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Getting your CBD brand off the ground

How to market a CBD brand and successfully sell CBD products

Even though the CBD industry is still relatively new, a number of patterns related to consumer behavior and brand activity have quickly emerged. The first thing we know about the industry is that it’s set to grow, and fast. Leading cannabis researchers, BDS Analytics and Arcview Market Research, project that the collective market for CBD sales in the U.S. will surpass $20 billion by 2024. The country is rife with emerging CBD brands, many hoping to establish simple, yet profitable, CBD product businesses online. The second thing we can be fairly sure about, is that consumer interest is also on the rise. According to The Global Web Index, two out of three U.S. internet users, new to the cannabis industry, have confirmed that they would be willing to try a CBD product; a phenomenally high number for such a green-fingered industry.

Despite the projections for growth and the confirmed increase in consumer interest, selling CBD products isn’t as easy as most brands want it to be. Creating a website, setting up an e-commerce channel, launching a few products, and investing in a little branding isn’t enough to secure regular and profitable CBD product sales. But, why?

Green Unicorn Farms co-founder and Cannaverse Solutions partner Robert Hising, breaks down the online business model for success in the CBD flower space.

Why is it so difficult to sell CBD products online?

There are, no doubt, a number of highly particular reasons, specific to each brand, that make it difficult to turn an online CBD business into a profitable sales venture, but there are two general issues that prevent the majority of CBD brands from increasing and then maintaining CBD product sales. The first is a lack of product differentiation. The second is a somewhat naive reliance on online marketing methods alone. The CBD industry has experienced exponential growth since the legalization of hemp at the end of 2018. There are more brands selling products infused with CBD than ever before, and more consumers willing to buy them, but product innovation hasn’t moved along at the same rate and few brands realize just how full-on their offline marketing efforts need to be to capture consumer interest.

A lack of product differentiation

Imagine a world in which all sports brands sold the same sneakers, made by the same white label company, but with a different brand name sewn into the stitching. Imagine a world in which all perfumes had the same musty aroma, but were packaged into slightly different-looking bottles. Imagine a world in which every single chocolate bar tasted just like all the others, despite being sealed in a uniquely-designed wrapper. Consumers want choice. Real choice between a range of truly different products. They want the chance to be able to select the product that they believe best suits their needs or preferences. If there’s nothing to distinguish one CBD topical from the fifty others that can be purchased on neighboring and competitor websites, then there’s no real reason for the consumer to choose one brand over another.

Far too many CBD brands invest in wholesale, white label, CBD product solutions. They haven’t recognized the value of working with an experienced CBD formulator or cultivation expert who can help craft an entirely new product that the brand can then claim as its own.

Sell online, with free shipping, and they will come… or perhaps not

But even if a brand spends time and money working with a CBD formulator and develops a unique product line with the potential to offer a consumer experience like no other, there’s still no guarantee that consumers will flock to the website and start making online purchases. The CBD industry isn’t ready for sales campaigns that rely 100% on online marketing methods, or the sole use of online commerce channels. The CBD industry requires a careful combination of online and offline marketing and sales strategies that educate the consumer and build brand affiliation over time. So, where does a CBD brand begin?

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    Physical sales location

    Whether you have a small kiosk, you rent a stand at the local market, you strike a deal to have your products stocked on the shelves of an existing store, or you run regular face-to-face sales events, giving potential customers the chance the buy from a physical location will help to increase sales and maybe encourage future online sales. The CBD industry is so very new that people who are interested in buying tend to have lots of very particular questions, which is why they may shy away from an online purchase, but be more than happy to buy after talking with someone at the POS.

    You can also wholesale your products to established retail stores around the country. Understanding keystone pricing, margins and markup is very important before going after retail stores. Be prepared to button up all of your in-store sales material and sales team. Wholesale can be highly lucrative if you have an experienced sales team or distribution partner who knows how to get and retain business.

    Cross-industry partnerships

    With more and more anecdotal evidence to suggest that CBD can help with a number of health concerns and ailments, it’s possible to get really creative when it comes to striking up business partnerships in other industries. The skincare, cosmetics, wellness, and fitness industries, are just a few of the more popular opportunities that have surfaced over the past year.

    Establishing viable sales channels

    The most exciting thing about the CBD industry is that brands aren’t limited to selling their products through licensed dispensaries. CBD products can be sold through any channels imaginable, which means offline sales techniques and locations can be as creative as they are well-targeted. A CBD spray used to calm a racing mind and relieve sore muscles, could be the perfect companion for those dedicated to yoga, dance, or various forms of meditation. It would make sense, in this case, to establish links with local yoga instructors, dance studios, and wellness centers. It might be possible to leave products at reception for purchase and to run a few educational sessions that teach regulars about the benefits from using your products.

    Curating a team of sales reps

    Let’s imagine you establish working relationships with 30 wellness centers in your area. It won’t be easy managing those relationships on your own. You’ll need a team of reps who can give the educational talks for you, or who can support you at local and national CBD events, connecting with anyone who visits your booth to explain the special differentiating qualities of your product line.

    Bringing offline and online together

    Once you’re fairly successful offline, you’ll be able to drive more sales online and increase your overall ROI. You can invite offline consumers to repeat-buy using simple discount codes, attached to your products at the point of sale, that can be cashed in when the consumer makes follow-up purchases online. You can use photographic and video material from your offline events to drive sales and increase brand awareness via social media and other forms of online advertising.

    You can offer taster packs of your products to social media influencers in the cannabis space, or in other industries that target the consumers you’re interested in connecting with, like the skincare industry, for example. In exchange for free products, these social media influencers can review your product and share that review with their large and influential fanbase. And while paid online advertising opportunities remain a gray area in the cannabis industry, and to some extent the hemp-derived CBD space too, organic online tactics can help CBD brands who have already established an offline consumer base, to drive traffic to their e-commerce site and encourage new and existing customers to buy online. Social media’s particularly good for branding, but SEO, keywords, blogging, and PR are all effective online marketing techniques that can really help to increase online sales and that many CBD brands aren’t exploring to their full potential.

    Get a free CBD eCommerce SEO guide

    Learn the basics to get your CBD eCommerce site ready for SEO success. Get our guide and beginners keyword research template.

      Where to start?

      It can be a little daunting when you’re completely on your own. If you need help, you’d like some industry-experienced advice, or you’d like us to take a look at your sales plan to see where you might be able to make improvements, just get in touch.


      Cannaverse Solutions is a cannabis and CBD specific branding & marketing agency with decades of experience in growing brands into industry icons. Our writers are experts in the field of cannabinoids, marketing, growth hacking and more. Contact us for a quote on your next venture!

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