LinkedIn Ads Playbook
How to Run B2B campaigns effectively on LinkedIn
LinkedIn Ads Playbook - How to run your first B2B campaigns on LinkedIn
I used to stay away from LinkedIn Ads like a high-cholesterol patient from bacon. Mostly it was because of the reputation - advertising on LinkedIn is disproportionately more expensive than other PPC channels and thus available to businesses with deep pockets.
I mean, you are literally paying about $10 per click. Are you kidding me?
If you’re a startup or a company with a limited budget you probably steer away from them in the beginning, or just quickly turn the whole LinkedIn campaign manager off after “accidentally spending” a couple of grands in a week.
But on the other hand, LinkedIn is a social media network where majority business-to-business decision makers and industry ballers are. It’s the fishing hole where you can fish for whales.
While I still agree that LinkedIn Ads aren’t for everyone, I’d go ahead and say this controversial line:LinkedIn Ads may just be the cheapest marketing channel for your clients. Click To Tweet
I’ve recently run a couple of Facebook campaigns for a AR/VR company where I work full time which turned out to be the best marketing channel for B2B leads.
One warning before moving out — this LinkedIn strategy is specifically for B2B companies where successful conversion results in five to six figure accounts and are heavily supported by sales development reps.
I’ll explain my setup, process and thinking behind the campaign so you can do something similar for your thingamajigs.
Table of Contents
Why LinkedIn Ads - Hypothesis and Qualification
Choosing the Strategy and Setting up the Experiment
Secret Sauce - LinkedIn Target Audiences
Your Lead Magnet and Format
Optimizing Your Campaigns
Mini LinkedIn FAQ
Why LinkedIn Ads - Hypothesis
The main reasons why LinkedIn made sense for a PPC channel is the fact that we were looking for B2B leads from particular companies.
While clicks and ads are and always will be extremely expensive, the one benefit that LinkedIn has overcomes that objection - narrow targeting. Beside standard location, interest, and demographics, with LinkedIn you can target by company name, job seniority or function, LinkedIn group membership and even skills. It’s marketers wet dream on how sniper-like you can go within your target audience selection.
Because we already knew who are target persona is, and in which industry they work, I had all the data I needed:
- Exact job titles
- Particular Industry (Chemical Manufacturing companies)
- Firmographic data (company size, revenue)
- Job seniority and most importantly
- Company names based on the current clients
Now, I haven’t done PPC ads on scale. My expertise lies in content marketing and growth marketing with various tactics but I also never worked with a company who had so much data in the CRM about the clients and deals. It’s an absolute pleasure to work with reliable information rather than just go out with assumptions.
Secondly, we were looking for B2B leads which means, if we can find our VIP decision makers and close them, this would justify spending money (and shorten the time) to acquire the right leads.
I have been using Google Ads and Facebook Ads to get those leads however, even though I was getting more leads on those two PPC channels, the quality of those was subpar. In the end once I took a look and examined in detail the quality, the LinkedIn leads brought in 90% qualified leads in terms of quality. Now since quality is more important (duhhhh) than the number of leads - you’d rather have three awesome b2b leads, than 300 shitty ones, LinkedIn was also the cheapest marketing channel. And by a landslide!
- Have clearly defined customer persona and their firmographic data
- Make sure you have detailed data.
- You are actually going for B2B leads. LinkedIn is THE social media channel for b2b marketers
Choosing the Strategy and Setting up the Experiment
Being a total virgin in LinkedIn advertising (ok, I’ve used it once before for a few days and got my ass kicked) and since I don’t like a feeling of being an idiot I did the one thing everyone should do (even if you’re an “expert”):
Find a credible source, case study, a person who is known for that particular channel/strategy and can offer best practices.
Luckily, I have been talking to Julian Shapiro and watching Demand Curve webinars to know they are legit. Demand Curve runs webinars every now and then, where they invite CMOs or experts on specific marketing channels to present and explain their strategy.
