Dylan received both his Bachelor’s in Marketing and Master’s of Business Administration from the University of Houston-Clear Lake - and he’s been working in Paid Media ever since. A Houston native, Dylan has worked with clients ranging from small town ERs to multinational energy conglomerates. His all-time favorite ad is the Hulu short ‘Puppies Destroying Christmas’.
When not building campaigns and writing copy, you can find him at a local music venue, behind a cast iron skillet, or hanging out with his cat.
One of the most important questions asked at the onset of a marketing strategy is “Who is our target persona?” When it comes to consumer-facing products and services, the question is simple to answer - ‘outdoor enthusiasts’, ‘Italian food enthusiasts’, ‘cat enthusiasts’, et al.
For B2B companies, however, developing an ideal customer profile gets a lot more granular - from company size to job titles to specific issues a potential customer faces. And once a company can figure this out, they still face the insurmountable obstacle of getting their company in front of that ideal customer.
Sure, if the problem they solve or the company itself is well known, this isn’t an issue; but for more niche or referral-based offerings, keyword-based digital marketing can often fall short. There is, however, one mainstream advertising platform that is tailor-made for getting in front of other businesses: LinkedIn.
The organic side of LinkedIn can be an interesting hodgepodge of thought pieces, company, and career achievements, and job hunting. But no matter the content in a user’s feed, one thing remains consistent in the active users themselves: they all like the idea of a social platform built for business professionals. It could even be said that LinkedIn users are more accepting of being advertised to than, say, Facebook users. And it is certainly true that active LinkedIn users expect their feed to be inundated with content related to their chosen career, industry, and place of work.
Thus, native advertising, when properly strategized, is well-received by LinkedIn users. And in properly leveraging LinkedIn’s available advertising objectives, firmographic targeting, and ad formats, companies can be sure to see a powerful return on their investment that can surpass even Google Search.
Much like other Paid Social channels, advertisers get billed and measure success based on objectives chosen at the onset of campaign setup. LinkedIn groups these objectives into three categories: Awareness, Consideration, and Conversions.
Awareness is likely the easiest category for a new advertiser to understand, and consequently contains just one objective: Brand Awareness. When an advertiser selects the Brand Awareness objective, they’re aiming for a top of funnel approach, to spread the word about their brand to as many users as possible. Well paired with a strong brand intro video, Brand Awareness campaigns are charged by CPM (cost per thousand impressions).
Consideration is LinkedIn’s mid-funnel category and contains three objectives: Website Visits, Engagement, and Video Views.
Website Visits is self-explanatory in function, but rather varied in potential: campaigns with this objective seek to direct users away from their social feed and towards your website. There are a few reasons why an advertiser may choose this objective, including directing users to blog or event content or sending users to a specific page in order to build Remarketing audiences. Much like traditional Paid Search, the Website Visits objective is charged by click or ‘Website Visit’.
Engagement is the most social-specific objective, and campaigns with this objective will serve ads to users most likely to engage with a company’s ad or profile. Companies looking to drive engagement to a specific thought piece or build their page following can leverage this objective to bolster their organic performance. Similar to Website Visits, Engagement is on a cost-per-click model.
Video Views is perhaps the most obvious objective - serve ads strictly to users who will watch your content all the way through. Video View campaigns can be charged either by click or by impression.
The KPI that digital marketers tend to swear by, the Conversions category is LinkedIn’s bottom-funnel bucket and includes Lead Generation, Website Conversions, and Job Applicants.
Lead Generation is another self-explanatory objective with various applications. Campaigns with this objective will serve users most likely to fill out a native LinkedIn lead gen form - and as you might imagine, the customization associated with these forms is the key to success with this objective. LinkedIn’s lead gen forms have several preloaded fields including name, work email, and phone number; and also take advantage of LinkedIn’s firmographic details, auto-filling job titles, company name, company industry, and more. As well, LinkedIn gives advertisers full reign over custom questions.
Lead information is collected within the LinkedIn Campaign Manager; the forms also automatically integrate with some CRMs and can be easily associated with hidden fields to connect to other CRMs, allowing leads to instantly enter the sales automation cycle. Whether serving gated content or signing users up for a product demo, Lead Generation campaigns are one of the lowest-friction ways to collect a prospect’s contact information. These campaigns are charged either by lead, click, or impression.
Website Conversions serve ads to prospects most likely to complete a defined action on a company’s website. This objective is perfect for Remarketing audiences that have already engaged with your content and can lead to on-site form completions, product purchases, and more. Website Conversion campaigns can be charged either by conversion, impressions, or landing page clicks.
Job Applicants are not really related to B2B goals, but companies everywhere should take note of the viability of LinkedIn as a recruitment platform.
