AJ Wilcox on the secret tactics driving growth for top LinkedIn advertisers

The founder of B2Linked shares his deepest secrets on targeting, bidding strategy and demonstrating ROI

September 26, 2018

AJ Wilcox on the secret tactics driving growth for top LinkedIn advertisers

Few people know more about driving business growth through LinkedIn than AJ Wilcox. He’s an advertising expert that top businesses turn to when looking to get more value from marketing on our platform – and he’s earned a reputation for knowing exactly when and how to use LinkedIn to deliver on your marketing objectives.

Since launching the specialist B2B agency B2Linked in 2014, AJ has run LinkedIn campaigns for over 100 businesses, adding up to budgets of over $100m. He may never have worked directly for LinkedIn, but his depth of experience makes him one of the ultimate LinkedIn Insiders. If you’ve been tapping into the top-secret tips and tactics in our Confessions of the LinkedIn Insiders eBook then you’ll know this already. In that eBook, AJ shared many of the secret techniques he uses to help drive performance for some of the most successful campaigns on our platform: from targeting and bidding strategy through to how you demonstrate ROI.

This is AJ’s Confession in full – an in-depth interview that reveals all of his key insights for using LinkedIn to generate leads, convert those leads into revenue, and measure and optimise to keep improving performance:

What objectives should marketers be using LinkedIn for?
“LinkedIn is ideal for generating leads from high-potential-value prospects, and starting that conversation with valuable gated content. In my experience, that’s usually more sustainable than trying to send people directly to a sales page. Content is definitely the strongest play.”

How do you recommend that clients use the different LinkedIn Marketing Solutions? Which solutions do you recommend for which purposes?
“I would use Sponsored Content pretty much all of the time. It’s the halo ad unit that can work for almost any type of offer, whether for larger audiences or hyper-segmented ones. The value comes from the quality of leads and the engagement. It works great for gated content like checklists, cheatsheets, webinars, eBooks... and with Lead Gen Forms, you can create a seamless one-click experience for your audience.

Text Ads are likely to provide the lowest-cost option for reaching a target audience at scale. The downside is that they are only available on desktop and so I would use them for large audiences when you know that your landing page isn’t going to deliver a great mobile experience and so you want to reach people specifically on desktop.

Use Sponsored InMail when you want to drive audiences to free, in-person events or extra-special access. It’s also great when you’re trying to make an impact amongst a very tightly defined audience. You can touch many more people than you could get a click out of with the other ad units, so you’ll reach and engage a higher percentage of your audience. The clicks you get from Sponsored InMail are likely to be the most expensive though, so reserve this for high value audiences and your most important offers.”

What’s the biggest misunderstanding that you come across regarding advertising on LinkedIn?
“The biggest misunderstanding about advertising on LinkedIn is that you have to bid

high in order to qualify for the most high-quality audiences. If you’ve set your targeting well and the people you are targeting are genuinely relevant, you can use bidding as the lever to control how much traffic you need. If you have a small budget, you can bid low or all the way to the floor, regardless of the suggested bid range – and you will still generate traffic.”

What value can advertisers get from LinkedIn that’s difficult to find elsewhere?
“The targeting on LinkedIn Ads is unparalleled across any channel. Targeting is meaningless unless the reach and scalability is good, and LinkedIn has both in droves. The segmentation is also extremely powerful. You can create tight audience segments and get very insightful data about how certain segments perform and convert. This can inform both your persona and content development.”

What’s the feature of advertising on LinkedIn that most impresses your clients when you introduce it to them?
“I really love company targeting for Account-Based Marketing (ABM). With LinkedIn, we can do it on a scale and with precision that no other platform is able to provide. ABM is the feature of LinkedIn advertising that most impresses clients when I introduce them to it. It’s a feature that there is absolutely no substitute for across any other platform, and it’s magical.”

What’s your favourite new feature of LinkedIn for advertising?
“Lead Gen Forms have become an important part of the toolkit – and we’ve been using them in more and more cases. Conversion rates are high and Lead Gen Forms are also helpful for troubleshooting any landing page conversion issues you have, since they allow you to compare conversion rates while bypassing the landing page.”

What the first piece advice that you give to businesses looking to get started with LinkedIn advertising?
“The first piece of advice that I give to businesses looking to get started with advertising on LinkedIn is: make sure you are bringing your “AMO” (Audience, Message, Offer) and that it’s properly aligned. Your audience must be able to be identified by their profession, company, demographic and education facets, and be valuable enough to produce a return on your ad spend. Your message must be compelling enough to get people to shift their attention away from what they’re doing on the platform. Most importantly, your offer must either satisfy a curiosity or solve a significant pain for the users.”

Is there a minimum budget that marketers need to make effective use of LinkedIn?
“Between $3,000 and $5,000 per month is generally when we start to see

statistical significance in conversion rates – and so that’s the minimum I’d advise budgeting for LinkedIn campaigns. We find that spending less than that causes data to flow too slowly and means you are missing out on insights, effectiveness and the opportunity to optimise your campaign.”

What approach should marketers take to demonstrating ROI from advertising on LinkedIn?
B2B sales cycles are long, so the focus for the marketer shouldn’t be on ROI to begin with. Start with effectiveness of LinkedIn traffic going to leads. Then pay attention to how many leads it takes to produce a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL), then how many SQLs it requires to close a deal. If the sales team is performing consistently, you can optimise for leads and simply trust that they will perform down the funnel and drive ROI. Those calculations will add up strongly on LinkedIn because of the lead quality. Our clients are constantly surprised by the quality of leads from LinkedIn vs other channels. It’s not that the same qualified individuals aren’t on other platforms, but we can be so specific on LinkedIn and make sure we are ONLY talking to the most qualified people from the start.”

Which sectors/verticals do you think are underutilising LinkedIn – and how should they be getting more value from the platform?
“If you’re using LinkedIn for marketing then you should definitely also be using LinkedIn ads to support your recruitment. Some businesses do this but more should. Bringing HR and marketing together can help you to build a brand that appeals to potential employees as well as customers.”

As an agency, how do you use LinkedIn to grow your own business?
“I love sharing content and interacting with members in the news feed. We regularly get leads and business just from organic sharing and conversations.”

Want more top-secret techniques for maximising value on LinkedIn? Download our Confessions of the LinkedIn Insiders eBook to discover the tactics of our other LinkedIn advertising experts.

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