All right. I am in a bad state of mind.
That’s because I just came to know that in July, my sales team didn’t close any lead from LinkedIn Ads.
I am in a “bad” state only because in June they closed deals worth >$72,000 USD (Rs. 54 lakh)! Now you know where my expectations stand.
DISCLAIMER- I don’t claim to be an expert at LinkedIn Ads. I am a marketer who’s cracked the LinkedIn Ads code using some techniques (and of course there are and will be more working techniques which might be contrary to what I say).
I write as I talk so you might find this very casual and that’s how I like to keep it. Anyways I hate jargons.
Alright let’s get down to business. We are gonna talk about LinkedIn Ads on 3 aspects –
- What makes LinkedIn Ads special and who they are meant for (also who they’re not meant for more importantly)?
- How to ace them and not to f*** them up?
- Judging your ad performance.
Before we start: here’s the thing. “Whatever,” I tell, I tell it from my own hands-on experience. My personal successes & failures are the only testimonies for my opinion and nothing else.
This playbook is not based on industry best practises published in Forbes or WSJ – this is hardcore and brazen truth about LinkedIn Ads!
- What are LinkedIn Ads? (a.k.a. what makes them special?) And who are they meant for?
Starting with the 2nd question, LinkedIn Ads are for you only if:
- You are in B2B. (handful of B2C cases)
- Your ACV (or selling price in some cases) is at least $15,000 USD or more.
- You have an SDR/Inside-Sales/AE team that can reach out to the incoming leads ASAP.
- You are comfortable in investing an ad-budget of at least $2000-3000 USD for testing purposes (to gain statistical significance).
- You are okay with testing the platform for 3 months (the B2B closing cycle is anywhere between 3-12 months).
Every point mentioned above has to be true for LinkedIn Ads to make sense for you. Except a slight exception in Point A wherein I’ve seen Lead Gen. Ads on LinkedIn running for high-end real-estate projects, universities running ads for enrolments, financial advisors hunting for prospects, etc.
In all these cases, the CLTV is always above $15k. So imagine yourself as a marketer for a company which sells their products for more than $15k annually and they can invest $3k in testing LinkedIn Ads for 2-3 months.
You are game then my buoy!
Now coming to the 1st question, what makes LinkedIn Ads special? The answer is in three words : LASER FOCUSED TARGETING.
If you’re in B2B, it’s 100% likely that your buyers/decision makers/influencers are one of the 690M users on LinkedIn.
And there are multiple ways to target them:
- You can target through Job Titles
- You can target through their Seniority level (yrs. of exp.)
- There are global company categories to target as well
- You can target specific Company Sizes
This and Option C. is super important for companies who sell only to enterprises.
You can easily bucket the companies on the basis of their FTEs (which equates to enterprise or mid-market buckets in most cases)
If you ask me, LinkedIn Ads is the best B2B ABM platform out there. You can upload the list of companies or accounts that sales wants to get in touch with. LinkedIn tells you the match rate on the platform as well.
This hits the bullseye when it comes to strengthening the MQL>SQL ratio!
There are tonnes of other Audience attributes that you can target for such as:
Page Followers (warm audience),
Company Growth Rate (based on employee size) Educational Degree,
Field of Study,
Job Functions (ex. Finance, marketing, customer support, etc.),
Groups (again important from an interest-based targeting),
Member Interests and more.
For retargeting purposes, LinkedIn recently announced new audiences such as Lead Form views and Video views. This is insanely powerful from retargeting your cold and warm audiences.
Is it the perfect targeting arsenal when compared to Facebook? Probably not.
- If my sales asks me to target CFOs of SaaS companies in the SF area. I can do that.
- If my sales asks me to target marketing employees in FMCG companies in Mumbai, only those who possess more than 10yrs of experience. I can do that.
- If my sales asks me to get leads of HR heads (VP & above) of all the Fortune 500 companies in Western Europe. I can do that. I can even filter that by industries.
Can Facebook do the above? I don’t think so. Can Facebook target the above profiles with a 75% accuracy. NOT IN THIS LIFETIME.
WHAT I AM TRYING TO SAY IS – Professional B2B targeting on
is immaculate. And nothing can replace that as of now.
So if you want to fill your B2B funnel fast, get LinkedIn Ads rolling ASAP.
(2) Now let’s come to the 2nd aspect of this piece – Do’s and Don’ts of LinkedIn Ads. You can close your eyes and follow this template (until you want to burn money on LinkedIn Ads)
- Plan your campaign with the Sales team!
- They are the best resources to tell you which markets have what nature of business traction. They know exactly which offers to run where, who to target, who not to target, which words to use, what to communicate with the audience and so much more! You cannot understand a market better than a salesman who actually talks to customers and prospects. Don’t ignore this. Marketing and Sales have to work super closely to make sense of LinkedIn Ads.
- Institute a process to follow up with the leads AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. LinkedIn is an interest/demographic-based ad platform. People are not searching for products there. Hence if your sales team doesn’t call/email leads coming from LinkedIn within 5 mins – the leads won’t remember you. Period. If you can’t do this then don’t run LinkedIn Ads. LinkedIn Ads are too expensive to run nurturing campaigns on it.
