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Your LinkedIn Advertising Questions, Answered


April 7, 2023


April 7, 2023

Trey Buchanan, VP of B2B Advertising at Right Percent, a Right Side Up venture specializing in paid advertising for B2B companies, recently hosted an AMA to share what he’s learned spending $95M on LinkedIn ads for clients. The highlights are captured below and you can check out the entire discussion on Trey’s LinkedIn here. Comments have been lightly edited and condensed for clarity. 

Should Your Business Advertise on LinkedIn?

Finding success within the LinkedIn Ads platform depends on a variety of factors. And deciding whether it’s worth it for your business to invest in this platform is particularly important, given the higher costs compared to other paid social channels. 

So how do you know if LinkedIn ads are right for you? Take a look at your company size and growth stage, product/service offerings, available budget and capacity, and campaign objectives.

What kind of brands do well advertising with LinkedIn ads?

Most B2Bs do really well as long as they have a foundationally solid sales team, good content and offers, and basic marketing operations set up that can show attribution down to opportunity and closed deals. In most cases, brands that have a deal size of $5K+ is the minimum recommended threshold, otherwise LinkedIn can be too expensive to push ads on.

Companies that do well with LinkedIn Ads are generally B2B brands with a solid sales team, have good content and offers, can handle attribution, and have a $5K+ deal size

What are some of the bestselling types of products/services that see success on LinkedIn?

The easiest products to scale typically have the biggest available markets. Think of products that every business needs within their software suite: accounting, HR, etc. You can usually spend the most with them because the markets are so large and broadly applicable.

Some businesses are “easy” to scale, but have smaller market sizes that limit the total possible scale they can achieve. 

Are the results from LinkedIn worth the high CPCs?

Absolutely. There is no other platform where you can target specific companies, titles, industries, etc. in a native environment and with standard demographic targeting.

What size clients do you work with and when is it worth it for a business to work with external resources for LinkedIn ads? 

To see the best results, we typically want to see $20K+ in spend per month minimum. Note that with $10K per month in spend, you can start gathering impactful data that an external partner can use to support, but $20K significantly helps speed up the learning process at scale.

How much time does it take for companies new to LinkedIn ads to start seeing performance, and what is the best approach for those starting with lower budgets?

It depends on the infrastructure the business currently has running. Let's assume they have a decent marketing automation setup and can create ads quickly. In that case, you can probably perform in the first couple of months. Some brands take longer to find what messages resonate on the platform so you should try multiple pieces of content and different ads. Once you find the right working combo, double down.

For most advertisers, gated content rules the roost. If you’re sensitive to CPA, lead generation forms are a good place to start.

How do conversion-focused ecommerce brands find the most success on LinkedIn? It seems like there are more positive B2B case studies, but far fewer for D2C or ecommerce.

Generally speaking, LinkedIn is not a great platform for ecommerce companies. Every once in a while you might see an ad for some kind of luxury good, but with the expensive CPMs and CPCs, and lack of a CPM algorithm like Facebook, LinkedIn just doesn’t cut it for conversion-focused ecommerce brands.

How does the LinkedIn Ads platform stack up from a B2B perspective compared to Facebook/Instagram and other channels (like display/native within email, OOH, etc.)? What specific differences/nuances in targeting capabilities are most notable?

The biggest thing that makes LinkedIn a winner is the availability of in-platform data for targeting. Because people give information about their professional life freely, the data they have is incredibly robust for targeting.

But don’t forget: that targeting comes at a price. CPMs and CPCs are very expensive compared to Facebook. At the same time, Facebook can't target specific people at high-level enterprise companies effectively without third-party data. And even with that third-party data, it can still be challenging.

The only other channel that comes close to LinkedIn is search, but the intent is different. Search is a great way to harvest intent by bidding on terms people are actively looking for while LinkedIn lets you focus on creating intent/demand. The spot in the funnel is just different.

Should B2B companies do brand or acquisition campaigns? Have you noticed a strong difference in terms of performance between companies that only do acquisition and companies that do brand and acquisition campaigns?

It all depends on where they are in their journey and what data they have available. If a company has mature demand generation strategies, they should start with nurture for their open leads and opportunities and look at the conversation rate pre- and post-implementation. It takes time and buy-in but if you’ve already built trust it's an easy way to get to the next step over time.

In most cases demand (if you have a good offer/content) can scale pretty significantly without a brand campaign. But there’s always a point of diminishing returns where brand becomes the next big stepping stone. For some brands, that happens at $200K per month and for others it can be up to $800K+ a month depending on the TAM.

