MC: Hello! Good afternoon, Hugh. So today I am excited to be here and to ask you some important questions about media marketing as we all know it’s a very useful tool these days with crucial traffic being generated online and through social media platforms. You seemed like the perfect person to speak about this with.
HB: Thank you, I’m happy to be here.
MC: Getting started, what is your personal background in media marketing and specializing in this specific industry of SEO optimization?
HB: Yeah, so I’ve had a digital marketing agency since about 2013 and before that, I actually helped build out a bunch of other digital marketing agencies where we did a combination of search engine optimization which is organic traffic and organic marketing with content. As well as pay-per-click marketing which includes Google ads, display ads, remarketing, Facebook ads, Instagram ads, Bing ads.
MC: Okay so all online?
HB: Yes. And then I’ve also done a lot of brand management online too, with large reputations because many companies that grow really quickly a lot of times they don’t pay attention to what people are saying about them online especially if they have a sales organization and they’re making thousands of calls many companies don’t actually look at their reputation online especially if they’re selling over the phone or driving people to a website
MC: Right, and they don’t understand how detrimental that could be for a business.
HB: A lot of companies don’t realize that when people come to their website there’s a couple of questions they’re asking themselves. The first few are, ‘Can I trust this company?’ ‘Do they have a good impression?’ and ‘Are they somebody I would get my credit card to?’
And then the second question is, ‘What are other people saying about this company?’
So these days reviews have become really important and also social media has proved to either justify or avoid the company so someone’s going to make a buying decision and spend their money online, even though they need that product, they want to make sure that
- Are other people happy doing business with that company?
- Are they going to get what they pay for?
- Whether or not they’re going to feel good about making the decision to buy with the company or not.
Because if something should happen and they then want to return the product, or you know, they change their mind, they want to know that someone’s going to serve them with good customer service and things like that.
MC: Interesting. so that was your initial background with helping companies get on board with an online platform. And going further, how did the recent CBD business spark your interest and what has been your relevant experience with this niche industry?
HB: So right now, CBD is growing really fast- it was big a couple of years ago, but now it’s even bigger because a lot of large brands have jumped on and are actually putting CBD in a lot of their products. Whether that be water, vitamins, oil, toothpaste, hair shampoo, soap, I mean everywhere I go I see something with CBD and typically that $20 product now is a $50 product.
The reason why the CBD industry sparked my interest is for a couple of different reasons.
The first reason is the fact that CBD in cannabis has been legalized there’s a lot of people jumping on the bandwagon that want to make a lot of money in it- you know it’s almost like the modern-day Gold Rush. However, there are still rules and regulations and things that you need to follow when you’re marketing CBD.
In fact, we had a client that hired us for SEO and we saw the emotional rollercoaster that the client was going through. So, for example, they came on board and they couldn’t advertise because right now you can advertise for CBD products on Google AdWords are Facebook, so it’s either going to be word of mouth or you’ve got to do content marketing which includes SEO-which stands for Search Engine Optimization.
How you get ranked on Google is by not just the content but building backlinks and building a brand where people are going to actually refer people over to a channel. Some people are doing content not just through blogs, writing, and articles, but also on Instagram. Mediums like Instagram stories and connecting with other influencers is crucial.
MC: So my next question is, What are relevant keywords and why are they so important when growing a business?
HB: What a lot of people don’t realize is there certain keywords that are searched all the time on Google. And if you simply guess which one of those keywords would be the most significant one, you could be costing yourself a lot of money by steering a lot of content in the wrong direction.
For example, if I were to type in right now on Google “buy CBD” or “CBD products” then what we can do, is find out how many people every month are actually searching those products. From there, we can generate content that’s focused on those keywords. It’s got to be original and engaging content, and once we put in those keywords then we have to come up with some kind of plan on how we are going to create that content. A strategy to move forward with. So CBD products if we put it in right now, (I’m just looking at this software that actually informs on keywords), 17,200 people every month search for CBD products.
