What’s the secret to getting results from LinkedIn ads?
This week on The Inbound Success Podcast, LinkedIn advertising expert and Founder of B2Linked AJ Wilcox shares how he builds LinkedIn ad campaigns for his clients along with insights into the best way to integrate LinkedIn ads into your sales and marketing funnel.
As one of the world’s top LinkedIn advertising experts and the owner of an agency that spends millions of dollars on LinkedIn ads, AJ truly understands what it takes to see success on the platform.
Listen to the podcast to hear AJ’s advice on who should be using LinkedIn ads, how to set them up, and how much to spend.
Kathleen Booth (Host): Welcome back to The Inbound Success podcast. I’m your host, Kathleen Booth and this week, my guest is AJ Wilcox, who is a LinkedIn ads expert with B2Linked. Welcome, AJ.
AJ Wilcox (Guest): Thanks so much, Kathleen. Excited to be here.
AJ and I recording this episode
Kathleen: Yeah. I’m really excited to learn more about LinkedIn advertising from you. Before we dig into that, let’s start by having you tell our listeners a little bit more about yourself and your background and about B2Linked.
AJ: Sure thing. So, I’ve been in digital marketing for about the last 12 years. And I fell in love with LinkedIn ads about seven years ago, really just found success there that I didn’t think I ever would, and to the point of where the sales team would come up to me repeatedly every single month and say, “AJ, we’re fighting over your leads. Keep it up over here.”
So, after hearing that at a company taking that company to become LinkedIn’s largest-spending account, I finally said, “Okay, there’s something to be done here,” and went and started B2Linked. I’ve been doing that for about four years now. And we are essentially an ad agency that LinkedIn ads is all we do, so very highly specialized.
We get to run many of LinkedIn’s largest customers’, clients’ accounts, as well as many of the smallest and everything in between. And we’re official LinkedIn partners, which is pretty cool for a small team of four.
Kathleen: That’s awesome. It’s amazing, first of all, that you decided to get that specialized because I’ve certainly worked with lots of people who specialize in pay per click or social advertising, but I’ve never met anybody that only does LinkedIn. And I was particularly interested in having this conversation because one of the themes that has emerged from a lot of the other interviews I’ve had this year has been that LinkedIn seems to be undergoing this renaissance. And increasingly, the people that I interview have been mentioning it as one of their favorite places to stay up to date and to stay connected.
So, there’s something going on with LinkedIn in the last 12 months that really is generating a ton of buzz, and I’m really excited to figure out how from an ad standpoint people can tap more into that.
AJ: Awesome. Well, we can go super deep in there. I’ve definitely got my own theories.
Kathleen: Let’s start actually. Before we get into ads, let’s talk a little bit about just the state of LinkedIn today, where you see the platform, how you’ve observed people are using it, and even if you want to share, where you see it going, because I know I just got an email, I think it was this morning or yesterday, saying they’re changing the way groups are managed and the visibility of groups. So, there’s a lot happening, and I would love to get your take on it because you’re really close to the pulse of LinkedIn.
AJ: Great. Well, LinkedIn, if you would’ve asked me what it was in 2012, I would’ve told you that it was a resume site, a place you go every six months to upload your resume or whenever you’re actively looking for a job. And then in 2013, they came out with the user feed, the news feed. And that’s when they also came out with sponsored content ads, which were really exciting. It was just a great time to be a marketer back then. And then ever since the feed, they did things like understanding that when people were on LinkedIn, there wasn’t a whole lot going on inside the user feed. It was just kind of a ghost town.
So, they made decisions like, “Hey, okay, what can we do to fill this up? We can say, ‘So and so has a work anniversary. Congratulate them. And so and so has a new job.’ And then what about if someone hits Like, Comment, or Share on any of these posts that we then reshare that to their network?” So, what you have is while Facebook and Twitter are doing the most they can to suppress business content because there’s so much going on in people’s user feeds that its almost impossible to go viral. When you put something together that people want to hit Like, Comment, or Share on, LinkedIn is happy to share that with the networks of your network, which is fantastic.
So, what we see now are a lot of, it’s usually small-business owners, entrepreneurs who are out there testing things on LinkedIn, and they’re seeing things like, “When I post to Instagram, I get 15 likes. When I post to LinkedIn, I get a slew of comments and 200 likes, and it gets seen by 6,000 people. So, this is a place I want to spend more time.” And then of course when the thought leaders, pull out the quote marks here, when the thought leaders find a platform that they’re getting more and more out of it, of course they’re sharing it with their networks. And more and more people are just saying from a grassroots level, “Yes, LinkedIn is an exciting place to be right now.”
