Despite being dwarfed by Facebook when it comes to user count, LinkedIn is becoming the spearhead of B2B marketing strategies for companies both large and small. According to research carried out by HubSpot, the average U.S. LinkedIn B2B advertiser is driving a 6.1 percent conversion rate from LinkedIn Ads, which trumps Google Adwords, which produces an average conversion rate of 2.58 percent. Even more impressively, the global average of conversion rate from LinkedIn ads is reported to be 9 percent.

Andy Au, Senior Social Media Manager at Ontario, Canada-based Vidyard, said "LinkedIn's more precise experience and company targeting makes a difference — in comparison to Facebook ads — in acquiring qualified leads—especially for B2B sales. I’ve seen a higher percentage of qualified leads with faster funnel velocity using LinkedIn ads.

But where should a marketer start when it comes to LinkedIn advertising? To help you hit the ground running, we’ve spoken to industry leaders with relevant experience to find the answers. 

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First, Try Sponsored Content

Itching to get started with your first LinkedIn ad? You should be. But before you do dive into the deep end, you should dip your toes in via sponsored LinkedIn content. Similar to "boosting" a post on Facebook, LinkedIn lets users company pages promote white papers and other content on the LinkedIn newsfeed. Matthew McLaren,  Marketing Operations Manager at Ontario, Canada-based LookBookHQ advises brands to take this content-driven approach before delving into text-based LinkedIn sidebar ads.

“We’ve leveraged both LinkedIn text ads and sponsored content for a few different purposes, such as air-cover campaigns, driving webinar registration (both with and without lead generation forms) and promoting new content. By far, we’ve seen the most success from sponsored content,” he said.

Liraz Postan, Senior SEO and Content Manager at NYC-based Outbrain, mirrored the sentiments of McLaren, urging businesses to find their feet, citing that her firm was mistaken for taking a more direct route. “For LinkedIn, I would suggest starting by promoting useful content to your targeted audience, and not with direct response advertising. Once your audience is engaged with your content, you can move them down the funnel with a more direct approach, such as LinkedIn leads,” she said.

One of their first mistakes working with LinkedIn, said Postan, was beginning with a DR approach, and not warming up their audience with content they would have enjoyed seeing in their feed.

Go Niche (But Not Too Niche)

LinkedIn gives advertisers data and targeting features to seek out a specific target market with every campaign. Vidyyard’s Andy Au is a fan of going niche with LinkedIn ads, despite the platform’s relatively small daily active user count but he advises readers to take advantage of LinkedIn’s data and targeting to find success. "At its price point, you won't find much success targeting a broad audience. We've run ABM campaigns that specifically target members of senior leadership at companies with success. Seeing an ad addressed to you makes it a little more memorable. In general, the ability to target based on role seniority is very helpful for reaching key decision makers within an organization,” Au explained.

Learning Opportunities

However, Will Marlow, CEO of Washington. DC-based Will Marlow Agency, advised advertisers to err on the side of caution when it comes to niching down. “The biggest reason for failing on LinkedIn is that people pick audiences that are too narrow and specific, which look great on paper, but generates zero results in practice,” Marlow said.

It's similar to the way novices pick hyper-specific keywords on Google AdWords according to Marlow. It would be great if your customers searched for keywords like "I want to buy a CRM right now" — but that doesn't happen in the real world. "You should be happy if they search for 'best CRM software' or 'CRM software comparison.'  The same thing happens on LinkedIn — you need to target [niche, yet] realistic audiences,” Marlow explained.

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Account Based Marketing (ABM) & The LinkedIn Insight Tag

Account based marketing is the art of targeting specific companies or even employees within those companies with tailored ads or content. Think of it as hyper-personalizing an ad campaign. “We’ve invested heavily in ABM and have a target account list. Using LinkedIn’s ‘Matched Audiences’ feature, we can upload that account list and, within the campaign, narrow down the targeting to anyone who works at a specific company and is in a senior marketing function. We’ve seen a lot of success using this targeting strategy,” explained McLaren.

Another prevalent tactic among LinkedIn B2B marketers is the usage of the LinkedIn Insight Tag. Similar to the Facebook pixel, a LinkedIn Insight Tag is a piece of lightweight JavaScript code that you can add to your website to track conversions, retarget website visitors, and unlock additional insights about members interacting with your ads once they’ve exited LinkedIn and entered your web property.

Postan advises LinkedIn marketers about the importance of leveraging the insight tag. “Before launching your first LinkedIn ads campaign, I highly recommend installing the LinkedIn insight tag. This way, you can unlock valuable information about your site visitors, as well as LinkedIn’s data about their vertical, role, and more. Also, it will provide additional insights about LinkedIn members who are interacting with your ads,” she said.

How are you planning to optimize up your LinkedIn ad campaigns in 2018?