LinkedIn Advertising and Prospecting

Anthony Blatner is the founder and Chief Advertising Officer of Speedwork Social, an agency specializing in B2B LinkedIn advertising. In this guide, he advises on when to use LinkedIn advertising, when to use Sales Navigator prospecting, and how to make marketing dollars go the furthest given the expense of LinkedIn as a channel.

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Questions covered in this guide

When should you use LinkedIn advertising? 

Establish a sales process first LinkedIn ads are an expensive channel, so it’s best to use LinkedIn when you have a sales process set up, and you can feed great leads into that process.

Use LinkedIn for targeting hard-to-reach contacts – LinkedIn lets you get specific by industry, job title, company size, and title. It can be a great way to scalably reach busy targets like company owners, VPs, and CEOs.

When should you use LinkedIn for prospecting? 

Prospecting can be cheaper and more effective – for many companies, it makes sense to start with prospecting first, because it cuts out running ads as a way to get in touch with your audience.

For 1:1 targeting – using Sales Navigator for prospecting, you have access to similar filters based on job title, industry, company size, etc., but it’s a different 1:1 mechanism. You need to be even more targeted, and you need the right offer so people will be interested. 

What variables should you use to target your LinkedIn ads?

The basics:
  • Job title – e.g. CTOs
  • Company industry – e.g. software companies
  • Company size – e.g. the CTOs at startup software companies vs. the CTOs at Fortune 500 software companies are very different people.
More advanced:
  • Skills – LinkedIn skills are self-selected, so can be spotty at times based on who decides to fill them out, but can be useful (e.g. if you’re looking for CTOs who work with Python, or who work with AWS).
  • Group targeting – the groups that someone joins on LinkedIn are an indication of their areas of interest.

How much do LinkedIn ads cost (and what does cost depend upon)?

Average cost per click (CPC) is $6-12 – higher-level people are more expensive. For targeting CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, the cost can be closer to $30 per click. If you’re aiming for college students or more recent graduates, that might be $3-5 a click. 

Lead generation costs $50-100 per lead – for each sign-up your lead magnet content offer generates.

For brand awareness, cost per 1000 impressions (CPM) can be $100-250 – LinkedIn is most effective for doing traffic acquisition and lead capture, and then you’ll want to go and nurture them in cheaper ways. CPM (cost per 1000 impressions) can cost between $100-250. Video views cost an average 25 cents (depending upon seniority), and InMails cost an average of 25-50 cents to send. 

How can you control your spend on LinkedIn?

Set cost controls – you can set maximum daily budgets, maximum total budgets, and date ranges for running an ad.

Depending upon the size of your target pool, you might hit a ceiling – LinkedIn allows a max of 4 impressions in 2 days for sponsored content in the newsfeed, so if you’re targeting a really niche audience, impression limits may curb your spend.

How much do you need to spend to accurately test the effectiveness of LinkedIn advertising? 

Allocate $3K for the first test– that amount will usually give you enough data to make decisions. Typically you want to test:
  • 2 audiences
  • 2 lead magnets (content pieces offered in exchange for an email)
  • 2 to 4 ads per lead magnet

What types of ads work best in terms of content and design? 

For a brand awareness campaign – use blog posts, press releases, and videos designed to send someone to an article. You’ll want to send them to a landing page or blog post where they’ll then give you some info.

For lead capture – use lead magnets like checklists, reports, guides, whitepapers, or case studies to capture sign-ups. Show enough value so someone will have reason to provide their information, and don’t ask for too much from them–less commitment equals higher conversion rate.

Avoid schedulers – going straight to scheduling a time can be too direct; they tend to have a very high cost per conversion.

Images tend to be better for lead capture – we usually start with images because they grab attention quicker. Video works less for lead capture because people tend to get distracted and then don’t click where you want them to. 

What are the steps for setting up a LinkedIn campaign?

Define an audience – who are you targeting? Define your persona and build your campaign structure around that audience.

Set your message – what are the ads going to say and what’s your angle? Tailor this to your audience, and the funnel stage.

Create your offer – this could be a lead magnet or a demo offer.

Plan a follow-up process – what operations occur once you get a lead? You’ll want to have your campaign connected to your CRM so you can track the leads and automatically send follow-up emails from there. 

How do you create high-quality content? 

Start by focusing on your customer – zero in on their needs. If you just write about your product and your company, people won’t find that too interesting, especially if you’re an unknown brand.

There are easy tools for making collateral look good – Canva has valuable templates and is handy for polishing an ad or creating text. As you create your lead magnet (e.g. a report), it’ll probably be a PDF and you can just use Google Docs.

How can you manage nurturing and retargeting?

Take a Multi-channel approach to nurturing LinkedIn leads
  • Email follow-up
  • Outbound calling follow-up
  • Connect or send InMail via LinkedIn
  • Be active with social posts (which will be promoted to connections and followers)

Retarget LinkedIn leads on Facebook – once you have an email, Facebook is cheaper and has lower thresholds. On Facebook you only need 100 people to begin retargeting vs. LinkedIn’s threshold of 300, so you can get started a lot faster. 

