Ten steps to a winning Sponsored Messaging campaign
Top tips to maximise the benefits of Message Ads and Conversation Ads on LinkedIn
September 21, 2020
As a senior online ads strategist at LinkedIn, I know how many marketers depend on Sponsored Messaging. It’s where they turn to transform their response rates, cut cost per lead (CPL) and hit targets far faster than they otherwise could.
Sponsored Messaging delivers far stronger engagement than email marketing, and marketers often launch campaigns to save the day when they’re struggling to hit sign-up or lead generation targets through email. However, Sponsored Messaging can do a lot more than just boost results in the short term. It’s your opportunity to get personal with a well-chosen audience, talk directly to their needs, deliver clear calls to action and start quality conversations. As such, it can play a powerful role at every stage of the funnel. It works as an always-on demand generation channel just as well as a time-sensitive tactic.
Over the last five years, the number of messages that marketers send via LinkedIn has quadrupled – and the response rate those messages receive has increased by 30%. Now that Sponsored Messaging includes both Message Ads and Conversation Ads, there are even more ways to use it – and even more ways to get the results that you need.
As with any powerful marketing format though, the real power comes from knowledge. Sponsored Messaging delivers the best results when you can match the right content and messaging format with the right audience, at the right stage of the customer journey. My role is to help marketers be savvy about doing this as cost-efficiently as possible.
I wanted to write this post to share some of favourite tips and tricks for making this happen. These are the ten pieces of advice that I find myself giving to clients most often – and which I see making a difference to Sponsored Messaging campaigns, time and time again:
How to target audiences for Sponsored Messaging
Aim for an audience of 10,000 – and try using Sponsored Content campaigns to guide your approach
Sponsored Messaging works best when you have a clear idea of your target audience, and are able to personalise your approach to address their particular priorities. However, it’s difficult to achieve results cost-effectively if you narrow your audience down too much from the start. Aim for a minimum audience size of 10,000 to begin with, and you can then use demographic analysis of those responding to help refine your approach further.
Many of the most effective Sponsored Messaging campaigns run in parallel with Sponsored Content targeting a slightly broader audience. This enables marketers to zero in on the most engaged and responsive segments of their audience – and make these the target for their Sponsored Messaging campaigns.
Build targeting around seniority, industry and function – and segment by geography
Seniority, industry and function are my three go-to targeting facets when it comes to balancing scale and relevance for Sponsored Messaging. Function is a more inclusive criteria than job title and, in most cases, that means campaigns are reaching more of the people likely to respond. Seniority is often more relevant than age and will connect you with the right audience more accurately. Be wary of the temptation to load on any more than three targeting facets. This tends to result in hyper-targeting and campaigns paying too much for ads.
Segmenting by geography is often undervalued as a targeting strategy – and it can be particularly effective for Sponsored Messaging. Using geographical segments means that you can tailor the language and content of a message. I’ve also seen clients using location-based targeting to focus budget on hotspots that prove particularly responsive.
Choosing your Sponsored Messaging format:
Choose Message Ads or Conversation Ads based on the stage of the journey – and the range of actions people can take
Clarity around objectives is a huge advantage for any campaign – but it’s particularly valuable for Sponsored Messaging. The key to success is identifying where your audience are likely to be in their buyer journey, and which actions you want them to take next. This will guide your choice of which Sponsored Messaging format best suits your campaign.
As a rule of thumb, if there is one clear and obvious step that you need your audience to take, then Message Ads will help focus your audience’s attention on that step. It could be inviting people to download a white paper, book a product demo, or register for an event. Integrating a Lead Gen Form makes it easy for your prospects to sign-up, quickly generating high-quality leads and sending your cost per lead (CPL) plummeting.
If you’re engaging audiences in the discovery and consideration phase, Conversation Ads will maximise engagement and response rates by helping them navigate towards the content or action that suits them best. Conversation Ads use a choose-your-own-path experience, and adapt to the responses that your audience gives. They make it easy to start quality conversations within the LinkedIn messaging environment, and they’re ideal for stages of the journey where you have multiple calls to action to offer. A Conversation Ad could invite people to book a demo through a Lead Gen Form while also catering to prospects who need to know more by suggesting background reading or a visit to your website.
Winning bid strategies for Sponsored Messaging
Keep bids at the high end of the suggested bid range – or higher
When setting up your Sponsored Messaging campaign, you’ll see a suggested bid range that’s based on what other advertisers are bidding for a similar audience. Setting your bid at the top of the suggested range or higher is the best way to maximise exposure. It’s particularly important if your campaign is operating in a limited timeframe – inviting people to register for an event, for example. Because LinkedIn advertising products are decided on a second-price auction, you will only have to pay the minimum amount needed to beat the second-placed bid. So even if you bid at the high end of the range, you are likely to pay less.
