How We Use LinkedIn Ads to Engage with Target Accounts
April 29, 2020
Learn how to build effective Account-Based Marketing campaigns using LinkedIn Ads. We'll present specific examples and step-by-step instructions on how to target your named accounts and drive qualified leads.
We’ve learned many lessons after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on LinkedIn over the past few years, and in this article we will show you how LinkedIn Ads can become an important piece of your overall ABM strategy. If your work priorities include delivering targeted higher quality leads, better alignment with sales, and linking your marketing activity directly with revenue, then account-based marketing (ABM) is most likely in your line of thinking.
Why LinkedIn Ads?
LinkedIn is a powerhouse platform with over 600 million users across the world, with half of those users based in the United States. There is a reason that LinkedIn is the #1 platform in B2B, offering great B2B targeting. LinkedIn analytics and features offer meaningful insights for marketing teams starting out on their ABM journey -- you can find over 100 million senior-level influencers and decision makers on the platform with 6/10 users looking for industry insights.
LinkedIn and ABM
There are many benefits to using LinkedIn targeting in your ABM campaigns. You are able to build highly targeted audiences to focus on specific accounts and personas (more on that later), you can retarget lost deals, you can tailor your message based on segment/industry/persona, and you can engage cold accounts with specific content. The reason LinkedIn’s information is so accurate is because users are actively updating their profiles themselves as they move from one company to another.
However, the only way LinkedIn can become one of your most powerful ABM tools is by integrating it with other channels. Running a LinkedIn ad campaign with your target account list is a great start, but it’s by running that same list across multiple channels that you see significant results.
Ways to use LinkedIn
There’s a few options when advertising on LinkedIn’s platform, each with a different format and conversion:
Sponsored Content: strategically selected content to drive engagement to your target list
#1 proven form of lead generation on LinkedIn
Message Ads (InMail): sends message to your target’s inbox with CTA (can include banner)
Conversation Ads (in beta): automated chats that can drive CTA
Dynamic Ads: personalized to the prospects (powerful when promoting job posts)
Text Ads: cheapest CPC, but less effective to drive engagement
Building a target audience
One of LinkedIn’s most powerful features is its custom audience tool. After building your list of target accounts within your ICP (Ideal Customer Profile), you are able to upload that list to LinkedIn’s platform and further filter your targets by persona, location, seniority, and more. All you need is company name and website, and it takes 48 hours for the platform to match your account list to existing users/profiles. We recommend you upload a pre-segmented account list, either by Tiers (with your top targets being in Tier 1), or by segment (such as Enterprise, Mid-Market, etc). You can also re-target a list -- such as lost opportunities or website visitors.
Once your account list(s) have been uploaded and approved, you can add the filters that apply to the persona(s) you are targeting. The more targeted your audience is, the higher you will pay for each lead -- however they should all be MQLs (marketing qualified leads). When your audience is broader your cost per lead will be lower, however there is a lower chance that those leads will be qualified. The target audience size on the right will show your forecasted results -- the sweet spot is between 50k-100k. As a note, if your audience is too small (below ~50k), the campaign will not deliver very well. If this happens, launch your segmented campaigns together to reach a more sizable audience.
What do you want these ads to accomplish? Do you want to generate leads or drive visits to your website? LinkedIn sponsored content campaigns offer 3 types of objectives: awareness, consideration (web visits, engagement), and conversion (lead generation, job applications).
Awareness: gain more ad impressions and grow brand awareness
Consideration: drive traffic to your website, get more people to engage with your posts, or increase followers for your company page
Conversion: capture more quality leads pre-filled with data from their LinkedIn profile
The most common campaigns we run to generate quality leads are Lead Generation (conversion) and Site Visits (engagement). Ads in a Lead Generation campaign appear in the user’s timeline, and once clicked they bring up a pre-filled form with the users’ information so they can click through straight to the content, (while LinkedIn sends you their info). Ads in a Site Visits campaign require you to set up a landing page to drive users to, with a way to convert on your page (i.e. form fill). In our experience, ads with LinkedIn lead gen forms perform 2.5x better than driving to landing pages for conversion.
Campaign segmentation, budget, and setup
You will want to separate your campaigns the same way you’ve segmented your audience (by tiers or segment). For example, if you are targeting both enterprise accounts and small businesses you will want each segment to have its own campaign, and its own budget. Determine the daily budget per campaign by dividing your monthly budget -- i.e. if you allocate $3k per month per campaign, that’s $100/day per campaign. Select your ad format, (single image, video, carousel, etc), and then launch your campaign. After launching, optimize campaign budget allocation based on ROI -- pause poor-performing ads, and double down on campaigns/ads that are driving quality leads.
