January 18, 2021
Disclaimer: this article is researched and fact checked solely by the author. While Goodbits did not contribute to the content, we do hope that the information helps you market your emails in this particular industry that often updates it's regulations. If you feel any of the information is inaccurate or has changed please reach out to us for updates.
Email may seem as an attractive channel to market CBD products, and in many ways it is, but if you think you can avoid the scrutiny more ‘public’ marketing channels like Facebook Ads and SEO get, you’ll be in for a surprise. Even if you think no one is looking, it’s highly important to play by the rules. One report to the FTC or FDA can lead to warnings and even worse, lawsuits and prosecutions.
Today you’re going to learn the most important pitfalls to avoid when email marketing CBD products, but first let’s understand why CBD products are susceptible to be marketed in a way that can get the marketer in legal trouble.
Ever since hemp got federally legalized in the U.S. with the 2018 Farm Bill, CBD companies have been popping up left and right.
CBD products have gotten immensely popular in the past few years. This is because various studies and countless anecdotal reports indicate that CBD is associated with several health benefits like:
But what we have no evidence of is that CBD can cure or treat any medical conditions. Clinical studies that looked at the medical effects of commercial CBD products are currently non-existent.
But this didn’t stop companies and their affiliates from marketing CBD products as ‘cures’ and ‘medical products’ that could cure pain, anxiety and sleep problems.
In fact, it went so far that since 2018, the FDA issued 26 official warnings to CBD companies that made medical claims.
And while making these types of medical claims may seem like a good idea, from a conversion-standpoint:
“buy my product, and get rid of your chronic pain” probably converts better than “buy my product and you may experience pain relief”, after all…
From a legal and long-term business-perspective, there are countless examples where the marketing of products in a deceitful way has led to massive legal and financial troubles.
Marketing commercially produced and sold CBD products as medical products can lead to fines and even consumer class suits similar to what happened to Charlotte’s Web.
Email marketing is infamous as a channel for spammy and deceitful marketers.
The main reason for this is that emails are hard to supervise. Unless the receiver reports a specific email to the FDA or FTC, the deceitful marketer will probably fly under the radar.
It’s also much harder to track who exactly is behind an email compared to a website or a public ad for example.
But don’t be fooled. If you reach enough potential customers, a single report may lead to a full-fledged investigation by regulatory authorities.
The first and most important thing to avoid when marketing CBD products is, with email or through any other marketing channel for that matter:
Never make any medical claims.
Let me explain.
While it’s legally acceptable to write that CBD products can have health benefits like:
it’s illegal to claim that CBD products can ‘cure’ or ‘treat’ medical conditions like chronic, pain anxiety, and/or insomnia.
It’s all about the difference in how exactly you word your statements.
Curing and treating implies that the consumer can get rid of his/her condition. If you read your email out loud and find that in any form you imply that the consumer of the product can cure, treat, or get rid of his/her condition, that’s a medical claim. And medical claims must be avoided at all costs when marketing CBD products with email.
Besides getting you in legal trouble, making claims like these is highly unethical because there’s no science to support these claims. For a product to achieve the status of medicine it needs to undergo various clinical trials that prove the efficacy and safety of the product.
While there are a few CBD-containing medical products, commercially produced and sold CBD products never underwent such clinical trials.
In addition to avoiding medical claims, IF you talk about any health benefits, it’s highly advisable to put a disclaimer at the bottom of your email stating that whatever you have written isn’t evaluated or approved by the FDA and doesn’t serve as medical advice.
An example of a disclaimer we use at Herbonaut when email marketing CBD products is:
“Although various studies have shown that CBD can have various health benefits, commercially sold CBD products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Always consult with your doctor/physician before starting to use any of these products, ESPECIALLY if you're already on medication. CBD products can potentially interact with many pharmaceutical drugs.”
Summary: After you’ve written an email, thoroughly check whether you’ve made any medical claims. Medical claims are statements that imply, either directly or indirectly, that the product can cure or treat a medical condition. Also, if you talk about any health benefits, make sure to put a disclaimer at the bottom of your email.
Disclaimer: the information in this article isn’t intended as legal advice, always consult with your attorney regarding legal matters.
Whether you’re using email to market your own CBD products or those of someone else as (as an affiliate), it’s important to know what exact compounds and ingredients are inside the product, and also in what concentrations.
