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Like many fast growing technology companies, we’re always looking for new areas to scale and expand our pipeline marketing efforts. We decided to conduct a significant test in content marketing, specifically using LinkedIn Ads. After spending more than $50,000, I’m excited to share with you 6 things we learned.

But first, let's recap the history of LinkedIn and who uses it. Many moons ago LinkedIn was a marketplace for job seekers and recruiters. Over the years however, they expanded their value proposition and offerings -- from long-form publishing to marketing solutions -- and evolved into a professional hub. Reaching over 100,000,000 members with significant professional data collected, LinkedIn is a great channel for B2B marketers.

Demographics of LinkedIn Users

The professional networking platform offers B2B marketers access to their ideal target buyers.  

We use these demographics to target our LinkedIn ads to the right prospects. So let’s get started on the 6 learnings from spending over $50,000 in LinkedIn Ads. 

1) Great For Driving Leads From Gated Content

LinkedIn ads are really effective at driving leads, specifically from B2B gated content, such as our AdWords for Lead Generation guide. I recommend launching fresh content every ~6 weeks to limit ad / offer fatigue. The CPCs are significantly (5 - 10X) higher than many other channels, but converts much higher than other social networks. In the end we see the cost/customer as effective.

Not surprising, but we’re not alone. LinkedIn is the number one choice for B2B marketers for social media sites. Users on the professional networking site form new professional contacts and build relationships, making it ideal for marketing to business buyers.

However, we’ve noticed that CPCs have increased significantly to reach similar click levels over the last 10 months: 

We suspect this is partly due to audience fatigue, but also believe external competition on the audience is also playing a part. Here’s what LinkedIn CFO Steve Sordello said during their October earnings call:

Existing customers are increasing overall spend with LinkedIn as the content marketing value proposition continues to resonate. This is illustrated by substantial growth in the number of customers buying multiple products, increasing over 60 percent year-over- year.

So while the CPC may be increasing, the number of buyers on LinkedIn is reportedly growing.

2) Advanced Targeting Requires Close Attention 

LinkedIn offers numerous professional pivots, unlike other ad networks. Use these where it makes sense. Keep an eye on how the audience changes. If you limit a specific company size and the audience size goes down 3%, but the CPC rises 30%, it’s probably going to be cheaper to keep the filers slightly open.

The three non-standard targeting options I use to keep content relevant and offers interesting to our target audience are:

  • Job function and level

  • Industries

  • Company size

One interesting thing to note is that increasing audience size by adding more countries may actually RAISE the minimum bid. Some counties have a minimum bid that’s higher than the United States and Canada, so best to group international ads in their own campaigns.

3) Use Sales Development Reps (SDRs) Improve Lead to Opportunity Conversions

We started our content marketing efforts without Sales Development Reps (SDRs) in place. (SDRs, at our company at least, call all inbound leads, ideally within a few  minutes of downloading content and also send a personalized email). Once we added SDRs, the conversion rate from lead to opportunity increased a whopping 68%.

4) Track Every Ad & Use Direct Sponsored Content

I’ve written about tracking content marketing in Salesforce, so won’t go into too much detail except to say it’s extremely important to use different UTM parameters for every single ad. What is driving clicks and leads might not be driving revenue. If you’re using Salesforce, Bizible will automatically import UTM parameters into Salesforce.

Previously this meant publishing what seemed like a million updates on your company page, but luckily over the summer LinkedIn launched Direct Sponsored Content -- aka “dark posts” -- which allows you to create sponsored updates for ad purposes without publishing them to your wall.

5) Beware the Mobile User On LinkedIn 

In LinkedIn’s October earning’s call, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner said mobile accounts for 47 percent of total traffic to LinkedIn. While this is great for increasing ad impressions, this is generally bad for gated content. 

Out of over 7,500 clicks we’ve generated from LinkedIn ads, mobile bounce rate was 26% higher than desktop, which leads to higher lead costs.

Luckily, we’ve found that for our ads only about 30% of the clicks on average are coming from a mobile device:

6) More Work Is Needed To Make It World Class

While LinkedIn Ads has been a boon to our business, there are still a number of improvements that can be made to make it a truly world-class advertising platform. Here is our wishlist:

  1. Target desktop and mobile separately (like Facebook) or at least allow a mobile bid modifier (like Google). Desktop and mobile traffic is inherently different, so this will allow us to account for lower landing page conversions from mobile and tailor the offer and ad for smaller screens.

  2. Add groups within campaigns with separate targeting criteria (like Google). This will help us keep our ad accounts organized since we can create up to 10 campaigns just for one piece of content if we want to test different targeting options. 

  3. Provide reach and frequency metrics (like Facebook). This will help us understand how well content is being received and when it might be time to introduce new ads.

  4. Generate leads directly from content (like Twitter). A lead generation ad format that could circumvent the landing page would significantly increase conversions and overall campaign effectiveness.

  5. Tell us which skills are driving clicks (like Twitter). When running a skill based campaign, it’s not possible to see which skills are generating the clicks unless you create a campaign for each and every single one, which is incredibly time consuming. Showing what skills are driving clicks, like Twitter does when running campaigns targeting specific Twitter handles, would help us better tailor content.

The professional network is the ideal social media site for B2B lead generation. As B2B marketers we learned a lot from our campaigns. As we continue to grow our business we’ll be sharing more insights and learnings, so be sure to subscribe to our blog.