Kathleen: Yeah. I’ve really begun to witness that firsthand as I try to get the word about this podcast out there. And it’s just me. I don’t have a team of people that help me with this. So, with my limited bandwidth, I have to be really selective in the amount of effort I put into promoting the individual episodes.
But what I found has been getting the best traction is if I go onto LinkedIn and I share the episode, oftentimes even in a comment, but if I in my post, if I tag everybody who either was a guest or who my guest mentioned in the episode, and I love LinkedIn because you can tag those people whether you’re connected with them or not, that has been driving so much more engagement and interaction and new listeners because as you say, it’s not just those people that you mentioned that are seeing it, but it’s their networks, too. So, it’s a tremendous virality that you can tap into by doing that.
AJ: It’s a great strategy. And I would caution against … I see a lot of people out there who are tagging people just to get attention. They’re tagging Gary Vaynerchuk and stuff. That looks a little bit spammy, but I love your strategy. When you’re including the people who are mentioned on the podcast, of course they’re excited they got mentioned unless they’re a superstar that gets mentioned 30 times a day. That’s exciting. It’s great way of getting an email to their box saying, “Hey, by the way, you’ve been mentioned.” And of course it brings them into the platform.
Kathleen: Yeah. And for me, that’s oftentimes how I get my next guest is somebody says, “This is cool. I didn’t know about this podcast. Now I’m interested.” So, it’s worked really well. And I love LinkedIn. So, let’s rewind the clock a little bit with your situation. You mentioned that you were with a company where you did a tremendous amount of LinkedIn advertising. You became LinkedIn’s largest advertiser on the platform?
I’m not even sure I know where to start because it’s almost like I want to ask you what you did there to get great results, but based on the little that I know about LinkedIn advertising, I know that it’s changed a lot. So, I wonder if we shouldn’t start with today. What are you doing today that’s really driving results? And are there certain types of companies or industries or products or services that lend themselves better to LinkedIn advertising? Is it more B2B versus B2C or not? Maybe not.
So, I don’t even know where to start. I’ll just let you tell me.
AJ: Okay. I’ll start to ramble and then you just direct me anywhere you want. Yeah, there are definitely three different segments that we find to work really well on LinkedIn ads. So, if you fit in one of these segments, we should talk or you should be exploring because it absolutely makes sense. So, the number one here is if you’re in a business-to-business lead gen with a high customer lifetime value. So, the line in the sand we’ve drawn is if you’re gonna make $15,000 or more from a deal, LinkedIn makes sense 100% of the time.
So, that’s segment number one. That’s industry-agnostic. We’ve seen it work well in construction, we’ve seen it work sell in SaaS software, and everything in between. The second-
Kathleen: Now, why high customer lifetime value? Why is that an indicator?
AJ: This is a very, very simple answer. And it’s because LinkedIn ads are expensive. If you’re paying … Usually the average on LinkedIn is $6 to $9 per click, so if you’re paying $6 to $9 per click to get people into the top of your funnel, then you nurture those folks to get them out the back end. It’s usually actually pretty competitive with what you’d pay on Facebook. It might even be less to the deal. But your cost per initial lead is gonna be higher. And of course we’re an agency, so we need to show really good numbers up front and show that there’s progress happening so that we can convince the client to keep going and until we see bottom-of-the-funnel results, actual sales.
Kathleen: Okay. So, that was your first category. You said there were three, and I derailed you.
AJ: No worries. The second is in recruiting and hiring. If you show an ad to someone that says, “We’re interested in you. It looks like you have the right skill set. Do you want to apply for this job?” That’s usually an attractive enough offer to get someone to say, “Okay, yeah, I’ll bite.” And it brings costs way down when everyone wants to interact, and your conversion rates are super high. So, yeah, recruiting tends to work really well. The people who are taking best advantage of this are large tech companies who have to fill a ton of seats every year for their HR department for recruiting works really well. Also, recruiting staffing agencies tend to work well.
And then number three is higher education. If you’re in a Ph.D. or an MBA program looking to recruit new students, the targeting on LinkedIn around someone’s education is phenomenal. So, you can catch those people who have a bachelor’s but don’t yet have a more advanced degree in that area. And you can show them ads pitching your school.
