When you're working in paid advertising for a SaaS company, a decent accomplishment is when you’re able to bring your cost per qualified lead below the $100 mark. A great accomplishment is when you're able to rank in the top-performing ads on one of the best B2B marketing platforms (read: LinkedIn). And, as a Canadian in the space, the absolute best accomplishment is for all of the above to result in a free hockey game with a new dedicated account management team, courtesy of LinkedIn HQ.
In your dreams, right?
Not this time.
This is the story of how and why advertising on LinkedIn made my Canadian Demand Gen Specialist dreams come true.
How Successful LinkedIn Marketing Lead to a Hockey Game
Going to a hockey game is a big deal up in Canada, especially in Toronto where I'm from. The Maple Leafs is like college football in the US. We live and die by our team, we bleed their colors, yell at the TV, and go bananas when they win or lose.
If you know hockey, you know Leaf fans have been through harsh times in the past fifty years. Fortunately, things are looking up. We're young, talented, and officially on the hunt for Lord Stanley. You might also know that Toronto is the most expensive hockey market in North America, where tickets can run you $500 a seat.
So that's why I'm writing about this—a night at the Leaf game is a pretty big deal.
My LinkedIn rep and I sat in platinum seats just off the glass, ordered dinner, and sucked back two gasoline beers. These are the $20 pint-and-halfs that get the people going.
All right, so how did I get LinkedIn to take me to a hockey game?
It wasn't easy. In fact, it took me six months of hard work. But the strange thing about it is that I didn't ask for it. I didn't ask anyone at LinkedIn or talk about the Leafs with anyone there—in fact, I didn't know anyone at LinkedIn HQ.
One day, I got an email from an account executive informing me that two of our ads were performing Top 10 in the nation based on clickthrough and engagement (it took me six months to get to the top).
A good click-through rate on LinkedIn is considered between 0.25-0.35%. Our ads were getting 1.1%
The Account Exec wanted to jump on call to learn what I was doing and why no one had reached out to Vendasta before.
So we video-called each other and started talking. He wanted to understand what I was doing in terms of targeting, messaging, and content. I walked him through it on-screen while he took notes. He then asked about the main KPI I was after. Of course, as a marketer I said, MQLs.
He then asked, “What kind of ROI are you getting?”
Over six months, I told him we'd gotten over 1,000 MQLs at $70 a pop with a 93% qualified-lead rate. That ended our call as he promptly invited myself and Devon (Marketing Director) to their head office.
[clickToTweet tweet="A 93% qualified-lead rate on #LinkedIn was the ticket to more than just sales, but also to an actual hockey game." quote="A 93% qualified-lead rate on #LinkedIn was the ticket to more than just sales, but also to an actual hockey game."]
We went and toured the LinkedIn Toronto office, had lunch, and chatted about Vendasta's marketing goals—the usual schmooze. But at the of the meeting, something not-so-usual happened—we walked out of there with a dedicated Vendasta account management team that includes:
- an account executive
- an account manager
- a campaign manager
- Plus, a bunch of in-beta tools to give us the leg-up on competitors—lead ads, auto-form-fill widget and a few different tracking pixels
💡 Jackpot: successful LinkedIn B2B marketing had gotten us into the secret club.
Me at LinkedIn HQ
The cool thing was that we didn't have to give LinkedIn any more money than what we were already spending. Our dedicated LinkedIn marketing efforts had given us certain perks and privileges, as well as high quality leads for our team.
A month later, I got asked to the Leafs game. These guys at LinkedIn are class-acts all the way—they sent my wife boutique chocolates and candy for Christmas, gifts when my son was born, and to this day, they routinely invite me out to dinner.
Okay, so now you're wondering how do you make ads that get you our great ROI and—more importantly—tickets to your favorite sporting event?
I keep hearing LinkedIn is difficult to advertise on. I understand that from the B2C perspective, but not from the B2B. It's a platform for businesspeople!
I agree LinkedIn's advertising features are a bit basic compared to Facebook and AdWords, and the platform is janky at times. Like, the fact you can’t edit your ads or that you have to “sponsor” content you just created as an ad to make an ad. If you spend enough time in there you know what I mean.
That said, since the Microsoft acquisition, things have been getting better. They have a new interface, more tracking metrics, remarketing features, and a lead ad format similar to Facebook's. Either way, LinkedIn is a proven B2B MQL gold mine that delivers high-quality leads at a great return.
Okay, on to the good stuff. How to create Top 10 ads that gets you things. I'll walk you through my audience creation, ad messages, types of content, and of course the ads in question.
LinkedIn Advertising Tips to Get You to Game Day
Step One: The Audience
Step Two: The Message
Step Three: The Image
Step Four: The Content
Step One: Creating the Audience
Here are the 4 parameters to creating an audience that drives leads.
