The LinkedIn Targeting Combos Driving ROI

The most effective LinkedIn Advertising and Sponsored Content often starts with two well-chosen targeting criteria

June 20, 2017

LinkedIn Targeting Tips

Note: A version of this post originally appeared on the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions EMEA blog. 

When you first start targeting B2B audiences on LinkedIn, it’s easy to get carried away with all the options at your disposal. Thanks to the depth and accuracy of LinkedIn profile data, there are many different ways to define an audience – and it’s tempting to load more and more of these LinkedIn targeting parameters onto a single campaign. It may feel like you’re being more precise – but such targeting overload can actually undermine your effectiveness and increase the cost of engagement. The most effective LinkedIn targeting doesn't need a laundry list of targeting criteria. When it comes to driving ROI, it often just takes two.

Why LinkedIn targeting criteria work well in pairs

Combining two carefully selected LinkedIn targeting parameters delivers real relevance at scale. By starting with a broad but meaningful definition of the people you need to reach, it boosts the chances of achieving your objectives. Hyper-targeting by layering on different targeting filters increases the pressure on getting every one of those variables correct – otherwise you could be ignoring potentially valuable prospects. When your targeting operates in pairs, it puts LinkedIn data to work finding more of the people who are relevant to your marketing objectives, rather than finding reasons to exclude them from your campaign.

Combos of two LinkedIn targeting criteria are also better placed to deliver a higher Return on Investment (ROI) for your LinkedIn campaign. When you narrow down your target audience more than is really necessary, you find yourself bidding for exposure to a very specific group of people. That can drive up the cost of your impressions or clicks – and consequently the cost per lead (CPL) and cost per conversion (CPC) of your campaigns. When you give your campaign the scope to target more relevant prospects, there’s more opportunity for it to do so cost-efficiently.

Squad selection: giving different combinations a chance to shine

If you are seeking more effective ways to target your audience on LinkedIn, start by thinking about the different ways that a pairing of two variables could achieve it. You don’t just get one shot at this. Set up different campaigns, using different combinations of parameters, to zero in on your target audience from different angles. Then focus your budget on the approaches that deliver the best results. You’ll find yourself learning where the sweet spot for your B2B targeting lies. Once you’ve connected to an audience this way, you might find that you can add a third targeting parameter to top-performing combos, to deliver greater precision. However starting broad is usually the best approach.

Your starting targeting combos might well include some of the tried and tested pairings in the list below. They all make highly effective use of LinkedIn data to reach some of the most valuable audiences for B2B marketing – and they can do so at a scale that makes a real difference and maximizes your ROI. You can find out more about these combos, and how to build customised approaches to targeting on LinkedIn, in our Sophisticated Marketer’s Session on reaching your ideal audience. 

Targeting by Job Title and Company Industry

Let’s say you're a software company looking to target IT decision-makers at potential client companies. Picking an Industry for which those solutions have particular value is a great starting point. If you then target the most likely job titles for decision-makers within that industry, you’ll give yourself a great chance of reaching members of the buying committee. You’ll have another advantage as well: the opportunity to tailor the creative of LinkedIn Advertising or Sponsored Content to reflect your chosen job titles. Campaigns that do this often achieve a significant uplift in click-through rate (CTR).

Getting the most from this combo:
Job titles are a powerful targeting tool that enables a personalized approach. Remember though, that titles can vary from company to company. For this reason, it pays not to be overly specific. When you start typing job titles into LinkedIn Campaign Manager, it will suggest other titles that may be relevant for your campaign. Acting on these suggestions will help to ensure that you have the reach you need – and don’t miss out on prospects with slightly unusual titles.

Targeting by Seniority and Skills

As buying committees become more complex, B2B marketers need the ability to target all of the people who might influence a buying decision. Combining Skills and Seniority can be a highly effective means of achieving this, by reaching across job functions and reaching likely influencers wherever they hide.

Getting the most from this combo:
and Skills work so well together because they can reach all of those with relevant expertise in your area, whilst focusing on those most likely to have influence on buying decisions. One of the great advantages of this combo is its ability to reach Senior Individual Contributors, those people within a company who may not have people reporting to them, but are recognized as an expert in their field – and are consulted over buying decisions. Research shows these people having an increasingly influential role within buying committees.

