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In the latest episode of Call Me Cannabinoids, Pete sat down with Jonathan Solomon of Proleve to talk about growing a CBD company to eight figures without online marketing, the factors that make an exceptional CBD brand, and the power of word-of-mouth.

Jonathan, who has been working as a product developer for a decade, entered the cannabis industry two years ago. At that time, CBD wasn’t mainstream, and the laws around it fell into gray areas.

Jonathan and his team looked into the legalities of CBD and jumped into the industry, creating organic, U.S.-grown and sourced products. The Proleve team wanted to create good, clean CBD products that looked great from a branding perspective, but were also reasonably priced.

Proleve’s first products were disposable vapes and gummies. Since then, the company also offers tinctures at varying dosages, topicals, other self-care products, and private-labeling products for custom formulations. They’re even launching an ice cream in the near future.

Growing Proleve to 8 figures through word-of-mouth marketing

Since the company’s inception two years ago, Proleve has relied mainly on word-of-mouth marketing. They sold products at farmers markets and through e-commerce, but didn’t jump headfirst into a content marketing model.

Instead, they relied on customers spreading the word and focused on getting product reviews from reputable third-party reviewers in the industry.

“We’ve done a little bit of affiliate marketing, but I would really contribute our success to word of mouth,” Jonathan says.

“If you had ever asked me to launch a brand, and said you can break a million dollars with no marketing, I would’ve said you’re crazy. So we’re definitely surprised, but we’re happy about it. But we also know that we can’t keep up with like that.”

Proleve is planning to launch a content marketing campaign this fall.

Facing post-Farm Bill cannabis industry challenges

Since the 2018 Farm Bill passed last December, CBD companies have received much-needed guidance on selling their products. But companies in the cannabis industry continue to face a plethora of challenges, from regulations to finding a reliable payment processor.

“There’s still a lot more change that needs to be made from a banking perspective,” Jonathan says. “In every state, mostly, people [in the industry] are having problems finding banks to take their money, or finding credit card processors. The banks are making it difficult for people to make successful financial transactions.”

Jonathan hopes the cannabis industry’s banking issues will be resolved by the end of the year.

Jonathan’s advice for entrepreneurs and companies entering the CBD industry

To succeed in the cannabis industry, Jonathan recommends starting with quality, clean ingredients, no fillers, US-grown hemp, and third-party lab tests.

“Go out there with good, quality branding and don’t feel worried about launching something small, getting some feedback, and then going back to the drawing board.

“We’ve gone through numerous branding iterations. And we’re still making changes to our branding all the time,” he says.

“Start small, sell out, and buy more. But also get out there, start talking to forums, connect to review sites, and talk to your friends and family. Share the product and never discount the word-of-mouth factor.”

Starting with one core product offering at a competitive price, then growing from there, could also help new CBD companies get a foothold in the industry. Believing in the product and the brand are critical parts of the process, too.

Jonathan says a company’s core starting product largely depends on where it’s being marketed, and who it’s being marketed to. Then, the brand can expand and add new offerings as it grows.

Ultimately, companies must laser-focus on the ingredients their products contain.

“What you want to focus on is what’s in the products, ingredients, where the CBD comes from, and the third-party labs–those are the major things to look for, whether you’re looking to buy or carry a CBD product. Those things are going to stand out and help you the most.”