- Have bi-monthly (you need 15 days for a campaign to get statistical data) sync ups with Sales to go over the lead quality. I cannot stress the importance of this step enough. It also helps you identify bottlenecks in the sales process if any.
- While starting and whenever making a change, test your campaigns for at least 4-5 days! LinkedIn’s algorithm is relatively slower to react to audience changes.
- There are multiple ad formats available. Start with Lead Gen. form ads first! Hands down the best performing ad format in LinkedIn. The user experience is as seamless as it can get. Especially in the Indian context you need to show quick results; you want to choose a format which gets money into the system ASAP! Because Indian CEOs be like –
- Get a LinkedIn rep. for your account. He/she will help you in fine tuning your campaigns and helping you understand how the algorithms work.
- Integrate LinkedIn with your CRM through Zapier, etc. from the start. Downloading leads from LinkedIn and passing them is a pain in the a**. You’ll be exhausted.
- Make specific ads for specific audiences. Work with your product marketing guy to understand the pain points of your prospects and frame your copy/creative on that. Use the words that your sales team uses in demos, not what you think are great. This makes a great difference!
- The best performing Ad Assets are SIA (Single Image Ads), Videos Ads and Carousel in priority. Do not try anything else while starting out! LinkedIn is still working on the new ad formats such as conversational ads and they’re still in BETA. Message ads are spammy AF and you pay for sending them but have no guarantee how many users will open them.
- Try running ads for solutions for which there is inherent demand in your target market! LinkedIn Ads is not a demand generation platform, it’s only a lead gen platform. For demand gen. there’s always LinkedIn, the network. One of the primary reasons for my success with LinkedIn Ads has been the fact that I have run ads for solutions which showcase a specific level of demand in the market. Again, only your sales team can tell you this!
- Do not turn on Audience Expansion on LinkedIn. The targeting available is very steep and accurate in the first place.
- Do not advertise on the LinkedIn Audience Network. You don’t want your $45k priced product to be advertised on Times of India. It just reduces the perceived value. Keep your users on LinkedIn and close them there!
- Don’t even think of starting LinkedIn Ads if your sales team cannot reach out to incoming leads ASAP (of course considering business hours).
- Do not turn off campaigns on weekends or in non-business hours. Especially during COVID, we are spending more and more time on LinkedIn. 75% of my latest deals have come from people whose leads came in the weekend and outside business hours!
- Don’t run ads in mature markets if you don’t have any brand awareness there. People are not going to entertain you. Developed markets such as the US, EU, Singapore etc. are harder to crack from LinkedIn Ads in comparison with markets such as APAC, MENA. Simply because people in developed markets expect you to be a decently popular name for them to give attention to you in the first place. A hack could be running a traffic campaign and a lead gen. campaign in parallel and that performs in some cases. In markets where there is 0 brand, you’ll have much more success with running intent-based ads such as in search engines.
- Do not ignore bidding mechanisms if your CTR is less than 0.8%. You would save a lot of money if you’re on Automated Bid (CPM in disguise) and not on CPC in such a case. This is a big enough topic in itself to have a blog about!
- Don’t start LinkedIn Ads without having a proper lead tracking mechanism in place. It’s best to prepare yourself fully as a marketer and not depend on the mercy of sales.
- Don’t measure your performance purely on CPL (can be anywhere between $20-$150 USD). Measure yourself on the lead quality. Trust me; when your sales team closes those expensive leads at $50k USD – the high you get is at another level!
(3) Finally, let’s talk about Performance. Your ads are performing well if you:
Note – The below stats hold true for Sponsored Content (in-feed Ads) and not Text Ads or Dynamic Ads which I anyways don’t recommend trying except in few cases such as event invites and hiring ads.
- CPC is between $8-12 USD (slightly more if the audience is small or competitive)
- CTR is >0.4% (anything above 0.8% is awesome!)
- Conversion Rate (B2B account wins) is more than 1.5% is really good!
- CPL can be anywhere between $15-$150 USD. Don’t worry about it. Worry about your lead quality. The deal value will take care of the high CPL, if the quality is good.
By following what I’ve told from the beginning, with a spend of $5,142 USD and a ROAS 14X my client was able to close deals worth $72,384 USD in a span of 2 months. And this was only for the Indian market. And this wasn’t for any HR or Sales demographic (which is easier to sell on LinkedIn!).
What I’ve learnt from running LinkedIn Ads for the last year is that:
- They are a pure goldmine of B2B leads, if you know how to tap them.
- Test for appropriate budgets and time; before ruling a judgement.
- Work with your sales and other leadership teams to extract the max RoI.
LinkedIn Ads are a marathon. Not sprints like Facebook. As is B2B selling.
Good luck and keep winning!
Being a growth marketer Rishabh bring in a revenue mindset to marketing function across SaaS ecosystems. His expertise over the last 5 years has built across Strategic/Performance/Field Marketing and Branding