Confessions of an Ex-Campaign Manager

I’ve seen marketing on LinkedIn from both sides of the fence – here are my no-holds-barred insider tips on making the most of the platform

April 6, 2018

People sometimes overlook the fact that the LinkedIn Marketing team operates like any other. As Associate Marketing Manager for the LinkedIn Marketing & Sales Solutions team in EMEA, I'm one of the marketers using LinkedIn as a channel in our digital marketing strategy.

But my role here hasn't always involved planning and executing our own marketing campaigns. Previously, I was a Campaign Manager for our advertising clients. This gave me the opportunity to work on a wide range of campaigns with some amazing marketers: driving web traffic, building brand awareness and generating leads. I was given insight into the marketing strategies, creative processes, objectives and benchmarks, and I was able to advise them on running successful campaigns on LinkedIn.

Having worked on both sides of the table, I can tell you that there's no special treatment or magic formula for driving results on LinkedIn. Our own marketing team faces the same challenges and opportunities that everyone else does. What we do have though, is great experience of how to get the most out of our platform from a marketing perspective – and helping advertisers make the most of LinkedIn is a big part of that.

Here are some of the principles that the experience has taught me – the confessions of an ex-Campaign Manager:

1. Begin with defining your 'Buyer Persona(s)'

Early in my time at LinkedIn, I assumed the easiest question I could ask a client was: "who do you want to see your message?" I assumed everyone would be starting out with an answer to this question, but I never realised how nuanced that answer can sometimes be – or how important it is to let the answer emerge over time.

A buyer persona helps to give your marketing strategy direction, and that’s why it’s a worthwhile investment of you and your team’s time. It matters because the ideal customer isn't always that easy to pin down – buyers are constantly evolving and what isn't relevant to someone today could be the ideal solution for them tomorrow. The aim of a persona should be to help you to anticipate who your message could be relevant to in the future, not just who it’s relevant to right now. It means you aren’t restricted to reacting to behaviour – you can look beyond people who are acting in a certain way and do more with your marketing throughout the funnel.

When clients know they don't know exactly who to target, they often adopt a testing-led approach, identifying the characteristics of LinkedIn profiles that tend to engage and convert, and building their buyer personas from there. The trick is to deploy your budget as efficiently as possible if you’re prospecting in this way, to ensure you’re not wasting your investment shooting in the dark.

From my experience as a Campaign Manager, I’ve learned that it helps to get more creative with targeting on LinkedIn, and think outside the box with your parameters. I think audience testing usually takes a backseat to creative AB testing, but it can make a hugely significant contribution to business success. A well thought-through persona helps to guide the different, creative approaches you can take to targeting: the types of skills they have and their years of experience, for example. Campaign Demographics in LinkedIn Campaign Manager help to drive the testing process forward. After your campaign is live, you can clearly see data on profiles that are engaging with your campaigns and this will help you define your targeting even further.

2. Break the budget taboo

One of the most surprising things to me about life as a Campaign Manager was how reluctant most clients are to talk about the advertising budget they have available. It was the elephant in the room of many discussions I had with advertisers – and that was frustrating because budget is key to everything with any form of advertising. Tailoring your approach to the budget you have available is vital for getting full value from that budget and running an impactful and efficient campaign. In fact, as a client, it’s helpful to be upfront about the ROI you expect to be able to generate as well. It all helps to inform your approach.

It’s impossible to run a successful campaign with no budget, but that’s not to say you need a million-dollar one to be effective. However, you will need to adapt your approach if your budget is on the conservative side. Don't run hundreds of different campaigns on LinkedIn if that means you’ll only have a $10 daily budget for each. You will limit the number of people who can interact with your ad if you spread the budget so thinly. I'd recommend you start with two or three campaigns based on your buyer persona and split your budget evenly. Once you get some solid results, then you can start making strategic, data-driven actions.