Kathleen: Okay. Got it. So, I have a feeling most of the listeners that are gonna be on this podcast are gonna fall into that first segment, that B2B, high customer lifetime value transaction. Certainly the company that I work for falls into that category. So, if somebody’s listening and they think, “Okay, that sounds like me,” or, “That sounds like a client that I’m working with,” can you walk me through …
First of all, these companies have a lot of options. They can advertise on LinkedIn. They can advertise on Facebook. They can advertise on Instagram or Google. Where does LinkedIn fit within that mix? And are there times where it’s an either/or, like you should advertise on LinkedIn but not on one of those? Or is it just what slice of that pie should LinkedIn comprise?
AJ: Great. Yeah, let’s dissect this. So, I split all my channels, as many marketers and I’m sure you do, into two different types. You have the search channels and the social. In search, search is going to work really well if your product category is something that people actually search for. If people know that your product category exists and there’s some latent demand for it, you can put up search ads on Google Ads, on Bing and from a time-to-close standpoint, because those leads when they come, they come in hot, and someone is ready to do business with you immediately.
The big challenge that the sales teams will tell you when they start getting these leads is, “Hey, yeah, these leads are hot, but we’re talking to everyone from the CEO down to the janitor and everyone in between. We can’t qualify these folks.” So, that’s the big challenge with search channels is your leads are gonna be of lower quality. They may be ready to close quickly, the ones that are good, but lead quality’s gonna suffer.
Then you start looking at social channels, it’s exactly the opposite of that same coin. It’s you have zero control over where someone is in the buying process, but you get really good control over who they are professionally and their ability and propensity to buy. Facebook-
Kathleen: Now, I want to ask one clarifying question about that. So, you mentioned you don’t have control about where they are in the buying process, but is that true if you’re using a pixel on your site and retargeting someone who’s been … I mean can you have some degree of control if you, for example, know that somebody has come to your site and visited your pricing page? Could you then, does that give you a little bit more insight into what stage of the buying process they’re at? And can you use that to target your ads?
AJ: Yeah. It’s definitely a little bit kludgy on LinkedIn. You could definitely create an audience around someone because they’ve been to your pricing page or because they’ve spent at least 30 seconds on your site. You can do that kind of thing. But it’s not nearly as good as search, where you can say, “Hey, if someone types a short-tail keyword, I know they’re just investigating, and a long one that includes ‘buy,’ they’re ready to buy.”
Kathleen: Okay. That makes a lot of sense. Thank you.
AJ: Yeah. So, sorry, trying to remember where I was. Okay, so, then when you’re talking about social, you’ve got a couple options. You pretty much, in B2B, you have Facebook and LinkedIn. Facebook they took away our job title targeting about eight, nine months ago. And they kept promising they were gonna bring it back. I just read the other day that it should be coming back soon. But even with job title targeting on Facebook, there are so few people who actually put their professional information in.
So, imagine your audience is 100% of people. If only 4% of that audience has decided to put in their job title or the company they work at into their Facebook profile, then it means your scale’s always gonna be limited. But at least costs are low, so that’s great. So, I would recommend absolutely max out Facebook whenever you can. But it’s probably not gonna be very much money in spend before you really hit the limits of what your Facebook account is able to spend in most B2B cases.
Then you look at LinkedIn, who has 100% scale. I would imagine in white collar, you probably have access to 98% of the professionals who match your targeting criteria. They just have access to everyone. And of course you’ve gotta be willing to pay for it. $6 to $9 a click is probably two to six times more than you’d pay on Facebook. And a lot of times it’s comparable to what you’d pay on search with Google. But knowing that you have near infinite scale, when you really nail it, you can turn that knob up to 11 and go hard on that audience and really build a lead generation program.
Kathleen: Cool. So, what are some of the targeting parameters that you find to be most useful on LinkedIn?
AJ: This is my favorite question because their targeting is the reason why people are willing to pay what they do for LinkedIn ads. You can target by job title, by what department they sit in, by seniority, skills that they have listed on their profile, or even individual group names they’re members of. You can target by company name, the number of employees they have, company industry, education, demographics like where you’re located, time in the industry, all that kind of stuff. It just goes on and on and on. Amazing targeting. I’ve never really talked to anyone who gave me their B2B use case and I said, “We actually can’t target them on LinkedIn.” It’s very powerful.
Kathleen: Yeah. So, you identify that a company is a good target …
Kathleen: You identify that a company is a good target for LinkedIn advertising, you know the perimeters that you have to work with in terms of audience targeting and segmenting and beyond the out of the box targeting options from LinkedIn with job title and industry and even company name. I love that. I don’t know that people use that even enough.
