Posted 12.22.2020 by Caitland Conley

How to Generate Better B2B Leads with LinkedIn Ads

How can you earn better B2B leads with LinkedIn Ads? Use our 3-step framework to optimize for success 🎯

If you’re a B2B brand looking to level up your LinkedIn Ad game, you’ve come to the right place.

Whether you’re struggling to get results or just want to optimize your strategy for 2021, this post will walk you through how to build campaigns that convert and generate better B2B leads.

It’s a simple three-step framework:

Let’s jump into it. 💪

Step 1: Define Your LinkedIn Ad Audience

You can grow your LinkedIn follower count as much as you like, but numbers don’t mean much if those followers don’t engage with your content. Quality of leads will trump quantity.

Every. Single. Time.

This begs the question: who do you want entering your lead funnel?

Start by looking at your buyer persona(s) to get an understanding of the behavior, demographics, and psychographics of your ideal lead.

When you’re creating lead gen ads on LinkedIn (or any marketing platform), you want to position your brand or offering as the solution to a core problem your personas, and likely, therefore, your ideal leads, face.

Before you start building out your ad copy, creative, and experience, consider which approach you’ll take for building your audience:

1) Targeting a Cold Audience on LinkedIn

There’s nothing wrong with cold leads — they just need a little more TLC than their warmer counterparts.

To build a quality cold audience on LinkedIn that will warm up quickly, here are our top recommended approaches:

Target a specific persona 

Make your ads even more relevant to potential leads by distilling your buyer persona down into a hyper specific LinkedIn persona.

Conduct research on your actual or ideal customers (real individuals, not hypothetical personas) by examining their LinkedIn profiles for targeting criteria.

Here are a few key pieces of info you’ll want to pull from these profiles to build your LinkedIn persona:

  • Title: What’s their place in the company? Are they C-Suite? Mid-Level? Ideally, you’re targeting decision makers and decision influencers (more on the difference between those in a moment).
  • Groups: Where do they hang out on LinkedIn? This will give you an idea of who their like-minded contemporaries are—other industry professionals with similar problems, looking for the right (aka your) solution.
  • Skills: What specific expertise do they have? This is particularly useful for targeting if your product/service is relevant to a wider array of industries and job titles.
  • Company Size: How big is their company? If your offer is geared toward enterprise-level businesses, you don’t want to waste time and money targeting a small start-up. Instead, target bigger companies with plenty of budget for solutions like yours.

Target a specific account

Example of ABM on LinkedIn

Yes, we’re talking about Account-Based Marketing (ABM).

ABM gets bandied about a lot in B2B marketing advice, but in simple terms, it’s a targeted approach to turning your dream clients into your actual clients.

And who doesn’t want that?

To make ABM an effective part of your LinkedIn paid strategy, check in with your sales team and see if they have any target accounts they’d like to see enter the lead funnel. Then, build a campaign specifically for that account using the Company Targeting feature on LinkedIn.

Target a lookalike audience

screenshot of how to build a look-alike audience in LinkedIn Campaign Manager

Extend your reach with a LinkedIn lookalike audience.

You can create a lookalike from any matched audience. You could even build a lookalike of your ABM campaign to reach new accounts you didn’t even know you wanted. Just upload those contacts or company names to LinkedIn as a “list.”

For best results, build your lookalike from a warm audience that’s already performing well.

Speaking of which…

2) Targeting a Warm Audience on LinkedIn

Warm leads generally progress through the funnel faster, since they’ve already interacted with your brand to some degree and therefore require less hand-holding than cold leads.

Here are our top recommendations for reaching a warm audience with LinkedIn Ads:

Retarget using an uploaded list

screenshot of how to upload a list in LinkedIn Campaign Manager

Turn up the heat on existing leads with a retargeting campaign.

Upload your CRM data (names, email, company name, etc.) to LinkedIn as a contact list to build the audience for your campaign. You can retarget using website visitor data from your CRM, too, which we’ll touch on soon. We’re specifically talking about existing contacts right now, because they’re some of the warmest leads.

These are leads who have downloaded a lead magnet on your website, attended a webinar, or even signed up for a free trial or demo from a previous campaign you ran. In other words, they’re already in the funnel and just need a little nudge to move from contact to client.

Your campaign is that nudge.

Retarget site visitors

Website visitors are another flavor of warm audience. You can skip the introductory formalities because these folks already know your brand and have spent at least some time clicking around on your site.

There are a couple of ways you can approach retargeting site visitors.

