The Ultimate CBD Marketing Guide
A snapshot of CBD's explosive growth:
It's time to capitalize with CBD Marketing!
This guide gives you 5 key marketing strategies to grow your brand’s visibility and product sales.
Five Strategies for CBD Marketing:
At Root Manifest, we think of content marketing as the umbrella that covers every aspect of your marketing strategy. Content is your messaging, images, videos, podcasts, and more. In the following sections, we’ll cover five major content marketing issues including regulatory compliance, goals for brand awareness/revenue, inbound CBD marketing, buyer personas, and video content marketing.
Compliance is critical when it comes to CBD marketing. We’ll discuss two important concerns: health/medical claims and targeting minors.
Health and Medical Claims
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t allow brands to boast about the medicinal properties of CBD. An official statement states, “Deceptive CBD marketing of unproven treatments raises significant public health concerns. . . The FDA has sent warning letters in the past to companies illegally selling CBD products that claimed to prevent, diagnose, treat, or cure serious diseases, such as cancer.”
In short, it’s illegal to make claims about CBD without significant reputable sources. Only a doctor can prescribe medicines to treat individuals with medical problems, so all your CBD content, including social media posts, ad messaging, and organic content, must be backed by reputable sources and avoid overt disease or health claims. If you can’t prove your claim in detail, then don’t say it.
Avoiding Targeting Minors
Another essential standard is to avoid creating content that may appear to target minors. All your images, messaging, videos, and other content must carefully avoid this. You’ve probably seen the “welcome mat” method that some sites use with a popup window asking if you’re over 21 before you can continue onto the site. Many cannabis and CBD social media profiles specify 21+ audiences as well.
Goals: from brand awareness to revenue
Before you begin creating marketing content, define your goals for brand awareness, increased site traffic, and increased sales.
If your product hasn’t been on the market long, then you need to raise brand awareness. This is not the place for a hard sell. In these first touchpoints, your prospects need a brief, positive interaction where they hear about your brand for the first time.
Brand awareness strategies include advertising, PR outreach, syndicated/guest posts, unboxing videos, webinars, podcasts, how-to guides/videos, testimonials, surveys, and more. At this stage, your messaging should not be “me too,” but instead show why your products are innovative and one-of-a-kind. Position yourself so that your brand or solution is something so extraordinary that you have no direct competitors. Build a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out).
You’re succeeding in raising brand awareness when the following metrics rise significantly:
- New site visitors. Run regular reports in Google Analytics showing sources, bounce rates, etc. For better visualization, import GA reports into Power BI or Tableau.
- Social reach. Use native social media reporting or purchase aggregated social reporting from a provider like Sprout Social to quantify followers, likes, comments, and other positive engagement.
- Blog post/video shares. Check YouTube reporting and your website’s native blog stats.
- Brand mentions and organic ranking. Set up Google Alerts, check Google Trends, and check your brand’s search engine results page (SERP) regularly with Google searches in an incognito browser or on a virtual private network (VPN).
- Ad metrics. Each of your ad networks provides detailed reporting. Simplify all this data into a few KPIs that you can track for optimizations and growth.
- Share of Voice (SOV) for PR and communications outreach including syndicated posts. If you’re conducting large-scale PR, then purchase a reporting/management solution such as PRgloo ($3,200/yr +)
- Influencer ROI. Create a unique tracking link for each influencer you work with to track their success. Use Bit.ly or Google’s simple UTM builder.
After you’ve significantly raised brand awareness, your initiatives to drive more sales will have better success. Some of the strategies to drive sales and revenue include affiliate tracking, referral rewards, ads, discount codes, contests, and giveaways. Long-term, exclusive relationships with brand ambassadors begin to pay off at this stage when these trusted spokespersons are bringing prospects to their 3rd and 4th touchpoints with your brand.
We advocate following the key principles of inbound marketing to give prospects content that provides real value without trying to hard sell. Effective content marketing techniques include blogging, videos, social media, and more. This is in contrast to traditional, outbound CBD marketing methods such as cold calls and other intrusive methods. Inbound marketing typically provides higher conversion rates and facilitates a better brand identity than outbound marketing. Inbound marketing is powerful because you give the answers to the questions your customers are asking. This builds trust and authority.