One of those webinars was the one about LinkedIn. This jolly ginger giant, AJ Wilcox (from B2Linked) explains his way of approaching LinkedIn PPC to hunt for those juicy leads. I’ve made tonnes of notes and already started salivating and cackling hysterically on how I will do this. After checking his other stuff on YouTube and google search I’ve decided to adopt his approach and customize it for our own case.
I’ll summarize the most important takeaways:
- Bid low
- Have the right offer - webinars
- Never ever check the “Enhanced CPC”
- Check the campaigns and adjust bids
- Run parallel audiences
Don’t worry I’ll go over them and have applied them but first things first.
I’ve set up some sort of a standard growth hacker’s experimentation document and put my requirements, ad campaign assets needs, target market and landing page requirements.
This was my first LinkedIn Ad Campaign which I later replicated by two more with the same great results. Sometimes you do get lucky.
By the way, if you want to get the my Experimentation Doc for LinkedIn Ads just drop your name and email below and I’ll send it to you:
TL;IDGAF about your doc?
- Write a hypothesis
- Set KPIs and expectations
- Set time interval
- Set requirements (display ads, text ad copy)
- Leave space for results and takeaways
LinkedIn Ad Platform Structure
The ad platform is pretty basic and it’s more or less the same as Google Ads, Facebook Ads one.
On top you have your Account (which is connected with your LinkedIn company page), Campaign Group (where you set up the campaign name), Campaign (where you set the length, audience targeting and daily budget), and Ad where you set up the type of the ad, creative and text ad copy.
Alright to get started with the LinkedIn campaign, open your ad account and sign in as the LinkedIn Campaign Manager and let’s show that on the road.
LinkedIn Insight and Website Demographics
Oh, one thing you should do right away when before you build your campaign, make sure you install the LinkedIn Insight Tag which will show you demographical data from website visits which is super interesting.
You can filter the traffic reports by most of the data filters which shows you what kind of people you are attracting to your website.
Hint: you can always retarget the juiciest C-level leads with other, cheaper marketing channels).
Secret Sauce - LinkedIn Target Audiences
As mentioned for the 26th time already, the power of LinkedIn lies in narrow targeting. AJ Wilcox from B2Linked recommends creating four different campaigns (one branch below your Campaign Group) with one creative.
In my experiment (and because I’m a nosy fella), I’ve added a fifth one, which served the best quality leads.
These campaigns should be segmented by targeting different audiences:
- Job Title
- Job function and seniority
- Skill and seniority
- Groups and seniority seniority
I’ve added some extra narrow fields on top of that to really put the number of audience down. In our target persona I knew the companies our all huge enterprises so I’ve made sure to filter companies by employee size and location for all four (and the special fifth) campaigns.
For your delight, I’ll show exactly how I set up the campaigns. Focus on what all the groups have in common.
Campaign 1 = Target by Group & Seniority
Since I’ve already extracted clients from our CRM I’ve looked at which LinkedIn groups our customers are members of. Use real persons for this research. On top of that I’ve narrowed it down with a job seniority filter.
Audience size was around 2,000.
Campaign 2 = Target by Job Title and Company Size
For this campaign group I’ve used job titles (again extracted and researched from actual customers) and company size. Target audience showed 80k souls which felt too many for me however, the price per click might be lower.
Campaign 3 = Target by Skills, Seniority and Company Size
Initially this should be filtered only by skills and seniority but since the audience number made me uneasy, I’ve added an additional company size filter to lower the number down to 100k.
Campaign 4 = Target by Job Function, Seniority and Company Size
This one was the broadest group where you just target by function (marketing, HR, operations, etc) seniority and company size. Audience forecast showed 300k.
The Wildcard Campaign 5 - Target by Company Name and Seniority
I got excited by this one. Chances you are running a campaign for a specific industrial niche like data analytics for crypto companies or cyber security for banks because your company already won an account in this sector.