  • Upload CRM data: Just like you can upload contact lists, you can also upload or sync website visitor audiences directly from your CRM.
  • Install the LinkedIn Insight Tag: When you add this piece of code to the pages on your site, LinkedIn can skip the middle man and track your site visitors directly for audience building.

Get even more specific by only targeting visitors to pages that indicate purchase intent that aligns with your campaign’s offer.

This can be particularly important if you have multiple different offerings.

screenshot of how to retarget website visitors with LinkedIn Campaign Manager

Take, for example, Sticker Mule.

They’re a B2B company that sells stickers, shipping labels, packing supplies, and other paper products like coasters. They also have their own brand of hot sauce. So, if they’re trying to drive sign ups for a free trial of their shipping labels, it wouldn’t make sense to retarget a visitor to their hot sauce product landing page.

Retarget LinkedIn lurkers 

screenshot of different retargeting options for LinkedIn ads

Another excellent way to retarget with LinkedIn Ads is to re-engage members who’ve taken actions on your company page or previous ads.

Here are a few different audience types you can re-engage:

  • Video Ads: Zero in on members who viewed all or part of your video ad but didn’t convert and serve up a new ad to nudge them a little closer to the finish line.
  • Lead Gen Forms: This is for members who expressed interest by opening or filling out a native LinkedIn lead gen form. Restrict targeting to only those who didn’t hit submit for best results.
  • Company Page: This is like website visitor retargeting. You know these people know who you are, but maybe haven’t reached the purchasing decision stage of their buyer’s journey yet. Time for some reminders of their pain points and how you can solve them.
  • Events: If you run a lot of LinkedIn Live events, this is a great option to help convert attendees into customers.

Finally, let’s talk about reaching decision makers vs. decision influencers.

Targeting Decision Makers and Decision Influencers with LinkedIn Ads

LinkedIn ads can be more expensive than other social media ad platforms, which you probably already knew. But that doesn’t have to be the case.

You can mitigate some of the cost of B2B LinkedIn ads by being smart about who and how you target.

Because LinkedIn has made significant progress in their ability to target certain titles and demographics, you can make your ads more relevant and actionable by getting them in front of the right stakeholders. Which begs the question, who are the right stakeholders?

We like to break it down into two categories: the decision makers and the decision influencers.

Reaching the Decision Makers

If you’re trying to get the attention of the C-Suite, you’re not alone.

CEOs, Presidents, and VPs are one of the hardest demographics to reach on LinkedIn because the audience is smaller (especially if you operate in a specific industry niche) and the competition is fierce. That means you’ll have higher cost-per-leads (CPLs) on average.

It makes sense; they’re the decision makers, the ones with the authority to say yes to a new tool, service, or software.

An exact title match approach is one way to grab their attention and stand out in the feed.

example of a LinkedIn ad that uses exact title matching

But they’re not the only people you can reach.

Reaching the Decision Influencers

Just like a social media influencer has their followers’ trust and attention, allowing them to sell sponsored products, senior-level managers and director level types have the ear of the C-Suite.

These mid-range titles are the decision influencers at the companies you’re targeting.

They have more sway in the tools, operations, and resources their company will buy into—being the ones who use them in their day-to-day. This makes them great potential customers for your tools, products, and services.

Reaching these titles is generally less competitive, netting you a better CPL.

Step 2: Define Your LinkedIn Lead Magnet

You scratch my back; I’ll scratch yours. Quid pro quo. Give and take.

Reciprocity is essential to building a sustained relationship with a potential customer. When you’re creating your B2B LinkedIn lead magnet, you must ask yourself, “What are they getting out of this?”

In other words: is the value of what you’re offering equivalent to the time, effort, and information required for them to become a lead?

Your offer needs to strike a delicate balance: it must be genuinely useful enough to overcome that doubt hurdle and turn prospects into leads but not so valuable that those leads never convert because you already gave away the farm.

For B2B companies, the hard work comes in when you have a complicated offering or a niche tool.

That kind of value is tough to distill into a short-form ad, so your lead magnet needs to be clear, helpful, and speak directly to the pain points of the LinkedIn users you’re targeting (see Step 1 😉).

So, what’s your offer?

There are two common formats for your lead magnet: (1) the free trial or demo, and (2) the downloadable resource, like a PDF or a template.

The type of offer will influence the type of campaign you end up running.

1) Free Trial or Demo

example of a free demo lead gen ad on LinkedIn

This is most effective when your ideal lead is someone looking for an exact solution—specifically, your solution.

If you’re a company offering social media analytics for coffee shops and the owner of a local café clicks on your LinkedIn ad, they probably know exactly what they’re looking for.

That’s a warm lead. 👍

Capitalize on that with an offer for a trial or a landing page where they can schedule a demo.