What makes LinkedIn the premier platform for getting in front of business-facing clients is its firmographic targeting options - that is, the demographics of the businesses an advertiser is looking to reach. LinkedIn’s firmographic (and business-facing) targeting options break down into three categories: Company Information, Job Experience, and Uploaded Data, and also includes the option to exclude all of the above.
The most literal example of firmographics available on LinkedIn, this category enables advertisers to narrow their audience based on available company data. This data breaks down into the following options:
- Company Connections - reach 1st-degree connections of a selected company; think of it as a ‘friends-of’ option.
- Company Industry - reach professionals in pre-defined industries.
- Company Size - serve to individuals who work for companies of a specific size; crucial for advertisers looking to segment their campaigns based on SMB or enterprise-level offerings.
- Company Name - so long as a company has a LinkedIn page, company targeting can get as granular as the exact company name.
- Company Followers - deliver ads to your existing organic followers.
- Company Growth Rate - serve ads to companies with specific growth rates, as determined by employee size.
- Company Category - target users who work for companies under pre-defined segments from publishers like Forbes & Fortune 500.
Just as important as targeting a user based on the company they work for is the ability to target users based on their Job Experience. Available options include:
- Job Functions - based on groupings of job titles, Job Functions is a useful option for reaching users whose job title may be more obscure.
- Job Seniority - enables advertisers to reach users based on their rank at the company (Unpaid, Training, Entry, Senior, Manager, Director, VP, CXO, Owner or Partner).
- Job Titles - reaches users based on the job title they set on their profile.
- Member Skills - one of the most powerful applications of LinkedIn’s algorithms, targeting by Member Skills enables advertisers to reach users based on skills a user personally inputs, endorsements they’ve received from colleagues, and inferred skills associated with the rest of a user’s attributes. This option is particularly useful for reaching a target audience who may have different job titles depending on the industry or company size.
- Years of Experience - reach users based on accumulated years of experience relative to their provided job history. This option is primarily used for Job Applicant-focused campaigns.
Audience List Uploads, Remarketing, & Third-Party Data
Just like most other advertising platforms, LinkedIn enables advertisers to upload their own data for more focused targeting. This includes audience lists, whether by an individual or by company; remarketing from specific pages; and integrated lists from third-party data enrichment providers.
Not only can you use these targeting options (and more) to reach users; advertisers can also use a combination of the above options to exclude unwanted audiences. This can have several implications - for one, an advertiser can exclude industries their product does not serve or seniorities that would not be a key decision-maker in adopting a new product. As well, advertisers can exclude audience segments used in other campaigns to ensure that audiences do not overlap.
Linkedin Ad Formats
The third key component to LinkedIn’s B2B viability is the available ad formats, which include Sponsored Content, Sponsored Messaging, and Desktop Feed Ads.
Sponsored Content Ads
Sponsored Content ads are the formats most similar to other Paid Social platforms, and include Single Image ads, a combination of a caption, a headline, and an image; Carousel ads, which include multiple images in a row; Video ads, which are similar to Single Image ads but with a video instead; and Event ads, which promote - you guessed it - a LinkedIn Event.
Sponsored Messaging Ads
Sponsored Messaging ads are unique to LinkedIn - where Facebook requires advertisers to serve ads in the news feed prompting prospects to request a message, LinkedIn’s Sponsored Messaging ads deliver once a month to users when they log in to LinkedIn. This includes two formats - Message ads and Conversation ads. Message ads send prospects a single message, almost as a feed ad for your messenger, while Conversation ads include various actions a prospect can take that can lead to further messages, lead forms, or landing pages. Both require the advertiser to set a ‘Sender’, which is the profile that appears to be sending the message; and Conversation ads in particular enable advertisers to deeply qualify prospects with a branching-tree format.
Desktop Feed Ads
LinkedIn also offers two additional formats - Text ads and Spotlight ads. These are only served to users on their desktop feed and thus are best suited for content or actions that are not mobile-first.
Text ads are closer in format to a traditional search ad and permit advertisers a limited number of characters and a thumbnail image to entice prospects to visit their landing page. These ads serve either on the top of the right of the desktop feed.
Spotlight ads are dynamic ads that pull a user’s personal LinkedIn information into an ad tailored just for them. Much like Text ads, they appear on the right rail of the news feed and direct users to a landing page.
Bringing It All Together
LinkedIn is the often-overlooked silver bullet to reaching key decision-makers at desired client companies. While the depth of strategies, targeting options, and ad formats can be dizzying, it is crucial for B2B advertisers to embrace what is currently the only business-facing advertising platform.
But if LinkedIn seems daunting or your organization simply lacks to bandwidth to utilize the platform to its full potential, Forthea and our paid social specialists can handle the heavy lifting for you. From translating your ideal customer profiles to LinkedIn audience layers to hyper-focused messaging, Forthea is well-equipped to carry out a full-funnel LinkedIn marketing strategy.