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CBD and Hemp Beginner’s Marketing Guide

Summary

CBD and hemp companies need unique, highly-targeted marketing strategies to navigate strict regulations the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has placed on the industry. Our CBD and hemp marketing guide will help you navigate some of these restrictions.

Summary

CBD and hemp companies need unique, highly-targeted marketing strategies to navigate strict regulations the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has placed on the industry. Our CBD and hemp marketing guide will help you navigate some of these restrictions.

Consumers want access to cannabidiol products, and the industry has grown to match the demand. According to data from Grand View Research, the market, valued at 4.6 billion in 2018, “is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22.2% from 2019 to 2025.”

CBD products accounted for 3.9 billion of the above 4.6 billion.

If you’re thinking of getting into this rising industry, marketing will be vital. CBD companies need unique, highly-targeted marketing strategies to navigate strict regulations the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has placed on the industry.

Jump to a section:

What Are the CBD Advertising Restrictions?

Even with the signing of the 2018 Farm Bill, there are severe restrictions on your advertising options. Most of these limit your ability to use paid social media to promote your CBD brand and products.

1. Google Ads (Adwords)

You cannot directly promote CBD products on Google Adwords. Once their system crawls your ad, it will take it down. If your ad leads to your website, Google may also flag your domain so you can’t create new ads in another account.

Google did ask some companies to participate in a trial run for CBD advertising on its platform, but nothing has changed so far.

2. Facebook

You can only market on Facebook if your CBD is hemp-derived. Thanks to this change, you can include a direct link to your landing page.

Cannabis-derived CBD, however, is still forbidden.

3. Twitter

Twitter doesn’t allow advertising for illicit substances or herbal drugs, thus eliminating CBD completely. This rule only applies to paid ads, though, meaning you can use organic posts for promotional purposes.

Make sure anything you post about new products is informational. Don’t make any health or medical claims about CBD.

4. Instagram

Instagram’s CBD advertising rules are basically the same as Twitter’s rules. Once again, your focus should be on organic social posts that educate your audience.

Just because you can’t use a lot of the usual advertising avenues doesn’t mean your marketing will suffer. You should make sure, however, you do your due diligence in the beginning. That starts with creating a marketing budget.

Set Your Marketing Budget

Set up a 12-month marketing budget. Then, break that into quarterly spend, then monthly spend. Make sure you understand your product market, any seasonality that might artificially spike or dampen your sales, and any ramp-up periods where you’ll turn on different marketing channels. Setting your budget early makes it easier to adhere to, or to change it when you see a channel is more or less successful than you projected.

Find Your Customers

The only way your CBD products are going to sell is if you target the right customers. Are you focusing on products for humans or pets? Will you only sell oils? Oils and gummies together? A combination of products?

Depending on what products you choose to sell, you’ll need to run persona exercises to fine-tune your target audiences. If you’re selling CBD products for pets, for example, you cannot target all pet owners. That would be a waste of time. You’ll need to break pet owners down into further personas so you’ll know who is most likely to enjoy your content and follow through with a transaction.

Some of the information you should create for your personas includes:

  • Name
  • Demographic details
  • Professional background
  • Education
  • [Persona] is looking for
  • Points of resistance

To get you started, we’ve created a worksheet that you can use to build your personas.

If you already have your personas mapped out, you should take your existing data and see if your current customers match the personas you created. If they do, you’re good to go until your next persona audit. If not, it’s time to run through the exercise again and find out why you’re getting customers you didn’t target.

Align Your Marketing and Sales Teams

You’ll find hundreds of articles, books, and lectures about “cross-functional” teamwork. They’ll tell you it’s important to break down “silos.” While the lingo is annoying, the idea is right. You have to make sure all your internal teams know what each other are doing, especially if the activities can affect multiple teams.

It’s super important your sales and marketing teams work together. Not aligning these teams can lead to thin, limited sales pipelines and client mismatches. Make sure your sales team knows the personas the marketing team is targeting. Also, make sure your sales team knows your products well.

