The cannabis and CBD markets are some of the fastest growing sectors in North America.
But explosive growth can sometimes create more problems for the businesses that ride the growth wave—and the cannabis industry is feeling these growth pains.
The ever-changing landscape of regulation and legislation opens up new opportunities on an almost monthly basis, and provides new avenues for content marketers to help their brands and clients stand apart from the crowd.
And while this means a continually expanding frontier of opportunities for marketers, it also means there’s a very fluid landscape of new information and regulations to comply with. Especially when it comes to content.
The result is an often messy picture of the true barriers to creating solid, actionable content for the cannabis industry.
In light of this, the Verblio team consulted our network of cannabis and CBD experts about the daily challenges of content creation for this niche. The response helped provide insightful, actionable tips for anyone looking to find or create top-notch cannabis and CBD content in the coming years.
Reliable Experts With Industry Knowledge
First off, we want to make abundantly clear that the tips in this post were gleaned from experts on the front lines of the industry. These are the people who have seen the drastic change within the sector and live to tell the tale.
With that in mind, here are some of their insights—straight from the sources themselves:
1. Writers don’t understand regulations.
“One of the most challenging aspects of running content marketing for a CBD brand is finding content writers that are knowledgeable in the space and understand regulations.
As most everyone knows, you cannot make health claims despite customers who leave raving reviews about how the products have helped them.”
2. Many writers have no real experience or knowledge in the industry.
“My biggest issue is that the writers have no experience in the industry and don’t understand how to speak about the products. They think that just because they’ve smoked a joint before, they know everything about cannabis. It’s a more complex topic than people think and readers can pick out a phony in seconds. I guess what I’m trying to say is it’s hard to find writers who are genuinely involved and experienced in the cannabis industry.”
“Our biggest issues with getting content created is that there simply are not enough qualified experts, and outsourcing firms just want to make money off taking your business and creating a recycled keyword stuffed piece. The cannabis and CBD space is very niche.
For example, we sell cannabis vaporizers, which are primarily used for loose-leaf flower cannabis. When we have hired firms before, all they do is find an article from someone else, rewrite it, and half the time we will get back a recycled article with pictures that don’t even match what the article is about. They don’t know the products enough to create good content on it.
We have found the best content—which gets rewarded by Google—is original from us, in-house, when we stumble upon a cool hack or notice a certain trend with the vaporizers we sell.”
3. Cannabis writers don’t nail the brand voice.
“We’ve found it incredibly challenging to find a writer who can walk the line between providing solid, factually correct information and capture brand voice at the same time. The CBD and cannabis spaces are both full of low quality content.
We’ve found that to be successful, content has to be genuinely researched, written to solve a problem or question, and created by someone who understands the space. If the content comes from someone chasing a word count or keyword usage it gets lost in the sea of existing content.”
Todd Skezas—CEO, Vapor Authority
4. Cost-to-value ratios are unpredictable.
“When it comes to outsourcing cannabis-related content, balancing experience, writing ability, professionalism, and price can be tricky. We’ve found several writers who are dependable, capable writers who charge reasonably, but most of them lack substantial hands-on experience with cannabis.
When it comes to writers who do have hands-on experience with cannabis, you can generally either pick a flaky writer who charges reasonably or a dependable writer who charges a high premium, since the market is so hot right now. Separating our lifestyle and supplementary content from content that requires hands-on experience with cannabis has been the best option so far.”
5. Traditional marketing methods are full of friction for the industry.
“Creating content in the cannabis industry can be challenging. Over the last five years of creating software solutions for the California cannabis industry, we’ve had multiple Instagram accounts shut down, YouTube videos deleted, and other social posts removed, which has forced us to get creative with how we communicate who we are and the value we bring to the industry.
Because traditional content marketing is not always a reliable way of sharing our brand story, we’ve focused on driving awareness by creating our own industry events and gatherings to build community and goodwill, and disseminate information by word of mouth.”
6. The industry as a whole lacks clout.
“There’s one primary issue I’ve encountered while working on their websites (as a content creator and SEO consultant). That issue is establishing authority.Most of my clients are CBD enthusiasts rather than hemp producers or health experts. This presents a problem when it comes to being taken seriously by customers and other webmasters on industry-relevant websites.
