A big hello from Raleigh, North Carolina. Welcome to another episode of B2B Marketing and more with Pam.
You can guess, that AJ is here with us to share many practical tips for running LinkedIn ads.
In this episode:
- What kind of ads work best on LinkedIn?
- How to run LinkedIn ad campaigns
- Why are LinkedIn ads not converting?
- How much budget does a company need to run Linkedin ads?
- How long should businesses run paid media for a specific channel?
- What are LinkedIn’s different ad options and formats?
- What is recommended length for a Linkedin video ad?
- How can businesses avoid making the most common mistakes?
Quotes from the episode:
“LinkedIn allows us to target people by who they are. So if you look at it with LinkedIn, you can ensure that every single one of your clicks and leads comes from an ideal prospect.”
“You need to set expectations, especially realistic expectations with your salespeople and also with your management when you rent paid media ads. And a good chunk of it is building awareness, not necessarily driving the conversion.”
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To expand your knowledge about social media marketing, digital strategy, and LinkedIn, check out some of my previous podcast episodes, blog posts, and video.
Pam Didner: Big hello from Raleigh, North Carolina. Welcome to another episode of B2B Marketing and more with Pam. Yay! Today I have a very, very special guest, AJ Wilcox. The first time I found AJ through a social media examiner’s YouTube channel, AJ had a very exclusive type of interview with Mike Stelzner, and I loved that interview. And AJ specializes in paid ads, seriously, for LinkedIn. That’s the only thing he does, nothing else. And I found that fascinating. So I decided to invite AJ to come to my show and talk about paid ads. Welcome AJ. Nice to have you here.
AJ Wilcox: Pam, I’m so excited to be here. Thanks so much.
Pam Didner: I have done over 200 episodes of the B2B Marketing. Topics I talk about tend to be organic and also B2B process, domain generation, and very boring topics.
AJ Wilcox: Not boring at all. Those are my favorite things.
Pam Didner: Me too. The saddest part is me too. All right, so LinkedIn paid ads. If I’m not mistaken, LinkedIn paid ads are pretty expensive. Is it working?
AJ Wilcox: Yeah. Well, I think you called it outright. If anyone has tried to advertise on LinkedIn, the first reaction is, “Oh, my gosh, this looks so expensive.” Yeah. It’s terrible. The average cost per click we see with our clients is eight to $13. And of course, you look at it and say-
Pam Didner: That’s very expensive.
AJ Wilcox: Yeah. I’m only paying two to $4 per click on Facebook.
Pam Didner: Or like a buck for the Twitter ads. Yeah.
AJ Wilcox: Yeah. It’s very, very different. But what is so neat about LinkedIn Ads is why they still work, and costs continue to rise. Some people are paying 20, 30, or $40 per click and still having a return on their investment. The whole reason is that LinkedIn allows us to target people by who they are. We can target their exact job titles and industry and company size. We can target them by specific company names, seniority level, and location. And everything I’ve mentioned is probably only about a sixth of all our targeting options. So if you look at it with LinkedIn, you can ensure that every single one of your clicks and leads comes from an ideal prospect. On Facebook, your sales team will return and say, “Hey, we had to disqualify 95% of your leads. Oh, but that 5% was pretty good. Keep it up.”
Pam Didner: So, with that being said, paid ads are a long play. And I always tell my client that if they decide to pay, they have to do it for at least 12 to 18 months.
Right? It’s not something you should stop and then do it, stop and do it. It’s not like a paid campaign, so you have to do it for a long period of time. So how much budget does a company need? And this is something that small businesses can afford?
AJ Wilcox: Yeah. So the short answer is yes. We’ve worked with many very small companies. We’ve also worked with many of the largest, the Fortune 500 and everything in between. What we’ve found is the limiting factor for companies is budget.
Pam Didner: No kidding.
AJ Wilcox: Yeah, duh, but it’s important on any channel to ensure that you generate enough data to tell whether something’s working. And if you go in and spend the very minimum that you can on LinkedIn, which is $10 a day…
Pam Didner: Don’t bother.
AJ Wilcox: If the $300 in a month gives you a handful of clicks, you will not be any closer to finding out if it’s a channel that works.
So, if you’re going to approach LinkedIn Ads, don’t do it with less than a $5,000 per month budget. And so many small businesses can still afford that, but I’m assuming some listeners will be like, “Man, I don’t have that.” So if that’s your case as well, I would recommend just making sure you are set to spend $5,000 before you shut it off. So if your budget is only $1,500 a month, great; just make sure you are running it for at least three months before you decide to cut it or increase it.