There’s also then the options of retargeting and custom audiences. Can you talk a little bit about some of that? Like when you move out of LinkedIn, like predetermined set of demographic options for targeting, what are the other ways-
AJ: Yeah, so April of, I want to say 2017, they gave us the matched audiences which are very similar to Facebook’s custom audiences except we get one really big bonus. So it includes three different types of targeting. There’s number one, web retargeting, it’s that pixel on your site where you can see if someone hits this put them in an audience for me to re-target later.
Number two is also something we’re very used to on Facebook, it’s the email address upload. So you can take a list of email addresses, upload it, LinkedIn takes a look at every single one of those to see whose account that matches. You get a match rate, that match rate is often times between 30 to 50 percent depending on where you got that email address from. If you pull directly from your LinkedIn profile you’re going to have a hundred percent match because LinkedIn gave you those-
AJ: But those are two great features but the third one is the one I’m most excited about and this is their account based on marketing feature where you can upload a list of company names, up to 300 of them, and then either a target or exclude by that audience with any of the campaigns running in your account.
So, let’s say you wanted to go after the Fortune 500, you go and grab a list of the Fortune 500 companies, upload it in the LinkedIn and say, cool use this list, target just people who are in finance at that Fortune 500 or whatever you want to layer on top.
Kathleen: Yeah, now do you also have the ability to create lookalike audiences like you do on Facebook?
AJ: Not yet. I’m a LinkedIn partner so I have a little bit of a peek into the roadmap so I can’t say definitively so I don’t get myself in trouble but I would imagine something like that comes in the future.
Kathleen: I’ll just use that word yet as the tell-tell.
Kathleen: So let me know what that answer is. Love it, okay. So many options and so you determine who you’re going to target, you determine how you’re gonna set that list up, then I know, again from my limited experience doing LinkedIn advertising, there are different types of ads you can do in LinkedIn. Can you speak to when you might use a text ad versus a sponsored content versus when should you put video in?
I feel like there’s a lot of options there and I’ve been surprised in some cases. I know in our situation the guys that does our LinkedIn ads internally had us doing text ads and at first I was like, really? That just seems so old school but we got great results from it so I’m really curious to know what you see performing? Because I have a feeling I’m going to be surprised.
AJ: Great, so there are three different classes of ad that you can go, if you open up a LinkedIn ads account right now, that you’ll have access to from the get go. So, number one, you have text ads. They were the very first ad unit ever created on LinkedIn. They started in 2007 and so we’ll come back to them.
Then in 2013 they out with sponsored content and that’s what I call the halo ad unit. That’s what I recommend 95 percent of advertisers go to first and that has several variants that we’ll talk about and then third, we just got access to, it’s been probably a year and a half ago, but the newest ad unit called sponsored in mail and that’s where you can pay to send a message directly into someone’s LinkedIn inbox.
So pros and cons here, text ads, like you said, totally old school. They have such a low click through rate. I was listening to your episode with Peep Laja from CXL and he kind of made the joke about the click through rates on LinkedIn being point zero, zero, zero, zero for text ads. They are. They’re really, really low click through rate. It’s point zero, two, five percent. Click through rate is average, meaning two point five people out of every 10,000 impressions are going to click on that which is-
AJ: -crazy. But they’re also the cheapest ad unit and they are only visible from a desktop machine or laptop, not for mobile. So if you’re asking for a lot of information that someone might be reticent to give from their mobile device with just some tapping then this is by far the best ad unit for you. The kind of dirty little secret many of LinkedIn’s largest advertisers who are spending in the hundreds of thousands per month very much rely on text ads still. So it may feel old school but they are really well-performing.
Kathleen: So wait, what would be an example of such things that would be good candidates for text ads?
AJ: Text ads, you really just get a ton of impressions for free because you’re only gonna pay three to five dollars a click usually all the way down to two, two’s the minimum and because they’re shown so much to get people to click on them it’s a lot of just free impression volume. So a lot of people use it just for ground cover, getting their name out there with a desired audience but they’re also not constrained for where you are in the funnel. You can perform quite well with a very bottom of funnel offer that says something like, this is what we do, come talk to us versus if you said, here’s a free piece of content or a video, come watch it.
Both are going to perform quite similarly so a lot of people like it because you can really cut to the bottom of the funnel with a bigger ask that you can’t really get away with in most of social media ads.