For B2B, creating targeted audiences on LinkedIn is easier than any other ad platform. Every user has their place of employment listed with their title. Doesn't get any better than that, right?
Because you know who your target markets and personas are.
Parameter 1: Choose the geographic location you want to target.
Parameter 2: Choose the industries you want to target.
Parameter 3: Choose job titles. Select one-by-one the decision makers you want to advertise to. Choose specific job titles by typing them in rather than selecting the preset versions listed under “Seniority.”
This is a blanket feature that targets sets of roles/titles like Executive, Directors, Managers. I advise not to use this feature—CPC is at a premium on LinkedIn—so you have to be specific with your targeting. You only want the right people clicking or your budget will be gone in no time. Really narrow down your personas (e.g., small business owner, digital director, founder, etc.)
[clickToTweet tweet="Don't use blanket job titles! Make the CPC worthwhile by being specific to reach the right audience. #LinkedInTip" quote="Don't use blanket job titles! Make the CPC worthwhile by being specific to reach the right audience. #LinkedInTip"]
Parameter 4: Select “Groups” in the audience menu that your audience is likely to be a part of. My theory here is that people who are in LinkedIn groups are more engaged on the platform than the average user. When I tested it without using groups, my CTR plummeted from 1.1% (at its peak) to 0.312%.
[clickToTweet tweet="Without using LinkedIn Groups in our ad audience, our CTR dropped from 1.1% to 0.3%. Build ads wisely! #LinkedInTip" quote="Without using LinkedIn Groups in our ad audience, our CTR dropped from 1.1% to 0.3%. Build ads wisely! #LinkedInTip"]
Step 2. Creating the Message
I can't stress this enough. Sounds basic, but this needs to be done for every ad you create. If you're not getting leads, I can tell you this is the number one reason why.
You're competing against a world of other ads. Lace all of yours with audience-specific messaging—in the headline, text, and description—to get their attention, and let your target know this is for them.
Use it in your image, and make it loud! Unlike Facebook that prefers only 20% of your image to have text, LinkedIn has no text restrictions.
Another necessity is to use a data-driven component to your ad. This is a business platform. Businesspeople want proof!
[#LinkedInMarketing is not like Facebook. With your images, use text to stand out and data to attract those results-driven B2B prospects!]
Challenges Agencies Face Study: 7th Top Performing Ad
Step 3. Creating the Image
The image is the most overlooked component when advertising on LinkedIn, yet probably the most critical. Over 98% of LinkedIn posts with images receive more comments, and posts with links have a 200% higher engagement rate.
To summarize: A) You must use an image for best results, and B) 85% of people make their judgement on an ad based on the image quality and aesthetic. So, if you have a bad image that doesn't relate to your audience, chances are your engagement will reflect as such.
Use an image that's going to stand out in the news feed—and make sure it's different from what your competitors are using or what advertisers are using in general. Be different, be unique, get noticed.
6th Top Performing Ad
Step 4. Creating the Content
I say this in all my blog posts. Without the right content, your ads might get clicks but probably not leads. When I promote stuff like 101 Free Tools, 50 Social Media Tips, or How to Motivate Your Sales Team, I never get return on my investment.
The truth about this type of content is this: A) There is no shortage of content like this across the web, and B) They are owned by the authorities in the space. So unless you're a juggernaut like HubSpot, Moz, or Salesforce, my advice is to come up with something unique. Something that really speaks to your target market.
How do you think companies like those above became the authorities in their market? They did something different way before anyone else.
Vendasta's target market is agencies and media companies. So it's no surprise that some of our all-time top performing lead generation content are these guide below.
P.S. They all have the LinkedIn autofill widget. Check it out 😉 And get AutoFill on your own landing pages!
Don't follow the pack. Own your niche and leads will come!
Advertising on LinkedIn is much more expensive than other social channels, but if you nail your audience, ad message, and content, you can bid on the lower end of the auction and still get great delivery and max clicks for a much lower CPC than what is recommended.
LinkedIn advertising let us rake in over 1,000 MQLs over 6 months with a CPL of $70, and a 93% qualified lead rate. For businesses operating in the B2B space, it's a highly-qualified lead gold mine. Put in a little money and some effort, and you'll dig up new prospect diamonds.
So get out there and start raking in those leads with this formula. Seems simple, because it is simple. Give it shot!
Post script: I bet you're dying to know how hammered the LinkedIn rep got at the Leaf game.
Not at all—wah-waaaaah!
The Leafs won 2-1 against the Hurricanes, though!
Now that you're driving more lead traffic, convert as many of them as possible with LinkedIn autofill!