Targeting by Location and Job Function

Localized content can be a powerful asset for delivering content that resonates with audiences and demonstrates your brand’s understanding of their priorities and interests. It also enables you to talk to local audiences in their preferred language. Targeting by Location enables you to deliver such localized content to the most relevant people. Job Function is a great candidate to pair with Location as it focuses on those with an active interest in your subject matter.

Getting the most from this combo:
Make sure you are working closely with local market teams to ensure that your content is hitting the hot topics for a particular market – otherwise the value of a localization strategy will be limited. There’s a wealth of advice for developing localised content strategies in our Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to Global Content Marketing.

Targeting by Years of Experience and Degrees

This is a proven combination for higher education institutions looking to target the most relevant prospects for MBAs and other courses. Targeting by the Degrees that people already have ensures you are targeting only those with the necessary qualifications for your course. Targeting by Years of Experience ensures you are reaching people at a stage in their career when they are most interested in furthering their skills. The Netherlands’ leading business school, TIAS, transformed its approach to filling its leads pipeline by using LinkedIn targeting in this way.

Getting the most from this combo:
Not all LinkedIn members include details about their degrees in their LinkedIn profiles, which can limit their value to broader targeting. However, this isn’t an issue for higher education marketers who are less likely to be interested in people that don’t see their academic qualifications as important. In this case, such self-selection helps to make Degree-based targeting even more meaningful.

Targeting by Company Industry and Company Size

The size of a company dictates its priorities and the particular challenges and opportunities that it faces. Being able to relate your solutions to these specific needs is a huge advantage when it comes to driving interest and engagement. This advantage grows even more when you tailor your content to the particular sector that a business is operating in. The Dutch mobile and cable operator Ziggo drove fantastic engagement levels when it was able to address the specific needs of entrepreneurs and SMBs.

Getting the most from this combo:
Try tailoring your content to different company industries. You’ll then be in a great position to optimize your approach by switching budget to the campaigns (and the industries) that show the highest propensity to convert.

Targeting by Seniority and Company Size

Smaller businesses often make decisions at a relatively more senior level, so it can make sense to combine Company Size and Seniority when targeting them. An auto brand targeting ‘user-choosers’ who pick their own company car are more likely to find relevant decision-makers amongst the owners of small businesses than those working for them, for example.

Getting the most from this combo:
When targeting micro and small businesses, it’s often more effective to exclude criteria rather than include them. Use the Exclude option in Campaign Manager to rule out businesses that have more than a specific number of employees. This will ensure you are also reaching entrepreneurs who haven’t yet created a company page.

Giving your targeting combinations the best chance to succeed

These targeting combos are a great starting point for thinking about how you can reach the most relevant audience on LinkedIn – but don’t limit yourself to these approaches. Depending on your specific audience and objectives, you could well find other targeting facets and combinations that are equally relevant for you. Be sure to trial different combos for reaching your target audience – and be ready to switch your spend towards those that deliver the best results.

When you start typing your targeting criteria into LinkedIn Campaign Manager, it will generate an estimate of the size of the target audience that meets those criteria on LinkedIn. This is a hugely valuable tool for helping to sense-check the scope of your targeting – and whether you are reaching enough relevant people to meet your objectives cost-efficiently. When it doubt, start broad and then narrow down your audience later. This will give your carefully chosen targeting combos the best possible opportunity to prove their value.

You’ll find detailed information on how to find your ideal audience on LinkedIn in our in-depth LinkedIn Targeting Guide, which is part of our immersive Sophisticated Marketer’s Session on B2B targeting. In addition to the targeting parameters we’ve discussed here, you can also explore the options for building your own customised audience segments using LinkedIn’s new Matched Audiences features. There are handy check sheets of do’s and don’ts, and advice from LinkedIn experts on finding the right targeting combinations for your business.

To learn more about taking your LinkedIn targeting to the next level, download Unleashing LinkedIn's Targeting Capabilities today.