Your Guide to Lead Generation on LinkedIn
Lead generation is a central focus for any organization that’s interested in driving consistent and reliable revenue. Companies use a variety of sales and marketing tactics to generate leads (as we’ll cover shortly), but one way or the other, it is essential to have well defined processes in place.
If you’re wondering about the best ways to do so on LinkedIn, you’ve come to the right place.
Why Lead Gen on LinkedIn?
According to a State of B2B Marketing Report from Wpromote, 89% of B2B marketers use LinkedIn for lead generation, and 62% say it generates them leads, over two times more than the next-highest social channel.
At a time when connecting with the right audience and reporting accurately on results are top marketing priorities, LinkedIn helps you do both, with robust professional targeting filters and in-depth analytics.
The Buyer’s Journey is Changing
Today, the B2B buyer process is growing far more complex. On average, it is longer and more self-guided, with a rising number of stakeholders involved. And it’s not just different individuals within an account that influence purchase decisions; it’s different departments. Our research shows that anywhere from 3.1 to 4.6 groups - such as IT, finance, and HR - can hold sway.
In this environment, cultivating trust and taking a long-term view with relationship-building are smart plans.
LinkedIn: Your B2B Partner of Choice
Because B2B purchase decisions are complex, and often weighty, stakeholders look to experts to gain confidence. Data shows that the typical buyer consumes 7 to 10 pieces of content before making their choice; LinkedIn is home to more than 575 million professionals, including 2.8 million decision makers and 260,000 C-suite executives. Around the globe and across industries, professionals are participating in the conversation by sharing meaningful and insightful content with this community.
With trust playing an ever-more important role in shaping brand perception and consumer confidence, marketers today are uniquely positioned to build meaningful relationships with customers. 75% of would be buyers say thought leadership helps them determine which vendor to put on their short list. And then in terms of where to share your content, 70% say LinkedIn is one of the most trusted sources of information, as much as leading publishers WSJ.com and Forbes.com.
To build trust with your audience, you first must develop a strong understanding of its interests, opportunities, and challenges. The wealth of B2B buyer data available through LinkedIn helps facilitate this learning. Marketers use LinkedIn to leverage information at their fingertips to reach targeted prospects with relevant, helpful content in the right context. It’s a proven formula for B2B lead gen success.
Three factors set LinkedIn apart from other channels as a B2B lead generation platform:
Position, seniority, industry, location – these details help you reach the right people in the right way.
Members come to LinkedIn to research business topics and advance their careers, creating a receptive mindset for B2B messaging.
News Feed Products
Ads on LinkedIn appear alongside content in the news feed for a seamless experience
You won’t find this combination anywhere else. Simply put: LinkedIn is uniquely suited for B2B lead gen, and the results demonstrate it; cost per lead is 28% lower than Google AdWords.
Building Personas for B2B
When it comes to lead generation, there’s one question that rises above all others in importance: which audiences are most likely to convert, and how can I reach them?
By creating personas (sets of attributes that tend to be shared by your customers), you can narrow the scope of your campaigns and make sure each engagement counts.
Layer Your Targeting for Best Reach
To really zero in on your best prospects, it is advisable to layer your targeting parameters so you can hit those sweet spots while maintaining a sizable audience. For example, you can target ads for job function - which is rather broad - as well as seniority, to really drill down to those key decision makers you want to engage. You can also layer job skills into your targeting scope to capture those specific professionals that fall into your wheelhouse.
LinkedIn’s extensive filters provide tons of flexibility for mixing and matching. Test different combinations early in your campaign to find your sweet spot.
How Matched Audiences Help with Generating Leads
When it comes to finding the ideal audience for your LinkedIn lead gen efforts, Matched Audiences can be one of the platform’s most powerful features.
You can use it in a variety of ways that help you reach highly valuable prospects:
Serve ads to members on LinkedIn after they’ve demonstrated interest by visiting your website
Upload a list of target companies to match against the 8+ million LinkedIn Pages for a strategic (Account Based Marketing) ABM approach
Upload or integrate your own existing contact lists and market to them via LinkedIn ads
Gaining Resonance with the Buying Committee
For today’s B2B marketers and sellers, focusing efforts on one individual within an organization no longer makes sense.
