A playbook to help marketers develop high performing creative matched with LinkedIn’s targeted audiences to drive performance.
Your next customer is on LinkedIn right now! It’s the one channel that offers B2B marketers an effective way to address, engage, and analyze the right audiences in the right context.
Take a moment to time travel – back to when direct to consumer marketing met the internet. It was thrilling. Long held monopolies fell, like so many goliaths under the pelting of a million instagram ads. Consumers discovered the option to buy eyeglasses directly from manufacturers, mattresses that sprang straight from the screen into your home, and subscriptions for everything (seriously - everything: razors, makeup, beauty, socially conscious products, even pet toys!)
That revolution’s finally making its way to B2B with a few notable differences. The platform isn’t Facebook or Instagram, it’s LinkedIn and the path to conversion is longer with a larger buying committee than a 16 year old kid buying a pair of well photographed shades.
The ability for B2B marketers to use a performance playbook to transform their brand’s growth trajectory begins with one truth : your buyers are on LinkedIn right now. They are there to learn about ways they can improve their business, and they can be accurately targeted based on a number of attributes that the LinkedIn platform provides. That’s the reason LinkedIn is worth the cost, and why it’s got to be the foundation of your growth strategy. It’s where your customers are, and they’re there looking for what you’re offering - they just don’t know it yet. Once you meet them on LinkedIn, you have all kinds of exciting ways to drive them toward conversion.
This playbook will help smart marketers leverage LinkedIn’s tools to generate both awareness and demand, and will provide a powerful foundation as you build sustainable growth using creative that’s personalized for specific audiences on LinkedIn.
Before you start building your audience and campaign strategy, developing creative and activating on LinkedIn, it’s crucial to define and align what success looks like to your organization, so that you’ll know if your campaigns are performing. So, start by defining your objectives and KPIs and codifying them, so that you always have a source of truth for your campaigns and you can quickly adjust if you’re not hitting your targets.
By clearly defining what success looks like you can then be thoughtful in giving each creative a specific job to be done that can be measured so that you are able to create fast, predictable growth.
Next, you should determine where you are at this moment, and what you currently have to work with. Knowing and organizing your content from the start will save you a lot of time and headache down the road when you’re ready to launch campaigns. The main things to sort out during this time are:
Website & Landing Pages
Ok! Now you’re ready to start on the fun stuff!
Remember those goals we talked about earlier? Well now, it’s time to turn those goals into a funnel, and turn that funnel into LinkedIn objectives.
The classic “sales funnel,” while widely questioned about its ideological nuances (Is it linear, upside down, or inside out? Is it even a funnel at all? Maybe it’s a flywheel?), is at its core a simple framework designed to standardize the measurement of performance of marketing tactics and messaging. It’s a great framework to help you assign the right creative and content assets for each audience, and it allows your marketing efforts to be measured, optimized, and (most importantly) scaled! The key to the success of this strategy is developing a funnel that fits your business and aligning that with the capabilities of LinkedIn. Here’s a simple sample funnel that can serve as a Campaign Strategy framework:
When you’re building your funnel for LinkedIn, you’ll need to strategically select from LinkedIn’s preset objectives to align with your funnel.
LinkedIn requires you to have an objective for each campaign, and uses algorithms to automatically optimize for and engage sub-segments of your audience based on the data that is collected from cookies. So, for example, if you pick the ‘Brand Awareness’ objective, the algorithm will try to show your ad to as many people in your audience as it can cheaply find, period. However, if you pick ‘Engagement’ the LinkedIn algorithm will attempt to show your ad to people who have a habit of clicking, liking, commenting, sharing, reposting, engaging.
Since objectives can have such a strong impact on how your campaign performs – it’s important to pick the right one. There’s obviously a scenario for every objective – but we suggest these three objectives for the VAST majority of our campaigns:
At The Imaginarium, we like to use these specific objectives because they align with our commitment to user experience and brand building. They also help you get the most for your ad spend, helping you overcome the main drawback of LinkedIn B2B marketing: the price tag that can come with such robust audience data. There are other objectives within the LinkedIn Campaign Manager, like brand awareness and lead generation, which are less effective at driving sustainable growth.
