Mastering LinkedIn Advertising (Plus 1 Growth Hack You Can’t Miss)

Mastering LinkedIn Advertising (Plus 1 Growth Hack You Can't Miss) Growth Marketing

Mark Spera

Head of Marketing at PlushCare
I'm the head of marketing for a tech company in San Francisco and the cofounder @ GrowthMarketingPro.com
Mastering LinkedIn Advertising (Plus 1 Growth Hack You Can't Miss) Growth Marketing

LinkedIn is a powerful advertising tool. So powerful in fact that Microsoft (MSFT) bought the career-oriented social network for $26.2 billion last year.

It’s the social network for your professional life — a democratized professional network and a very powerful job search tool wrapped into one.

LinkedIn advertising allows you to reach everyone on the network by targeting based on job title, company, location, etc.

LinkedIn has powerful data.

Founded by Reid Hoffman in 2003, LinkedIn was launched as the tool to “make your professional network faster and more powerful.” LinkedIn would be the antithesis of the shady-feeling job search websites of the late 90s, Monster.com and Hotjobs.com.

This was the earliest iteration of the LinkedIn homepage.

Mastering LinkedIn Advertising (Plus 1 Growth Hack You Can't Miss) Growth Marketing

Today, LinkedIn is a treasure trove of data on users’ careers, connections, job titles, specializations, geographies, interests, employer, education, etc. Growth marketers like data. Data makes it easier for us to target our customers and acquire them on the cheap.

In this guide, you will learn how to set up and execute radically effective paid campaigns using LinkedIn ads. Keep reading and learn yourself something.

Mastering LinkedIn Advertising (Plus 1 Growth Hack You Can't Miss) Growth Marketing

Which Businesses do well with LinkedIn Advertising?

Your time is valuable. So let’s first assess whether LinkedIn advertising is even a viable acquisition channel for your business.

Generally, businesses are divided into two categories — b2b and b2c. I wrote a blog post on the difference between them if you’re interested.

Mastering LinkedIn Advertising (Plus 1 Growth Hack You Can't Miss) Growth Marketing

B2b businesses — ones that sell their product or service to other businesses — fair well with LinkedIn advertising. The reason is twofold:

  1. LinkedIn is a fairly expensive channel. Only b2b companies can afford to spend $30 to $500 to acquire users (this is the range of customer acquisition costs I have experienced). B2b companies sell their product to other businesses, who have a much higher price ceiling and therefore a higher lifetime value.
  2. LinkedIn targeting is much better suited for b2b companies. Facebook allows b2c ecommerce companies to go bananas with targeting based on personal interests. On Facebook, advertisers know your friends, groups you “like,” travel and nearly anything else that you like, share or do on the platform. LinkedIn has a different set of user data that is far more valuable for b2b companies, like job title, employer, work experience, education, etc. Companies selling to other companies need that info.

While LinkedIn advertising is generally most effective for b2b companies, I’ve seen a few consumer companies trying their hand at LinkedIn advertising.

Mastering LinkedIn Advertising (Plus 1 Growth Hack You Can't Miss) Growth Marketing

I wouldn’t recommend LinkedIn ads for any ecommerce company, unless you’re selling a very upmarket or high margin product. You could probably get away with selling jewelry or financial advice on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn Advertising Costs

LinkedIn advertising isn’t cheap. Without a testing budget of $2,000+ it will be difficult for your campaigns to reach any sort of statistical significance.

LinkedIn says here:

 If you have a daily budget of $50 and a bid of $15, you are only allowing yourself to receive a handful of clicks a day, which may not be enough to get leads, depending on your click to conversion rate. We recommend you ‘front load’ your budget for new campaigns in order to obtain enough data, which will then help you make informed decisions.

LinkedIn’s ads are run on a cost-per-click or CPM (in many cases you choose) basis and an auction system like Google Adwords. If you’re bidding more than your competitors, you’ll win the auction and your ad will be served.

But you don’t want to bid too high or you’ll significantly overpay for your leads, which would be silly.