Buyer personas are representations of your customers based on your market research and real data on your existing customers. Each buyer persona depicts specific demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, income, and goals. Buyer personas aren’t developed once and left alone, but instead you should continually modify your buyer personas as data grows. Buyer personas provide invaluable insights for your messaging and positioning strategies. As you develop your buyer personas, search social media including subreddits and forums, and look for complaints about the pain points you’re solving. Search Facebook Groups to find niche groups aligned with your buyer personas.
Video Content Marketing
HubSpot reports that 81% of businesses currently use video as a marketing tool. Videos on landing pages can raise conversion rates over 80%. The mention of “video” in your email subject line increases open rates by 19%, and 90% of customers say videos help them in their buying decisions.
When you’re considering implementing video content marketing, try to include different types of videos such as product demos, customer case study videos, spokesperson/influencer videos, conference/event videos, expert interviews/testimonials, educational videos, explainers, animated videos, live videos, virtual reality videos, and more.
The good news is that the cost of producing quality videos has shrunk considerably. For example, most smartphones can now shoot in 4k, slow-motion, 3D “live focus,” and many other engaging formats. There’s also a plethora of free or inexpensive video editing apps with a wide variety of features.
Research shows that video content absolutely dominates social media. For example, social media videos are viewed 12x more than text and images combined! Make sure you leverage the power of video in your CBD marketing strategy.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is one of the best channels a CBD company can leverage for long-term ROI. We’ll describe the optimal workflow to start your SEO off right with a technical audit, on-page optimizations, and your initial keyword strategy.
First, poor technical SEO or poor on-page optimization creates a bad user experience (UX) as your site’s visitors struggle to find or navigate a slow site. It also negatively affects your organic ranking in search results. Your site needs to provide an intuitive user experience across all devices, particularly on mobile devices as design progressively adopts the mobile-first UX. At Root Manifest, we use several tools to audit your site’s performance, and then we offer recommendations to improve the performance if it’s not up to par.
After the technical SEO is complete, the next step is mapping out your keyword strategy. Your main goal is to rank on the first page of search engine result pages (SERP) so that new prospects can find your CBD products quickly. It’s typically easy to rank for branded keywords like your company’s name. You should see your site rank on the first SERP within a month of properly optimizing your on-page SEO and technical SEO.
The second easiest keywords are long-tail, low-competition keywords. We use a powerful SEO tool such as Moz to assess the competition on keywords. You can expect to achieve first page on SERPs for low-competition keywords in approximately three months after you’ve built relevant content optimized for those keywords.
Optimize most of your principal site pages for higher-competition keywords. We recommend using the renowned “content pillar” strategy to build the hierarchy of content that will eventually raise your ranking for high-competition keywords. Think of a keyword as broad as “buy CBD oil.” The competition is high, as you can see in the image to the right. The top result, NuLeaf Naturals, has 7,635 social shares! It’s still possible to rank on the first page of SERPs, but it will take longer, from six months to several years for some very high-competition keywords. Ranking for high-competition, buyer intent keywords will bring your site a significant amount of organic traffic for years to come.
Despite antiquated ad policies from advertising giants like Google and Facebook, digital advertising can provide a positive return on ad spend (ROAS). However, this is the most challenging channel of the five categories we cover. We’ll break digital ads into 4 categories:
Recently, Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords) started allowing advertising with a limited number of CBD companies. Many CBD brands hope that Google will continue to open its doors to CBD advertising since Google currently bans any ads with overt CBD or cannabis-related images, text, or video content. Incorrect advertising in Google Ads may not only put a strike against your account, but it can also prohibit your account from advertising at all. Many brands have historically avoided Google Ads completely.
What’s the best way to succeed with Google Ads? Make big brand plays that target your buyer personas. Your branding should illustrate your solutions to your prospects’ pain points. Let’s say one of your CBD tinctures contains natural sleep aids such as chamomile and valerian. Then your display ads would depict the relief from getting a restful night’s sleep. Check out MedMen’s billboards for simple, killer branding.
Social Media Ads
Facebook: Advertising your CBD business on Facebook is challenging. Until June 26, 2019, Facebook had a complete ban on advertising CBD products. However, it’s now okay to publish ads promoting topical CBD products. Facebook has allowed CBD brands to run ads that direct to landing pages that feature ingestible hemp and topical CBD but cannot specifically feature those products. For all other CBD products such as oils and tinctures, here are some quick guidelines to help you navigate Facebook’s CBD advertising rules:
- Your Facebook account should not directly mention CBD or cannabidiol on the page.