Now in order to populate your funnel, you have to answer the most important question for LinkedIn. Who is your audience? We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again, LinkedIn’s superpower is its unparalleled audience data. On other channels, you can target someone based on their region, their gender, their age, and maybe some of their interests. On LinkedIn, you can target based on job title, job functions, seniority levels, industry, company size and professional interests. It’s a gold mine of data for B2B marketers!
So, defining and then building and testing (more on that later!) your audiences on LinkedIn is an enormously important step. At this point, you likely have an idea of your ideal customer (ICP) or what companies you want to target, so we won’t spend time on building an ICP or persona in this playbook. Instead we’ll give you our tips on important things to remember when building your audience using LinkedIn.
Depending on your media budget for LinkedIn, you definitely want to test audiences (more budget allows you to test more audiences). The goal of testing different audiences at the beginning is to gather data on performance (like click through rate, cost per click, and audience share), and which audience resonates the most with your content—this provides a roadmap for how you should scale your budgets to drive predictable performance. Audience analytics helps accomplish the goals of condensing the data that LinkedIn’s B2B marketing gives you.
Targeting by audience attributes
With LinkedIn attributes, you have many levers to pull (job title, function, seniority, etc.) when building your audiences, so the following grid will help you understand how to achieve the perfect blend of accuracy and volume. Keep this grid in mind while you’re building your audience.
If you have existing lists of contacts or companies that you want to upload to LinkedIn to supplement targeting by audience attributes, you can, as long as the lists match to at least 300 active LinkedIn members (but the more the better). LinkedIn makes it easy to upload audiences from a CSV list, here’s their guide.
One of the most powerful tactics that B2B marketers can use is to build audiences by retargeting potential customers and responding to signals that they’ve put out based on their behavior. The first step is one you’re already familiar with from the audit phase: installing the LinkedIn Insight Tag and leveraging the data it collects from cookies. This will allow you to capture website visits and actions on your website as well as in LinkedIn so you can retarget even more effectively.
Audience sizing is one of the more complicated parts of working in LinkedIn. LinkedIn allows audiences as small as 300, however, to allow the LinkedIn algorithm to work for you, we recommend
Note that these are references to give you a sense of the proportion of each category of the funnel for your LinkedIn campaigns – the actual numbers will depend on the amount of traffic and engagement your business has. Also, this is not your total addressable audience, these are suggestions for the sizes of the audiences you will build within LinkedIn and target with specific creative campaigns. Depending on your budget, you can have as many audiences of these sizes in different verticals or with different attributes that you’d like.
We recommend that keeping the audience size of each stage of the funnel within these ranges for marketing on LinkedIn because you want them to be small enough to personalize your messaging effectively, but large enough to create meaningful scale and efficient optimization.
Now that we know who our ads are for (our beautiful customers) and how we are going to move them through our funnel using LinkedIn, it’s time for the fun part! The most impactful part of an ad or social post is creative, which is why your LinkedIn marketing should be creative-driven. However, making the right choice of how your creative will accomplish the specific job to be done can be one of the most important decisions you make in your campaign.
The ultimate goal in the development of your creative should be to distill your brand into distinct assets that are both unique and memorable, and to infuse those assets into powerful ads that spark an emotional connection with your future customer.
Romaniuk, J. (2018). Distinctive Asset Measurement. Ehrenberg-Bass. https://www.marketingscience.info/research-services/distinctive-assets/
You’ve done the work to figure out who your customer is, now it’s time to really dive into what they care about and use empathy to connect the things your customers care about to the problem your product solves. This will give you crucial insight into which aspects of your company you should emphasize in your creative. Once you’ve narrowed down what you want to emphasize, turn that insight into powerful ads that are built to accomplish a specific job, and that keep your product’s solution both front of mind, and wildly exciting to your customer. Later we’ll talk about how you should be measuring and analyzing performance, and using that insight to constantly be optimizing the way you speak with your customers.
There are some tactical considerations that are specific to LinkedIn ads that you should keep in mind when evaluating your creative options and deciding what kinds of ads to develop.