Pam Didner: You brought up a very good point. The number one thing is you run $5,000 as long as you can. The other question I want to ask is kind of on top of that as well. If you do have $5,000, how long should you run? Of course, you’ll say as long as possible, but minimal level?
AJ Wilcox: Yeah, advertising is a linear process for me.
You’re going to spend money; you’re going to get impressions. And then those impressions are going to turn into clicks. And then, a certain percentage of those clicks will turn into conversions. Then, a certain number of those conversions can become sales qualified or marketing qualified leads. A certain percentage of… I mean, I’m preaching to the choir here, but it depends on what level of surety, the level of confidence that you want.
Pam Didner: Got it.
AJ Wilcox: If you just want to find out, what is my cost per lead from this channel going to be? Yeah, you could spend two or three months and go, “Oh, looks like my cost per lead is— .”
Pam Didner: Okay. I got some baseline. Yeah.
AJ Wilcox: Yeah, exactly. But if your goal is to find out what my ROI from LinkedIn Ads is?
Yeah, you’ll have to look at my sales cycle and how long it takes us to nurture these leads to close?
And maybe you’ll be in this for two, three, or four years before you have statistical significance around that data. So it is up to you, but if you are running against Facebook ads, hands down, Facebook ads will always be a lower cost per lead because the cost per click is cheaper.
But when you follow that into your CRM, you look further down the sales cycle. You’re going to find that because LinkedIn’s targeting was so good at getting the right people, even though we’re paying more for it, by the time you’re looking at your cost per sales qualified lead or your cost per proposal sent, or your cost per closed deal, all of a sudden LinkedIn looks good compared to Facebook. But so many people were scared off by it because of the initial high costs that they never gave it a real chance.
Pam Didner: Yes. I’m very happy you brought up one key point when I asked you in terms of like, how long should we run kind of like a paid media for a specific channel? And you mentioned one thing. I love it so much, well, depending on your purchase cycle, right?
If it takes eight to 12 months to convert a lead, B2B marketing tends to be a longer purchasing cycle.
Chances are you need to run that purchasing cycle to get a sense and a statistical sample data to see if that does the conversion. I loved that when you brought that as a part of the conversation. Fantastic. Well said, AJ.
AJ Wilcox: Well, it was so funny. It’s been a year or so ago, but we had a client who left after three months, and we asked, “Why are you quitting? Why did you decide to stop advertising on LinkedIn?” And he said, “Well, we haven’t closed the deal yet.” And we were like, “But it’s only been three months, and your sales cycle is nine months.” And it just was a giant facepalm. They didn’t get it, which is fine. Every client’s a little bit different.
Pam Didner: I completely understand. I think the majority of the marketers, especially on the B2B side, there are two things that I have noticed. One is some of them have this instant gratification mentality. I spend, and I do the paid ads. I need to get the results right away. And, but that’s not the reality.
Then the second thing is a lot of marketers are also under pressure from their management.
So the management finally approved a budget for them to do paid ads. And the management also has this expectation, “Hey, here’s a $50,000. What? Did you spend $50,000 in three months? We have not even closed the deal. It must not be working.” But they are not looking from their perspective. Their salespeople can take nine months to close the deal, but when they spend that money, only for three months, they are like, “Oh, my God. We failed miserably.”
AJ Wilcox: Exactly.
Pam Didner: So I understand where you are coming from. And there’s one thing I always tell my clients is that you need to set expectations, especially realistic expectations with your salespeople and also with your management, when you rent paid media ads. And a good chunk of it is building awareness, not necessarily driving the conversion.
AJ Wilcox: So true.
Pam Didner: And honestly, it’s very, very hard to kind of set that expectations with the management because, like I said, instant gratification is so important to them. “I’m renting ads. I don’t understand. Why am I not getting the deal?”
AJ Wilcox: Yeah. I think there’s a good reason for this kind of attitude as well because I would say most marketers ten years ago grew up in Google Ads and SEO, which was all focused around keywords. So when someone finds you, they’ve told you exactly what they’re looking for, and you can just give it to them. But then, when social ads came on the scene, like with Facebook and LinkedIn, we’re showing ads to people, not based on what they’re currently looking for, but whether they’re the right person.
Pam Didner: We’re hoping they’re looking for that. Right, so.
AJ Wilcox: Exactly. But we know every time we compare channels, we see that Google Ads always closes deals the fastest. It’s the fastest funnel acceleration.
Pam Didner: I 100% agree with you. That’s a fair assessment.
