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LinkedIn Ads: Objectives & Optimizations

The following guide has been distilled from an in-depth conversation with Aman Gandhi, a senior client solutions manager at LinkedIn.

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The following guide has been distilled from an in-depth conversation with Aman Gandhi, a senior client solutions manager at LinkedIn. We’ll be exploring a wide range of valuable topics around LinkedIn Ads, straight from the source. Here’s what this guide covers: 

  • Who should advertise on LinkedIn?
  • LinkedIn organic’s influence on paid ads
  • LinkedIn ad optimizations & best practices

LinkedIn Ads: Who’s It For?

Do LinkedIn ads work? How effective are LinkedIn ads? What’s the best way to measure LinkedIn ROI? 

LinkedIn is generally considered to be a “premium” paid B2B marketing channel, and with good reason: It’s the only professional network on the planet with more than a billion users and 67 million companies. A dream come true for B2B marketers looking to identify, research, and target the right people from the right companies. That being said, an insufficient understanding of LinkedIn — and more concerningly, ambiguous objectives with LinkedIn ads — often leads leadership to question the platform’s efficacy. 

The truth is, advertising on LinkedIn is not for everyone. Unless you have a clear objective and a relevant audience in place, it’s difficult to expect LinkedIn, or any ad platform, to work well for you, regardless of budgets. Accordingly, here’s are 3 highlight recommended prerequisites to advertise on LinkedIn:

1. A Clear Objective 

This one is simple enough. Before you advertise on LinkedIn, you need to know what you want out of it. Is it more awareness? Influence? Website visits? Leads? Whatever this may be for you, clarify this objective and set expectations accordingly. 

It’s impossible to answer the question “But where’s the ROI?” without defining what ROI means for your business. It’s imperative to start with a business objective as your north star. This objective should then be distilled into function-wise objectives for sales and marketing. Crucially, there needs to be a handshake between marketing and sales to make LinkedIn, or any channel for that matter, work well. Once you have a clear objective in mind, inspect the buying journey holistically for an accurate measurement of LinkedIn ROI:

  • If you’re targeting high-intent accounts, ROI may be leads, pipeline, or revenue
  • If you’re targeting mid-intent accounts, ROI may be engagement or website traffic
  • If you’re targeting low-intent accounts, ROI could simply be impressions or awareness

2. Minimum TAM of 50,000 

The next step in deciding whether advertising on LinkedIn makes sense for you is to measure the size of your total addressable market (TAM) on the platform. Here’s the easiest way to measure your TAM on LI: 

  1. Search for the company industries you care about most
  2. Filter down to the most relevant geographies and job functions/titles 
  3. Assume a monthly active user rate of 50% and calculate your TAM
An ad campaign setup screen with targeting options and forecasted results

Unless your target audience is especially active on LinkedIn (as in the case of the information security vertical), you should consider advertising on LinkedIn only if your TAM is at least 50,000. In the image above, the audience size of US-based marketing leaders in software is 100,000. Assuming an active user rate of 50%, the TAM is 50,000. A promising candidate for Linkedin ads! 

3. Minimum following of 10,000

While there’s no rule that says your business page needs 10,000 followers before you can advertise on LinkedIn, a base of organic followers is crucial to get the most out of your paid efforts. Here’s why:

Building a foundation of organic followers ensures that, between paid and organic posts, your target audience receives sufficient brand exposure. In a way, LinkedIn organic is the bedrock of your paid ads. 

Say your company has only about 1,000 followers to target. In this case, your target audience will receive only 1-2 impressions a day, only via paid ads. If you have a larger following (and an organic content strategy in place), you’ll be delivering far more impressions for the same ad spend, which in turn drives conversions. And the results are real. Targeting paid ads towards organic followers has been shown to reduce CPM and CPC by as much as 60%. In turn, it improves conversions by as much as 40% as well.  

While the impact of organic is not instant, the benefits are realized when your business starts to scale.

This doesn’t mean you need to have a goliath corporate presence on the platform. Consistently contributing to your niche with relevant content is a great starting point to get to 10,000 ICP followers.

A sponsored Canvas8 LinkedIn ad with two laughing women and a CTA button

Objectives & Optimizations

If you meet the 3 prerequisites mentioned above, advertising on LinkedIn has immense potential for you. But a sufficiently large TAM and organic following will only take you so far in achieving your objectives. This section highlights a few best practices and optimization strategies to make the most of your ads. 

1. Different strokes for different folks

LinkedIn offers a wide range of ad formats across sponsored content, sponsored messaging and text/dynamic ads. Each ad format offers its own unique purpose and benefit. Message ads, for example, work disproportionately well for top of the funnel audiences or businesses with shorter sales cycles. Spotlight ads, on the other hand, are a cost-effective format for retargeting ad campaigns. Similarly, thought-leadership style ads work especially well for brand building and establishing a leader’s presence. Experiment with a wide range of ad formats to know what works best for your audience and objectives.

2. Avoid ad fatigue

While there are differing opinions on the exact figures, most marketers agree that overexposing ad creatives lead to ad fatigue — a situation where audiences grow tiresome of being bombarded with the same ads over and over again. It’s important to keep an eye on ad frequency and refresh creatives on a regular basis. We recommend 5 impressions per user per month as an upper limit. Alternatively, avoid showcasing the same creative to an audience for longer than a 90-day period. Ideally, look to refresh the creative with more relevant messaging as audiences move down the funnel. That being said, even something as simple as changing the color blocks of a creative may be sufficient change for audiences.

3. Alignment, across the board

Your ads must be aligned across ad creatives, ad copies, and landing pages to ensure they achieve the most bang for the buck. Misaligned messaging or design language will throw audiences off and leave a poor taste in the mouth across the buying experience. 

4. It’s the little things that count

Apart from these larger practices to keep in mind, here are a few tactical tips to help refine your LinkedIn ads performance:

  • Optimization frequency: A large part of marketing involves experiments and tests to identify what works best. That being said, make sure to wait at least 4 days to capture complete optimization insights on LinkedIn before making any changes to your ad campaigns. We recommended a once a week cadence to ensure sufficient data and informed decisions. 
  • ACV ranges for lead gen: Realistically, lead gen forms are unlikely to work for businesses with an ACV of $100,000 or more. These larger deals will probably require dedicated sales teams to target and close. That being said, lead gen offerings such as free trials, demos, etc work exceedingly well for businesses with smaller ticket sizes of $10,000 to $20,000.
  • Work email option: As a B2B marketer, you probably value work emails IDs a lot more than personal ones. Most LinkedIn users, however, tend to use their personal email IDs when registering for an account. In turn, lead gen forms auto capture this set of IDs. To solve for this, LinkedIn offers the ability to whitelist work email IDs in their lead gen forms. This prevents buyers from submitting non-work email IDs from gmail.com, yahoo.com, etc. This is a nifty way to monitor and control lead quality.
  • Experiment with LAN: Depending on the nature of your business and category, LinkedIn Audience Network (LAN) may be a great option to increase audience size, drive brand awareness, and ultimately bring down cost.

And there you have it! LinkedIn is a powerful marketing channel for B2B businesses. Whether it’s to improve brand awareness, engagement, or web conversions, LinkedIn is designed to optimize for your goal. But it’s no magic wand: it’s imperative to have your objectives, audiences, creatives, landing pages, and tracking in place to really get the most out of the platform. The results are well worth it. 

Are LinkedIn ads really that expensive? Read our latest edition of Factors Labs to learn more about LinkedIn True ROI — and how LinkedIn’s influence involves more than just clicks and sign-ups. 

A bar graph comparing high 'Click-through' and low 'View-through' costs per opportunity.

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