There’s a simple equation we use to evaluate our favorite ad units:
cost / impact = value
Generally, we find the most value in single image and video ads. We generally avoid text/messaging ads that make it very hard to generate enough attention that your brand gets noticed. That said, every unit should be considered. Perhaps you’re telling a story that can only come to life through a carousel – while the cost might go up, so does the impact, so you’re still able to get the optimal value.
Unifying brand awareness and demand generation relies on creativity as a bridge between the two tactical approaches. The Imaginarium’s in-house creative team is a huge part of how we’ve been so successful at helping companies create fast, sustainable growth. To learn more just let us know a little about yourself and we’ll reach out.
“Don’t let us forget that the causes of human actions are usually immeasurably more complex and varied than our subsequent explanations of them.” - Dostoevsky
Fyodor’s not wrong, and he might have missed his true calling as a data analyst – but one thing is for certain. People are more inclined to act if you ask. The CTA is the part of your content that is most directly responsible for driving performance, and making sure there’s total alignment with your CTA and the ways that you are defining and measuring your goals is a crucial part of scaling your performance. When considering your CTA, think about who you are and your brand voice. For example, when asking for a demo sign-up with a CTA, if your organization typically uses a friendly, helpful brand voice, you may want to go with ‘Chat with us!’ in the CTA, rather than ‘Click for a free demo’ which may feel more demanding and disingenuous.
Website Destinations & Landing Pages
At the end of the day, your effort to craft emotionally resonant creatives that share your brand’s distinctive DNA should carry over to their web destinations, to create a consistent and compelling experience. Thoughtful repetition is a huge part of creating the mental availability in your future customer to be recalled at the moment they need you. In fact, aligning your entire website to fit the buyer’s journey (mapping your website’s content to fit the ideal customer profiles (ICPs) and target buyer personas) should be your goal, but it is particularly important to create that cohesive first impression as buyer’s move from the ad to the landing page.
If you need help building landing pages that convert, while remaining a cohesive part of your brand strategy, contact us. Our digital team would absolutely love to see if we can help. We specialize in Webflow landing pages that unify brand and demand to drive results.
Just like with your audiences, you want to be A/B testing creative from the start. We recommend having two ads in each campaign and keeping all other variables the same (like the LinkedIn ad copy, headlines, etc.). Once you’ve determined a winner with a 90% confidence interval, drop the loser and start testing a different variable.
Naming Conventions – Simple and Cohesive
It might feel arbitrary, but keeping an organized ad platform will be absolutely essential to running and optimizing efficient campaigns for performance. LinkedIn can be your best friend… if you give it enough time to really understand what you’re trying to do. The goal of testing audiences and creatives in the ways we’ve reviewed is to find something that your target customers respond to. Once that’s been identified, the goal becomes to keep that engagement alive as long as possible to allow those results to scale.
To accomplish these goals of identifying which campaigns are working over time, it’s crucial to implement a standardized naming convention from day one that everyone on your team understands. Not only will this save you headaches down the road – but will make it much easier to see which campaigns are working.
One effective formula for establishing a naming convention is:
Ad Format - Campaign Objective - Targeting.
So, an example might be: Single Image - Website Visits - CMO Job Title - Company size 50 and above - Banking Industry - US
The ultimate goal of analyzing the data you’re gathering using LinkedIn Ads’ tools is to identify the most effective strategies, and the longer a campaign runs, the more evidence LinkedIn has to indicate whether it is relevant. LinkedIn’s algorithm automatically processes new ads in the campaign with the level of relevance in mind, and if you have to start a new campaign because the naming wasn’t conducive to the ad being “evergreen,” you lose that advantage.
UTM parameters are variants of URL parameters that we B2B marketers use to track the effectiveness of our LinkedIn Ads efforts—they are identifiers that you can add to your URL so you can send data to Google Analytics and other measuring tools as traffic comes to your page.
UTMS are a great way to automate tracking of campaign effectiveness. They also pass a record to your CRM system once a lead is created, allowing you to marry your LinkedIn ad performance to your sales efforts and ultimately attribute revenue to your ad spend.
There are countless options to help you create UTMs for your campaigns, but we like to use this one.