And when they go with brand, it's two prong—to fill the funnel up top and to nurture and improve conversion rates on down-funnel metrics like opportunity conversion.

Is LinkedIn a good place for acquiring webinar registrations?

Unfortunately, most ads for webinars don't do well because the webinars themselves are focused on topics the advertiser cares about, but not what their customers care about. So if you’re going to attempt to use LinkedIn to drive registrations, the most important thing is to have topics that draw interest and feel relevant to your audience.

Over the last year we’ve seen the most success driving webinar signups via lead generation forms. This approach helps their CPAs and works great if you have a solid email sequence to follow up with.

And remember that targeting is crucial here. Take your basic ideal customer profile (ICP) and go one level lower. For example, if your main target is director level, it’s a good idea to go down to manager level because they have sway and communicate learnings on topics upward. It will also help cheapen your CPAs by building a larger audience. 

LinkedIn Advertising Best Practices + Tips

Once you’ve decided to explore the LinkedIn Ads platform for your business, you’ll want to set your campaigns up correctly to get the most bang for your budget. There are many ways to burn through spend on this platform, so getting it right from the start is key.

What types of ROAS should you aim for?

ROAS varies greatly depending on the brand. Most companies do pipeline goals if they have long close cycles (nine months or longer), and in many cases, the goal is to do 15x pipeline per $1 spent just as an example.

This can be lower for some brands if the win rate is higher or they have smaller deal sizes (usually more of a churn and burn). For those, we often work with a closed won value and try to target 1.5x ROAS for closed won or more. Some brands do more and have stricter targets. 

Does sponsored content work? And should it be gated or ungated?

Sponsored content, particularly basic text on an image, works best. (Don’t forget to include a call to action button.) Static images work better for demand than video because that format offers more space to click on. These types of high-CTR ads offer efficient clicks to your site or form opens. 

The question of whether to keep your content gated or ungated doesn’t have a simple answer; it depends on your marketing and measurement strategy. If you have robust email nurture streams and a solid SDR team, gated is likely the way to go. (This is also assuming your content is of high value to your audience.)

However, ungated content can work well if you have your multi-touch attribution (MTA) system set up that way and are comfortable with it. You’ll need to measure other things to assure that you’re keeping track of side metrics, like brand impression lift, organic increases, direct increases, etc. You also typically need buy-in for the higher ups to knock down lead volume here.

Should assets be designed for mobile or desktop campaigns? Which performs better?

Mobile traffic is cheaper and more readily available, but desktop has better conversion rates. You need both to make a campaign work and there are limitations on delivering traffic to one specifically. In most cases, you should build for mobile since it sees the most volume and has greater usability. Most mobile campaign assets will still transfer to desktop well. 

What is the best bottom-of-funnel campaign type and offer that can bring in closed-won deals within a year?

We’ve seen incentivized demo campaigns that are tightly targeted blow things out of the water for many brands. It opens up conversations for sales with prospects you want to talk to. There is, of course, fine tuning that has to be done, but it's been great to see the success with this type of campaign.

What is the most efficient way to structure your LinkedIn Ads account for lead generation? Have you found an overarching best way to breakout campaigns and audiences?

There are no specific hard and fast rules. Retargeting is typically going to be the best performer for lead generation, so you should max that out without overdoing the frequency and hitting diminishing returns.

You can also try groups targeting if you can find them for your ICP. It’s more limited than job title or function plus seniority, but we often see better engagement and results from this targeting subset. Again, maximize this to be the best you can without seeing diminishing returns.

For top-of-funnel, job title or function plus seniority works great. You just have to make sure to include and exclude other appropriate industries, company sizes, titles, etc.

For an ABM, SaaS, lead generation, or website conversion campaign, what is the ideal size for a prospecting audience in the awareness/consideration stage and the corresponding monthly/daily spend?

It’s tough to give general guidelines because it depends on the audience size for the ABM program. We typically like to break down the audiences based on the funnel stage or intent stage; awareness, consideration, decision, purchase, etc. If you have specific content or a product that varies by industry, you could break it down further. 

In most cases, you want at least 20K+ people for a focused ABM effort. When you get below 10K people, you really limit data gathering to make changes to your campaigns. And with hyper segmentation, you can lose some algorithmic delivery.

For a conversion or lead generation focused non-ABM campaign using evergreen targeting, you should aim for 150K+ people.

Can you run successful ads targeting an existing customer base or is LinkedIn better for prospect audiences?