AJ Wilcox: The nice thing about LinkedIn, though, is that because we’re targeting exactly the right people, LinkedIn always closes the largest deal sizes and the highest-profile companies. So it depends on what you need. Yeah, if you need speed, Google Ads is where you want to start. But if you want your biggest, most significant deals, LinkedIn Ads is by far and away from the one.
Pam Didner: Yeah. But it’s a long play. Right?
AJ Wilcox: True.
Pam Didner: It takes a long time to get that big fish.
AJ Wilcox: Yeah.
Pam Didner: Can you talk to us about LinkedIn’s different ad options and formats? I know that, of course, a banner ad is one option. What else?
AJ Wilcox: Yeah. So LinkedIn has four total options; to see all of them, you need to be on your desktop, not the mobile app.
Pam Didner: Really? So do they do a lot of mobile ads?
AJ Wilcox: Yeah. Half show up only on mobile, and the other half can show up on all. So the first one is the first ad format LinkedIn came out with. It’s called text ads, and it’s only on a desktop. It’s on the right rail. And if you look, as you’re just surfing around linkedin.com, you’ll see two or three ads all kind of stacked within a little box.
Pam Didner: Yeah. Yep. Seen that.
AJ Wilcox: Yeah. They’re great. They are the cheapest ads that you can run. You can pay all the way down to $2 per click and get traffic. But because they’re over in the right rail, only on desktop, it’s hard to spend a whole budget.
Pam Didner: Got it.
AJ Wilcox: The next one, which is my absolute favorite, is called sponsored content.
And these are the ones that show up in your news feed. There are several different variants. One is just the single image ad. That’s my favorite, but they have a video ad version. They also have a carousel ad version where you can see multiple tiles that you can–
Pam Didner: Yeah. Yep, yep. Yeah, like the tile things. Yes.
AJ Wilcox: Yes. The third–
Pam Didner: Let me ask one more question. Sorry to interrupt. For this second option, which is the video ad, do you have recommended length for that ad? Should that be five seconds or 30 seconds? Do you have any recommendations for that?
AJ Wilcox: Yes. So the short answer is to try to keep your video creative short.
I would say, like Instagram short, try to keep things under 15 seconds if you can. Suppose your goal is to get people to initiate themselves down a funnel. In that case, we like doing eight-second videos because as soon as someone watches two seconds of it, which counts as a view on LinkedIn, you can also retarget them to say, oh, if they’ve watched 25% of this eight-second video, then show them the next ad in the sequence.
Pam Didner: One more time. Yeah, retargeting. Yes.
AJ Wilcox: Totally. The third option is called dynamic ads. And these are, again, only on a desktop because they’re on the right rail. They take the same inventory as 300 by 250 block text ads. But every once in a while, they take away the text ads and put one of these dynamic ads. And I call these LinkedIn’s creepiest ad formats because you may have seen this. They take your profile picture and stick it into the ad.
Pam Didner: Yes. I noticed that. Especially for recruitment, they put my picture next to a company’s logo and say, “Hey, this is a perfect match.” I was like, “Seriously? No, I don’t think so.”
AJ Wilcox: Is an entrepreneur a perfect match for any company? Okay. Well, we’ll see.
And then the fourth option, they called sponsored messaging.
These are where you can pay per person you send to, and it’s a message that arrives in their inbox. One version is kind of like an email, and the other is called a conversation ad where you can give people options, and based on what they click, you can give them more options. So it’s kind of like those old choose your adventure.
Pam Didner: This is an email, but it’s a paid email. Is that correct?
AJ Wilcox: Yep. Totally.
Pam Didner: Okay. So let me ask you a question. For this, a paid email and they will say, “Oh, yeah. Hey Pam, we have this master class. We’d love to have you.” What if I respond, saying, “No, thank you.” Does that mean they can send out another email, or they will not target me the next time
AJ Wilcox: Oh, good question. Okay, so if you ever get an InMail that allows you to say, “No, I’m not interested” or “No, thank you,” that is an InMail that came from the recruiter or sales navigator, not from the ads side of the business.
Pam Didner: Oh, never mind. I got it confused. Thank you for correcting me and clarifying that.
AJ Wilcox: It’s a really good question.
Pam Didner: …and clarifying that.
AJ Wilcox: Yeah. What’s so cool about it is that if you say no thank you or are not interested, you are taken off that person’s list. They can’t contact you again, which is kind of good. If they’re being spammy, it’s nice.
Pam Didner: That’s great. That means, “I’m not interested. Please don’t talk to me again. I’m not your lead anyway.”
AJ Wilcox: Yeah, exactly.
Pam Didner: Awesome. And I have another question.
Given that you have run LinkedIn Ads and managed over 100 million dollars in ads spent in the past 10 or 15 years, what mistakes do people usually make when running ads on their own?