Now, just because you have CBD products doesn’t mean you’re going to come up in the first few pages for that. It’s a long list obviously for CBD products that you’re searching for. Again, 17,200 people searching every single month and that’s just on Google. If you search, “best CBD products” 7500 searches come up, and for “CBD products for pain” 1300 searches. If you look at this monthly volume of all these searches there are thousands of websites and articles.
MC: So there are certain pointed questions that you can utilize strategies to generate more traffic towards your individual business. And why is it that specifically CBD is an industry in which using SEO techniques is paramount? Can you tell us a little bit about the legality of CBD in America today and why companies in this industry are having to jump through so many hoops?
HB: Essentially, it’s legal in some places yet in other states it’s not legal so from a federal standpoint there are different rules and regulations around CBD. However, the internet has no borders so that’s why there are certain regulations that you have to follow. For example the client that we were doing marketing with had to make sure they weren’t making disclaimers and that’s just standard FDA compliance that you can’t make claims that something is going to cure something and so a lot of people when they throw up a CBD business and they create a Shopify or they create some kind of shopping cart many of them just put up all the products just right away.
Because of this, you have to follow certain guidelines- so you can’t make any claims, you also have to disclose the percentage of your CBD to THC level. Even through merchant services- we work with a merchant services provider that actually provides CBD Merchant accounts- you’ve got to have a business license, you’ve got to have a resaler’s account, you need to provide bank records, making you a legitamate business.
MC: So you could seriously stunt your business before consulting yourself or somebody who’s deeply involved in the industry who intimately understands the ins and outs. So tying all of this into SEO, can you reiterate and comment on why seeking advice or help from somebody in your position would benefit a company?
HB: Yeah, so a lot of times when people get involved in a business they come up with a good idea but then they need a strategic plan on how to actually get those clients. So, you know as I said before regarding SEO- there’s all these key words, for example “CBD oil” has over half-a-million searches a month and then for example, “CBD oil for dogs” because some people target pet owners. So first we have to develop a strategy and a plan around your niche demographic and what you’re going after and then we’ve got to write content.
One of the things that we do as a digital marketing company is we will actually give you ideas on how you can further develop and brand your company. So, for example I had somebody come to me (another CBD owner) and they asked, ‘Hey, how do I market my products besides SEO?’ and one of the things that we’ve been doing lately because it’s big with digital marketing is podcasts and and also audio interviews- supplying interviews and verbal commentary.
MC: You have to be open to innovative ideas and provide that for people that are looking for it.
HB: RIght. So for example, it’s not like you’re selling CBD all the time. So you could do a podcast with, lets just say, a celebrity mom. And she talks about how CBD is helping her child with some kind of ailment or something that’s currently happening- and she herself might have a following of five million people. So while you’re doing that interview and getting that person some content and spotlighting them, what happens is you tap into a whole additional Network.
For athletes, for example, you can interview professional athletes such as Lebron James- and he’s got a hundred million people following him- talking about you know, perhaps just sports. And maybe even some of the injuries that happened to him during his athletic career. See, you’re not directly talking about or even outwardly selling CBD but having that content up on an iTunes or a podcast is going to drive traffic to that podcast- that is sponsored by the CBD company.
MC: So that’s a great example of why, in the media marketing industry, your background can help people not just with the content writing and the direct marketing- but also how to grow their business and utilize different platforms. So when we talk about SEO another question I have on a very basic level, is when you say ‘we provide content’ or ‘we provide writing’ what exactly does that mean? How exactly do you get the content and what are the ideas that you’re coming up with. How are you generating these ideas?
HB: Yeah, so we come up with the baseline of the keywords that we’re going to target for the client and then we come up with certain titles that would be relative to the audiences that we’re trying to attract. For example, one of the writers that we have in our company actually helped start the cannabis company Med Men- which has huge social following- and he writes in cannabis and CBD editorials. So we might reach out to someone like that and say ‘Hey, can you write some content?’.
MC: Right, because there are specialists in a certain industries and you can utilize their expertise. And that way, you’re certain that your writers are giving as much as they can and that they’re qualified to comment on a variety of niche markets.