Various studies have shown that commercially sold CBD products are often mislabeled.
Some of them contain:
If you’re marketing a CBD product that contains no CBD, you’re guilty of deceitful marketing.
If you’re marketing a CBD product, that contains more than 0.3% THC, you’re marketing an illegal product and you risk criminal prosecution.
If you’re marketing a product that contains illegal synthetic cannabinoids, you risk criminal prosecution.
It doesn’t matter that you only sent out a ‘few’ emails, or didn’t know what was going on with the product. If in your email you promote a product that contains more than 0.3% THC, knowingly or not, you risk criminal prosecution.
As an email marketer, particularly around a sensitive topic such as CBD, due diligence in the product quality and ingredients are an absolute requirement.
A lot of CBD affiliate marketers simply promote products with the highest payout structures and the best conversion rates.
But if you want to avoid promoting CBD products that contain little to no CBD, or federally illegal levels of THC, it’s extremely important that the products that you promote are third-party lab-tested and the reports are clear for everyone to see.
Inside these reports you can always find the THC and CBD concentrations.
Summary: Make sure that the CBD product you’re marketing with email is labeled correctly by checking the reports of independently conducted third-party lab-tests. If these reports don’t exist, find a different product because you risk marketing an illegal product.
Besides legal trouble, there are ‘deliverability’ issues associated with the marketing of CBD through email.
Your promotional CBD emails can easily end up in the spam folder.
All major email service providers like Gmail and Outlook have algorithms that give emails a spam-rating. If your email’s spam-rating is above a certain threshold, it will most likely end up in the receiver’s spam folder.
Part of this spam-detecting algorithm is based on the topic of the email. For example, if your email is about ‘making money’ your email will most likely end up in the spam folder, whether your intentions were good or not.
While CBD hasn’t received that status yet…
Based on the hyped status of CBD, it’s fairly certain that CBD is rated as a spammier email topic than ‘dog training,’ for example.
This means that you have to take additional measures to keep the ‘spam-rating’ of your emails low.
So what can you do to avoid your CBD email ending up in the spam folder?
First of all, it’s important that you understand your average open rates are going to have a big impact on whether your emails will end up in the spam folder or not.
Of course, it goes without saying, the higher the quality, the more engaging and genuine your emails are, the more your subscribers will be looking forward to reading your emails, the more often your list will open your emails, keeping your open rate high.
In practice, this means that you should build a true relationship with your subscribers. This means don’t always be promoting your CBD products, always offer some value as well. For example, talk about the most recent studies that looked at a particular effect of CBD. Or give your subscribers tips on the best ways to use a particular product.
But it’s also important to avoid clickbait subject lines. While clickbait subject lines may increase your initial open rates, if you don’t satisfy the expectations of the reader, your open rates will plummet in medium to long term.
Don’t use: “Get Rid of Your Pain With This Miracle Oil”
But use: “This Oil May Help Relieve Your Pain”
It sounds less catchy, less exciting, but not only are you avoiding legal trouble, but you’re setting expectations. You’re not baiting your subscribers with statements that will most probably never come true for them.
Additional actions I’ve found to increase the deliverability of my CBD emails are:
Summary: To increase the deliverability of your CBD emails, keep the general open rates of your emails high by building a true relationship with your subscribers and always offering them value in your emails, avoid clickbait subject lines, never use the word ‘guaranteed’ and try to avoid special characters like ‘!’ and ‘*’.
If you’re using an email marketing service provider like Aweber or Mailchimp, make sure that they accept CBD-related emails. Some email marketing service providers have blacklisted CBD.
I use Aweber, and never had any issues with delivery of CBD-related emails. But I know for a fact that SendInBlue, for example doesn’t accept CBD-related emails to go through their platform. And sometimes they don’t even let you know, and leave you wondering why the deliverability of your emails is so bad while you continue to pay for their services.
While marketing CBD products through email does come with its set of pitfalls that can get you in legal and financial trouble, if you play by the rules, email is a highly effective marketing channel.
The most important pitfalls to avoid are:
Winston Peki is a cannabis and CBD expert, he's the founder of Herbonaut.com, an informative website where you can find reviews of scientific articles about cannabis, CBD and CBD products.