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.


                                                                                                                                Source: Omnicore

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.


Campaign Objectives


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). 


  1. Awareness: gain more ad impressions and grow brand awareness
  2. Consideration: drive traffic to your website, get more people to engage with your posts, or increase followers for your company page
  3. 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


SaaSMQL-LinkedIn-Ad

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.


Tracking Performance


Need Demand Generation Help - LinkedIn Ad

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.


Final Tips


Demand Generation Funnel
  • 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


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