That’s because numerous stakeholders and departments are routinely involved with purchase decisions, and increasing levels of churn mean your key contact may not stick around long-term.
Our research shows that the typical B2B buying decision is influenced most heavily by these five departments: IT, Finance, Business Development, Accounting, Operations. Naturally, plenty of others can hold sway depending on the vertical. As such, your B2B lead generation campaigns should aim to reach various parts of an organization, ideally with customized messaging that resonates specifically with these functions.
While the executive and manager levels are obviously valuable to reach, don’t focus on them exclusively. Forward-looking marketers with an eye on sustainable lead generation are working to reach the full committee of today and tomorrow.
Junior people may not sign the checks, but they often do a lot of the legwork, meeting with vendors and putting together media plans. Also, many will eventually be leaders; in some industries like tech it takes only a few years on average to go from junior to senior.
Creating Content for B2B
Generating Leads with Thought Leadership
Thought leadership content helps drive strategic brand awareness, but that’s not the only objective it fulfills. When executed effectively, this type of content can also directly impact lead generation, because of its considerable importance to those varied decision makers and influencers mentioned above.
One study found that 74% of buyers choose the company that was first to add value during the purchase journey. So there is immense value not only in delivering useful information and guidance that meets a prospect’s needs and solves their problems. That’s where LinkedIn can be a key asset for your thought leadership strategy.
Leveraging LinkedIn for Thought Leadership and Lead Gen
When asked what they’re looking for from professional social networks, users say that above all else, they seek brands that help them:
Resonant thought leadership assists with all three of these desired outcomes. And the same research tells us that professional networks are used three times more than personal networks for helping users keep up-to-date on their careers.
How can your company most effectively leverage LinkedIn for lead gen? Citing a study his company (Altimeter Group) helped put together, Brian Solis says it’s all about setting an example and instilling it throughout the organization’s culture:
It starts at the top. We found that executives at companies that reap the rewards of social media engagement are much more active on social media than executives at companies that are not socially active.
They also play a bigger role in driving a socially engaged culture. Yes, there are specific tactics companies can use on LinkedIn, but the most effective social media strategies are derived from a culture of relationship building where the executives lead by example.
Principal Analyst, Altimeter, a Prophet co., Author of X: The Experience When Business Meets Design, Keynote Speaker
Consider these thought leadership statistics with regards to lead generation:
of would-be buyers say thought leadership helps them determine which vendor to put on their short list.
of would-be buyers point to thought leadership as critical for determining which providers they want to learn more about.
Only 20% of content creators believe thought leadership content helps them close and win deals, but 45% of business decision makers and 49% of C-suite execs say this type of content has directly led them to do business with a company.
Measuring Thought Leadership ROI
The key to demonstrating tangible returns with thought leadership, as with any lead gen campaign, is setting up specific objectives and measuring against them. These goals typically tie to three pillars: Reputation, Relationships, and Revenue.
In order to do this, we recommend a four-step approach:
who or what you’re benchmarking against
key performance indicators (KPIs) that are meaningful to your business, such as: quality leads generated, executive-level meetings scheduled, analyst meetings secured, invitations to participate on advisory boards
Track and Analyze
the KPIs you’ve selected
regular surveys of key influencers to figure out the impact of your thought leadership
Mapping Lead Gen Content Across the Funnel
You can use LinkedIn targeting filters and Matched Audiences to segment your audience by stage in the funnel, and align content accordingly. For lead generation purposes, you’ll really want to hone in on those prospects that are in the “Interest/Consideration” phase.
So, for example, has a member already viewed a product page on your website? You can use Website Retargeting on LinkedIn to serve up additional product info or promote a free trial. Do you have a list of prospects that are already in your pipeline? You can use Contact Targeting to reach them on LinkedIn with specific content that drives them forward in their journey.