Kathleen: Okay, yeah I think we’ve used it for promoting webinars which, when you do try to register for webinars, it’s a longer form than some other things so what you’re saying makes a lot of sense.
AJ: Oh, that’s perfect. And then you have sponsored content. This one, I call it my halo ad unit, it’s my favorite one. This appears right in your news feed. So if you open up the app right now or if you go to LinkedIn dot com on your computer you’ll notice the second item in your news feed will say promoted and it’ll be from a company you don’t currently follow. That comes in several variants.
You have the static ad, which is the majority of what our clients run but you also have the new variant, which is video, and for either of these two variants you can also add on lead generation forms, so you can skip your landing page and have someone that interacts with the ad, a drawer drops down and has the form right there and those usually have a little bit higher of a conversion rate. Lead quality tends to drop a little bit when you use them but if your cost per lead goes down there are a lot of our clients who are excited about that.
Kathleen: Yeah, if you’re using a marketing automation platform how does the information that LinkedIn is gathering through its own lead form- is there a way to drop it into your system?
AJ: There are. There are some limited ways to get it in there. So, if you use Eloqua, Marketo, LiveRamp, or Salesforce, it’s a fairly automatic connection on the backend to get it just to pipe into your existing system. If you’re not using one of those and I’m imagining HubSpot is because they’re an official LinkedIn partner, at some point are going to implement a connection there too. So HubSpot users hold your breath. But Zapier is basically 20 bucks a month.
Kathleen: Thank God for Zapier.
AJ: Agreed. But for 20 bucks a month you pretty much get a connection to send it and do whatever you want. Execute an email to me whenever we get a lead, throw it into a spreadsheet for the sales team to just process, you could do pretty much whatever you want with it.
Kathleen: Okay, great. So, do you see more companies using that built-in lead capture functionality on LinkedIn?
AJ: Yeah. There are some pretty significant downsides to using so I’ve always kind of poo-poo’d their use. We’ve had them for probably a year or more. Like for instance you’re gonna pay the same amount per click but that traffic is not hitting your website ever so you don’t get to put them into a retargeting audience so I feel like you lose some value there.
Also because they’re not hitting your website you don’t have UTM perimeters associated with that traffic and so Google analytics isn’t seeing anything that you’re spending on but on the other hand if you can make it work on the backend with getting the data into your system faster and if you’re getting a higher conversion rate a lot of times we’ll see conversion rates pop up 10 to 30 percent just for using this and skipping the landing page.
So if you can make it work, if it’s worth paying that premium and not having the traffic on your website to re-target I think there’s a good case to be made for it.
Kathleen: Yeah, that’s interesting because like i said we’ve used it a lot to drive webinar registrations and so I feel like there’s that trade off there. It’s like if what matters most is let’s just get the people registered then I can see the bump in conversion being something that’s completely worthwhile to accept- sorry to get in exchange for not getting the Google analytics, et cetera but if your goal is more longterm and having the analytics and being able to re-target and rolling these folks in different types of campaigns I could see where that would be a trade off that wouldn’t be worth making.
AJ: Yeah, and I hope at some point that LinkedIn rolls out event-based retargeting where you can say things like, if you’ve watched 25 percent of my video put them into this audience over here or if they’ve engaged and started to fill out one of these lead gen forms then put them into an audience and that would be cool but as for right now if they don’t hit your landing page LinkedIn can’t do anything with it.
Kathleen: Yeah, so that’s interesting because Facebook already has those features. Okay, and what about using video in ads? I mean, when is that a good idea and what impact does that have?
AJ: Video is very much the wild, wild West right now on LinkedIn and it’s because everyone who went and used it on Facebook or on YouTube ads had a ton of success and it was really inexpensive so I think LinkedIn kind of rushed into it and said, okay cool, we’re ready to follow suit here but then their pricing is default LinkedIn, they charged a lot for it.
So I’m used to paying one to two cents per three second view on Facebook and on LinkedIn it’s a minimum of six cents. So six to 14 cents is kind of the average that we see and so if you have a really high values customer, if the impression time is worth it for video, because video’s just so much better at creating a relationship faster, if that works for your audience absolutely test, test, top a final test, bottom, test middle with your video but just realize it’s probably gonna be several times more expensive than video you’re running on other channels.
Kathleen: Okay. So you just mentioned a word that has lead me to my next question, funnel. You’re working with clients, they usually have a goal, I’m assuming it’s around either lead gen or revenue depending upon the business model, when you develop an ad campaign for your clients are you building it out of the complete funnel? So do you have different strategies for top of the funnel versus middle versus bottom and how do you tie those together on LinkedIn?
