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on April 24, 2023 (last modified on April 19, 2023) • 26 minute read
With 900 million users as of 2023, LinkedIn has reached peak popularity among professionals.
It provides incredible organic reach (at least to personal accounts) and the targeting capabilities are one of the finest in the industry.
However, it’s also one of the more expensive platforms to run ads on, and it’s why many companies find it cost-prohibitive to try and drive immediate conversions with it.
But what if you didn’t try to drive direct conversions? What if, instead, you treated LinkedIn as a digital billboard to blanket your target audience with your message?
For example, if you ran impression-based ads to show your ideal customers what you do, why you’re different than competitors, and what pains you can solve for them?
Many marketers now draw a distinction between demand creation (prompting consideration for your product on low-intent channels) and demand capture (converting customers with high intent, looking for your product or industry).
And if LinkedIn is a no/low-intent platform, why not lean into that and use it to guarantee you’re reaching your target customer with the right messaging?
We talked to 43 industry experts on the topic and received some incredible tips, strategies, and advice that we’ll share in this report.
Our respondents include:
Let’s dive in.
According to our LinkedIn Ads Benchmark Group for All Companies (400+ contributors), the average CPM of LinkedIn Ads in February was $29.23 (median value, 89 contributors).
Whereas the average CPC was $3.02 (median value, 319 contributors).
The average CTR in the same period was 0.74% (median value, 348 contributors).
The number of ad clicks in the same period was 388 (median value, 411 contributors).
And there were 9 conversions (median value, 82 contributors).
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We also received some interesting benchmarks from Refine Labs, which collected data based on LinkedIn objectives.
They found that lead gen campaigns come at the highest CPM ($73.48) and also have the highest CTR (1%).
At the same time, engagement campaigns had the lowest CPM ($8.72) with a 0.26% CTR.
Their team also analyzed performance by LinkedIn placement and found that the CTR was fairly even for each type of placement, but the CPM fluctuated.
Carousel ads recorded the highest CPM at $48.61, while video ads are the most affordable at $32.07.
Considering this benchmark data, it’s evident why driving immediate conversions with LinkedIn ads would be cost-prohibitive to many companies.
But just how many marketers actually do something about it and focus on other types of campaigns instead?
Related: LinkedIn Ads Best Practices: 10 Tips for Running Successful Campaigns
LinkedIn is currently at the peak of its popularity, with a growing number of businesses leveraging its potential to reach their target audience.
But some have been harnessing its power longer than others.
We were interested to see when exactly the industry leaders we spoke to decided to join the network and it turns out that most of our respondents (approx. 65% of them) have been using LinkedIn for business purposes for over 3 years.
In terms of advertising on the platform, most of them (79%) have more than 1 year of experience in using LinkedIn Ads, while less than 5% of our respondents stated they do not use LinkedIn Ads.
But what’s working now for those that do use it and what are most marketers focusing on in 2023?
We asked our respondents and found that:
Related: The Most Effective Way of Marketing a Company on Linkedin: 7 Tried & True Tips from Experts
Aside from the objective, another element that plays a part in the success of your campaign is the bidding type you go with.
There are several factors that go into making this decision – marketing goal, relevancy, the likelihood of members engaging with the ad, budget, desired level of control, etc.
For example, automated bidding types such as Target Cost Bidding and Maximum Delivery Bidding can be effective for maximizing results while minimizing the need for manual monitoring and adjustment, while manual bidding can give you more control over your bids but requires more attention to manage.
When it comes to our respondents, 44.19% of them choose Target Cost Bidding most often. 39.53% choose Maximum Delivery Bidding (formerly Auto Bid), and 16.28% opt for Manual bidding.
Overall, marketers are still primarily using LinkedIn Ads for conversions, with a much smaller fraction working on their demand creation digital billboards.
However, we interviewed a few experts who are doing impressions-based LinkedIn advertising and primarily use LinkedIn ads for demand creation, and got some incredible insights.
What can we learn from the market leaders that use LinkedIn ads to generate demand creation?
Unsurprisingly, the answer is – a lot.
We talked to some of the most experienced industry experts and received some invaluable advice, tips, and strategies that you can ethically steal and apply to your own LinkedIn advertising.
Let’s check it out.
We know how powerful and granular LinkedIn’s targeting capabilities are – but are you taking full advantage of them?
LinkedIn’s targeting options let you narrow your focus based on a variety of factors (e.g. job title, industry, company size, etc.) and allow marketers to get really specific when choosing the people they want to engage with and speak directly to.
Jonathan Bland, the Founder at Omni Lab Consulting, adds that, apart from being specific, you also “want to make sure your messaging is targeted at the right audience and that it aligns with an existing pain point or desire they are looking for. Only then should you look for creative ways to share that message.”