Your LinkedIn Distribution Plan
for Lead Generation
How best to get your lead gen content in front of the right people?
At a time where competition is high, it’s crucial to have a smart and comprehensive distribution strategy. Here are a few of the most powerful methods for breaking through with your content and pouring more qualified leads into the pipeline.
This should be a fundamental baseline that elevates everything else you do from a social media lead generation standpoint. There are many business benefits to employee advocacy, ranging from a more engaged workforce to extended reach to brand ambassadorship and beyond.
In simple terms, each of your own employees have their own personal networks, and through advocacy you can connect with these audiences genuinely and authentically. A strong employee advocacy program will bolster marketing efforts in general, whether focused more on branding or lead gen.
My Company tab is a feature that optimizes employee advocacy directly on your LinkedIn Page. Using this feature, marketing can easily equip the workforce with customized content to share, increasing its reach and authentic impact with audiences. This proves especially helpful for alignment with sales, as the marketing team can distribute documents for reps to share on social feeds and during prospect engagements, while also receiving feedback on what’s resonating.
With the right targeting parameters in place, Sponsored Content will be hugely helpful in your LinkedIn lead gen efforts. These native advertisements fit seamlessly with a user’s experience on the platform. While often used to deliver value-adding content branding objectives, this method can also be used for promotions and events to drive leads more directly.
Enabling you to reach prospects through their LinkedIn inboxes, Message Ads combines the strength of email marketing and instant messaging in a format professionals trust. Message Ads are easy to personalize and are very CTA-friendly - use them to generate leads through promotions, event invitations or downloadable content. We find that Message Ads are an especially effective product for promoting webinars.
These performance-based ads are easy to create, and can help you generate quality leads with limited resources. Target your premium professional audience, select a budget that works for you, and let them go to work highlighting webinars, product info, blog subscriptions, and more.
Visual storytelling continues to emerge as one of the most impactful styles of content, and Carousel Ads are very much conducive to it. Use this format to feature a series of images that compel viewers to click through and take action. For lead generation, you can use Carousel Ads to highlight various products and services, or to hone in on a single solution in greater depth.
Removing Friction with LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms
One of the big challenges marketers face when trying to generate leads online is the ask. Not only are you requesting someone’s contact information in order to reach out, but you’re also asking busy people to manually type those details out. On a mobile screen especially, this can be a pain.
Lead Gen Forms on LinkedIn eliminate this friction by automatically populating these fields based on a member’s profile data. It is also very easy to track and manage your leads with this tool. You can integrate this functionality with Sponsored Content or Message Ads; and our internal data shows, for instance, that Lead Gen Form campaigns increase conversions by 2-3x when compared to standard Sponsored Content campaigns.
To see what Lead Gen Forms look like in action, check out how software company Bynder used them to increase leads by 400% with a 20% conversion rate.
You can also integrate Lead Gen Forms with a variety of third-party marketing automation and CRM systems.
Combine Products for Best Lead Gen Results
Just as your targeting will be more effective if you layer in multiple facets, so too will your ads if you take advantage of multiple formats in combination. Sponsored Content and Message Ads, in tandem, can be an especially powerful duo. Adding in Text Ads can help broaden and improve your lead generation campaigns as well.
Measuring Lead Generation
Why Should I Measure LinkedIn Lead Gen?
Because, chances are, your boss wants to see the fruits of your labor. Use conversion tracking to understand how your ads are driving business results. Compare metrics, like clicks, impressions, and social actions, to learn which campaigns and ad creatives are most effective. Learn more about your audience, on and off LinkedIn. Clearly demonstrating lead gen performance is essential to reshaping the narrative around marketing as a cost center, and giving the department its rightful due as a bona fide revenue driver.
One of the biggest mistakes B2B companies can make is to measure their leads based on quantity, rather than quality. The bottom line is that one hundred unqualified leads are far less valuable than 10 qualified ones, and any member of your sales team will surely tell you the same. At LinkedIn, we strive to provide marketers with tools to get a deeper look at the quality of their leads, rather than strictly volume.