Of course, they can run it themselves and do it in-house. What kind of mistakes do you see that often tend to be made by people new to the platform?
AJ Wilcox: I have so many good ones I can share. The first is if you go in to start your first campaign and click “create campaign”. There’s a whole bunch of options that LinkedIn has set for you that are not in your favor. The first one is, as you’re defining who your audience is, there will be a little check box that says, “enable audience expansion.” And LinkedIn always turns it on for you, but let’s be honest, if you’re paying a premium for LinkedIn traffic, which you are–
Pam Didner: Don’t turn that on. Yeah.
AJ Wilcox: Yeah.
Pam Didner: You want to be very focused and target it.
AJ Wilcox: Yeah. You give LinkedIn carte blanche saying, “Oh, stick whoever you want into this audience for me.” And it’s like, no if you’re paying eight to $13 a click, you just be ultra-specific about who you want to show your ads to.
Pam Didner: I love that. That’s great, great feedback. What about the second mistake?
AJ Wilcox: The second mistake is if you keep scrolling down the ad, you get to the bidding and budgeting section, basically how you’re paying for this traffic, and LinkedIn makes it hard to select the bidding option that’s most in your favor. The one that they have selected is called maximum delivery. When you hear maximum delivery, you probably hear, “I’m going to dump as much of this on someone as I can.” That is LinkedIn’s most expensive way to pay for traffic about 90% of the time. So you have to click the little show more options.
And then they show you manual bidding. Manual cost per click bidding is the best way for you as a marketer to have insurance, to hedge your bets, because you get to say, “I am not willing to pay more than $7 per click, or I’m not willing to pay more than $15 per click.” And LinkedIn has to honor that. It’s a good way to start. And if you find that your ads are performing well, you can turn on maximum delivery if you want, but…
Pam Didner: Don’t do that when you are just starting. Yeah.
AJ Wilcox: Exactly.
Pam Didner: Okay. Those are wonderful. Give us one more.
AJ Wilcox: Oh, okay. The other one is most people… And this is important. When they go onto LinkedIn Ads, most people, especially if they’ve already been advertising on Google, are like, “Oh, I’m just going to push people right to demo. I’m going to show an ad that says, ‘Click here to talk to our high-pressure sales rep,’ or ‘Click here for a trial or a demo.'”
What they’re missing is the fact that people on LinkedIn are on their way to doing something. They’re busy.
They’re not there to be entertained. And most of the time, they’re curious. So if you can show them something of real interest to them and value, that’s how you can earn their attention. So starting with a lead like, “Here’s a free guide or a free checklist or an ebook, or join this free webinar.” As long as the content is good and people are interested, your sales team can follow up with them to talk about demos when you gate that people will submit and become leads. But you’ll lose people if you start just going right for a demo. They won’t even click. Yeah.
Pam Didner: Okay. You just said something that is an eye-opener for me. In general, when I write email marketing, a demand gen copy, if you will, and I want to gauge people’s interest a lot of time. And the call to action on the email specifically says, “Contact sales if you are interested or request a demo.” I guess, for email marketing and depending on how you write your copy, that might be a very good ending and a very strong call to action.
And I will probably apply that to the paid media type of effort. But now you said, “Pam, don’t do that.” If you run LinkedIn Ad based on your experience doing many ads with many brands, right? Use content as a hook, get them interested, and then you can take on the next step.
AJ Wilcox: Totally.
Pam Didner: I like that. Oh, I learned something today. Yay.
AJ Wilcox: And it’s all about warm and cold audiences. It’s all about taking someone familiar with you and then asking them to take the next step.
We’ve heard the analogy it’s like proposing marriage on the first date. If the first time someone ever saw your ad, you’re saying,–
Pam Didner: Seriously? Are you saying we should not do that?
AJ Wilcox: Yeah, exactly. Suppose this is a warm audience, a retargeting audience that you’ve already stayed in front of and running LinkedIn ads to them, sure. Push them right to demo. It’s just that you have to earn their attention before they’re ever going to consider hopping in
Pam Didner: Earned your trust first.
AJ Wilcox: Exactly. Oh, couldn’t have said it better.
Pam Didner: All right. So anything else that you want to share with us, given that you are the expert and managing so many paid ads on LinkedIn?
AJ Wilcox: Yeah. I do have a good one here. LinkedIn does better than any other ad platform because it gives you this… It’s audience segmentation that I would call almost market researchesque where… Here’s an example. It’d be easy for me if I wanted to target marketing decision-makers. I could say target all marketing job functions with any seniority that’s a manager or above. And I could have one campaign, put a couple of ads in there and serve that audience. But when I get these results, I won’t learn anything. There were a lot of different people. There are manager-level people, director-level, and CMOs in this audience. And I can’t tell who liked it and who didn’t.