And because it’s easier to close more companies in one narrow niche than looking for more of them, I’ve researched the biggest baller companies for that particular industry sector.
It’s usually lonely at the top in the winners circle (Pareto’s law, Laws of Marketing), so I quickly had a list of around dozen names of companies who are killing it in that particular niche.
I’ve added those companies in and filtered down by job seniority. So in this case I should have the right person, from the right company and from the right organizational hierarchy. I almost peed my knickers from excitement.
Your Ad Lead Magnet and Ad Format
Hint: Before being you go all “alright chief, I got this, lemme get out there with my ads”, I would ALWAYS check what kind of ads your competition or the company that is present on that particular channel runs.
Even though mostly b2b companies with boatloads of marketing budget advertise on LinkedIn, I bet they want to see good CPA (cost per acquisition) numbers and conversion rates. Now these mega rich companies can afford “brand awareness” campaigns where they are just putting their name out there, most specialized companies who served these whales cannot afford that. These smaller companies are unknown and NOBODY gives a hoot about what you’re called. And I’m pretty sure the stakeholders are looking for you just to bring revenue and/or clients.
Btw, if some random marketing agency offers you “increased brand awareness" or "increased social media engagement", this is what you do:
Hint: You can check what ads companies are running if you go to their company’s LinkedIn page and click on the Ads section in the sidebar. You’ll see not only the type of ads companies are running but also the current focus. Secondary hint - sometimes an UTM data in the browser shows even more information
There are several advertising campaign types you can run with LinkedIn but ¾ of them don’t make sense when you start out. Again, I must give credit to AJ Wilcox for explaining them why before I spent time on them.
Types of Ads
- Text Ads - these smaller little shits on the right-hand side where it’s so easy to ignore them. I have a feeling these are poor man’s LinkedIn ads.
- Video Ads - expensive and too “crowded” - too much going already and if you notice lately, LinkedIn is getting littered by industry experts running their own videos
- Lead Ads - they kind of make sense since you can use lead gen forms to capture new leads on a LinkedIn website already, but they are expensive and more importantly I would rather bring a lead to our website and retarget them with other contextual ads than convert them outside our website where I can’t capture them.
- Dynamic Ads - ads personalized to the
- Messaging Ads - don’t know about you, but I found the InMail messages too annoying and out of context unless of course you’re looking to hear from recruiters
- Job Ads - self-explanatory and irrelevant in our case
- Single Image Sponsored Content - a piece of content and an offer with a single image where your ad is pushed into the LinkedIn “wall”.
Out of all those four, the single image ads made the most sense.
As for the offer, I’ve never seen or heard of one ad that directly closed a client (hmm, maybe those Order Eastern European brides or Sugar Daddy marketplace would work) so there’s little to no use to go for purchase or a demo from the start.
What you should pick and essentially what I chose is a typical MOFU lead offer (learn about offers depending on the stage of the marketing channel in the content marketing playbook). For the client this was an invitation to a live highly-technical webinar.
Creating an Ad
I had the total budget (which was less than $1000 per week) and targeting options set up. It was time to create a contextual ad to capture leads with creative and low friction offers.
Unless you’re a well-known company which can advertise bottom-of-the-funnel offers based on recognizable products, direct conversions ads aren’t recommended.
The brand awareness or buying (cold) traffic on LinkedIn would also be reserved just for Middle Eastern sheikhs or those people who flush their toilets with Hennessy VSOP cognac which probably aren’t you.
The proper offer for LinkedIn is a low friction invitation for that high-quality lead you already know all about. This could be:
- A white paper around a particular problem
- Checklist of some sorts
- Workshop or a webinar about a complex process
In my case we had a technical webinar about a subject where there was a lot of hype but not a lot of proof.
The webinar we ran would clarify the reasoning, show the process under the hood, and offer tangible data about the finished results. Basically, a non-bullshit, valuable and practical live video content.