Your marketing team needs to meet regularly with the sales team to understand potential clients who are reaching out through on-site sales links. Do these potential customers match up with your personas? If not, what’s bringing them to your product? This data can help you expand your marketing efforts, attracting more potential sales.

Create Your Marketing Strategy

You’ve built your personas, you have your budget in place, and your sales and marketing teams are aligned. Now, it’s time to acquire some customers. We think about the buying funnel as a three-level concept:

Awareness – If people don’t know who you are, they won’t buy your product. This is especially true when you’re just starting out.

Engagement – Once people are aware of your company and your product, they’re ready to engage with your brand. Educate potential customers on what CBD is and how to use it. Create a page on your website where people can read reviews of your products. Give them an opportunity to sign up for your newsletter. Add links to your social media profiles.

Conversion – Customers know and engage with your brand. Now, they’re ready to buy.

Your go-to-market strategy and tactics need to consider all three stages.

Technical SEO

When you should start: Immediately

Stages: Awareness, Engagement, Conversion

SEO is vital to your marketing efforts. Additionally, you can use data from your other marketing channels to improve your organic rankings. SEO has the power to bring customers for free, as long as you are willing to spend the time. But, how should you spend your time to maximize your SEO efforts?

Audit your website

Audit your website every quarter. Whenever you do an audit, you should be asking the following questions:

  • Did your traffic increase?
    • On what pages did your traffic increase?
    • Did you make any changes that could have led to the increase? What were those changes?
  • Did your traffic decrease?
    • On what pages did your traffic decrease?
    • Did you make any changes that could have led to the decrease? What were those changes?

Now that you have the data collected to answer the above questions, it’s time to use it to optimize your website.

Optimize your website

Use a tool like SEMRush to help you search your domain and put your keywords into three buckets:

  • Top (positions 1-10)
  • Striking distance (11-25)
  • New content potential (25+)

Once you’ve separated your keywords, ask the following questions for each of the buckets:

Top positions – What can I do to improve click-through rate on these pages to get more traffic?

Striking distanceWhat’s missing between my website and the top performers?

Pro tip: Search for the keyword in incognito mode and audit the top five organic listings. What do you see on those pages that are missing from yours? What additional content, design assets, or data can you add to enhance your pages?

New content potentialHow many of these keywords actually deserve their own page?

Pro tip: Compare your webpages to your competitors’ using SEMRush. How many keywords are they ranking for? What keywords are they ranking for that you don’t? What keywords are you competitive for? How and where can you be better? 

Running through the above exercises will give you an idea of what content you should create, what content you already have that you should optimize, and where you are in your industry and niche vs your competitors.

You can further optimize your website by looking at your backlink profile.

Audit and optimize your backlink profile

The Internet is a series of connected websites. An article or review post on one site can lead you to another. That website can lead you to another, all through hyperlinks. The more hyperlinks that point to your website, the bigger your backlink profile becomes.

The bigger your backlink profile, the more people who can visit your website. Building and maintaining a healthy, robust backlink profile can potentially raise your SERPs ranking by bringing new users to your site. Since you’ve optimized your old content and built up new content using the audit you conducted, you have a killer website with great information.

Creating and maintaining your backlink profile will take advantage of all this awesome content.

Step 1: Build your backlink profile

The best way to get backlinks is by marketing your current content and any new infographics, webinar videos, podcasts, guides, white papers, or other blog posts you create. Share these pieces on your social media accounts to up the chances of organic backlinking opportunities. Reach out to bloggers and news sites to find out if there are any syndication, exclusivity, or guest posting opportunities in exchange for a backlink. See who’s linking to your competitors, and find or create better content for those websites to link to.

Step 2: Cull low quality backlinks

A big backlink profile can be a double-edged sword. Anyone who owns a website can link to your site, which is great when it is popular, trustworthy, and high-quality. That backlink isn’t so great when the website is low-quality. You should regularly clean these backlinks from your profile.

After you’ve built and started maintaining your backlinks, what’s next?