A few notes on bidding
Whether or not you decide to bid on your ad budget depends on your objective and conversion rates. Automated bid is the easiest choice, LinkedIn automates your bid as the campaign runs -- however, you’ll need to keep an eye on it as there is no limit to the bid they will place and you may need to lower it by changing the bid type. Enhanced CPC (cost per click) allows you to set a maximum bid per click, LinkedIn will recommend a range and you can bid within that range, (although we recommend bidding slightly higher than recommended for the first 5 days to ensure you win the most bids, then lower to suggested). Enhanced CPM (cost per thousand impressions) allows you to set a maximum bid per thousand impressions. If in the first week you overbid with automated bidding, try setting the CPC bid to get your budget back on track.
Effective ad examples
The optimal number of ads to run in a campaign is between 4-6. Make sure to rotate/refresh campaign content frequently as ads eventually get “stale” after being seen enough times. The smaller your audience, the more often you will need to refresh your content. When creating sponsored content try mapping your top white papers, guides, blogs, etc, by where they fall in the funnel (top, mid, bottom). You will want to start with mostly top of funnel ads, and some mid/bottom of funnel ads. If you have a list of companies who have previously engaged, you can create a separate bottom of funnel campaign with more specific ads. As a note, not all ads have to lead to white papers -- good blog posts work too! It’s more about the quality of the content and how interested your ideal customer would be in reading it. In terms of banner images, photos that are less branded/more organic tend to work better.
All lead gen ads need to be linked to a lead gen form. These are great for marketers because they automatically pre-populate with information from the lead’s profile, so they have a seamless experience from seeing the ad on their timeline, clicking and sending the pre-filled form, then receiving the content -- all in seconds. Meanwhile, your team also receives their information in seconds (whichever fields you request on the forms).
On average, you can expect your CPC to be about $7-$10/click and cost per lead (CPL) to be about ~$150/lead, but that will vary depending on segment and/or industry. Always keep an eye on the CTR and expect an average of 0.5% or above. If an ad’s CTR is below 0.5% consider optimizing or pausing it-- if many ads’ CTRs are below 0.5% it could mean your targeting is too narrow or the content is not great.
Try to launch a mix of content ads and demo ads. Content ads (those that gate a blog or whitepaper) usually perform better, however demo ads (where the lead gen form is a demo request) usually convert better down the funnel due to the leads being further along the buyer’s journey. There are often 1-2 ads that outperform the rest -- whether it be due to their quality, how many times they’ve been liked/shared, or both. Keep an eye on the ads that are generating opportunities/deals, there could be an ad that is generating less leads, but those leads are all converting into 6-figure opportunities. Try to optimize based on bottom of funnel data-- while you will want to optimize based on CPC, CPL, etc, you should primarily optimize by actual ROI.
ROI tracking and follow-up
Now that LinkedIn is collecting all this information from your leads you will want to create a campaign in your CRM and tag all leads that come from LinkedIn with source, campaign, and ad/lead gen form information. This way you can keep track of all your leads as they move down the funnel and attribute ROI to your campaign.
Now that you’re collecting and tracking these quality leads, we recommend creating a workflow to nurture and follow up with them. There will be different workflows for content and demo leads -- be careful sending sales emails to content leads, they may not be warm enough and would benefit from a couple of soft emails first, (maybe sharing more content or a video/webinar). Offer yourself as a point of contact to learn from first, and then share your offer later in the sequence. A five-email sequence is recommended to start, and we recommend to set up automated notifications to relevant team members any time a new lead is generated, and any time a lead replies to a sequence.
Be realistic with your budget -- if you’re spending less than ~$5k/mo you will not see a huge return
Keep target audience between 50K and 500K -- if it’s too high, you’ll see a lot of unqualified traffic
Watch CTR carefully -- if CTR is too low, LinkedIn thinks your content isn’t good and they’ll penalize by requiring higher bids
Refresh creatives often (weekly or monthly)
Make your ads look as much “organic” as possible so people are more likely to click
Don’t stop experiments too soon -- LinkedIn takes some time to build engagement
Don’t run the LinkedIn program in a silo -- make sure to target your list on multiple channels
If you’re targeting mid-market or enterprise companies, you can't rely on a single channel to drive engagement and qualified leads. Here we share examples of campaigns with solid ROI and show how to integrate different channels into a unique workflow.
HubSpot and Marketo are considered the #1 and #2 marketing automation softwares in the world. ActiveCampaign, on the other hand, is a powerful and easy-to-use marketing automation & sales CRM platform designed for small businesses on a budget. How do you decide which is right for you?
You might have a golden list of accounts that the sales team wants to focus on, but you don’t have the budget for a shiny new ABM platform. Jasmine Chung, Demand Generation Manager at Openprise, showed us how they are doing it at their company and the results they are seeing.