So just like you’re alluding to, if I do four different campaigns, one is just marketing managers, another marketing directors, the other one marketing VPs, and then one just for CMOS. I can still run the same two ads to all of them, but now I get this very focused data back of like, “Oh, CMOS like this content,” or they click cheap. Still, the sales team’s having a hard time getting a hold of them, so we end up getting a lower conversion to sales qualified leads or insights like that you literally can’t get anywhere else.
So use it to learn more about your audience. I think it’s brilliant.
Pam Didner: I love that. So you are saying, let me paraphrase quickly. You are saying that when you run the paid ads and depending on the platform, but for LinkedIn specifically when you run the paid ads and try to be very targeted in terms of your audience and break it down to a very specific job title, for example, or you can do it by specific region if you want to, but do a very specific job title. And then run four or five ads and see which one drives the most conversion. And when you pass, that leads to your sales team, and you can get feedback on which ones convert. I like that a lot. Use that as marketing research.
AJ Wilcox: Yeah. And with any other channel, you can’t do this. Facebook, you’re targeting is going to be so broad that you can’t tell which industries are interacting. But on LinkedIn, you can create these, and we call them micro-segments, little micro-segments of every variation of your audience that you want. And then, based on how they click, cost, and convert, you’re learning who my ideal audience is. It’s amazing for persona research and nailing down who your ideal profile is.
Pam Didner: Awesome. You have so much to share. Do you offer free courses that people can take if they decide to do it themselves or try to gain some knowledge?
Do you offer any free courses or paid courses that you can share?
AJ Wilcox: Yes, I do. I have some really good resources. First of all, if you want to learn about LinkedIn Ads, check out my podcast. It’s called the LinkedIn Ads Show. Pam will put a link down in the show notes below or whatever, but if you just–
Pam Didner: I will do that.
AJ Wilcox: Yeah. And if you just type “LinkedIn Ads” into your podcast tool, you’ll see the show. It’s probably the only one. The next is… Whenever I try a new ad channel, I’m always surprised by how much it takes to get started and how much work it is to set up a new ad account and get advertising. So what we did is we create what we call the LinkedIn Ads Startup Checklist. It’s the eight things that you need to start advertising today. We created it because it’s exactly what I wanted when I started advertising, and no one gave it to me. So we give it out for free. If you go to b2linked.com/checklist, you can download it for free.
Pam Didner: I will put that as a part of the show notes.
AJ Wilcox: Love it. The next one is LinkedIn itself. So LinkedIn owns LinkedIn Learning.
They selected me as the author for their course on LinkedIn Learning.
Pam Didner: Oh? That’s fantastic. You know what? I created a course for LinkedIn. They invited me to create a marketing plan course, and I did that. I finished all the recordings a couple of weeks ago and will launch my course on June 22nd. That’s my first LinkedIn course.
AJ Wilcox: Yes, we’re both authors. Oh, that’s so cool.
Pam Didner: Yay!
AJ Wilcox: I’ll also put the link down in the show notes here on this one. The LinkedIn Learning for LinkedIn Ads course is only an hour and a half long. I think it costs $20, or it’s free if you’ve got the whole subscription, obviously, but it’s by far the highest quality course for LinkedIn Ads that there is out there. And it’s also the cheapest. When we eventually come out with our courses, they will cost significantly more than LinkedIn Learning.
Pam Didner: AJ, thank you so much for coming to my show. You were awesome and shared insightful knowledge, tricks, tips, and best practices.
So I’m going to end it with another question. So what show are you binge-watching right now?
AJ Wilcox: Oh, I–
Pam Didner: There are too many.
AJ Wilcox: This one’s hard because I finished up shows, and I’m dating now. And so I spend most of my evenings on dates rather than binging, but the show I’m most excited about right now is Girls5eva. And I think it’s on Peacock. Tina Fey wrote it. It’s really funny.
Pam Didner: I don’t have a Peacock subscription, so I don’t think I can watch that show, but all right. Say that, the sit-com again?
AJ Wilcox: It’s called Girls5eva. It’s like girls forever, but they turned it into a five.
Pam Didner: Excellent. AJ, thank you so much for coming to my show and sharing tips and lessons learned. Really grateful to have you.
AJ Wilcox: Oh, it was my honor to be here. Have me back anytime if you want a round two or an update sometime.
Pam Didner: Will do. Take care. Bye-bye.