How to Finesse FDA Regulations and Successfully Market Your CBD Business
Last December the Congress passed, and President Trump signed, the Hemp Farming Act, delighting the thousands of entrepreneurs who had started CBD businesses in anticipation of this moment. I mean, who wouldn’t be excited about being one of the first movers in what is projected to be a $22 billion dollar market? Let’s pump the breaks.
Even though hemp is now legal, advertising options for these businesses are limited. The two largest ad buying platforms -- Facebook and Google -- still do not allow CBD advertising, severely limiting the avenues that CBD entrepreneurs can use to capture a slice of that $22 billion pie.
It’s also important to consider FDA regulations in regard to CBD and hemp products right now. Despite legalization, the FDA does seriously regulate CBD products. For marketers, this becomes an issue. Today, websites, stores and some medical practices are selling CBD products with infinite claims of medical, spiritual and physical benefits. According to a lengthy statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, “this 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.”
This poses a major challenge to CBD business-owners and marketers. If you’re looking to start a CBD business, what are your options in regard to advertising and marketing? As a digital marketer by trade, this is what I think about first thing when I wake up and the moment before I fall asleep at night. After years of successfully scaling startup ecommerce businesses by experimenting with every marketing channel I can find, here are the best bets.
Search engine optimization
Getting onto the first page of Google’s search results for terms relating to cannabis is crucial because 75 percent of people never scroll past the first page. Achieving this requires a smart content strategy focused on relevant keywords to the CBD industry and getting other websites to link to yours. To accomplish this is easier said than done, but there are a lot of great guides that have greatly simplified the process.
Affiliate ad networks
This is another type of ad marketplace. The key difference here is that the ads are typically paid by commission whereas Facebook and Google are both pay per visitor (there are exceptions where the affiliate ad network is also pay per visitor). Simply use this service to gain more exposure by driving relevant traffic to your webpage. Depending on the ad network, you’ll want to make sure that the sites displaying your product are ones where you would expect to find an interested customer. You’ll be competing for space on various publisher sites, so you’ll want to make sure that you make your product seem like something that will sell quickly (more commission for the publisher) while also providing a market competitive bonus to the publisher.
Surprisingly enough, Amazon allows CBD and hemp oil products onto its marketplace. Starting to sell is simple and about as easy updating your dating profile. If you’ve got extra budget laying around, you can also pay to show up first on certain search terms, which will most definitely accelerate your growth.
Influencer marketing/brand partnerships.
While you can’t officially advertise CBD through Facebook’s ad platform, you can still post about it, which opens up the possibility for you to partner with brands or influencers who have a sizeable audience. To me, this is the modern day equivalent of going door-to-door. You have to pick and find the right influencers/brands (finding the right neighborhood) and email each of them individually (knock on their door.) Clearly this is a very time consuming process, but luckily there are services that make the discovery and outreach process a lot more efficient, saving you time and money.
Gather legitimate endorsements and never make medical claims.
Many people still correlate marijuana with "potheads" and this connection does not connote a sense of security and benefit. Since the FDA does not support claims made by CBD oil supplies, it is important to build trust and confidence in your audience. To do this, brands can tell their personal stories to normalize the product. In doing this, you’re not pretending to be some sort of expert in the medical field. CBD details, benefits, etc. are largely unknown to the general population, so in sharing some educational marketing, you also begin to build trust with potential clients.
Really understand CBD and the law.
As mentioned above, Congress passed a bill in December 2018 to make the hemp industry legal. This means that THC levels need to remain below the threshold of .3% (in any products: supplements, food, oils). However, CBD that is extracted from marijuana (instead of hemp) lands above .3% - making it federally illegal to sell. It’s crucial for business-owners to know their product and the law inside and out before even jumping into marketing. State-to-state regulations need to be adhered to, proper business incorporations / legalities, and an overarching knowledge of your product need to be prioritized in order to kickstart your CBD business.