HB: Right. And then also making sure that it’s quality content and it’s not just a paragraph that were releasing. Typically we’re outputting six hundred to one thousand word articles. Maybe the articles are documenting for example, ‘Things To Look Out For In CBD’ or ‘Top 10 Things That You Should Consider When You’re Buying CBD’ actually frame the content and offer helpful information to people that are reading it. So these writers are not just writing the content, but then they’re sharing it on social media. We also share it on social bookmarking sites like Tumblr and then we build backlinks around those keywords with specific keywords so that now your company is coming up on Google. And a lot of people don’t understand that, but if you actually look at your Google analytics (whether it’s in your shopping account, or Shopify etc) you can actually see what site or google search brought them to your site or page. Where your sales came from. You can actually track that all back to your shopping cart so that at the end of the month or the end of the year you’ll have real idea of whats working and what isn’t. I mean if you’re building a brand or a company most people don’t want to do that just for 30 days they want to do it for years.
MC: Interesting. So the business has access to a detailed account of what is working verses what is not in terms of traffic sources- and from there, they can better understand where to direct marketing and where to pull back. Asking themselves ‘How can we pour money in the right direction instead of spending money on things that aren’t really serving us?’. It seems like a very cruicial aspect of any business.
HB: Analytics and tracking are super important. And most people in the CBD business that don’t track anything they just get into the industry blind- they’re excited and enthusiastic and really don’t know what any of this means.
MC: So going forward then, what are some of the cautionary steps that they can take, perhaps when developing their websites or their related social media that you would suggest? What are some key points on how can they can set themselves up for success? Ensuring that they are going in the right direction?
HB: One way is to look at your competitors and to see what they are doing. Everybody has their own vision, but you should do some research and see just how much money is your competitor spending on advertising, etc. You can do that with a lot of different software and metrics that we have for clients. We can see what people are ranking for, and maybe some of the sites that people like- that have a good user experience.
So that’s something I see often- when people have the shopping cart, they don’t realize that how they set up their website is going to determine it’s success. Is it going to cause a lot of people to abandon the shopping cart and leave the site entirely? So you need to look at metrics and you need to look at your user experience. Considerations such as:
- Is it simple, but not too stripped down?
- Does it translate on a computer and on a phone?
I would say about 70% of people are using their mobile phone over a desk top. So a site or shopping cart might look good on a desktop but then once it is smaller and on a phone, it could look totally different.
Another important ocnsideration, is to check whoever is doing their charges. And by that, I mean the merchant account service a company chooses. There are many restrictive regulations for those banks that are running the charges. Because cannabis is not legalized across-the-board, how can they allow these gray areas to function such as CBD monetarily?
MC: Right, thats a very important topic that I’m guessing most new business owners find out the hard way- when they get shut down or they’re payments become frozen. Hugh can you talk about that a little bit more?
HB: Yeah so most of the merchant services companies have certain regulations of what can be on your website and what cannot.
MC: And what would be an obvious merchant service, like a bank or?
HB: Yes, a bank or who you use to run your transactions. I have access to a merchant processing company where your people can get approved for a CBD account but these are higher-risk accounts so these businesses have to be careful when selecting the merchant processing company. Be careful that they’re not charging a super high percentage like 10 or 12%- and then you want to make sure that you’re actually following all the procedures of that company. Because what happens often is that people get into a merchant services company without having a relationship with the processer and then the service could sign you up the wrong way ultimately allowing for your shut down.
What I’ve seen over the last year is millions of accounts get shut down and then they’re freaking out because all of the charges are still coming in but the money is on hold. Maybe they have a lab, and over-head and might have to halt their online servies entirely because their accounts are frozen. So what I’ve seen happen, is a variation of things…
These businesses are used to getting you know, six figures a month in charges then now all of a sudden their bank account is on hold, they can’t access the money, their Merchant Services Company doesn’t want to release it to them because they feel that things aren’t the way that they were supposed to be, and they ultimately get that money locked up. It can greatly impact your business because you can’t pay your people, etc.