Creative Asset and Ad Copy
Don't complicate here. I’ve added the webinar title and a person wearing a VR headset to clarify what is going to be discussed during the webinar.
As per ad copy, I’ve focused on the takeaways from the webinar and multiple benefits.
The single image ad also allows a head title under the picture. This is where I’ve placed additional qualifications for LinkedIn users. The niche target was amplified. We don’t want to waste money for unqualified clicks amirite?
With that in check - we are ready to run the campaign.
Optimizing the campaigns
As soon as you finish the ad campaigns you’ll notice the absolutely ridiculous price tag per click. Depending on the current bidding competition LinkedIn is going to offer you a “recommended” bid per click. Don’t listen to them.
Also don’t check the auto-expand checkbox.
So when you start these campaigns, your job is to monitor them daily. What you’re looking for is the campaign with the best performance AND lead quality.
Now here’s the deal, and this is important — we are not looking for VOLUME but individual lead quality. If we take the data hat off for a second and put the common sense psychological beanie on for a moment, we can think about why this strategy makes sense.
The key personas, decision makers, directors, heck, maybe even C-level executives have limited time to read the news. They are not in Instagram liking and sharing memes. The source of information from their industry (especially manufacturing, chemical, and other “boring” b2b sectors) comes from:
- Internal teams and partnerships (usually enterprises will have innovation engineers)
- Conferences and offline events
- From a social media network that is designed to connect with other businesses (🤔 which one would that be...)
- Outreach cold calls from companies that pitch their ideas
Good guess? Well, I can guarantee you that’s the case. How do I know that? BECAUSE I CALL OUR CLIENTS AND ASKED THEM!
Mini-rant over. Ok, we started our horses and we’re monitoring their performance. And boy, this is fun.
Out of five campaigns, some of them will be better than others. By looking at the CRM daily for conversions you’re going to be able to see which campaigns are bringing the best leads and cheapest. It’s up to you to determine how much a proper lead is worth.
One of these campaigns are performing far better and one of those is better off dead? Cool! Kill the underperformers and pour more money on the high performers (by updating daily budget and price per click).
Since we are running the same ad copy and creative the campaigns results are comparable.
After spending $3,300 in about three weeks, we were able to generate 29 leads from which all apart from 2 were exactly who we were going for. This does mean we spend on average $122 for a qualified lead.
Does this sound a little too much compared to Google Ads and Facebook average CPA? Oh yeah definitely. I’ve run the campaigns on those two channels as well and gather more volume but the 90+% of those leads were unqualified.
In a weekly overview and post-mortem campaign retrospective we were able to identify LinkedIn as a superior channel for our b2b offer which we’re going to use as the main PPC channel for the next b2b campaign.
What Could I Have Done Better - or what you might like to try
- In a campaign where you target exact company names and their management, I’d love to test ads that mentions their biggest competitors or unique business challenge (i.e. “Learn how Ford, BMW, and Volkswagen reduced manage the entire teams with only one supervisor”)
- If you use something like Ad Espresso, you have an additional control on what time of the day you want your ads to appear. I believe you could decrease the CPA costs by showing the ads exactly when the managers are sipping their morning coffee (or post lunch scotch).
Mini LinkedIn FAQ
Are LinkedIn Ads Worth It?
For B2B purposes, they are absolutely worth it. But if you pay close attention to targeting the right audience, right offer, and lead quality, they might be the most effective and even “cheap” marketing channel.
Are LinkedIn Ads expensive?
Yes goshdarnit. Expensive as a caviar in a 5-star hotel.
How much do ads cost on LinkedIn?
Expect to pay at least $6-7 (minimum) per click. Experts (i’m not one of them) recommend dedicating at least $3,000 for observable results.
How do I promote my ad on LinkedIn?
I’d recommend running a single image campaign with four or five campaigns with different audience targeting. Lead with a MOFU-type offer like live webinar and check the conversions of leads and their quality daily.