AJ: Yeah, so building funnels on LinkedIn is really difficult because it’s kind of a collegiate platform that way. The reason why is retargeting on LinkedIn is pretty weak. Their retargeting offering, the cookie only lasts for 90 days so you’re paying six to nine dollars a click to get someone in and then that cookie pull just evaporates after 90 days. Facebook, that cookie lives for 180 and on Google it lives for 540 so it’s fairly limited that way.
It’s also only cookie based, not event based or not user based so when someone is on an IOS device like their iPad or iPhone they’re automatically not included in that audience. So you can see it’s kind of a weak offering and so because of that you can’t send someone to a page and count on 95 percent of the time that you’re going to be able to pass them the next offer.
So a lot of what we do for our clients is we say, we’re going to drive the most premium, most exact traffic from LinkedIn to your landing page and then we’re going to use your Facebook ads and other technologies to then categorize them and walk them down the funnel. So yeah the funnel is something-
Kathleen: Oh that’s really interesting, so.
AJ: We are cutely aware of the funnel but Google and Facebook just have much, much better retargeting.
Kathleen: I imagine that that’s something that LinkedIn’s gonna have to address in the coming year or so because obviously charging a premium and not providing that functionality is gonna become a problem. So am I correct to interpret what you just said as you’re primarily using LinkedIn for top of the funnel advertising and marketing? Is that accurate or…?
AJ: Depends on the use case. We have clients kind of all throughout there but here’s how I think about it. I think of the sales funnel, of having different calls to action, having a different level of inherent friction. So the very top you might send someone to a blog post or to look at an infographic and that’s very low friction. Anyone can do that if they are not happy with it they can just leave and at the bottom of that funnel you have talk to a high pressure sales rep or have a sales conversation or take a demo.
So what we’ve found is if you send someone to the very top, you’re sending them to a piece of content, you’re still going to pay that same premium, that six to nine dollars a click but because a blog post doesn’t have a strong call to action you’re going to have inherently a low conversion rate and so at some point you’re gonna have to report to someone and say, yes we paid a thousand dollars and we only got one trackable lead from it. That’s a hard case to make but you know you’re building a relationship so maybe you could make that that use case.
If you go to the bottom of that funnel where you’re at the most friction you put an ad out there that just says, here talk to us about this, this is what we do no one’s going to have any incentive to click on that ad because they’re on social, they’re not looking to do business with a vendor. So the majority of what we do is in between. It’s those lead generation assets like webinars, free in-person events, checklists, guides, cheat sheets, anything that someone’s willing to give their email address in exchange for.
So I consider that kind of middle of the funnel but others definition of funnel might change a little bit.
Kathleen: Well I’m fascinated by what you said about using LinkedIn as the first step and then- it sounds like what you-
Kathleen: The first step, and then it sounds like what you described was getting that person to click and convert on something, whether it be subscribing or registering for a webinar or what have you and then putting them into a custom audience that you can then use to further retarget on Facebook. That’s a really interesting connection between those two. From a cost standpoint I imagine that helps you control the spend quite a bit.
AJ: Yeah, if you’re just doing your funnels on LinkedIn, you’re going to pay six to $9 for that initial click to get them onto your landing page, and then half of your audience would be eligible to go into your retargeting audience where you’re going to get a discount and pay only around $4 per click. The retargeting on LinkedIn, it’s weak like that. With Google, you know that you’re able to show them ads, basically around the entire web for really inexpensive. That cookie is going to track them and live both on their desktop and mobile devices, you’ll be able to follow them everywhere. Then on Facebook you’ll be able to cover them anywhere they’re on social pretty much, which is all of Facebook and all of Instagram. Which is the majority of where people are spending their time. Of course you can absolutely layer your Facebook, your Google and your LinkedIn. I wouldn’t say don’t use LinkedIn’s retargeting, definitely do. Just realize it’s weak compared to the other ones. I would definitely suggest one or two or both of the other options to continue to stay in front of that traffic.
Kathleen: Now I’m going to ask something that might be a really dumb question, don’t laugh at me. If you’re doing that, if you’re using LinkedIn to get the initial lead and you want to retarget that lead on Facebook. Is the common thread that enables you to do that your email address or is it something else? What is the thing, the identifier if you will?