You can be successful if there is a major upside for cross-sells and upsells. But if the value isn't there, new logos would be the best option.

How important is engagement (likes, comments, impressions) and is it ignorable?

Engagement is largely unimportant. The engagement metric LinkedIn cares about most is clicks to website since they bill on clicks. It's a massive factor in ad relevance.

The likes, comments, and shares do impact what are called "Viral Impressions," where people outside your targeting see your ad. You don't pay for them but the amount of penetration is small enough to not be super concerned about this either.

Clicks to website is the most important engagement metric for LinkedIn Ads

Does LinkedIn count short bounces that are likely accidental clicks? 

Most platforms, including LinkedIn, say they don't charge for accidental clicks depending on the action, but it can be hard to measure whether that is actually happening.

Does the LinkedIn Audience Network target the same exact members that are being targeted from the audience you build within the LinkedIn Ads platform? Or do they also include members who are closely similar on third-party sites?

The way the platform describes it is that it's your audience but just targeting outside of LinkedIn on a network of sites. In our opinion it's not worth it because the quality of traffic goes down significantly and you have no control over budget by delivery space. It can even end up taking over a campaign. 

How can you make something go viral when you don't have an active following, but the content is performing well in Linkedin groups?

A lot of people have networks they use for engagement to get more penetration. Comments really help and likes can help a bit, as well.

Do you have a go-to targeting option for a new campaign with zero historical data? Is it possible to do simple broad targeting for geography/gender/age and then let the AI figure it out like we’re seeing on Meta?

It depends on the business. If you know your core ICP via company size, titles, industry, etc., you can put together a fairly simple structure of those aspects and layer them onto a campaign with some basic exclusions.

Where it gets more challenging is big-ticket enterprise items or unique ICPs. Some of these brands really focus on ABM and build campaigns out by vertical. These also can do super well.

Groups can be a great targeting option if you can find ones with your target audience—they tend to be more active on LinkedIn and engage more with the ads, but this does have a more limited scale.

Targeting based on interests is a bit too broad and your quality often suffers. That being said, skills can be good if the skills are specific and not overly broad like “Google search.” Specific programming languages are a great example for this.

Broad targeting is not great on LinkedIn. The algorithm is not as sophisticated as Meta’s so it does struggle to find your ideal customer. The auto bid algorithm isn't good, either. It just spends and spends. We recommend manual CPC bidding with defined audiences.

Common Mistakes and Troubleshooting

As with all ad campaigns, things can and will go wrong. Here are some common mistakes and challenges we’ve run into that you should keep an eye out for.

What are the most common mistakes you see brands make when they start advertising on LinkedIn? 

There are several common ones to watch out for:

  1. Using the wrong creative aspect ratios. Square beats rectangular by 20–70% depending on the advertiser.
  2. Using audience expansion. Just don't.
  3. Using the LinkedIn Audience Network. Again, just don't.
  4. Keeping prospecting audiences too big or too small.
  5. Not breaking out campaigns based on intent (i.e. keeping remarketing audiences in prospecting campaigns).
Avoid these common mistakes when running ads on LinkedIn

Which bidding strategy should be used if ads are getting over 1% CTR? How can you get traffic cheaper without sacrificing quality?

Try either low-bid CPC with a tight audience or shift to CPM bidding to drop your costs when you have that high of a CTR.

Bonus Questions

What's the last LinkedIn ad campaign you ran that surprised you?

We ran a targeted campaign to some cannabis companies trying to offer them software services that did quite well.

Why did you spend $95 million on LinkedIn ads?

I've been running LinkedIn ad departments at agencies for the last 6+ years.

Do you want to discuss how LinkedIn ads can supercharge your B2B marketing efforts? Send us a message at growth@rightsideup.co to talk to one of our LinkedIn experts.

Trey Buchanan is a B2B advertising leader with experience managing LinkedIn ad campaigns for early stage startups all the way to Fortune 500 firms. He has a deep expertise in paid social and B2B advertising, having managed more than $60M in LinkedIn ad spend. Before joining Right Percent as their VP of B2B Advertising, Trey was the Head of B2B Paid Social at Metric Theory where he managed a team of B2B-focused social marketers who specialized in driving LinkedIn ad performance for their clients.

Jes Parker is a writer and content marketer with experience creating B2B and consumer-facing assets that build brands and make complex concepts more human. She has worked with companies and nonprofits like Highstead Foundation, Trust for Public Land, Harvard University, the Museum of the City of New York, and Times Square Alliance to craft accessible and engaging content strategies.

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