Because of its professional user base and the rich, accurate data that it yields, LinkedIn tends to deliver higher-quality leads than most other channels. Data from HubSpot finds that LinkedIn is 277% more effective for lead generation than Facebook and Twitter.
Using Conversion Tracking for Lead Generation
By taking advantage of LinkedIn’s Conversion Tracking, you can gain a more comprehensive view of ad performance than even Google Analytics is able to provide. That’s because in addition to measuring post-click events (e.g., person clicks an ad and then goes to your website to complete a desired action), they also measure post-view events (e.g., person sees an ad, visits website and converts later).
As most sophisticated marketers are aware, lead generation campaigns aren’t always about instantly turning an unfamiliar customer into a lead. Ads can produce results for your company even if the viewer doesn’t convert on the spot.
Measuring Against Marketing Objectives in Your CRM
If you’re already comfortable managing and measuring leads in your existing CRM or marketing automation system, no sweat. You can sync up with platforms like Marketo, Driftrock, Microsoft Dynamics 365, and Zapier (find a full list, and setup instructions, here).
By combining the powers of Campaign Manager and your own systems, you can augment and extend the value of LinkedIn’s rich first-party data. On the lead gen front, marketers are able to run engagement programs with automated customer outreach, monitor and manage social media, apply specialized Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tactics, further personalize their content, and more.
Optimizing for Lead Gen Scenarios in Campaign Manager
Even the most well informed lead generation marketing is guesswork to a degree. We never know how campaigns and programs will play out until we see them in action. As such, it’s critically important to keep a close eye on your analytics and continually optimize.
A/B testing is helpful for tweaking ad creative to improve visibility and engagement - we recommend running three to four ads simultaneously, and choosing the best ones week over over week - but when assessing bottom-line results, you’ll want to dig deeper. Use Conversion Tracking to learn which campaigns are generating the most leads, and double-down on them. Consult your Website Demographics to identify the audience traits most conducive to conversions, and adjust your targeting scope accordingly. Work closely with the sales team, and combine the powers of Campaign Manager and Sales Navigator for a full 360-degree view of your pipeline.
Lead Generation on LinkedIn: Key Takeaways
Once you’ve covered the fundamentals of branding on LinkedIn, you’re all set to make a real impact with lead generation on the world’s largest professional network. If you’re interested in finding more of nitty-gritty details, practical pointers, and examples of these tactics in action, we encourage you to dive deeper into the assets linked above.
Meanwhile, here’s a quick rundown of the most important LinkedIn lead gen tips we’ve covered here:
Focus on quality over quantity with your lead generation efforts
LinkedIn is a clear choice for B2B lead gen and high-consideration B2C marketing, with numerous studies pegging it as the most effective social channel
Sophisticated marketers structure lead generation around LinkedIn’s three primary strengths: robust professional data, a business context, and news feed products
Identify the most prevalent and consistent attributes among your customers and converting leads, then build personas with these traits
The Matched Audiences feature can maximize the quality of your leads by integrating data from your website and your existing lists
As buying committees continually expand, it’s vital to reach multiple people within an organization, and not just at the exec or manager level
Thought leadership isn’t just for branding; it has a direct impact on lead generation
Using layered targeting, and combining multiple LinkedIn ad products, will yield best results
Use Conversion Tracking for a full view of which ads and campaigns are delivering the results you want
Optimize relentlessly and work with sales to align strategies and zero in on your most valuable prospects
Did we mention quality over quantity?
1: 2017 State Of B2B Digital Marketing
2: Rethink the B2B Buyer’s Journey
3: LinkedIn - Your B2B Partner of Choice
4: Techniques of Social Selling (Just Do It!)
5: The Mindset Divide
6: The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to Thought Leadership
7: The Four Stages of Thought Leadership: ITSMA’s Maturity Model
8: How Thought Leadership Impacts B2B Lead Generation
9: The State of Sales Enablement Based on Data from 20,000+ Closed Deals
10: LinkedIn 277% More Effective for Lead Generation Than Facebook & Twitter [New Data]