Mastering LinkedIn Advertising (Plus 1 Growth Hack You Can't Miss) Growth Marketing

The 3 Types of LinkedIn Ads

LinkedIn offers 3 ad units: sponsored InMail, sponsored content and text ads. All three are viable but not created equal.

To start using LinkedIn’s ad platform sign up here: https://www.linkedin.com/ad/accounts. If it wasn’t obvious, you will need a LinkedIn account to begin.

Mastering LinkedIn Advertising (Plus 1 Growth Hack You Can't Miss) Growth Marketing

Each of the 3 ad units operate a little differently. So we’ll dive in 1 by 1. But first, let’s briefly talk about targeting the right audience.

Targeting with LinkedIn Advertising

The most important part of any LinkedIn campaign is your targeting. It’s the last step in making a campaign, but it’s the one you can’t afford to get wrong.

You can target based on the following parameters:

  • Location (required)
  • Company Name (current employer listed on member’s profile)
  • Company Industry
  • Company Size
  • Job Title
  • Job Function
  • Job Seniority
  • Member Skills
  • Member Schools
  • Degrees
  • Fields of Study
  • Member Groups – up to 100 active groups
  • Member Gender
  • Member Age

To be expected, most of the targeting is stuff you might include on your resume — career stuff.

The more precise your targeting, the better you will do.

In other words, don’t target just lawyers. Target lawyers with certain job titles, companies and locations that make sense for your business.

Tip: don’t expand your audience. LinkedIn sneaks that into the bottom of your targeting options. Audience expansion is a way for LinkedIn to take some liberties on behalf of your campaign. They will not only serve your ads to your desired audience, but they will target additional people that “look” like them too. This means you pay for some less targeted clicks.

Mastering LinkedIn Advertising (Plus 1 Growth Hack You Can't Miss) Growth Marketing

The 3 Types of LinkedIn Ads

1. Sponsored InMail

Sponsored InMail is one way to reach users on LinkedIn. It’s also my favorite campaign to run and I’ve found it to be the most effective.

Typical InMail campaigns are very similar to standard LinkedIn InMail you might send to an old colleague, but is delivered en masse to the inboxes of your target audience along with a call-to-action button (+ there is space for a small image ad if you like).

This is one Sponsored InMail from video conferencing software, Highfive. It appeared in my inbox a few days ago:

Mastering LinkedIn Advertising (Plus 1 Growth Hack You Can't Miss) Growth Marketing

Notice, it’s fairly casual, addresses the user by name and focuses on a few quick features. My most successful InMail campaigns are actually even more casual than Elisabeth’s.

Like I said, Sponsored InMail is my favorite LinkedIn ad unit. Why?

  1. It is very unique to LinkedIn. Email, Google and Facebook advertising offer nothing like it.
  2. We’re all used to text ads and promoted content — these are the ad units of choice on Facebook and Twitter. InMail stands out in the daily sea of text ads and promoted content we all experience while browsing the web.
  3. InMail is human-to-human advertising. Instead of seeing content promoted by a brand or company, InMail comes from another person! This makes it very personalized and the chances of effective conversion higher.
How do I set up my first InMail campaign?

LinkedIn’s ad dashboard leaves a lot to be desired. It’s a little tricky to navigate, so if you’re planning to spend over $5,000 in a given campaign, you should email support and ask for a representative, who will effectively run the campaign for you.

If you’re spending less than $5k, you’re in self serve territory. That’s okay, it’s not difficult to set up an InMail campaign.

How do I know if my InMail is working?

As with any ad unit, LinkedIn InMail requires a lot of testing and optimization. But if after 7 days you’re not seeing a 25%+ open rate and 3.5%+ CTR, it’s time to abandon ship and create a new campaign.

If you’re not hitting those metrics, your cost of acquisition is going to be higher than you’d like based on LinkedIn’s advertising algorithm.

