Subscribe to Entrepreneur for $5

Marketing CBD Products Is Still Challenging, but It Doesn't Have to Be.

Some workarounds that really work.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

There’s a huge disconnect between the success of CBD as a cosmetic, health, and nutritional product, and its perception by the gatekeepers of online social media marketing. 

According to market analysis by Statista, the US Market for cannabidiol (CBD), one of the active ingredients in cannabis, is expected to reach $1.8 billion in 2022, a substantial increase from the half a billion-dollar profits reported in 2018.

A cursory online search reveals a plethora of products on sale including hemp oil, moisturizer, CBD-infused insoles, muscle rubs, hemp clothing, and umpteen cookbooks and health guides. The CBD bubble seems far from bursting either, with some projections indicating exponential market growth to 2024 and beyond.

But, to date, the FDA has only approved one medicinal-use CBD product (Epidiolex), and its approval guidance pages actively state “the FDA has not approved any other cannabis, cannabis-derived, or cannabidiol (CBD) products currently available on the market.”

The situation is further complicated by CBD being confused with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in cannabis that produces the “high” sought by recreational users.  Products synthesizing or containing THC are even more heavily censored than those containing only CBD.

This patchwork approach to the acceptability of CBD as a product or ingredient makes it exceptionally difficult to market. Both Facebook and Google will pull ads that mention CBD, cannabis, or even depict the famous five-pointed marijuana leaf. No doubt these social media giants’ qualms are due to the egalitarian nature of the web: They cannot readily control the impressions that these advertisements will garner, either demographically or geographically.

Given that cannabis is federally illegal (although permitted for recreational use within 19 states including California, New York, Massachusetts, and Illinois, and for medicinal use in all but 14), it’s perhaps unsurprising that the tech giants take a cautious approach to its advertising. But this leaves CBD product manufacturers with a thorny dilemma – how to achieve a breakthrough in an increasingly crowded marketplace.

But savvy marketers have found a couple of approaches that do work, including leveraging local SEO and content marketing.

These tips will assist you in developing an effective inbound marketing funnel that will help you reach a broad audience both physically and digitally for your CBD product.

Related: How Cannabis Brands Should Market to Gen Z and Millennials

Keep it local 

Google My Business (GMB) was launched in June 2014, with the aim of providing an easier interface for local businesses to “claim” their Google listings and optimize them, so that they appear in more local searches.  The approach makes a lot of sense for a brick-and-mortar business selling CBD products within a state that permits it.  In this way, Google can ensure local SEO for CBD works only within states where these products are legal.

Marketers can set up a GMB account for each outlet, ensuring customers find their way to their nearest store, and even providing direct integration with Google Maps.  Of course, this approach makes much less sense for online stores, where locality is of small consequence, but it can still be leveraged for statewide mail order businesses.


Create information driven SEO

A different approach, albeit necessarily hit and miss, is to produce online content offering tangible information and data to consumers.  Properly constructed and well-written content discussing new CBD trends or products may achieve SEO breakthrough by virtue of the value they present to readers, rather than constituting advertising content. 

SEO engines optimize content that follows the following guidelines:

  • It constitutes original content, without plagiarism, spinning (paraphrasing existing content) or word stuffing (using excessively longwinded sentences to pad out word count).
  • It is of sufficient length to contain valuable information (at least 300 words).
  • There are high-quality backlinks to useful resources.
  • The piece answers questions that users are asking, via search engines.
  • The content is well-written, without errors, broken links, or typos.
  • SEO keywords are not over-used, rendering the text unreadable.

Content marketing for SEO is a well-understood process.  At our agency Valux, as experienced marketers with CBD clients, we know that if we can secure links and citations, our clients’ copy will achieve visibility, despite search engine wariness.  Press releases, when labeled such, can be helpful in that newsworthy content doesn’t fall foul of algorithmic bans as frequently as explicit sales content.

In other words: don’t go wide, go deep.  For more on how to optimize SEO in a challenging marketing environment, check out this article.


Find better payment solutions

Another legacy of cannabinoids’ troubled legal history is that payment enablers can develop cold feet when they discover that vendors are selling CBD products. This can leave vendors high and dry with unpaid invoices and little legal recourse to obtain reimbursement.

Given the regulatory difficulties inherent in the CBD industry, some companies simply don’t want to be associated with it. Unfortunately, they sometimes come to this decision, when they already have substantial vendor uptake.  For CBD sellers, it’s hard to maintain a businesslike approach when you must frequently instruct your customers to change payment providers.

Fortunately, there are payment solutions for clever vendors, and these are increasing in number (market gaps produce market opportunities). Even Shopify, though it won’t directly process payments for CBD-containing products, has partnered with two third-party payment processors – Digipay and Pinwheel.

The online market will inevitably bow to both consumer pressure and financial incentives, and further regulation surrounding product labeling and marketing will help promote CBD as a respectable product. 

For the time being, CBD marketers must walk something of a tightrope as they promote a product fast becoming ubiquitous, one touted by influencers as varied as Joe Rogan, Montel Williams, and Michael J. Fox.

Savvy social media exposure, content marketing, and influencer marketing remain viable and highly lucrative options for companies wanting to obtain exposure in an ever-growing marketplace.