With over a billion members, LinkedIn offers unmatched targeting capabilities to reach influential business decision makers. Sophisticated advertisers can zero in on key accounts and titles through LinkedIn’s expansive professional data. However, the vast majority of marketers fail to tap the potential of what a LinkedIn ad campaign can offer.
According to AJ Wilcox, host of the popular LinkedIn Ads Show Podcast, “I think there’s two ways that people tend to go really wrong when they start LinkedIn campaigns.” By avoiding some common pitfalls, you can greatly boost your LinkedIn advertising ROI.
Shut Down LinkedIn’s Own Recommendations
Counterintuitively, AJ revealed on “Marketing, Demystified” that “actually taking LinkedIn’s own advice” often tanks campaigns. By default, the platform switches on various options that benefit their bottom line over yours. For example, LinkedIn automatically “turns on maximum delivery as the default bidding method,” which expands budgets quickly without efficient targeting.
AJ warns that “Audience Network,” allowing your ads to appear on external sites, also backfires, driving “really low quality, bot traffic.” Finally, opaque defaults like “Audience Expansion” show your ads to peripheral users who don’t match your parameters. Turn this setting off to avoid wasting spend. Before launching any new LinkedIn initiatives, purge their system-recommended settings.
Refine Your LinkedIn Ad Campaign Targeting for Relevance
LinkedIn’s billions of members tempt advertisers to cast wide nets, hoping for volume. However, ultra-targeted campaigns almost always outperform. Consider not only firmographics but also customer journey stages as you segment your audience. As Jenn Mancusi, CEO and co-founder of Growgetter, advises, “if you are serving bottom-of-funnel messaging to a top-of-funnel audience, it’s not going to work.” Match ad messaging to the audience’s mindset for resonance.
AJ echoes the value of restraint, explaining, “keep those audiences tight. And it leads to better, better performance all around.” Specifically, he recommends a smaller target member pool. Such laser targeting allows your content to resonate deeply with niche communities. Drill down by layered criteria like “job title, job function, skills with seniority” while narrowing down company attributes like “size, revenue, industry.”
Additionally, group targeting spotlights professionals passionate about topics related to your products based on their group memberships. Although LinkedIn has deemphasized its groups features lately, joined communities still provide targeting signals. Combined company, seniority, skill, and interest group filtering sculpt campaigns with pinpoint accuracy.
Map the Buyer’s Journey
All too often, brands blast disconnected messages at audiences from the first touch to conversion. However, methodically guiding prospects through an “ideal funnel” tailored to each phase drives dramatically higher returns.
AJ explains that previously, ineffective practices expected cold traffic to “download a guide” and then pushed them straight to sales. This antiquated “MQL” or marketing-qualified lead methodology falters, given buyers’ requirement for extensive nurturing.
Today, AJ starts relationship building through branded video showcasing the company’s “why” and sparking emotional connections. Once individuals view 3-4 branded videos, they become primed for further sales conversations. Retargeting warmed leads across the web then continues engaging and nurturing them.
Finally, bottom-of-funnel messaging links between previously distributed thought leadership to urgent buyer needs and pain points. In this way, tailored messaging guides prospects through a complete journey rather than leaving them disconnected.
Continually Test and Optimize
Given LinkedIn’s unique culture and user base psychology, advisors like AJ reveal that much of their guidance comes from extensive on-platform experimentation. Testing into the unknown frequently unlocks new opportunities hiding in settings overlooked by the average marketers.
For example, when asked about LinkedIn’s email contact upload matching, AJ responds that most advertisers focus exclusively on email. However, he explains, “if we can give LinkedIn a first name, a last name, job title, and a company name, we can leave email address out entirely and have just the same, if not better, match rates for reaching people.” Dropping conventions and testing broadly fuels innovation.
Jenn also advocates rigorous testing across elements like audience segmentation, bidding techniques, and ad variations. She asks AJ directly about rotation cycles given the inevitable creative fatigue over time. AJ references their saturation studies, which indicate swap frequencies between “27 to 33 days” minimize declining engagement.
Launching related messages together and then observing performance also clarifies optimal communication types. AJ concludes, “if you try to do it with a small budget or for short periods of time, you’re going to have data that isn’t statistically significant. And you’re gonna get burned out from arranging all these tests.”
So, pursue ongoing experimentation that is fine-tuned to resource constraints.
Pull From LinkedIn’s Full Arsenal
While the LinkedIn feed captures attention, supporting placements drive branding and conversion quietly behind the scenes. AJ reveals, “I spent millions and millions of dollars on just these right rail text ads before LinkedIn launched anything else.” Although conversion rates pale compared to videos, these inexpensive blocks broaden their reach rapidly.
Sponsored InMail also breaks into the critical messaging space despite steep expenses driving conservative usage mainly for warmed audiences. Still, personalized outreach to individual contacts with established relationships converts prospects extremely well. Mixing multiple formats harmonizes campaign impact across top and mid-funnel goals.
Apply Universal Digital Advertising Principles
Many core techniques transfer directly from Facebook, Instagram, and Google over to LinkedIn given current marketers’ greater general expertise. For example, AJ highlights that “when you are driving traffic from LinkedIn, you are paying a premium…have both Google and Meta retarget the traffic that lands on my website.” These channels expand your nurture bandwidth at a fraction of LinkedIn’s CPCs.
Additionally, Jenn notes that all platforms algorithmically promote top-performing messages. So limit new creative rather than flooding campaigns since LinkedIn will only deliver the winners. Finally, per Jenn, tight collaboration with sales shared definitions between “MQL/SQL” eliminates dangerous discrepancies undermining cohesion.
Following both specialized LinkedIn guidance as well as broader hanging digital tenets boosts the upside.
The platform’s unmatched targeting and professional data offer a shot at success. But without optimizing to avoid common pitfalls, most advertisers minimize impact and waste budgets. By sidestepping assumptions and testing aggressively, your LinkedIn efforts will unlock astonishing potential.