Use LinkedIn retargeting when you don’t have an email, or to complement ABM – use LinkedIn for website retargeting (such as if someone reads one of your blog posts and then is on LinkedIn). Or, use LinkedIn for account-based retargeting to complement sales calling when you know of the companies but don’t have their emails (e.g. you could use LinkedIn to target all the IT people or all the salespeople at those specific companies). 

How should LinkedIn ads fit into your broader digital marketing strategy? 

LinkedIn is great for top of funnel lead generation – bring people into the pipeline and capture the lead. The value LinkedIn has is access to the upper-level people, which you won’t find anywhere else.

Once they’re in your pipeline, follow-up with other means – keeping touching leads with email sequences, Facebook retargeting ads, and Google display ads.

How should you connect LinkedIn to other components of your sales and marketing tech stack for measurement and automation? 

Connect your CRM and email marketing system – as you collect leads, make sure to store them. Big CRMs tend to have native integrations. For everything else, use Zapier to grab leads from LinkedIn lead forms. 

On the prospecting side, fewer CRMs have the integration for Sales Navigator – LinkedIn is more secure with their data on this side, SalesForce and Microsoft Dynamics have connections; with other CRMs you’ll need to do some manual entry.

How can you use the LinkedIn insights tag? 

Put the insights tag on your website – the tag starts tracking people and companies that visit your page. It’ll also tell you the top 10 companies that have visited your site. You can even create audiences based on certain pages, depending on how much traffic your website gets. 

With named accounts, how should you incorporate LinkedIn into prospecting? 

It’s good for the first step of sourcing people – Sales Navigator can help you get started before you have a prospecting database. And as compared to other list sources, with LinkedIn, you know the list won’t be outdated. 

When you connect on LinkedIn, often contact info is available – most people have their email and about a quarter have a phone number available within their network.

How can you use LinkedIn to identify accounts for prospecting?

Use similar criteria to what you’d use for ads
  • Job title
  • Industry
  • Company size
  • Profile keywords – within Sales Navigator use both positive and negative keywords to find the right people and eliminate the wrong ones; for instance, if you were targeting people who sell insurance, you might want people who sell health insurance, but NOT life insurance.

If the job title is broad, start with companies – identify the companies that could need your product, then select prospects using job titles.

Use company name filters – for instance, if you wanted to target alcohol brands, you could put all kinds of liquor names in the filter (because it’s likely that a vodka or whiskey brand will have “vodka” or “whiskey” in the name).

How can you automate outreach within LinkedIn?

Use an outreach automation tool – tools like Expandi or MeetAlfred let you automatically send personalized connection requests and follow-up messages, keeping within daily activity limits. Most of the outreach tools can collect the prospect’s email address upon connection request accepted.

Be careful with your connection requests – if too many people reject your connection request, and then click ‘I Don’t Know This Person’ your account will get restricted. So be careful with your connection request targeting and message.

What types of LinkedIn outreach/engagement tend to be most effective? 

InMail – someone doesn’t need to accept the request to receive a message. You’re allowed 60 a month.

Connect request – find common ground with people so they’ll accept your invitation (and won’t think you’re a bot).

Be active on LinkedIn – post content and interact with others. This will help for your network to keep you top of mind.

How do you make sure your LinkedIn profile looks good?

Make sure your profile is complete and professional
  • Have a good headshot – smiling and inviting
  • Set a banner image – it should reflect who you serve or what you do. Some people put a text call-to-action in there.
  • Fill in your headline and about section – craft a short description and craft as authoritative a title as you can (people are much more likely to accept a connection request from a CEO vs. a “sales manager”).

What are the most important pieces to get right? 

For advertising:
  • The lead magnet is the biggest lever – spend time on the offer. Make the data you’re offering appealing, but keep the ask low (ask for an email vs. an appointment).
  • Only include people you want to pay for – LinkedIn advertising is expensive, so focus on a small, specific target audience.
For prospecting:
  • Be even more narrow on your targeting – since you have a limited number of connection requests. Look at the list that is given to you before you start to send out a bunch of connection requests and so you can make the most out of the list. Send a good message so it cuts through the other noise.

What are the common pitfalls?

For advertising:
  • Don’t do call scheduling ads – your audience needs to want what your company is selling first.
  • Don’t be too broad with your audience – be specific with targeting.
  • Be careful with auto-bid – switch to manual bid and bid lower than the suggested range.
For prospecting:
  • Don’t be sales-y or bot-spammy in outreach – be direct and to the point, and don’t include too much text.
  • Don’t be vague on next steps – outline the plan and why you are reaching out to connect.
  • Don’t use links– links generate a large preview and push your text off the page.

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