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If you do any B2B marketing, then you should try LinkedIn Ads. Here are a few pointers from my experience to help you get started.
I'm sure that almost everyone who reads this blog is active on LinkedIn.
You are 'linked' with all of your business contacts and friends, you have filled out your profile, and you may even be active in a group or two. But it's quite likely that you have not used the ad platform.
Or if you have, that you have only tested it and perhaps you stopped after not getting the results you were after.
Well, if that is the case, and you do any B2B marketing, then it's time to take another look at LinkedIn Ads.
Well, if you're in B2B marketing then you need to get the attention of professionals.
LinkedIn can help you do that because:
- It's a social network specifically for professionals
- It delivers business-focused content for its network
- And, surprisingly, LinkedIn only gets 25% of its revenues from advertising (Q4 2013).
(Note that 90% of Facebook's revenue for the same period was from advertising)
So, should you be looking to deliver a message to a business audience, it's got everything you need - the right network with the right context, and less competition than other platforms for your targets’ attention.
But like all social platforms, LinkedIn does have its quirks. And many advertisers have been put off by just how different the platform is from Google and Facebook.
Last year I worked on accounts which spent approximately $100k on LinkedIn ads alone and I learned a lot about what works well on the platform and what is still challenging.
Overall, though, I think that the benefits of advertising on LinkedIn outweigh the challenges, so I’ve provided some tips which can help you navigate the platform and get started advertising on it.
Let’s start with the good stuff.
Hands down LinkedIn has the most accurate targeting of any ad platform. Sure, Google has wider reach and Facebook has more categories, but for pure targeting, nothing beats LinkedIn. This is because LinkedIn users input the targeting data themselves; if they work in a bank, they put in their profile that they work in a bank.
There is no algorithmic guesswork by the platform like for Facebook Audiences or Google Affinity Segments.
And targeting is not limited to broad categories. You can target very specific attributes:
- Their industry
- What company they work for
- What skills have they been endorsed for
- Their title
- Or even groups they belong to.
So if your target is, say, employees of major banks in European countries, you can configure your ad to be delivered to that audience and be reasonably sure that they will be the ones who see and click your ad.
Now this is cool. When you're building your ad - before you have even paid anything - you can see exactly how big the ad audience is going to be (if it has over 1,000 people).
- How many people work in software in the USA? (1,158,055)
- How many employees does Bank of America have globally? (151,556)
- Or how many work in HR in Asia? (813,867)
I can only guess at how hard it was for the product visionaries to get this feature into the platform, so be thankful we have such great information and use it where you can. I mean, you can even size a target market when you’re advertising elsewhere.
LinkedIn does not have the most sophisticated ad engine (both Google and Facebook have more functionality), but it does the job.
You can put multiple people on one account, collaborate on ads, and easily do multiple versions of an ad in one campaign.
They also offer a dashboard to keep an eye on ad performance and a button to turn both ads and campaigns on and off.
Now the challenges - and how you can get around them.
The first complaint for those who start using the platform is the ad size. You are strictly limited to a 25 character headline, 75 characters in the body, and a 50x50 image. With a bit of work, though, it is certainly possible to deliver an effective ad within those constraints.
Here’s what you need to do:
1) Identify your audience.
Although you are reaching your intended audience with your targeting, the reader doesn’t know that so you have to let them know that what you’re saying is for them. And it’s best to do this in the headline.
2) Tell them what you do.
You only have room for one value proposition, so spit it out. And remember, B2B audiences have very different priorities than B2C.
3) Make an offer
In a recent podcast on The Lede, Joanna Wiebe talked about a button being like a closed door. And closed doors cause anxiety, which leads to people not clicking. Your ad is also like a closed door. And not knowing what you offer also leads to inaction. So, help them out. Let them know what’s on the other side, what you offer. And you'll get higher click-throughs for sure.
4) (Optional) Tell them exactly what to do next.
When you have room, tell them to click. In my experience, it converts better when you do.
5) Use a face for the image
You only have 50x50 pixels, so it's recommended that you use a face. It’s the only thing which we can’t, no matter how hard we try, glaze over. By all means experiment, but my non-face ads have had terrible CTRs.
Managing a large number of campaigns
The self-service tool was clearly designed for the small-scale advertiser in mind. It handles your every need until you reach about 50 campaigns, and then the problems start.
For one, every time you go to the ad tool you see every campaign - even those you have hidden. Clicking ‘Show all but hidden campaigns’ at the bottom solves this - but when you use the tool many times every day this becomes tedious.
Also, spreading your campaign info across multiple pages makes getting a quick overview hard - and sometimes the ‘next page’ links don’t work.
Finally, the absolute worst aspect of the self-service tool is ‘Duplicate Campaign.’ For some reason, LinkedIn forces you to pick the campaign to duplicate in a pop-up with a randomized list of all previous campaigns - with four campaigns per page. It's awful. And sometimes it can take so long to find the campaign that you end up redoing it from scratch.
Third-party LinkedIn ad management is available from Adobe, but for those without enterprise software an ad management tool will soon be available from AdStage. (I can't wait to get on the beta program...)
And finally, the biggest issue marketers have with LinkedIn is its high minimum CPC (US$2.00) and daily minimum per campaign (US$10).
For those in the branding world, that may not seem high, but many small business marketers are used to running dozens of campaigns with at a buck a day to test different strategies. And these prices make that quite difficult.
But this can be overcome as well. Although, you cannot change the minimums you can run your ads with a $2 CPM. Then, a click through greater than .1% will start bringing down the cost below $2 per click.
Also, you can stop/start the ads manually for when your audience is likely to be on so that you’re not spending money when you're targets aren't awake.
Oh and don’t pay any attention to the suggested minimums. Always use the absolute minimums of $2 per CPC or CPM.
So hopefully this guide has helped you come up with some ideas for how to use LinkedIn Ads to promote your business.
- The targeting is great for B2B.
- The self-service ad tool is adequate.
- And although the ads are small and cost are high, there are ways to use it effectively - even on a tight budget.
But, like with any platform, run tests and try to make the ROI work for your business. And, if nothing else, you will get some great feedback about whether various business segments find your product compelling.