There are also techniques you can use to stretch your budget further. Sometimes, switching your targeting can help to drive down your average Cost per Click (CPC). Try skills or groups targeting based on keyword research or upload an Targeted Account list from your CRM to make sure you're putting your message in front of the right companies. Even something as simple as switching your highest performing pieces of Sponsored Content from CPC to Cost per Impressions (CPM) bidding can help you save some valuable dollars (I normally recommended this for Sponsored Content campaigns with a Click through Rate (CTR) of 0.90% or more but test and learn what works best for your campaigns).

3. AB Test EVERYTHING

I’ll admit it: my attitude to testing did change slightly when I moved to running my own campaigns. I had never quite realised the work involved in generating different creatives, copy variations and CTAs. I felt slightly guilty about always telling clients that they need to test. But would my experience change that advice? No it wouldn’t. I still stand by the importance of committing to testing every element – because once we stop testing, we take away our potential to innovate, and one of the most interesting aspects of what we do.

At LinkedIn, we're so dedicated to testing that we have whole teams to support it. We're currently testing out video, because we recognise that’s the only real way to find the sweet spot for length, content, and all of the other characteristics of video content. I’ve also picked up some hugely valuable insights from the tests that my clients ran during my time as a Campaign Manager. Here are just a few that I’m still applying as best practice today:

  • Sponsored InMails have a higher engagement rate if they are 1,000 characters or less – and also if they are sent from a member profile, not company page.
  • Calling out your target audience in Sponsored Content headlines ("The only guide CMOs need to read in 2018") also correlates with higher engagement.
  • When running Dynamic Ads, eye-catching icons or a team member’s face often drive more clicks than a straightforward brand logo.

4. Find a place for brand awareness (and measure it)

All marketers know the importance of brand awareness – but as a marketer, I also understand how hard it is to justify a brand awareness campaign. Results can be hard to quantify: it’s difficult to say how many leads you’re driving or how much revenue they are generating.

However, proving the impact of brand awareness campaigns is getting easier. Recently, I’ve been working with our Content and Social team to use our top performing blog posts as the basis of an awareness-raising Sponsored Content campaign. We tested different creatives, calls-to-action and targeting for putting these posts in front of relevant audiences at scale, and we reported on likes, clicks, shares, comments and impressions. Even more significantly, we were able to use LinkedIn Conversion Tracking to start to see the contribution of this brand building to lead generation and revenues – we specified the Thank You page URL that is generated whenever someone shares their contact details as our Conversion Action and we had a clear view of the leads the brand awareness campaign contributed to.

5. No need to recreate the wheel

“We don’t have enough content" was one of the most frequent concerns that I heard from clients during my time as a Campaign Manager. With my experience running my own campaigns, I’ve learned that this often results from people making content creation harder than it needs to be. Look across your different channels and the chances are you’ll find all of the content assets you need: on your blog, on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, your Careers Page or in the pieces placed by your PR team. A campaign doesn't have to be created specifically for LinkedIn to drive great results on the platform. Take your existing content, freshen it up and introduce it to a new audience in a sharper form. You’ll often find yourself with bigger returns for a lot less effort.

How about recycling a successful video from your YouTube channel for use in LinkedIn Sponsored Content, or adapting your most successful emails for use as Sponsored InMail, where they will typically generate even stronger open rates. Top tweets make compelling copy for Sponsored Content. At the same time, you can leverage the work you've done on Search Marketing Keywords for super-relevant skills targeting on LinkedIn. It's about being clever with your time and budget. And often, the results can be even stronger second time around.

I’m lucky to have two different perspectives on running campaigns on LinkedIn because of my experiences. It’s helped me to form views on the most effective techniques for leveraging our platform – and be able to test those techniques from different sides of the fence. It’s also proved to me that there’s almost always an effective way to leverage LinkedIn for different marketing objectives – you just need insight on how to adapt your use of the platform to fit the resources and priorities that you have. I hope this post will help you do exactly that.

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