Here are some methods he shared:
The message, video, and content should speak directly to your prospects.
And while this should be a common sense approach, Jonathan warns that:
“Most businesses don’t have enough information about the customer to personalize messaging effectively or the budget to segment campaigns this way. But if you do, then it can be a huge game changer.”
Founder at Omni Lab Consulting
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With that in mind, what would be the best way to reach these specific audiences – LinkedIn’s native targeting or our own lists?
When we asked Jonathan, he explained that “You should first identify what channels your ICP is active in. If you have properly vetted a target account list, it will generally perform better as Linkedin native targeting while precise can still bring in a lot of companies that may not match your ICP”
Measuring ROI and doing proper revenue attribution is another topic we wanted to get his take on since it’s something that many marketers struggle with when it comes to these types of ads.
You can show your ads to prospects for months at a time, but when they finally decide to do business, there’s a good chance they will Google your company name and go to the product directly. This means that the conversion will be attributed as “organic”.
While there still isn’t any perfect way to combat this, Jonathan recommends three ways to get some level of proof:
Bland also says that it’s critical to “align with the executive team to set expectations about what can and cannot be measured and how you will measure each type of campaign”
Given that attribution is never perfect, you should also look for correlations to understand how campaigns are performing.
“After a three-month period, are you seeing an incremental increase in inbound demos? What else changed during that time frame? It’s important to look at what you can measure directly from paid, but also the what GTM motion (e.g. inbound, outbound) sourced the opportunity.”
Jonathan shares that for one client, after 6 months of running brand awareness campaigns designed to be consumed in-channel, they’ve seen these incredible results: a 157% increase in demos and a 100% increase in net new opportunity creation.
Want more pro tips from this expert? Listen to this podcast episode to learn how Jonathan Bland grew a client’s Lead to Opportunity Conversion Rate from 25% to 74%.
Marketers are constantly trying out different messaging strategies to effectively reach and engage their target audience through LinkedIn Ads.
Some of the popular strategies include emotional appeal messaging, social proof messaging, competitor analysis messaging, and more.
But Tory Kindlick, VP Demand Gen at Refine Labs, says that at the highest level, this choice “boils down to whether you need to focus on category awareness or product awareness.”
Tory shared valuable messaging tactics for both stages of awareness.
For category awareness:
For product awareness:
Once you implement these tactics, you’ll also need to pay attention to the number of ads you run.
Tory says that this will mostly depend on “your TAM (Total Addressable Market) and how much of that audience you’re able to reach through paid media advertising.”
“Focusing on reach and frequency is always paramount. Strive for at least 30-40% share of voice, when looking at the previous month. And ensure you’re not overserving ads during a 30-day period – shoot for a frequency of 6-9 on LinkedIn.”
We mentioned earlier the problems with measuring and attribution that exist with running impression-based ads, and wanted to get Tory’s insight on this topic as well.
Kindlick considers this a “dangerous game.”
“Focusing on who/what deserves “credit” will have you wasting time in all the wrong areas. Instead, focus on finding correlations between your ad strategies and what cohorted inbound trends you’re seeing within your CRM during those same time periods. Platform metrics, CRM metrics, and website metrics can help you triangulate your most effective messaging/positioning, but it’s far from an exact science.”
VP Demand Gen at Refine Labs
Something that he typically looks at is “blended ad CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost), which aggregates all paid media spend. The ROI you get is highly dependent on your ACV. But it’s a good metric to utilize as a baseline to benchmark against, and work to decrease over time.”
Want more pro tips from this expert? Listen to our podcast episode to learn how Refine Labs uses their new Revenue R&D method to build new, sustainable revenue streams for clients.
Another effective practice for demand creation and raising brand awareness is creating zero-click content.
Zero-click content is any type of content that doesn’t require the viewer to click through to a website or landing page to engage with it.
Videos are a popular option since they allow advertisers to showcase their products or services in a visually engaging way, while also establishing thought leadership and building trust with their target audiences.
Bryttney Blanken, Senior Demand Generation Manager at Metadata, has been testing demand creation ads for a while now and here’s what they found:
“I’ve been experimenting with engagement-based tracking right now to measure added “reach”/impressions (video views 25%, ad clicks, ad comments, etc.). I then experimented the other day with building retargeting lists based on these actions on specific campaigns to help me compare which messages or formats drive more engagement.
So far the results are fascinating — videos help increase our reach/impressions 10x in the last 90 days!”
Bryttney believes that this increase is because “zero-click content is more easily consumed in the feed. Right now, we’re starting to develop more of this type of “zero-click” content to expand reach.”