Optimize your website speed

Google’s industry benchmarks for mobile page speed “found that as page load time goes from one second to 10 seconds, the probability of a mobile site visitor bouncing increases 123%.” They broke that data down further:

  • 1-3 seconds: probability of bounce increases 32%
  • 1-5 seconds: probability of bounce increases 90%
  • 1-6 seconds: probability of bounce increases 106%
  • 1-10 seconds: probability of bounce increases 123%

Google has also said that page speed will be a ranking factor in their mobile-first indexing. Having a slow website is hurting you now, and may hurt you even more in the future. How do you fix this?

You can use Google’s page speed tester to find out your page speed and get suggestions on what you need to fix. Here’s a look under our hood so you can see what the page speed tester looks like:

Our mobile page speed looks good, according to the tester. Our site, however, is a bit faster on desktop:

After you find out your website’s stats, you’ll see some things you can fix. Prioritize fixes in this order to make the most impact on your website:

  1. Resize your images
  2. Eliminate javascript code that blocks search engines from crawling your web page
  3. Simplify your code
  4. Compress your text and images

Work with your developer to get all the above done. If you’re hosting your site on WordPress, there are plugins you can install to automatically enhance your website’s speed. Here are the plugins that we use:

  • Async Javascript 
  • BJ Lazy Load
  • Cache Enabler
  • Compress JPEG & PNG images

If you host your site on Squarespace, here are some other things you can do to help speed up your website:

  1. Decrease your image size
  2. Format your pages properly
  3. Help your images load quickly

Add schema code to your website

You can help give search engines more information about your website and the individual webpages if you add schema code to your website.

What makes schema technical is injecting the code on your website. But there are a lot of options to eliminate complexity, like schemaapp.com. 

Here is an example of what schema code looks like:

Make sure you’re injecting the right code.

Everyone in your organization should know SEO. We’ve created an ultimate SEO page that houses guides for multiple stakeholders to learn about SEO and how it affects their role.

Content

When you should start: Immediately

Stages: Awareness, Engagement, Conversion

Most of the content you create should be educational. Teach every potential customer about your CBD products. Make sure you have how-to videos on your website and on Youtube about how best to use and apply your products. Give out free sample codes through email and social media.

If you’ve never built a content marketing plan before, here’s how you get started.

Create content for different stages of the buying funnel

Forget algorithms, forget search engines. Your content needs to educate and help your customers. Full stop. The buying funnel contains 3 stages:

There are different types of content you can create for each stage.

Awareness – This content answers the question, “who are you?” What kind of content builds awareness?

  • Blogs
  • Videos
  • Infographics
  • Social media posts
  • Podcasts
  • Ebooks and whitepapers

Engagement – Once you get people to know who you are and what you sell, you have to answer the question, “how good are you at what you do?” That’s where engagement content comes in:

  • Email newsletters
  • Product comparison posts
  • Case studies
  • Product/service demos
  • Customer testimonials
  • Landing pages
  • Webinars

Conversion – People know who you are and what you sell. They know how good your products are. Now, it’s time to get them to make a purchase.

What kind of content should you create to increase conversions?

  • Sales pages
  • Sales emails

You have the types of content you should create, and you know where in the buying funnel they’ll have the most significant impact. Now comes the content ideation.

How do you do that?

CBD content ideation

Knowing what content you need is different than coming up with the ideas to create that content. You’ll need to do some research in order to know what pieces you should create to bring customers to your website.

Keyword research

SEO tools can help you do your initial research, but the numbers they give you are just estimates of traffic. They also won’t give you data on future keywords and phrases that may not have large traffic presently. You’ll need to do some sanity-checking with manual keyword research. You’ll also need to test your keywords and phrases to see if they work for your service and product pages.