Choose either daily or total budget based on your campaign’s length and urgency
You’ll also find the option of setting either a Daily Budget or a Total Budget. It’s best to base your choice on the rhythm of your campaign and the timeframe it’s running over.
Select Daily Budget if you’re targeting larger audiences with always-on campaigns. In this case, you can also set your bid within the suggested bidding range as it’s less urgent to secure exposure to your audience quickly – and you have more opportunities to win bids.
Choose Total Budget if you have a smaller audience and a time-sensitive deadline. This enables your total budget to be spent quickly, reaching the maximum number of members from your target audience as soon as they get online – and before other advertisers hit them with Sponsored Messaging. In these circumstances you should set your bid at the top of the suggested bidding range.
Crafting compelling messaging and content
Use proven engagement techniques in Sponsored Messaging content
Top-performing Sponsored Messaging campaigns use common techniques that enable them to take full advantage of the extra engagement available. These techniques apply to both Message Ads and Conversation Ads:
Start with a credible sender
The LinkedIn messaging environment is a personal space – and an approach from a credible person is often more effective than an approach from a company. This becomes doubly important when using Conversation Ads, as it feels intuitively more natural to engage with a human being. Choose a credible sender from within your business, whose position and expertise are relevant to your subject and recognisable to your audience.
Personalise at scale
LinkedIn’s macros enable you to pull member data into your messages to add personal touches like first name, last name, company, industry and job title. Personalised messaging captures attention and reinforces relevance, prompting your audience to open messages and engage in conversations.
Keep your message simple, concise and focused on value
Make it easier for your audience to engage by using simple, straightforward language and getting quickly to the point by introducing yourself and the value you have to offer. Concise messages consistently perform best. Set yourself the challenge of getting your key points across in 500 characters or less for a Message Ad. With Conversation Ads, try to keep your scheduled responses succinct, communicating one clear piece of information in each. This helps conversations flow more easily.
Try starting out with a question
Leading with a question quickly immerses your audience members in a two-way conversation and helps signal that you understand their needs. This is an obvious benefit when using Conversation Ads – but it’s a technique that works well with Message Ads as well.
Test variations to refine your approach
Running different versions of your Message Ads and Conversation Ads will help you identify the approach that works best for engaging your target audience. Check the performance of your different ad versions regularly, pause the version with the lowest engagement and replace it with new creative. Over time, this will help you win more bids.
Don’t forget to include a banner
Sponsored Messaging includes banners that measure 300x250 pixels, and are displayed on desktop only. They keep your brand top of mind when reading your message and complement the personalised approach of a message coming from an individual sender. It’s important to realise that, if you decide not to include a banner, other advertisers can use the placement alongside your message – and this could include your competitors!
Align your content assets with your objectives
Of course, the content of Message Ads and Conversation Ads themselves is just one part of the package in a Sponsored Messaging campaign. It’s equally important to take a strategic approach to the content assets that you share and promote. These should align with your objective – and the stage of the journey that you’re addressing.
If your main objective is brand awareness, focus your Sponsored Messaging around reports, analysis and other thought-leadership assets that add relevant value. Messaging is also a powerful vehicle for promoting webinars, which are one of the most sought-after assets in the consideration stage of the buyer journey. Blog posts explaining your proposition are a natural link to include in Conversation Ads.
If you’re focused on lead generation, choose content assets that have real value to add at later stages of the buyer journey – and which provide a strong incentive for sharing details. You could share product demo videos or customer success stories, offer a free consultation – or invite prospects to your next virtual event.
Measuring success for Sponsored Messaging
Implement Conversion Tracking
LinkedIn Conversion Tracking enables you to track the actions that audience members take after engaging with your Sponsored Messaging. You’ll be able to define conversion actions on your website, such as content downloads, sign-ups or purchases, and then track how many people take these actions after receiving Message Ads and Conversation Ads. For robust tracking, tie your conversions to the Thank You pages that your site displays after visitors successfully complete an action.
Measure success and optimise around demographics
With LinkedIn’s demographic reporting you can both keep track of campaign performance and gain a deeper understanding of your audience – and how they respond to your messaging.
Choose Sponsored Messaging metrics under the Columns tab in LinkedIn’s Campaign Manager interface to get a full picture of your results. You’ll be able to see metrics such as open and click-to-open rates – and compare your performance to LinkedIn benchmarks for your audience. The benchmarks for open rate are between 35% and 55% while click-to-open rate benchmarks vary between 2.5% and 5%.
If you’re running Conversation Ads, you’ll also be able to access detailed click reporting, which shows the performance of each of your separate calls to action. And for both Message Ads and Conversation Ads, you’ll be able to analyse the profile of audience members clicking, and gain valuable insights to inform your next Sponsored Messaging campaign.
You’ll find examples of brands using these techniques to make the most of Sponsored Messaging in our Sponsored Messaging Playbook