5 Essential Strategies for Using Ads in Your Next Inbound Campaign

Tangible Tips from HubSpot's own Product Marketing Manager

November 3, 2015

linkedin inbound marketing

Editor's Note: This post was contributed by Marcus Andrews, Product Marketing Manager at HubSpot.

At HubSpot, our relationship with ads has always been a little … complicated. Historically, ads weren’t part of our playbook, but many smart marketers were still using them as part of their marketing mix. So this year, we decided to take a long look at how inbound marketers were actually using ads, and what we found blew us away.

Turns out, they were using ads in a really interesting way: Our customers were using advertising to amplify the effectiveness of their inbound campaigns.

Are you wondering how marketers can effectively merge advertising and inbound? You’re not alone.

To help, we recently conducted a LinkedIn webinar, 'Amplifying the Effect of Great Inbound Marketing', which features tips for inbound marketers looking to get started with advertising.

We also built a new product called the HubSpot Ads Add-On, so customers can integrate ads into inbound campaigns right from HubSpot.

Check out our SlideShare and read on below to learn more about integrating these seemingly disparate marketing activities.

1) Find the right ads for your business.

Way before you start putting your first ad together, you need to know the right place for your company to advertise. Each social network or ad network offers different value. It’s important to know your audience and pick the network where they frequent most.

Two channels that we really love are LinkedIn and Google: LinkedIn for its ability to reach a professional audience, and Google for its ability to surface helpful content as answers to people’s search queries. These are the first two networks we chose to integrate into HubSpot in the Ads Add-On.

2) Don’t put ads first.

Once you’ve found the right ad network, don’t fall into the trap of immediately creating an “ad campaign.” Ads shouldn’t be the first thing you do when creating a new marketing campaign -- they should only come after all the other elements of your campaign have been created.

Inbound marketers know the best campaigns revolve around great content, landing pages, and promotion. By taking an inbound-first approach, you can wait until you have a really effective campaign and then use ads to amplify those positive results.

3) Spend the time on targeting.

Getting targeting right can often feel intimidating or confusing, but it’s arguably the most important part of your ads. The right targeting allows you to reach the right audience with the right content at the right time, so give it the time it deserves.

In our own ad campaigns, we use our buyer personas as a jumping-off point for our targeting. By using your buyer personas to build targeting, you can feel confident you’re on the right track.

That being said, remember to not over target. To be successful, you need to reach a big enough audience that’s also qualified. This all depends on the size of your industry and business, but we recommend targeting an audience bigger than 30K but smaller than 500K.

Don’t be afraid to tweak your targeting, too. If you’re not spending your daily budget fast enough, expand the targeting. If you’re spending it too fast, narrow the audience.

4) Measure what matters.

Measuring the success of any marketing activity can be hard -- and advertising has always been one that is especially difficult. Though there are lots of theories, processes, and metrics you can use, you should always know the most common metrics: impressions, clicks, CTR, and CPC. These are what a lot of marketing people look to when trying to define how successful an ad or ad campaign is.

These metrics can be limiting though, because they don’t tell you what’s happened after a user has clicked on your ad. That’s why we recommend focusing more effort on conversions metrics. If you’re able to see the number of leads driven by a specific ad, for example, you’ll have a better idea if it’s truly working or not. This also allows you to understand the return you get from an ad or the cost-per-acquisition.

And once you know conversions, you can start to measure full-funnel success. Your goal should be to understand which ads and campaigns generate leads that actually turn into MQLs and customers. When you do this you can are getting close to true ROI because you know how much you’re getting back from the customers that the ad spend created.

5) Test and optimize.

It’s common to launch an ad campaign that is losing money at first. If this is your experience, it’s important not to stop the ad immediately -- instead, optimize your way to profit.

What do I mean exactly? Optimization essentially means doing more of what works and less of what doesn’t.

To make optimization easy, start your LinkedIn ad campaigns with at least two different ads as part of one campaign. Try two very different offers focused at a similar audience. They should be higher-performing offers or pieces of content with a similar CTA.

Once you know which works the best, create multiple versions of that ad or similar offers. Run those ads for a couple of weeks and look to see where the most conversions are coming from at the lowest cost. Use this data to create a hypothesis around what’s working, and then tweak your creative and targeting again to include the elements that work.

Continue to test and optimize with conversions and CPA being your guide. After a few rounds you should start to see you ROI increase to a positive number. This is the power of optimization -- it’s just as critical to success as targeting and measurement.

Ads can be a really powerful tool for inbound marketers and our hope is that we can make the integration of ads with inbound easy and successful. Learn more or get a demo of HubSpot’s new Ads Add-on by visiting the product page.

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