- Create a landing page with no CBD-related keywords. This is a short “squeeze page” that will drive prospects to your product sales page.
- Find a creative way to mention CBD without saying it directly. Use images that subtly illustrate hemp or CBD.
- Create Facebook Custom Audiences and lookalike audiences. Define custom audiences with very specific interests/demographics.
- Use one of Larry Kim’s unicorn marketing tactics like his Game of Thrones ads for Facebook (see MobileMonkey for more great ideas).
Instagram: Owned by Facebook, Insta also has a ban on advertising CBD products. Like Facebook, many of your ads will be rejected and you could possibly even see an account suspension. Instagram is a strong platform best suited for building community with organic content and influencers. For more information, see our sections below on social media marketing and influencer marketing.
Programmatic native advertising is a form of PPC that attempts to be more non-disruptive than display or banner ads. Some sites do this better than others, but good native ads match the aesthetics of the page or feed where they appear. Several cannabis and CBD-specific ad networks serve a variety of native and display ads to their contracted networks. Leafly and Mantis are two highly reputable examples, and each industry network offers unique packages of impression-based ads, sponsored content, and high domain authority brand profiles or directory listings.
Be prepared for steep minimum ad spend requirements from the best ad networks. For example, a 2020 sponsored newsletter to a half-million subscribers will typically cost over $3,800/month. Remember that CPM rates stand for cost-per-thousand impressions. You’ll find prices from $3 to $9 CPM (and more) after you meet the ad spend minimum. Sometimes lower costs can be locked in for a longer contracted length of the ad run. Make sure you receive regular reporting with your ads’ click-through rates (CTR) and other key performance indicators.
Social media influencers usually have a large following, post frequent content, and generate positive engagement. There are multiple levels of influencers from micro-influencers to major celebrities. The trick is to find influencers who meet your customer persona with an actively engaged audience. Micro-influencers can lead to better click-through rates due to their dedicated niche.
A recent Tomoson poll found that influencer marketing is the fastest-growing online marketing channel, crushing other strategies like affiliate marketing, paid search, and display.¹
Finding and paying influencers
If your budget is large enough, consider using a reputable influencer CBD marketing platform like Pixlee. Otherwise, you’ll need to conduct manual outreach through email or the influencer’s preferred social channel. Here are some industry cost approximations:
- Micro-influencers with less than 1,000 followers make approx. $83/post
- Mid-level influencers make approx. $297/post
- Macro influencers with over 100,000 followers make approx. $760/post
- And of course Kylie Jenner makes $1.2million per post!
For more details, check out Dealspotr’s guide to influencer costs/pricing.
Remarketing ads, also called retargeting ads, rely on a growth platform powered by AI technology. This platform serves dynamic ads to previous website visitors as they browse top sites across the web, including your website. For example, customers who previously visited your website but didn’t convert due to distractions, concerns, product availability issues, or to postpone their shopping can be retargeted using website cookies. In the end, you’re able to remind your prospects about your product or service and bring them back to finish their purchase. The following explainer video provides a good overview of remarketing.
Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing (SMM) is one of the most important channels to focus your CBD marketing strategy. Here are a few guidelines for marketing your CBD business on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other channels:
Engage with your local community
using location tags, hashtags, and partnerships with other businesses in your community. This builds trust and engagement.
Personalize your brand identity
with a paid spokesperson or influencer(s). Ideally, you’ll portray these personalities using your CBD products and evangelizing their specific best features.
Leverage content created by your community
called user generated content (UGC). Create Incentives for your customers to post about their satisfaction with your products.
Create a lifestyle around your brand
by featuring a strong, unique brand identity. The biggest mistake brands make is creating a stale, bland brand that doesn’t resonate with people.
Instagram is one of the best channels to grow your brand quickly. In only 3 months, we applied SMM to grow our client’s following from 100 to 2,312. We also rewrote a more compelling bio, posted the client’s first videos, and produced much attractively-designed images. You should also create a few Insta Stories and then pin the top 2-3 below the bio. Follow us on Insta to learn about our multitude of strategies for social media marketing.
Many companies depend on email marketing for 25% of their annual revenue. Email continues to be a valuable CBD marketing channel in 2020. We’ll cover 3 aspects of email marketing: lead magnets, autoresponders, and purchased lists.