MC: And fron the cutomer’s perspective, I’m sure that reflects poorly on the service itself, and on the business. If you have problems with billing or transactional issues, that’s going to be a red flag right away.
HB: Oh, sure. Like I said, I’ve been some drama, where a company will get all set up, they’ll use PayPal and PayPal for instance, doesn’t take hemp or CBD at all. So the business will set up and run charges for a couple days and then try to transfer the money then they’ll try to sign up on a square accoun,t then change it again, they’ll try to sign up on a whole bunch of other accounts. It’s so much work and stress. There’s actually something out there right now called Green Box and they actually lost their Banks too- but Green Box was connected to crypto so there was like a go-between between crypto and actually taking CBD charges there was a work-around. That company actually lost their banks and so unfortunately, it could be months until they’re open again.
Ive actually seen a business, over the period of a couple of months literally remove and add CBD to their website like twenty different times. Because they thought they were going to sell it or they wanted to run a sale and they tried to run it for a couple days and then they’re their account gets shut down again and then they have to take it off and then they put it back on.
MC: So, how can they simplify and ease their banking and transactional experience?
HB: You have to make time to do things the right way, and I think there’s so many people that are trying to get into the industry they just do things without thinking. They don’t think someone’s going to catch them, or they’re just ignorant to what regulations they need to go through. And they should work with a merchant account that is actually going to have really great customer service and is going to inform them of the right things to do.
The other thing these businesses should do to besides having CBD is to have other products available to diversify income. Even though you can’t advertise on CBD, you can actually advertise certain products on Google shopping feeds and actually drive traffic to your website because you have other products. This is a great solution because people are still getting to your site, but it’s in a legal way. This way, the company begins to broaden the net that they cast.
There are also some other networks solutions- one of them is called OutBrain. And you can actually run content on different platforms and it’s not through Google’s Network. It’s a third-party. For instance, if you were reading an article on yoga then all of a sudden like a display ad would pop up on yoga on your products. You should definitely double check with the policies both with the shopping cart they are dealing with it because shopping carts like Shopify have their own regulations, the payment processors have regulations, even your labels have to be a certain way, have a business license.. Just make sure you’re doing things the right way and you’ll have a much better chance at success.
MC: So there’s clearly many hoops to jump through and awareness needed when setting out to run and uphold a successful business or any sort, but especially in the CBD industry. Aside from making sure these companies you work with are safe, I wanted to talk a little bit about how you can advise these businesses on setting themselves apart from their competition in such a vast and over-saturated market.
HB: Yeah, so I think as a CBD owner you hsve to ask yourself what do you want to make in revenue and always work backwards and this goes for really any business. I don’t think any business gets involved in their own business to just save money and get by. So if you want to make a million dollars in a year then you have to think about what percentage of that do you want to spend on marketing. So if that’s if that’s 5% you know that’s literally $50,000 a year you going to spend on marketing . And then coming up with a budget for marketing not based on how you feel or your emotions but you should definitely be putting some money into SEO. Sometimes people have multiple sites for multiple products to where they might run a certain niche on one website and a certain niche on the other. That can help you diversify and maybe you uncover some magic formula- like maybe one one website works better than the other.
MC: Right, and something that I’d like to discuss with you is optimizing marketing to get the best bang for your buck. Say you’ve been spending the majority of your budget on pay-per-click ads and you don’t really know if this method is generating a lot of income for you or not. Once you get in touch with a business like what you offer, where you specialize in SEO, that could be a huge catalyst in reorganizing and optimizing your marketing costs.
HB: Right, with SEO you’re owning your space- it’s like owning a home where with pay-per-click it’s like renting an apartment. What happens is, once the competition grows, it costs more to advertise. And with CBD you can’t advertise on Google ads anyways. If you have products that you’re marketing outside of CBD, that can help your business. A lot of the time, people search things that relate to the cannabis industry or the health and wellness industry. Perhaps besides CBD they want lavender oil and they want some other health products too- so if you’re going to spend that money online I think it’s a good idea to diversify and not just sell CBD but some additonal products that are within that niche. And that’s an example on how you can set yourself apart from your competition. Especially if your account gets shut down, or there becomes an issue wit the product, you haven’t pigeonholed yourself into one product.