From my experience, outlets don’t want to quote someone who runs a small online CBD retailer, or even publish their content because they lack the requisite authority. Authority is a challenging thing to cultivate online, and since most of my clients don’t have the credentials or brand recognition needed to be taken seriously as authorities on the health benefits, production, or even legality of cannabidiol, they struggle to connect with users and other members of the industry.
Simply put: Writing content that users believe in and engage with poses the biggest challenge of all, because the authority is just not there yet. Part of why we write content is to establish industry authority though, so it will (to a large extent) come in time.”
7. The target market is hard to pin down.
“One of the biggest difficulties I’ve encountered in the cannabis industry is finding a target audience and creating content accordingly.
On one hand, a large portion of the cannabis-related content and search trends are tied to recreational marijuana culture. Conversely, the majority of the remaining content tends to be more business-oriented. As a company with CBD and hemp-based personal care products, our niche is categorically small and falls somewhere in the middle of the health/wellness and cannabis industries. As a result, creating content that matches our niche audience can be difficult to determine and maintain.
Even if we successfully create content targeting keywords for both industries separately, we would then still fall short of a consistent brand image.”
Samuel Meyers—CMO, Glacier Wellness
8. Depth, accuracy, and legality slow content down.
“Finding writers that are well versed in the space. Since the use of cannabis is strictly prohibited in many areas of the country/world, finding knowledgeable writers that also have insight on using cannabis can be quite challenging. Even if a writer does have personal knowledge, they may not be open to sharing it as a part of their writings which can leave a piece with lackluster dimension and depth.
Creating content around legal matters/areas. This is another challenging aspect as the laws change very very often. This makes writing authoritative content pieces difficult to manage as many revisions are needed after a piece has been published.
Identifying topics that appeal to both the medical and recreational users. On a blog like PlantsBeforePills.com, we have readers that are one or the other, and sometimes both. The topics for each side can be quite polarized so writing in a way that benefits both parties equally can be difficult at times.”
9. The current focus is too transactional.
“The biggest struggle we are facing with the cannabis and CBD organizations we work with or want to work with, is them realizing, or trusting us when we tell them that the content needs to be educational and not self-promotional.
It needs to help the overall industry, and sometimes companies don’t get it. They want it to be all about “me, me, me” which doesn’t create the results they are looking for over time.
The other key challenge is realizing [content] is a long-term game. There are so many companies getting in this space and the ones who will win long-term are the ones who position themselves as reputable leaders in this space and want to help the whole industry. Education is vital right now as so many consumers don’t know the difference between CBD, TCH, hemp, etc., or find it overwhelming.
Lastly, companies need to do a better job of keeping the customers they have. So many are focused on generating leads and the initial sale but not doing a good job turning them into repeat, loyal customers who become advocates for the brand.”
10. The content can’t break the mold
As a new ecommerce startup, it is extremely hard to get the content we create to gain visibility in this competitive industry. We didn’t realize how hard it would be to reach our target audience online. Creating content that provides value so users will want to engage with, or share has been an uphill battle for us. With so much content already existing, separating ourselves from everyone else has been challenging.
Joanne Saffron – Founder, CBD to Wellness
What’s a brand to do?
With all of the uncertainty and difficulty in creating high-quality, actionable content, what can brands in the cannabis and CBD industry do to make up the difference?
We have a few ideas.
First of all, don’t give up trying. It’s certainly not in the nature of the cannabis industry to give up—given that they’re on the forefront of bringing back a substance the government banned almost 90 years ago.
But secondly, it’s worth refining your parameters based on the insight above. You now know you need to look for experts within your niche who have experience—not just as a writers—but as content marketers. They need to be able to speak to the product, regulations, your brand, and your customer.
Then on top of all that, they have to be flexible, reliable, and affordable.
Tall order? Maybe—but it’s worth it in the long run, and Verblio gets that. It’s why we’ve spent countless hours amassing what we feel is the best pool of cannabis and CBD writers in the world. Read on and see for yourself!