Welcome to the LinkedIn Ads Show

On this episode, we’re going to be talking about LinkedIn’s targeting and how to systematically reach your exact-right audience every time.

Resources for this week:

1. B2Linked.com/checklist – Here’s the LinkedIn Ads Startup Checklist I mention in the show.

2. Here’s the slide of the different targeting types I mentioned with their pros/cons: Targeting strategies grid

Contact us at Podcast@B2Linked.com with ideas for what you’d like AJ to cover.


Hey there LinkedIn ads fanatics. In this episode, we’re going to be talking about how to systematically approach your audience targeting. I get these questions all the time, like, hey, how do I use LinkedIn targeting to make sure I’m hitting the right people? I’m going to show you how to systematically do this so it’s the same every time. And it gives you really tight controls over your costs by minute audience segment. And that will give you really tight control over the efficiency of your whole account, as well as lead quality. We’ll be able to find efficiencies that your competition has not found and therefore puts you leaps and bounds in front of them. Alright, with that being said, let’s hit it.

Very first off, you want to think about your Individual versus the type of organization that they’re at. Because if you told me that your audience are CFOs, and your product costs, let’s say it’s $4,000 a month, chances are your audience is not going to be the CFO of a one person or a two person company, you really do want to make sure that they are a large enough company to be able to afford your product at whatever price point or position in the market it is. So you want to separate these two things.

So first off, let’s attack the company here, because the company facets that you have for targeting are very few, and they’re very powerful. So first off, you want to think about your ideal customer in terms of their company size. Now, I’ve heard a lot of people say, oh, LinkedIn goes off of number of employees in targeting, and I really care about revenue. Well, here’s a quick little trick for you, that generally accompanies revenue is the number of employees times $100,000. That is pretty much on par, where you can look at it and say, Oh, if I’ve got 50 employees, I’m probably at about a $5 million a year company. So if you’re going after people who have, let’s say, a $50 million company, divide that by $100K, and you see that’s about 500 employees on average.

So the company size buckets that we get from LinkedIn, they go myself only, so it’s a single person company, 1-10, 11-50, 51 jumps up to 200, 201-500, 501-1,000, 1,001 to 5,000, and then 5,001 to 10,000. And then there is just 10,000 and above. So that’ll give you access to certainly enterprise size companies.

Company size is really interesting to us as targeting because we can make sure that we’re only being seen by those people who are of the right company sizes. But there’s also some really cool hacks around it, you can use it as an exclusion. So here’s the principle at play. If you are using company size as an inclusion, you are only getting those members who are associated to a company page where the company has declared themselves to be that certain size. So certainly most larger companies have at one point decided to create a LinkedIn company page, and the majority of their employees have associated themselves to it. But what about all those members out there who, let’s say smaller companies, they didn’t think to create a LinkedIn company page yet they didn’t see a reason to and so those members will be unassociated. So, if you want to reach those unassociated members, let’s say you purposely want to target small to medium sized businesses, then the way that you do that is instead Including just the smaller company sizes, you’re going to exclude all of the larger ones. And that’s going to get you access to not only the smaller ones, but also the unknowns, which is a really cool hack. The unknowns happened to be one of the least competitive audiences on LinkedIn, so if you’re looking to save a buck, that’s probably a great way to do it, go after those uncompetitive audiences.

Next on the list, we can target by industry. So industry is quite straightforward. The big challenge here is that some of these industries are pretty broad and vague. So for instance, if you are trying to reach dentists, a dentist doesn’t quite know if they should fit underneath, like medical practice, or something else. And so you might find that your ideal target audience has claimed themselves as being in two or three kind of bigger industries. But if you can get really specific, like there’s an industry around oil and gas then, great! If you fit right inside there perfect, you found exactly the right way to go after that audience. Industries are a set list of possible industries. So just pop in there and take a look at it. So go ahead and use industry whenever you need it.

Next is targeting by company name. So there are two different ways actually to target by company name. The first and the old way is to go under company and then company name and manually type each company. Now from the last episode, you probably remember when I used to target the fortune 500 this was a really big tedious process of typing in 100 company names into a campaign, save that move on to the next and type the next hundred. Well since then LinkedIn has increased the limit here so you can type in up to 200 company names into a single campaign. Now I know this sounds tedious, but there is something really positive about actually typing these things out. And the reason is, if you have LinkedIn give you these options as you’re typing it, let’s say you’re typing IBM, and it fills in IBM for you, you know, you have a 100% match rate on all of those companies. If you do it the other way that I’m going to talk about here in a moment, you actually don’t know what your match rate is, you may or may not be targeting all of those companies specifically.