This is what the analytics dashboard looks like:
Mastering LinkedIn Advertising (Plus 1 Growth Hack You Can't Miss) Growth Marketing

Create a couple different InMail campaign tests with different creatives. You’re able to choose a subject line for the InMail and the text within the message. Again, I’ve found that the shorter and more personal messages work best.

You can also target different landing pages or calls-to-action like “connect with us” vs “sign up.”

Make sure to use LinkedIn’s conditional text like *|FNAME|* or *|COMPANY|* to target your messages at the user or their business. The more specific you can get, the better.

For instance, an ideal InMail could read something like:

Hey *|FNAME|*, thanks for connecting!

I saw you work @ *|COMPANY|*. I recently developed a product that companies in your industry are loving. It’s making their lives much easier with automation and sweet targeting options. 

If you want to discuss further, either email me or click here to sign up for my newsletter.

2. LinkedIn Text Ads

Mastering LinkedIn Advertising (Plus 1 Growth Hack You Can't Miss) Growth Marketing

I’ve had only limited success with LinkedIn’s text ads.

Fundamentally, they operate like Google’s text ads. You choose your targeting options and users who meet that criteria will see your short form content as they browse the network.

You pay every time a user clicks on one of your ads. You’re able to then direct them to a landing page to input their information or to sell them your product.

In general, the costs are higher than Google Adwords. So unless LinkedIn’s targeting options like job title (which aren’t available to Google) are essential to your campaign’s success, I recommend using Google’s ads to reach your desired audience.

In both Sponsored InMail and Text Ads, you will need to manage the actual creative of your ad. I recommend you create 2 or 3 different variations of either your InMail and Text Ad.

3. Promoted Content

Mastering LinkedIn Advertising (Plus 1 Growth Hack You Can't Miss) Growth Marketing

I’ve started noticing a lot more promoted content on my LinkedIn feed. It’s very similar to the organic content you might see on your LinkedIn or Facebook feed.

Except for one thing — it’s paid.

Below are a few I’ve seen recently.

Mastering LinkedIn Advertising (Plus 1 Growth Hack You Can't Miss) Growth Marketing Mastering LinkedIn Advertising (Plus 1 Growth Hack You Can't Miss) Growth Marketing Mastering LinkedIn Advertising (Plus 1 Growth Hack You Can't Miss) Growth Marketing

Promoted content can be done in two ways.

  1. Visitors click and go to your website. Once there, it’s on you to collect lead information.
  2. LinkedIn’s own in-app lead gen forms.

Mastering LinkedIn Advertising (Plus 1 Growth Hack You Can't Miss) Growth Marketing

If you need a lot of information at signup, you should do this on your own website. If you can get away with just capturing an email address, use Lead Gen Forms — they’re going to be lower cost because the user doesn’t have to leave the LinkedIn website to give you their info.

From there, you will have to use one of their integrations to get your leads going to the right place (like Mailchimp, for example).

You can promote 1 of 2 types of content.

  1. Promote the existing content you’re already publishing from your company’s LinkedIn account.
  2. Create new content to promote — you will do this while you’re creating your campaign.

I highly recommend creating new promoted content. It’s best if you test several image creatives and a couple of headlines. Like Facebook news feed advertisements, the image is very important.

You will choose from the same targeting options as you do with InMail and Text Ads.

Promoted content works, but the cost is high in my experience.

The LinkedIn Growth Hack

LinkedIn’s ad network is powerful. There’s a ton of companies using it including Adobe, Callaway, Blackrock, Microsoft, Mercedes-Benz, WalkMe and RealtyShares.

Mastering LinkedIn Advertising (Plus 1 Growth Hack You Can't Miss) Growth Marketing

If you master your targeting on the LinkedIn ad network, you’re going to be able to get your company in front of the right people.

But these companies have a lot of money.

You and your company may not.

We didn’t and we discovered a LinkedIn growth hack that got us thousands of leads in just a week — for free. Seriously.

Learn how Hailey got over 1 million views for free with this trick. It’s not terribly difficult to replicate.