You can include a ton of data inside each UTM; what we recommend is you never forget to add the following (we're using the same example as in the naming conventions section above):
It is crucial to align your team on the tagging strategy so you have consistent data points gathered from each UTM to evaluate performance. This helps you make sure you’re comparing performance on an apples-to-apples basis.
Post Boosting: Using Paid To Aid Organic
If your business isn’t already posting organically on its LinkedIn company page, we strongly suggest you start doing so. Here's a quick guide on leveraging the capabilities of LinkedIn Campaign Manager to amplify your organic content and build social proof.
A few need-to-know details:
Tips for setting up the campaign:
Bid Strategy and Budgeting – How To Control Costs the Smart Way
There are two ways for B2B marketers to help the team generate an advantage over other B2B brands. The first we’ve shown you already: LinkedIn’s strategic insights help you track ad performance and make changes to ensure that ads accomplish their goal, which would generate revenue down the line with conversions. The second way is to master the logistics of LinkedIn to help control what you can - specifically, cost. We’ve mentioned that LinkedIn’s unparalleled audience data is expensive. For LinkedIn to be the strong foundation of your marketing effort, you need to be extremely cost efficient when it comes to targeting the right audiences (call em’ personas, ICPs, or anything else - the point is that you are speaking to your future customer– not insignificantly, according to Hootsuite 4 out of 5 people on LinkedIn make buying decisions).
To sell their ads, LinkedIn uses an auction model that runs whenever there's an opportunity to place an ad. It’s imperative for you, as an advertiser, to begin with the lowest risk level of bidding when starting a new campaign, and to wait to take bigger risks until you’ve acquired enough data to adequately predict performance.
To begin, bid cost-per-click (aka. CPC), and don't go with the recommended bid from LinkedIn. Make your offer at around $4.5 per click and increase as necessary.
We suggest you only switch a campaign to maximum delivery once your click through rates are hitting your targets.
If you’re struggling to hit your targets, don’t give up! That’s why we recommend developing multiple iterations of creative for each audience and rigorously A/B testing until you find the right combination that allows you to scale.
Here’s a simple guideline to help you gauge performance against standard LinkedIn benchmarks:
As we’ve already discussed, LinkedIn’s secret sauce is their audience - which is already primed for B2B marketing. Utilizing the funnel framework in combination with LinkedIn’s targeting and analytics tools to personalize ads to customers in each stage of the funnel is an effective way to make sure the right audience is seeing the right creative to trigger the right reaction.
One of the main goals that can be accomplished by using LinkedIn’s B2B marketing features is condensing the data that’s gathered into comprehensive and actionable insights. The Linkedin campaign manager offers several views to see your data including ‘Performance’ which highlights key metrics like impressions, CPM, clicks, CTR and CPC. There are also views that are more specific to the ad unit or type that you’re using, such as ‘Video’ which gives you insight into video metrics like completions, view rate and percentage watched. You can also customize your view to include custom metrics, including ones that use custom formulas. With all of this information, it can be difficult to know what to look for and how to present and analyze your data for effective and timely optimizations. Let’s explore a few analysis strategies:
In addition to the performance data that you get in the LinkedIn Campaign Manager, you also have access to highly valuable campaign demographic information. This allows you to see the segment of your total campaign audiences by job function, seniority, industry and more. Accessing this data will allow you to understand how different segments of your target are reacting to your advertising on LinkedIn.
Once you’ve installed your Linkedin Insight Tag, you’ll have access to another valuable tool within LinkedIn for reporting and analytics – ‘Website Demographics.’ This view allows you to understand the demographics and activity of LinkedIn members who visited your website. Using this view, you can determine what subsets of your audience are most likely to perform certain actions, like download a report or sign up for a demo.
The good news is that bringing a performance mindset to your LinkedIn marketing offers great marketers a transformative way to generate awareness and use that awareness to drive growth. There are many different decisions you can make that will give you a competitive advantage – and once you’re using LinkedIn properly, you’re in a great position to use all the superpowers of digital marketing to scale. If you’re a B2B brand and want to learn more, or work with an amazing team that’s here to help, just fill out the form below. We can’t wait to be in touch to help you get the most out of this powerful network, and make sure it’s connected to all your tactics.