So I tell people, if you have an audience that is less than 200 companies tall, then I would type them in individually, you know, pay an intern, someone whose time is worth less or whatever, but make sure you use that it’s a great way to go about it. Now the next way came out in 2016, as part of the matched audiences release, so this matched audience feature, you go into account assets, matched audiences, and then you can upload a list of accounts. This is a list of up to 300,000 companies names. And like I mentioned before, you don’t know what your match rate is on these, LinkedIn claims that this is due to privacy concerns. But let’s be honest, there’s no privacy concern with someone knowing the name of a company. So this is really just a limitation of the audience match.

You can upload just the company’s names, but there is a second column in there for web URLs. And I would highly recommend including this. And that is because if you type in just IBM, and LinkedIn thinks that it’s I.B.M., and it doesn’t match, you just left off a significant part of your audience. But if you go in and type in or have included ibm.com, even if your name is off a little bit, they will still have a higher percentage of matching you.

Okay, so let’s say that you’re you include 500 companies, you go and get a list of the Fortune 500 for instance, you take that you upload it to LinkedIn, LinkedIn will tell you for, you know, 24 to 48 hours later that you got a 90% or above match rate. Now, if you left off one company, that would be a big deal. And LinkedIn won’t tell you that, again, citing privacy. So this is the risk that you take with this list upload. That’s why I say if you can type them all in manually.

Okay, so that’s the companies. This is how you picture who generally is my audience. Now let’s go and talk about the individual, his or herself, because now you start getting into the role itself, their responsibilities, their skills, interests, that type of thing. Now, anytime someone starts telling me who their audience is, immediately in my mind, I’m trying to understand how many of the four default targeting methods that I use, that I will be able to reach this audience with. So here are the four that I consider, and there are certainly others but here are the main four. The first is job title. It’s the first one everyone thinks of. Then there’s job function, which is someone’s department plus their seniority. Then there’s skills plus seniority. And finally groups, sometimes with, sometimes without seniority.

Now, you have something like job title that is incredibly specific, and there’s not much room for error there. And then you have something like, you know, job function their department with seniority, that is really broad, and there is quite a bit more room for error. So if someone will physically fit in one of these categories, then I like to use it if it’s too broad, like let’s say I want to reach digital marketers. If I do job function of marketing and seniority of manager, I’m going to skip I’m going to get digital marketers, digital marketing managers, but I’m also going to get all of the traditional folks as well. So in this case, job function would be too broad.

But what if I wanted to reach something like, let’s say sales directors? You could do the job function of sales, the seniority of director, and it would hit them directly on. So job title very specific, but it’s also the most expensive type of targeting. And the reason is for the reason that I mentioned, it’s where we all go first, we can picture who our ideal target audiences by their job title, and so everyone else uses that too. And at the same time, LinkedIn only understands about 30% of job titles because it is a free-form field, you can write in anything you want. Because of that, you have a diminished audience, so less supply, and we have higher demand because people are using this targeting method quite a bit, and so it pushes price up.

The positive part here is that because job titles are so specific, you generally have great lead quality that comes from them. So even if you’re paying $1 or more per click from these, and so maybe your cost per conversion is something like, you know, $6, $15 $25 more, oftentimes, that will still be okay because the lead quality will win out and your cost per qualified lead will actually be the same or lower than other targeting methods. So just because it’s expensive, don’t count it out.

Then on the opposite side of the scale, you have job function with seniority. We talked about how this is the most broad, and because of that, it’s also the least expensive. It will give you access to large audiences because not only does LinkedIn understand everyone’s department, but they also stick the same person in multiple departments. So this will get you access to a much larger audience at a lesser cost. And because of that, your lead quality, unless it’s just a perfect hit like sales or Marketing, your lead quality will likely be diminished. So this is something that if I can reach the right prospects through title and, and maybe groups, I’ll try to do that first, and then I’ll build the rest of my account out with some volume from job functions and skills, which we’ll get to here in a moment.

Alright, so now let’s talk about skills. Every member on LinkedIn can have up to 50 skills on their profile. And for instance, I took a SQL class and SQL class one time and so I listed SQL as a skill. That definitely does not mean you want to hire me to be your database administrator, but I have had some skills on there so I thought I would put it on. So skills tend to be pretty broad. They tend to produce large audiences, but can be really good because they’re so broad. So for instance, let’s say you are only interested in reaching marketing managers at companies with Salesforce installed. What you can do is do a job function to hit the marketing manager. And then you can add something like a skill like Salesforce to get those who are marketers, but have experience with Salesforce and assume that makes them a little bit more qualified to be in your audience. So skills certainly it’s broad, it will cost less like job function, significantly cheaper than job title, and will produce large audiences that can give you pretty large volume. And of course, your lead quality depending on what type of skill you chose could really be all over.