Intellimize used SaaSMQL’s expertise to launch targeted ABM campaigns, integrating Direct Mail with automated emails and LinkedIn ads to engage with 800 accounts within their ideal customer profile. Their investment generated $4.6M in ARR pipeline.
Looking for some no-nonsense SEO tips to boost your site’s search engine rankings? We sat down with Aaron Moskowitz, Director of SEO at Golden Hippo, and covered 5 easy-to-implement tactics that help increase your website's ranking and boost inbound traffic.
By tracking and taking action in improving essential metrics you can position your team for better performance and productivity. Here we provide some insights into what we believe are the most important KPIs every young B2B SaaS company should track as soon as revenue streams arise.
Here we explain step-by-step how at SaaSMQL we are able to consistently generate over $1M in new sales pipeline every month by using a targeted direct mail approach. We also discuss mistakes to avoid during the process and how to track the campaign performance.
Direct mail is the best-performing direct response channel, bringing in results “10 to 30 times better than email”. Most companies don’t leverage direct mail because it's hard to execute, and requires plenty of time and resources. Here we will go over the 7 steps to launching a direct mail campaign.
In a recent webinar for DemandGen Club, Arun Sivashankaran (Founder & CEO of FunnelEnvy) shared the good, bad, and ugly from his years of experience with B2B demand generation teams tackling account based analytics & personalization.
How do you know which programs are generating qualified leads and pipeline, and which aren’t? How can you make sure a lead is tagged correctly throughout the entirety of their buying journey? Here we discuss the basics of B2B marketing attribution.
Modern ABM marketers are seeing direct mail emerge as an effective channel for B2B companies to engage and convert target accounts. When direct mail campaigns are integrated into a broader account-based marketing strategy, they become a powerful channel to break through noise and reach prospects.
Your marketing “tech stack” is the set of technologies your organization uses to execute and analyze marketing across the customer lifecycle, and scale your business. The key goal of your marketing tech stack is to measure the impact of your marketing activities - making difficult processes easier.
Given the special nature of a direct mail package, it’s no wonder the average response rates are higher than email. Receiving a nice gift right at your desk in the middle of the work week is memorable, and shows that the sender made the effort to do something different.
A strong Demand Generation program allows a company to predictably scale the number of Opps sourced by simply increasing marketing spend. Whether you’re just starting out or have been running Demand Gen programs for years, here are a few core “sins” that your team should avoid at all costs.
Intent data can tell you when your target accounts show strong buying signals, allowing you to target the right people at the right time. Yet, many sales and marketing teams still aren’t sure how to include this new type of data in their workflows, let alone incorporate it into actionable programs.
Scaling is hard. You can have the best sales team in the world, but if they’re not focusing on the right accounts, their work likely won’t amount to new clients for your business. When you focus your efforts on ideal target companies, you maximize the campaign’s efficacy and conversion.
The lead handoff process is one of the biggest bottlenecks for every company trying to grow their sales pipeline. Marketing has invested money and resources to generate qualified leads, but they are not always properly assigned to the Sales team and followed-up with.
Low confidence in marketing attribution and ROI often causes SaaS companies to cut investments on demand generation. By tracking your CAC and the value of each stage of your marketing funnel, you can allocate your budget to drive real growth.
In this video you'll learn how you can leverage intent data to increase conversion on your ABM campaigns and engage with your target accounts. We'll provide an intro about buyer intent data, the difference between 1st party data and 3rd party data, and how to track customers' offsite behaviors.
In this video you’ll learn how to draft a demand generation budget starting from your revenue goals. We’ll discuss about funnel metrics, Customer Acquisition Costs (CAC), what line items should be considered when creating the budget, how to forecast your ROI, and what tools can help you.
In this video we'll share lessons on how to generate pipeline sponsoring third-party conferences, how to best manage follow-ups and track results, and how to scale the strategy to 100+ events per year. We'll also discuss about best practices on how to run your first user conference successfully.
Direct mail has been emerging as an effective channel for B2B companies to engage and convert their target accounts. When direct mail campaigns are integrated into a broader account-based marketing strategy, they become a powerful channel to break through the noise and reach your ideal contacts.
The 8 most common sales mistakes that I frequently notice in venture-funded SaaS startups. These include adding territories too early or hire a bunch of AEs when there is no pipeline. Avoiding these early mistakes will impact your ARR from the beginning.
Marketing is no longer incentivized to simply generate leads at the top-of-the-funnel and throwing them to sales. The metrics that matter now are account engagement, number of opportunities generated, pipeline ($) and revenue.
Demand generation entails generating sales opportunities for your company's products or services. A good demand generation engine can help a company engage new prospects, generate interest online and offline, and attract prospects, which are then converted to leads and turned into sales pipeline.
SaaSMQL is a B2B growth agency that helps SaaS startups scaling revenue with highly-targeted campaigns.