Another way to set your business apart from others is your customer relations. Really nurture your customers. You know, a lot of times people come to us and they have a shopping cart and they have 10,000 accounts and people really purchasing from them but they’re not doing anything in terms of customer relations. No email marketing or holiday specials, or referral bonuses, etc. They just don’t know any better. They arent putting in the time and effort to communicate with their clients. Customer retention is huge in building a thriving business. It’s so necessary to stay in contact with your customers and understand that you’re building a business, not just a selling a single product one time but to sell products every month. Building that residual income is super important, so what a lot of people do besides email (because let’s face it, if Facebook shuts down or if Google shuts down you still have that email list.
MC: Exactly and considering things like incentives for for customers or clients, to tell their friends to get 20% off of your referrals and what have you. Do you recommend this kind of approach as well?
HB: Yes, and lot of companies set up will become an affiliate program or a brand ambassador program where if they send the link to one of their friends and somebody buys a product than they get a credit towards free products. Or a buy one get one fee deal. A lot of businesses don’t think about that until they see someone else doing it. Like on So having memberships, having recurring orders, having it be a benefit to the clients so like maybe if they do a recurring order they save 15% on the total product that they sign up for a monthly auto ship. Even things like running a contest or doing a give-away where you take a picture of their product and ‘whoever takes the best photo recieves $500 worth of product. And now you create this sort of magnifier on social media because the excitement over getting a free gift and then you’re creating some momentum with people sharing more information about your company.
MC: Due to the wealth of knowledge that you have on media marketing, on CBD, on data alaysis, on growing a business, there is obvious benefit in working with a marketing company like yours. My question is what can a business expect to spend or budget on SEO a month? A year?
HB: You know, it really depends on the goals you are going after. How that translates in dollars in revenue a year I think that you should decide where you want to be with sales and then spend like a good 5% to 10% on marketing. Which would combine a few different things working harmoneously. SEO is not just writing… it could be a audio podcast, it could be doing YouTube videos but in the competitive industry like CBD I think probably at the minimum you should be spending would be around $2,500 a month. And then again you know there’s people that are doing two or three for $500,000 a month in revenue on CBD so you should put money into Search Engine Optimization so you can actually own that space.
You should also be building a brand when it comes to social media and podcasts. I think it’s really popular right now- some of the companies that I’ve worked with before- they work with people that are in wellness, natropathy, spiritual healing, yoga or maybe they have a wellness studio or anything having to do with healthy lifestyle. And you can even do a content on some of the industry’s you’re trying to target. So if you’re trying to target people in the yoga industry interviewing somebody that has experience with yoga and then relate CBD into that. Or a family or a military veteran and they have PTSD and they’re taking CBD for example.
You know, there’s so many different niches that you could write about where you can interview and talk to people and put varied content out there and then tap into that audience so it’s almost…
You just never know like who is looking, as your customer. And they might not even know what they’re looking for until the stumble upon your blog or site or video.
Thats the thing when you own your own business (because you’re in it) you don’t see your business so our agency or another agency and get an outside opinion of someone that does marketing and doesn’t know anything about CBD because you can get a fresh perspective, fresh ideas, and maybe they could see some things that you don’t see because you’re so busy like either filling the bottles with CBD or shipping them out etc.
I think that’s the danger in a lot of businesses- whether you’re in the organic food business or you do merchant services or construction is that you probably know too much about your own industry. And what people need to keep in mind is that the people that come to your website they don’t know anything. They’re just like me, where they’re looking at it with fresh eyes so it’s important have someone look at it from a novel perspective because you could be so deeply in your business that you actually miss a lot of the opportunities that are out there.
MC: So how do you see your company, I Think An Idea, as a pioneer in the media marketing world? Do you have a certain strategies or customer relationship techniques that set you aside from other marketing companies out there today?