Here’s framework you should follow to conduct keyword research: 

  1. Make sure the keyword is relevant to the topic of your webpage. Then, think about the following: if people find the content you’ve created based on the keyword
    1. Will they be happy with the content they find on the page?
    2. Will this traffic result in completion of its goal?
      1. If the answer to all of these questions is a clear “Yes!” then you’re on the right track. 
  2. Do an incognito search for the term and ask yourself the following questions:
    1. What websites rank well for this keyword?
    2. What are they talking about?
    3. What are they providing the searcher?
    4. Does it match up with what you think the user needs?
    5. How could your webpage be better than what’s currently ranking?
    6. Are there search advertisements running along the top and bottom of the page?
      1. This last question is important because if people are willing to pay to advertise for the keyword, it’s valuable
  3. Test the keyword
    1. One way to do this is to take the keywords you like and run some ads on a search engine
      1. Make sure you don’t mention CBD or break any of the paid ad rules, of course
      2. We suggest using Bing since it’s cheaper
    2. Run the ad for 24 hours and cap it at $50-$100 so you don’t accidentally blow your budget
    3. Gather your data
      1. How many impressions did your ad get?
      2. How much traffic has your ad sent to your website?
      3. How many of that new traffic converted to paying customers?
    4. This will give you a great idea as to the real value of these keywords. 
Keyword opportunity audit

You have valuable keywords and ideas, but you need to make sure that you can beat out your competition for ranking. First, identify 3-5 competitors in the CBD space. Next, take the keywords you researched and find out how each of these competitors ranks for that keyword, as well as what pages show up for those keywords.

Now you can turn this data into a keyword opportunity audit.

  1. Identify keyword opportunities by
    1. MoM rank + Traffic for the past year
    2. List of 3-5 competitors traffic by content category

Some of our favorite free keyword research tools include:

Now you’ve got some ideas you can use to outrank your competitors.

Internal forum questions

If you run a forum for fielding questions from users/customers, you can use some of these questions to help you build short answer FAQs, instructional videos, walkthroughs, or other content.

External forum questions

If you don’t have a website forum, you can use public ones to mine for keywords, key phrases, and queries for your content. Some forums you can use are:

Quora

Reddit

FAQ/answer box/people also ask

These SERP features help searchers find additional information based on their original query. They’re a great spot to find content ideas.

Query: “best free keyword research tools”

Query: “what is content”

If a direct competitor has one of these SERP features, check out their content. Can you provide better information? Better data? A better story? Create that content and continue to optimize it until you take the SERP feature.

Speaking of creating content, let’s talk about how you work on all your new ideas.

Creating content

The first thing to think about when creating your content is resourcing writers. Are you going to use internal employees? Or are you going to hire freelancers?

If you haven’t decided, let’s walk through what each choice entails.

Using internal writers
  • Step 1: Identify writers
  • Step 2: Identify 1-2 quarterly pillar pieces
    • These should be big posts, like quarterly roundups, research papers, white papers, etc
  • Step 3: Identify 1-2 monthly pillar pieces
    • These pieces can be offshoots of your bigger pillar content, or other, smaller pieces
  • Step 4: Identify important product/service releases
  • Step 5: Start writing

When you have your internal writers figured out and your blogs post ideas mapped out, it’s time to start writing. If you need help building a content calendar, we’ve created one to help you schedule out your posts.

Using external resources

If your internal people are limited, or they have to work on other high-level tasks, you should think about hiring external writers.

  • Step 1: Identify monthly budget
    • Since you’ll be paying freelancers, you need to establish your monthly budget. How much are you going to spend on ordering content? Are you going to edit that content once it comes back from the writer, or will you have an outside editor work on it? How many pieces will you need to order per month?
      • All of the above will impact your monthly budget, Make sure you take each into mind as you plan out your strategy.
  • Step 2: Identify writing platforms
  • Step 3: Identify content
    • Now, it’s probably not a good idea to have external writers create vital content. But, you can have them create content you need written at scale. Some examples include:
      • FAQs
      • Product landing pages
      • Video transcripts
  • Step 4: Order content

Now you’re ready to hire your freelancers and get your content written.

Content marketing

So you’ve got all your content back and published it on your site. Now what?

Now you market it.

Monthly newsletter

Include new content in your newsletter. A newsletter should be about helping those who’ve signed up for it, not just taking their money. 