A principal strategy within inbound marketing is to create valuable content that your prospects want. A lead magnet is a valuable piece of content that serves as an incentive for prospects in exchange for their email address. Lead magnets can be e-books, videos, PDFs, guides, infographics, or hundreds of other types of content. Strategic marketing funnels deliver lead magnets that are appropriate for a prospect’s stage in the buyer journey, from initial awareness through the consideration stage into the decision stage. Effective lead magnets build your email list with high-quality leads. The process of creating the assets can be time-consuming, but once you’ve automated the delivery of the assets then the content will continue to grow your email list over time as long as its content remains relevant.
Autoresponders are emails that are sent automatically based on a triggering action or actions. The automated aspect of these emails provides the long-term ROI after you’ve set up the initial workflows. You’ll need a reputable email marketing platform sized appropriately for your business. Small to medium-sized businesses often use email marketing platforms like Constant Contact or MailChimp. Larger businesses typically need to integrate their customer relationship management (CRM) platform with their email marketing platform. Larger businesses may deploy HubSpot, Marketo, or Salesforce at a cost of $5,000/month or much more.
If you have an e-commerce site, we recommend setting up the following autoresponders: mailing list signup & thank-you sequences, pre-purchase sequences for signups, abandoned cart sequences, post-purchase, shipping notifications, time-based reorder sequences, anniversary/birthday specials, cross-sell suggestions, and a win-back sequence.
Non-permission-based email marketing is not suited for every business, and some business owners avoid it while others pursue it extensively. Renting or buying email lists can be expensive, and the practice carries numerous risks. We typically don’t recommend purchasing email lists unless both of the following factors apply:
- The list quality is vetted to be extraordinarily clean
- You’re selling very expensive products or seeking customers with a high lifetime value (LTV)
Many salespeople claim their purchased lists are guaranteed to have no hard bounces or a minimum guaranteed open rate. However, we’ve seen lists of 5,000 emails sent with terribly low open and click-through rates. Cold lists have low conversions, but if you’re selling a $20,000 product then one conversion out of 10,000 emails might be worth the cost. Lists often cost approximately $1 per email address. We offer several related email marketing solutions for sending a large volume of emails for the companies that meet the criteria above.
CBD’s Legal Standing
Currently, laws vary state by state since there is no federal oversight. The tension between members of local and nationwide governments has caused some confusing laws, and navigating them can be akin to those spy movies where the protagonist is weaving through a room full of laser motion detecting alarms. Purchasing CBD is federally legal so long as the product does not contain more than 0.3% THC. States have independent laws on CBD, many of which require a prescription to purchase.
In 2013, CNN reported the success of Charlotte’s Web, a CBD product that helped an epileptic girl control her seizures. This report helped spur an unprecedented boom in the CBD market. In 2017, Gabriel Ettensen, GM of the hemp company Elixinol, said there are “hundreds, if not thousands” of new hemp CBD brands selling their products online.
The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 removed hemp from the controlled substances act but maintains the FDA’s authority over the regulation of hemp products. Despite this bill, there’s still significant confusion regarding the sale of CBD products. For example, “Many vendors, retailers, advertisers, manufacturers and banks are still not fully apprised that hemp is legal. Because of this misunderstanding, these prospective partners balk at working with hemp entrepreneurs, thinking they’ll be subject to the same penalties they would working with cannabis businesses.” ³
The question remains, what’s the best way to legally sell CBD? The best advice we can give you is to obtain information from an attorney familiar with the laws of your jurisdiction on CBD, as laws differ from state to state.
Future Trends: Minor Cannabinoids
Over 120 cannabinoid compounds have been identified within the genus of Cannabis. These minor cannabinoids are increasingly marketable, and some brands promote the special “entourage effect” of various combinations of cannabinoids. At the end of December, 2019, Iris Dorbian reports in Forbes, “CBD was this decade’s craze, but as the market for cannabidiol becomes oversaturated, product companies will introduce other interesting minor cannabinoids like CBN [Cannabinol] and CBG [Cannabigerol], already touted as having functional benefits tied to sleep and appetite. Expect the FDA to voice concerns about these ‘cannabis derived compounds’ and mirror its communication to industry and the public about the need for these products to be properly vetted for safety and use – and for product companies to market them nonetheless.” ³
Even though the CBD market is becoming oversaturated with competition, numerous analysts predict a staggering trajectory of growth in the coming years. To stand out from the crowd, you need to strongly differentiate your brand, and lock in a focused CBD marketing strategy employing the elements outlined in this guide.