I see a lot of marketing companies tend to overuse a certain formula. They have A, B, and C that they do for a certain amount of money. The thing that makes I Think An Idea different is even though we’re getting paid for certain services we’re not going to hold back creative information for a client because we feel like giving them the value even though maybe they’re not paying for that. We give them extra ideas, for example we just took on a client a couple months ago and they appeal towards people remodeling their properties and things like that and last week I was on a call with their VP of sales and also their marketing director and we were talking about the process of their call flow because they’re doing ads and they’re doing organic SEO. And we want to make sure that the calls are being well-received, then they have a process because if we turn up the advertising- let’s just say we turn it from $10,000 up to $100,000 a month- if they don’t have a process, it doesn’t matter how good we are at marketing… it’s not going to work without some sort of process to actually handle the calls. It’s the same thing with the CBD business, if you get 200 bottles ordered in a day like, who’s going to ship them? How do you mark those filled? And how do you track it all?
So in response to your question, ‘what makes up different?’, yes a lot of times we try to connect people with relationships that we have that may be beneficial for them. The other thing we do is we come up with outside of the box creative marketing ideas that really make them stand out and gives the customer a massive amount of value for what they’re paying.
MC: Right. So you’re tailoring each campaign essentially to the individual client and not just coming up with an A through D list that is maybe too broad for most companies.
HB: Yeah, you know a lot of digital marketing companies sell you ‘package A for $500 and that includes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5’. It might not be working and so what we do to is we review with our clients what what’s working and what’s not. We don’t we don’t stay on the same path of it’s not working. What they were analyzing the metrics and obviously if you do something for 30 days you can’t get a whole lot of data. But as time goes on, we evolve the marketing strategy with the specific client in the specific vertical and sometimes in the verticals, things change. For instance, right now, there’s stuff going on with Airbnb and we have a couple clients that do rentals and if this Airbnb thing changes, then how do we market, and that’s where they’ve benefitted by using SEO because if they just completely relied on Airbnb if they wouldn’t have a business then.
MC: What you’re saying is that they need to be adaptable. And maintaining clients is someting that you talked about as well. So how can a business maintain their clients, and for someone who is interested in working with you, what can they expect from the process with you? Are you seeing people stick with your company for years or is it just a few months or what’s the retention?
HB: A lot of our clients, on average are with us for three to five years. Which is really unheard of in the industry. A lot of digital marketing agencies might keep someone for a year because they got locked into a contract, or I’ve seen a lot of digital marketing companies retain clients for between three and six months. They’re just not getting results.
So what it looks like when we onboard a new clien,t we ask them a lot of questions about their business and we have evaluate what they’re currently doing. What they’re doing that is working what they’re doing thats not working and then we come up with a strategy based on their competition. From there, we find out where they want to be when it comes to Google and traffic and then we come up with a content strategy plan and build backlinks. Then on top of that, we’ll sprinkle in what we call outreach, where we can reach out to different networks that could be beneficial to their business. For example, we had a client that did vacation rentals and we knew that there was this big event happening in Palm Desert in Indian Wells around Hits Horse Show where people come in for a couple months and they offer about a million-dollar prize for this horse show. And so thousands of people travel from around the United States, and they need a place to stay. So we reached out to the horse show and said ‘hey, would you do an email blast for us?’ and it cost you know, several thousand dollars but now we have our current clients. Like over the last five years we’ve had the same people now.
A lot of the time, the answers are right in front of you and people have big networks outside of Google you know that was an email blast but if you think about this from a strategic standpoint you know if you’re just new online and you want to reach a million people, one person is not going to do that in a month. So you need to think outside the box… you think ‘okay this group has a network of 20,000 people, this one has a network of 200,000 people’.
Also, making sure you reach the right audience too because you know there’s a lot of people out there that have, say, a million followers- but nobody’s going to buy what you’re offering because perhap theyre inherently not the right demographic. So it’s effective targeting. And then it’s knowing how to wrap that into the SEO stragety with the content to get in front of those people aside from any perhaps sponsored opportunity that you have.