PRO TIP: Learn how Rand Fishkin and the team at SparkToro think about investing in zero-click content, and how they’re using it to increase signups.
How big does your budget have to be to successfully run brand awareness campaigns?
If we focus strictly on the math, we can see from the benchmark data that running awareness campaigns could potentially result in a large number of impressions at a drastically low cost.
But there are other factors that can’t be ignored here. For example, blanket coverage.
Mary Keough, Head of Marketing at Map My Customers, goes into detail about this:
“If we assume 100% blanket coverage of the ad(s) over 1,000 impressions, then the results would probably be amazing. However, from our experience, actual reach is only 20-30% of your target audience.”
Does that mean that the answer is creating a larger audience to get more money for impressions?
According to Mary, not necessarily.
“We’ve tried this approach and what seems to happen is, as soon as you spend that $1,000/month or ~$33/day, LinkedIn stops showing your ads. Another problem with this is that you’ll miss a big part of your audience. And if you build a smaller target audience, the ROI timeline will be longer due to the smaller sample.”
Mary’s recommendation is that “if you have only $1,000/month to spend, the best true ROI we’ve seen is retargeting 90-day website traffic.”
Related: Comparing Facebook Ads and LinkedIn Ads for B2B: Where to Invest Your $2,000 Monthly Budget?
An issue that might slide under the radar sometimes is that creating and managing campaigns in LinkedIn’s Campaign Manger isn’t really that simple – especially on a larger scale.
JD Garcia, Head of Strategy at Impactable, says that ideally, “you’d have small pockets of prospects that you’d saturate with a variety of content over a longer period with content refresh cycles every 2-4 weeks (depending on how active they are on LinkedIn).”
One of the key things with this tactic is how to actually organize these cycles and what type of content to focus on in each.
According to Garcia, the first few cycles should “cover various use cases, the main problems solved, and what you do.”
Based on this, companies should make it a priority to first educate prospects on what they do and what problems they solve, piquing the interest of those who have an unmet need for those services.
Then, for those companies that expressed interest in the content (via clicks or website visits for example), you should introduce some social proof.
For those who see an ad but don’t click, Garcia recommends we should “set up a ‘non-conversion’ conversion to track these people. You can set a $0 value to keep your Manager dashboard clean.”
“You can use the aggregate of engagement across campaigns to build a retargeting layer that starts chipping away at trust.”
But if you haven’t generated enough engagement to build that layer, Garcia says that it might be time to “introduce the case studies, social proof, etc., in the 3rd or 4th cycle.”
And if you want to speed up the prospect journey creation process, you can use videos since “the barrier to enter retargeting is much lower” says Garcia.
One more thing you should pay attention to here is the ad rotation options in LinkedIn Ads.
There are two options – Optimize for Performance and Rotate Ads Evenly.
Garcia recommends the latter:
“I’d set all ads to rotate evenly as LinkedIn has a tendency to pick a winner too quickly, and you don’t want people seeing the same ad 10 times.
So long as you have 5+ ads in each campaign, you’ll circumvent the frequency cap at the campaign level and get a good amount of exposure.”
PRO TIP: Want to learn how to make profitable LinkedIn Ads for $3k/mo directly from JD Garcia? Listen to our latest podcast episode below.
Related: What Is a Good CPM on LinkedIn for B2B Companies and How to Improve It? 40+ Experts Share Their Best Practices
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to picking a type of LinkedIn ad – different formats can bring drastically different results depending on your specific business.
We asked our respondents what ad types they’ve seen the most success with and here’s what we found out.
Almost 40% of our respondents stated that leads-based ads have the highest ROI for their companies. Shy of 20% said that reach-based ads have the highest ROI to them.
Impressions-based ads and website conversions-based ads have the highest ROI for about 9% of the respondents each. For those that opted for ‘awareness’ as their dominant reason for using LinkedIn Ads, reach-based ads are top-ranked.
We’ll go through the details of each one:
Leads-based ads are designed to capture a user’s contact information (such as their name and email address) and turn them into a potential lead. These ads typically include a form where users can enter their information in exchange for something of value, such as an e-book or webinar registration.
One potential way to run leads-based ads is through conversation ads since they allow you to engage in one-to-one conversations with your target audience, making it easier to build relationships and nurture them.
Josh Krakauer of Sculpt is one of our respondents that have seen “tremendous success with conversation ads.”
“Sending targeted direct messages with a specific CTA at a reasonable scale to prospects has worked great for us so far. The qualities of a successful ad here are similar to feed-based ads — answer a clear what, why, and how as concisely as possible. We’ve found lead magnets work best as an offer, and rival or beat the form-fill conversion rate on sponsored content in the feed.”