Your forum

Share “how-to” and walkthrough content with your forum, especially if you’ve seen multiple people talk about the same issue. That means even more people are experiencing it but not bringing it to your attention. Regularly posting helpful content on your forum keeps your community engaged, happy, and advocating your brand. Those same “how-to” and walkthrough pieces should be shared through social ads. The more you expose the ease-of-use of your product/service to a new audience, the more you expand your brand.

Talks/presentations

Someone in your company should be attending local talks and presentations, as well as getting up and talking. It’s a great opportunity to share insights and new data you’ve studied. Present information from a white paper you’ve published, or some research you’ve conducted. When people in your industry trust you, others will, as well.

Syndication

This is a long term play. You need to build up a good enough reputation to have bigger publishers use some of your content on their website in exchange for a link pointing to your website, and a byline. Even if it’s a “nofollow” link, what we care about is the brand exposure.

One of the best ways to market your content, however, is through your social media channels.

Organic Social Media

When you should start: Immediately

Stages: Awareness, Engagement

If you’re ignoring social media, you’re missing out on customers. There are over 2.5 billion people on Facebook and Instagram. Social media accounts can build awareness for your brand and engagement with your website content. Your website landing pages can focus on converting those potential customers,

Social media posts based on buying cycle stages

Your social media posts need to be planned out. Otherwise, you’re sending content into the ether and you’ll see poor results. You also need to make sure you’re providing your social media followers with valuable content.

Awareness:
  • Customer reviews
  • 3rd party comparisons
  • New company hires
  • Press interviews
  • Product review videos
  • Behind the scenes photos
Engagement:
  • Blog post promotion
  • Newsletter promotion
  • New product launches
  • Contests
  • Webinar promotion
Conversion:
  • Special deals/discount codes

Content curation

Make sure you’re sharing industry news from a 3rd party publication. Participate in industry-related Twitter and Instagram hashtags. Filling your feed with posts about others will keep your followers interested, engaged, and coming back to your social accounts.

Mapping KPIs to your social media strategy

You need to know what key performance indicators (KPIs) to track for each stage of the buying funnel. Not every stage should track the same KPIs, or else you’re going to be unhappy about the ROI for each of your campaigns. Depending on the buying funnel stage, here are the KPIs you should track:

Awareness:
  • Social shares
  • Social impressions
  • Website visits from social
Engagement
  • Social shares
  • Post comments
  • Link clicks
  • Email/newsletter signups
  • Contest entries
  • User-generated content
  • Reviews left
Conversion
  • Assisted conversions/sales
  • Discount code activations

Strategy by social media channel

Depending on your goals and the content you plan to share, you’ll find some social media platforms are better for your company than others. Here’s a brief rundown of a couple of popular platforms and what content you should share on each one.

  • Facebook – Videos are the most popular type of Facebook post, followed by images. Any how-to videos you create should go on your Facebook page. You should also solicit and share user review videos and any webinars you host. Make sure every post has a link to a blog or an accompanying image to increase your engagement
  • Instagram – This platform is fantastic for sharing infographics, snippets of how-to videos, images of customers using and enjoying your product/service, and behind the scenes photos or your company and employees. Leave the blog post promotion for Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn
  • LinkedIn – Share your high-level content here. White papers, industry data, survey data. LinkedIn is where you establish your industry knowledge and expertise
  • Twitter – Twitter should be your catch-all platform. Every one of the above strategies can be used on this channel. Make sure to research relevant hashtags and add at least three in each post

Best posting time and cadence

There are numerous studies that show the best time to post on social media. They’re all a crock. The best time to post on social media is whenever your audience wants to engage with your content. Test posting at different times throughout the day and see when you get the most engagement. That will tell you the best posting time for your channels.

As for how often you should post content, try for once a day on each channel you operate. As you measure the success of each channel, you can up your posting cadence to get more engagement and shares. You can also lower posting for the less successful channels so your time and efforts have a high ROI.

