links from your website/blog that point to authority sites in the cannabis and hemp markets if you want to attract extra traffic.

Please note, linked content can be considered part of your advertising materials. Linking to articles, scientific studies, and testimonials does not shield or remove you from the claims that are made on the linked content. Commercial use of scientific publications to promote the product’s sale, including simple references to scientific studies or general research, discussing potential health benefits may still be considered to be drug claims made about the product.

5. Analytics.

There is nothing quite as motivating as monitoring your progress with a CBD marketing campaign and noticing that the results are improving as time progresses.

Various types of software can be utilized to view site analytics, including:

Attitudes about cannabis are changing on a global scale and by getting in at the ground floor now with CBD marketing, you can establish yourself as a well-respected brand before the market gets overly saturated. Feed your industry knowledge by reading the news on a daily basis. This will enable you to make a mark on the industry at large, as well as establish trust and loyalty among your customer base.

Conclusion

In spite of the fact that the major social networking platforms do not currently allow CBD advertising, there are ways to sidestep this predicament. Combined, social media and content marketing provides the perfect opportunity for CBD marketers to educate their audience and build brand awareness, without using aggressive selling techniques that could get your account banned.

For the best chance of success at making money from the “Green Rush”, perform adequate research prior to launching a CBD marketing campaign to better understand the limitations associated with the CBD industry,  federally, in each state, and online. Ahead of your brand launch, make sure all claims you make are authentic, substantiated and are accompanied by credible scientific support.

This material does not constitute legal, professional or financial advice and BigCommerce disclaims any liability with respect to this material. Please consult your attorney or professional advisor on specific legal, professional or financial matters.

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    Bethan Rose

    Bethan Rose

    Bethan Rose is a passionate cannabis advocate/consumer, writer and traveler with no permanent address. Currently based on the Indonesian island of Bali, she can usually be found curating cannabis content on her hammock. Her work has been featured on Leafly, CannabisFN (CFN Media), LiveStoner, VeriHeal, Nutritional High, Cannabis News Box (Ultra Health NM) and Ganjapreneur.

    View all posts by Bethan Rose

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