2) The Helpful Download or Resource

example of lead gen ad with download CTA on LinkedIn

Remember those cold audiences we defined? Whether you’re targeting specific accounts, a lookalike audience, or just going after a specific title, these folks might not know exactly what they need—aka your service and/or product—but they have a faint whisper of an idea. In other words, they’re cold and they need warming up.

Your offer is a hot, comforting cup of cocoa.

A niche business solution (which, let’s face it, are most B2B solutions 😂) can have some of the coldest leads. They need a little extra in their cocoa, like a downloadable PDF filled with helpful kernels of information or a free template that they can immediately access.

Let’s call these the marshmallows.

When you’re playing the long game with a lead, you want to give value before asking for too much. These types of offers are less expensive but can pay off in time. They establish your business as a solution for specific types of problems, and in return, you capture the Holy Grail of marketing: their email.

Enter them into an email nurturing workflow then lather, rinse, repeat.

Step 3: Define Your LinkedIn Ad User Experience

What happens when the user clicks into your ad?

Is it easy for them to find what they’re looking for? The thing that made them click on your ad in the first place?

If not, you’re wasting their time and your money.

When you consider the user path, remember — you’re not taking your prospects geo-caching or asking them to answer your riddles three.

You’re delivering the lead magnet on a silver platter.

So, if your ad teases a life-changing blog post, don’t send them to your homepage.

And if they’re expecting a free white-paper or download, don’t bury the value so far below the fold that they click away in frustration.

Here are a few options for building a friction-free LinkedIn ad experience:

1) Take Them to a Landing Page
You can build this experience using a website conversion campaign on LinkedIn.

Driving traffic to a page on your own website gives you the most creative control over what the experience looks like. Your team has the final say on images, video, copy, and other creative. You can embed a form or use a chatbot for lead capture.

Make sure that the call-to-action on your landing page is well-defined and aligns with the overall ad experience.

2) Take Them to a Blog Post
If you have a complex offer or something that needs an explainer, what better way to do that than by transporting your audience directly into your brand experience?

Linking back to a blog post adds more context to your product or service, and it’s an opportunity to give the lead a taste of your brand.

Like a landing page, you have control of the look, feel, and content within the blog post.

Again, a clear CTA is a must-have. The audience has already taken one action by clicking into the ad. You have mere seconds to attract them with your product offerings, so your blog content needs to be dazzling.

3) Use LinkedIn’s Native Lead Gen Form
Not interested in sending folks to your site? Weird flex, but okay. We get it.

Luckily, LinkedIn has a native lead gen form that contains your prospects within the LinkedIn UX (on both mobile and desktop!).

They don’t leave LinkedIn and you still get the prospect’s email and any other relevant data you require on the form. Use these forms for Sponsored Content or Sponsored Messaging campaigns.

They have a higher conversion rate on average, plus LinkedIn often auto-populates user information. When your target audience gets to do less and get more, that’s a win for potential conversion.

Auto-populated fields mean you can build out a more robust form (hello, future targeting & personalization!) with lower risk of abandonment.

But there are a couple of cons to this approach.

It’s not your company’s branded experience, so you don’t have control over how the form looks or the copy. There’s also a character limit, which requires extra creativity to include everything you want on the form.

If you can work within those parameters, though, these native lead forms could be your ticket to higher conversion rates and better B2B leads overall.

Ready to Generate Better B2B Leads with LinkedIn?

That’s our three-step framework for better B2B leads on LinkedIn: start with the right targeted audience, define a good-fit lead magnet, and create an intuitive user ad experience with a specific end call-to-action.

With this framework guiding your campaigns, you’re ready to mingle with potential leads.

And once you launch those campaigns and start capturing leads, then the real fun begins—we’re talking A/B testing, even more targeting, robust reporting, and tweaking your campaigns to be the best in the biz.

Whether you’re just getting started with your B2B lead gen strategy or you’re looking to refresh in the new year, here are a few bonus resources for your company’s LinkedIn strategy:

Don’t want to get into the weeds with LinkedIn? That’s what we’re here for. 😎

Sculpt specializes in click-worthy LinkedIn ad campaigns, high quality B2B lead generation, and paid media services that consistently convert. Let’s talk!

Looking for an agency partner to help you earn better B2B leads on LinkedIn? Fill out our proposal form to get started.

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Caitland Conley

Caitland is a content strategist and SEO copywriter with 5+ years of experience creating unique, impactful content for companies like Skift, Celebrity Cruises, W Hotels, Socratik, and others. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her on a bike hunting down New York’s best dry cappuccino.

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