One example of organic content you can post on social media is product reviews. If people feel your product is easier to use, and better, than others on the market, they’ll purchase it. For more examples, check out our “Organic Social Media Beginner’s Guide.”

Local SEO

When you should start: Secondary

Stages: Awareness, Engagement

Local SEO is important in a zero-click world.

What is “zero-click”? When we search the Internet for a company’s address, phone number, or operating hours, we expect instant information. With local directories like Google My Business, they can get it without clicking through to your website.

Even in a zero-click world, local SEO tactics can increase your engagement, as long as your information is correct. Do you know if your local information is consistent across directory websites? Do you own your directory profiles? If your information isn’t correct, and you don’t own your profiles to correct it, how many potential customers are you missing out on?

There’s a tool from Moz to check data aggregators to make sure your UNAP information is correct. What’s your UNAP information? UNAP stands for:

  • URL
  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone Number

The Moz tool only shows some data sources. There are over 50 unique data sources to track, so you’ll need to manually check and keep track of your UNAP. If you need some help setting up your profiles, check out our “Local SEO Beginner’s Guide.”

Email Marketing

When you should start: Secondary

Stages: Engagement, Conversion

You should build up your email marketing list as early as possible. You can do this by creating lead magnet content that will entice people to give you their emails in exchange for educational content. These pieces can include:

  • ebooks
  • Tips or resource cheat sheet
  • White papers and/or case studies
  • Webinars
  • Free sample codes
  • Quizzes or a self-assessments
  • Coupons

How do you create good lead magnet content?

  • Make it easily consumable: Lead magnets are only effective when the audience uses them, so if you deliver a 300-page manifesto, you won’t gain traction
  • Make it actionable: Lead magnets need to provide an actionable tool, skillset, or useful information that your audience can apply
  • Make sure it provides value: People continue to buy products and services if they work well. Your lead magnet will become successful if it’s as valuable as your products and services
  • Make sure it’s relevant: If you’ve done your homework about your prospects, you’ll have no trouble coming up with a lead magnet subject that solves problems

We’ve written an “Email Marketing Beginner’s Guide” to help you get started.

PPC

When you should start: Immediately

Stages: Awareness, Engagement, Conversion

Yes, paid media is a limited option right now. However, there are ways you can advertise. One of them is using FieldTest for display advertising.

What is display advertising?

With display advertising, you promote a product or service using images and videos on publisher websites like Google Display Network and Facebook. These ads are placed on relevant third-party sites in banner, image, and text ads.

When it comes to CBD display advertising, we prefer to use FieldTest to help create ads.

Using FieldTest for display advertising

FieldTest is an advertising platform where you can build and publish display ads, monitor their performance, create A/B tests, and segment your audience.

What is native advertising?

Native ads are most often used in social media feeds or as website recommended content. Native ads don’t really look like ads: they match the editorial flow of the page they’re on. With this type of advertising, the reader is exposed to the promotion without the content being overpowering like other ad types.

Native ads from theroot.com

How can I use native advertising to promote my CBD products?

The first step is to choose a platform to use for your native advertising. We suggest using one of the following:

Taboola

CBD isn’t explicitly restricted on Taboola, but we suggest you follow the “Medicines and Supplements” section of their “Restricted Content, Products, and Services” guidelines.

Outbrain

Outbrain allows the promotion of CBD products as long as THC levels fall within legal levels.

Mantis

Mantis is a smaller advertising platform compared to Taboola and Outbrain, but it’s a great alternative because it boasts direct integrations with cannabis-related publishers, including:

  • MedicalJane
  • Leafly
  • Wikileaf
  • Marijuana Business Daily

They also have “Cannabis & Hemp” as an advertising category on their platform, so you know they cater to the industry:

CBD is burgeoning on an explosion in popularity and legality. It may take a while before more marketers, and paid advertising channels, open up to the idea of handling CBD accounts. Using some of the above tactics you can handle some of the marketing on your own. As you scale, however, you may find that you’ll need an agency to help you develop new strategies. Make sure any agency you speak to knows the restrictions on CBD products and can maximize your marketing budget.