AJ: Not a dumb question at all Kathleen, this is great. My strategy tends to work best for just getting the traffic to your landing page and then let Facebook and Google’s retargeting start to nurture that traffic. You don’t have to get them to be a lead in at that point. However, if you do get that email address, absolutely upload that into Google, Facebook and LinkedIn for follow up targeting. You know you are going to have a lower match rate with email addresses, especially if they are work emails.
Kathleen: That’s why I asked that question, because I know everybody has got their work email address in LinkedIn unless they’re searching for a job, but Facebook it’s almost all personal addresses, so there’s a big difference in doing audience match. That’s the thing I think a lot of B to B companies struggle with is they want to do audience match advertising on Facebook, you can upload your whole list there, but the percentage of emails that match is going to be super low, what you’re saying makes a lot of sense. It’s a much better way to target it.
AJ: Yeah, Facebook is five to 15% match rates on work addresses, which is abysmal. At least LinkedIn has a good record of your log in email address, which is usually your personal and a lot of times they know your professional email as well as work colleagues invite you to connect.
Kathleen: Fascinating. Let’s talk about money now. That’s what everybody always wants to know about. The question that we always get being an agency, all the time people say, “How much should I spend? What’s the right budget?” I know that the answer is there is no one answer for LinkedIn. I would love to just get your take on what should my budget be?
AJ: The budget question is actually a really fun one because I do have a fairly concrete answer around it with LinkedIn.
AJ: What we’ve found through our spending of over $100 million of ads on the network. If someone spends less than about $3,000, at least during month one, a lot of the time they’ll say, “I’m not seeing a noticeable impact so LinkedIn ads must not be working and then we’ll get fired after month one, just because they didn’t perceive it as working. What I say is when you’re going into a LinkedIn ad situation, consider every first month as a pilot and say, “For this pilot we’re going to spend somewhere between about three and $5,000.”
Then it’s usually in that range that number one see the business impact, but number two and this is crucial, at the end of that much spend, your conversion rates, just two separate offers. By the end of month one if someone will spend in that range three to 5K, I can usually tell them, “Yes, this is working or no this is not working.” With certainty. We only do month to month charging for our clients because it’s a pilot. We want them to fire us at the end of the month if it’s not working. We just proved out the whole program for them.
Kathleen: Then following month one are you basing your spend recommendations on a cost per acquisition or are you saying or do your clients just say, “I have this budget.” And work with the budget?
AJ: For everyone it’s a little bit different, some have budgets they need to spend, some have an efficiency target. During month one what we’re usually doing is we’re testing out their audience versus their content. If it goes well, if their audience responds to their content well, then usually it’s a scale into month two. It’s a, “Great we spent 3,000 it worked, let’s up to 4,000, let’s up to 5,000. Let’s up to 10,000.” But what I don’t want anyone who’s listening to do is to jump right into the platform and say, “Hey my boss gave me 10 grand to test up the platform, so I’m going to that during month one.” You just know that during any new program you’re going to have some waste. I say keep it to three to five in month one. In month two you will have weeded out any of the inefficiencies and sure you can go full-bore.
Kathleen: How often do you jump back into the platform and check to see the progress on your ads, how often are you tweaking?
AJ: We’re in there every single day monitoring just to make sure that budget is going well and efficiency is good. You really do need to collect some data to understand what needs to be changed and what doesn’t. I would say it’s usually about every $3,000 in spend it’s worth checking in, checking to see if any of our ads are saturating the audience and if they need to be refreshed. If there are any additional AB tests we can do either in the intros of the ads or in the imagery. Give it, if that $3,000 is your budget for the month, you may only have to check in to do an optimization at the end of the month. If you’re spending a lot, great you can do it more often, maybe weekly.
Kathleen: Do you use any third part platform for managing ad spend or reporting results of these campaigns or is it 100% through LinkedIn?
AJ: Yes, we do use third party platforms, being I think we’re the only agency in the world who does just LinkedIn ads. We need pretty much every power tool possible. There’s a company called AdStage.IO who creates a platform that’s really good for reporting, it’s really good for getting access to LinkedIn’s API that you can build tools off of if you want to. That’s a good one, it’s for bulk management. There’s also one called Shape.IO it’s a budget monitoring tool. You can say, “Here’s what I want to spend.” It’ll give you updates like, “Hey, it’s halfway through the month and you’ve spent 58% of your budget, maybe you need to pull things back.” It’s really good for helping us monitor our budgets, make sure we never overspend. Then we’re also in the process right now of creating our own tools, which is pretty exciting.
Kathleen: Oh nice.