Josh explains that the main difference here is that “the ad is delivered from an actual ‘sender’, or profile, which helps the message appear less like an ad unit and more like InMail from another user. When Conversation ads are paired with sponsored content ads running in parallel to create brand familiarity and interest, the overall impact is potent.”
Alan Gruntz of DAC Group also saw a lot of success with message ads and says that they “proved to be the best balance of lead quality of cost per lead.”
One of the things his team focuses on is “keeping the messages shorter since that has led to greater results. Around 500 words with strong negative space usage (bullets, hard returns, etc.) make the message more inviting and easier to digest for the user.”
When creating a leads-based ad, also remember that the creative you go with can have a big impact on the bottom line.
Beth Cooper of KNB Communications shares some of her best tips when it comes to optimizing creative on leads-based ads:
“Fight the urge to put text on your images! Not only do people immediately clock it as an ad, but the platform’s algorithm also de-prioritizes them. Copy that uses second-person pronouns, or “you” language, tends to perform the best. Retire the trite CTAs as well. No one wants to “Learn More.” Try offering a valuable asset instead.”
Website Conversion-based ads are designed to encourage users to take a specific action on your website, such as making a purchase or filling out a form.
These ads use LinkedIn’s conversion tracking feature, which allows you to track user behavior on your website after they click on your ad.
You can structure these ads in a variety of ways – free trials, webinar signups, product promotions, etc.
But for Kurt Miller of Cloud Campaign, the best-performing structure is based on “competitor comparisons”.
“Our main issue is that we’re lesser known in the social media management space. And with that in mind, we have seen success with ads that offer pricing and customer-review comparisons with our better-known competitors.”
And if you need a hand in finding inspiration for ad creative, Kurt suggests “rebuilding the highest-performing ads from Facebook and Instagram”.
In Kurt’s case, this typically starts with identifying the market’s pain points.
“We identify pain points for people who are using competitor platforms – or no platform at all – and introduce our solutions. For us, this is often in the form of cost-savings or time-savings within specific daily tasks, as digital marketers are always looking to be more efficient.
It’s important to convey that you understand what your potential customers are going through in order for them to listen to you, and it’s even more important in the long run to be sure that your product actually does help address those pain points in ways your competitors can’t.”
Engagement clicks-based ads have an objective to drive engagement through likes, comments, and shares, on the sponsored content.
These ads are specifically designed to increase brand awareness and engagement with the target audience, rather than driving immediate conversions. When users engage with the ad, it increases the likelihood of the content being seen by their network, thereby expanding the ad’s reach.
Kristina Witmer of Witmer Group suggests that these types of ads perform better on LinkedIn because the “platform is so saturated with sales and job hunting, anything that offers real help, such as checklists, tools, resources, will perform better. As for copy, a more casual but authoritative tone seems best.”
Video views-based ads are designed to drive video views on sponsored content. You can either promote existing video content on LinkedIn or upload new content specifically for the ad campaign.
These ads are especially good for telling your brand story, showcasing your products or services, and driving traffic to your LinkedIn Page or website.
Jeff Moriarty of Supplement Warehouse, one of our respondents that runs a retail business, uses LinkedIn with the goal to drive brand awareness among other manufacturers in the industry.
According to Jeff, after testing a lot of different ads, they “found that our video ads perform the best in terms of getting engagement from manufacturers and to getting them to actually reach out to us. We believe this is because we go above and beyond what other retailers in our industry are doing.”
Driving conversions is still the most prevalent goal of running LinkedIn Ads, but there’s a lot of untapped potential with impression-based ads that only a handful of marketers are currently running.
And with the potential to increase conversions at a fraction of the cost, it’s certainly worth experimenting and using LinkedIn for demand generation.
But no matter what type of campaign you run, one of the things that stay the same is that you need to be meticulous with your data analysis and reporting.
This is especially the case with awareness campaigns where data isn’t always as straightforward as with conversion campaigns.
However, LinkedIn’s campaign manager interface doesn’t really make this easy on the advertisers.
With relatively limited reporting capabilities and a lot of manual input required, staying on top of your performance is a lot more stressful than it should be.
Databox is the aspirin for this particular headache.
You can use it to track your LinkedIn Ads campaign performance in real-time, keep an eye on all of your key metrics in one place, and turn your dry data into actionable visuals.
No more countless hours spent manually pulling out data from the campaign manager and organizing it in separate spreadsheets. With LinkedIn Ads Dashboards in Databox, you’ll have your entire performance at a glance.
Once you connect your LinkedIn Ads account, simply choose the metrics you’ll track, drag-and-drop them onto the dashboard, and turn them into stunning visuals with a few clicks of a button.
Sign up for a free account and give Databox a spin.
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