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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. 

Why?  

Well, if you're in B2B marketing then you need to get the attention of professionals

LinkedIn can help you do that because:

(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.

The Good

Let’s start with the good stuff.

Targeting

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.  

Audience sizing

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).

For example:

  • 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.

Self-service tool

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.

The Not-so-good

Now the challenges - and how you can get around them.

The ads

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...)

Cost 

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.

TL; DR  

So hopefully this guide has helped you come up with some ideas for how to use LinkedIn Ads to promote your business. 

In brief:

  • 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. 

Jeff Rajeck

Published 18 June, 2014 by Jeff Rajeck

Jeff Rajeck is the APAC Research Analyst for Econsultancy . You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.  

107 more posts from this author

Comments (13)

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Graham Jones

Just out of curiosity, what's the reasoning behind "don’t pay any attention to the suggested minimums. Always use the absolute minimums of $2 per CPC or CPM."?

I've often run ads at the minimum CPC, then adjusted after a period of time to within the suggested range and started to see improved results.

about 2 years ago

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LIA

Seriously awesome writeup, Jeff! Thanks for putting it together, and I think it's really valuable.

A couple comments - I agree with Graham above. If you're ok with traffic trickling in, it's ok to bid the minimum, but I wouldn't recommend it for a permanent strategy.

I also see very rarely when an ad gets higher than a .1% CTR reliably, so bidding at a $2 CPM to best the $2/click minimum is a difficult proposition. I salute you for getting that CTR, though.

I agree 100% with everything else you've said. The targeting is second-to-none and the quality of traffic is better than any other channel, hands down!

about 2 years ago

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Sam Mazaheri

Great writeup Jeff! So few people cover LinkedIn Ads so it's awesome to get your insight an expertise on this powerful channel. Thanks also for the AdStage shoutout – our campaign management platform for LinkedIn is available now and also supports Sponsored Updates to take your ads into the LinkedIn feed. I'll shoot you over the details.

about 2 years ago

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Moe Rubenzahl, Principal at Moe Rubenzahl Marketing

Was at a conference last week and happened to talk with several marketers about LinkedIn marketing and all said it was something they felt they should be doing. So I sent them this article! A great in-the-trenches starter.

Thank you -- great insider tips.

about 2 years ago

Jeff Rajeck

Jeff Rajeck, Research Analyst at EconsultancySmall Business

Thanks for all the nice comments :-)

And that's very interesting, Graham - I've never benefited from raising my minimum, but now I will try again.

LIA: Beating the .1% CTRs isn't easy - and often I have to reduce the audience to just a few thousand to get it. Campaign maintenance starts to get difficult then as you have to create more and more campaigns, but with Sam's new AdStage tool it looks like it will be much easier now!

about 2 years ago

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Kevin Gallagher

Great insight thanks, we have used Linkedin promoted posts for a while and worked great for us and our clients.

You need to analyse which content performs best. Look at its conversion rate. Find the ones that do well.

Then promote them on Linkedin as you know they work. Don't go into blind without any data as this could be costly.

What I love the most is the segmentation on LinkedIn. It really lets you target it to the right people.

about 2 years ago

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IntelliGiants

Hi Jeff,

Thank you for taking the time to write such a detailed and useful post.

Reading this has helped us realign our approach to the planned marketing activities for our business.

Keep them coming Jeff.

Andy.

about 2 years ago

Robert Nicholson

Robert Nicholson, Online Marketing Manager

Good to see some serious linkedin advertising coverage.
One interesting development is the move that moderators (every advert is moderated by Linkedin before being approved to show on the site) are now rejecting non HTTPS secure landing pages.

So if you dont have a HTTPS secure website - this might be a big problem for you!!

about 2 years ago

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Al Mackin

Great guide - have always liked LinkedIn as a channel. Only issue is that you can't geo-target Liverpool! Doesn't exist as a city option in UK.

about 2 years ago

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Ken Tronnes, Marketing Operations Manager at Marqeta

Just curious, as I am new to Linkedin Ads, but is there a way to see WHO has clicked on an ad?

over 1 year ago

Jeff Rajeck

Jeff Rajeck, Research Analyst at EconsultancySmall Business

Sadly, no - you would have to capture their information post-click to know.

over 1 year ago

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Katy Sale, Marketing & Account Manager at Oyster Studios

Great write up. I am about to embark on a couple of campaigns for clients but wondered if you are just linking to client's own websites do you need to be added as an admin on their LinkedIn accounts?

6 months ago

Jeff Rajeck

Jeff Rajeck, Research Analyst at EconsultancySmall Business

All ads were linking to a website , but they could have linked to their company page.

But if you're doing ads in the feed, as opposed to on the side, then you should be added as an admin.

Otherwise your ads will appear from the agency, which probably isn't the best thing for the client.

6 months ago

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