AJ: If any of you advertisers out there want to beta test if you’re running somewhat of a significant spend through LinkedIn, reach out, I’d love to give you some free access to some of our tools while we test and are looking for feedback.
Kathleen: That is an awesome offer. I will definitely make sure to put that in the show notes and call that out. Before we run out of time I have two questions I want to ask you, the first is company or individual, who do you think is doing inbound marketing really well right now?
AJ: There’s a company called HelathCatalyst.com. I don’t know how many of you have heard of this company, because they are a very specific technical solution in the healthcare space. They’re like a database and type of technology as far as I understand. But I’ve had a chance to work with them in the past. I have a real appreciation for the way they approach inbound. It is very much like this. We are never going to pitch someone. We’re never going to ask them to drop to the bottom of the funnel. Our goal is to simply provide them the very best information. They have tons of doctors on staff, who their whole job is just to write content and CIOs, CTOs and doctors creating amazing content to be thought leaders in the space. They just don’t ask for anything until someone says, “Wow, this is really helpful, I’m ready to come to you.” I have a tremendous amount of respect for anyone who can put that kind of program together. HealthCatalysts, you’re doing it right.
Kathleen: That sounds like a great example for everybody to check out. We talk a lot about doing it well. That’s a new one. I haven’t heard of that one before, I will definitely be checking them out. Second question, you’re in a super specialized field. I usually ask people how do you stay on top of the changes in digital marketing, which we can certainly discuss. But I’m also curious is being so niche, how do you make sure that you truly are on the bleeding edge of what you do, because you have to be when you’re that specialized.
AJ: Yeah, the nice thing is we spend many millions of dollars a month in ads. Usually when something breaks or when something is new we find out about it for anyone else. A lot of times LinkedIn will come to us and let us know when a new feature is coming out and they want our feedback on it. That’s helpful for us to stay up. We break the platform a lot and require a lot of LinkedIn’s help to make sure that things stay afloat. I’m still a marketing and a Google Ads guy. I do like to keep tabs on the rest of the industry. My rule is if I see three different tweets about a subject or three different posts on LinkedIn about it, then it’s worth me reading the article. I let things bubble up to the top that way to stay on top. That’s how I found out about Facebook bringing back job title targeting and company name targeting.
Kathleen: Oh I love that. That’s a great idea. It’s funny, I think a lot of people undervalue Twitter, but if you use it correctly and are very judicious about who you follow, your news feed on Twitter can be incredibly valuable.
AJ: Oh there’s so much good stuff in there. I think our social media feeds are ruined by the automatic posting and people just dropping crap into the fed. Like you said don’t follow those people, follow the people judiciously who are putting out good stuff and it really is a direct feed of tell me exactly what’s going on in my industry?
Kathleen: Yeah, and I feel like you have a lot more control over that on Twitter than you do on Facebook. There’s far less promoted sponsored corporate content on Twitter.
AJ: Oh absolutely.
Kathleen: That’s my plug for Twitter. So much good stuff today AJ. I’ve learned a lot. There’s a lot, there’s a lot that I want to go back and now try on LinkedIn. I have a feeling some people listening are going to feel the same way and they might have questions. If that’s the case, what’s the best way for them to find you and get in touch with you?
AJ: If you tweet at me, WilcoxAJ is my handle. I respond to everything. That could be a quick way to get in touch. The other little secret I’ll give you is if you fill out the form on B2Linked.com, our website, it doesn’t go to a sales rep and it doesn’t put you into a complex marketing automation workflow where you’re going to be bugged for the next six months. It goes directly to my inbox and I refuse to sell. Feel free to reach out and ask me anything. Maybe don’t pitch me on your products, but otherwise just use it to get in touch and I’ll be happy to answer anything.
Kathleen: Spoken like a true inbounder. You refuse to sell. I love it. No. I love it. That’s what people are afraid of, they don’t want to reach out because they’re like, “Oh, I’m going to get a pitch.” If you have questions now you know you can reach out to AJ. It’s a safe space and he will not be scamming you.
AJ: 100% value ad and you only get a pitch when you ask for it.
Kathleen: Love it. Love it. Well this has been so valuable. I really appreciate all your time. If you’re listening and you got value out of this please take a moment and leave a review for the podcast on the platform you use, whether that’s iTunes or Stitcher or what have you. It really helps us to get in front of new listeners. I would personally appreciate it. Also if you know somebody doing kick-ass inbound marketing work please just tweet me at WorkMommyWork because I’d love to interview them. Thank you AJ it’s really been fun.
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