If you use a skill, like, let’s say, leadership or business, those are ultra broad and won’t tell you anything. On the other hand, if you target really minute long tail skills, like landing page optimization, for instance, you’re probably going to hit a marketer or someone technical someone over the web experience. But it won’t be nearly as broad as saying marketing, which someone in sales might claim.

And finally, we get two groups. Now groups is probably more on the maybe middle of the road in terms of costs. And it’s going to give you small audiences, because especially right now, members have to go way out of their way to go and join a group. LinkedIn doesn’t seem to be ultra proud of their groups right now, so you got to get a few clicks deep in order to even find them. But when you target someone by groups, let’s say it’s Salesforce administrators group, what you’re getting is people who are so passionate about that one topic that it doesn’t really matter what their job title is, they’ve declared that Salesforce is the most important thing to them or one of their most important topics. And so if I’m trying to reach Salesforce admins, for instance, then that’s probably right where I’m going to go.

So you could do a group plus a seniority and make sure that you’re only hitting people of the seniority who can buy from you or would be interested in your product. Because you have to go out of your way to join them, it means fewer people are members of groups, meaning that you’re going to have pretty small audiences. But certainly they will be some of your most qualified. You should have really tight lead quality similar to that of job title, maybe at a little bit lower of scale.

And to be clear here, what I’m suggesting is if you have an audience segment, let’s say something like you’re trying to target sales managers, you can reach sales managers with all four of these different targeting types:

Job titles: sales manager

Job function: Sales with Seniority manager

Skills: you choose some like deeper sales type of skill, and then add Seniority of manager

Groups: could go after like sales groups and add a seniority of manager to that.

So that’s four different ways of targeting the same person. And what’s so cool about this is over time you’re going to see a personality arise from each of these targeting methods, you’ll find something like, wow job function is about $1 less per click. So we end up getting much lower cost per lead there. Oh, but then we found out that, you know, they are lower in cost, but they also convert less to MQL or SQL. And because of that, we’re going to maybe deprioritize that.

And job titles, maybe that one costs more, but it gets us the right lead quality. And so we end up with a lower cost per marketing, qualified lead or sales, qualified lead, whatever the case is. Now, if you are breaking these up by something more minute, like maybe their industry or their seniority, so maybe you have a job function of sales with a seniority of manager and a separate campaign, that’s job function, sales, seniority director. So now you have two separate campaigns, that the only difference is that their level of seniority from manager to director. So any difference in the way that they interact with your content by let’s say, directors have a higher click through rate, or managers have a higher conversion rate. This tells you something about what level your content really is reaching. This can be incredibly powerful for how it informs your future marketing efforts, and how you talk to each individual piece of your ideal persona. And it will also allow you to do things like bidding lower or higher, depending on how valuable the audience is to you. Because if you know that directors are a better audience, even if they click at a lower rate or cost more per conversion, you can get more volume by bidding them up. And if you know that skills are bringing you a lower lead quality, then you could bid them down. And this gives you really tight control over your account by having so many campaigns that are broken out. By some small comparison point.

My favorite thing to repeat to myself, the mantra here is, “when in doubt, break it out”. If you have a large enough budget to have 16,30, 80 campaigns in an account, then great, that will give you such power over your ability to optimize to each individual micro piece of your audience. Whereas if it were just two or three larger segments, you’d be really stuck. Whatever you put out to them, you just have to accept the results.

I mentioned that there were other targeting methods you can use. And let’s run through some of those. So email address – if you have a list of email addresses, and your goal is just to stay in front of the people whose email addresses you already own, when they’re on LinkedIn, you really don’t need any other sort of layer. You don’t need to layer on anything like company size or anything like that. You basically just need a geography and an email address. So this is fantastic. There is also years of experience. And there’s also age. Now, it’s important to understand that both of these are inferred targeting methods, meaning that nowhere in someone’s profile did they write in their birthday, or how many years of experience they have. So LinkedIn looks at your past experience and makes a judgment call about where you fit.

If the normal person starts out their first job, somewhere around the age of 21, or 22, then they go great. However many years it’s been since their first job started, then let’s call them that age, or let’s give them that many years of experience. So I would prefer to use seniority in this case, because what level of seniority they have is more important to me than something that’s inferred, but that’s okay. There are some good reasons to use those.

Next, you can target by education, we can target by the school someone attended, what degree they got, and what their field of study was what they actually studied in school. And this is especially good for those in higher education. So we have clients who are MBA schools who are recruiting. And we can target something like, hey, anyone who studied English, or journalism, or arts, you know, these are, let’s say, jobs that don’t go on to be high earners. Let’s turn to anyone who graduated with those degrees, who has a bachelor’s, but doesn’t yet have a masters or a PhD. That means you’re probably going to be a really good fit for our master’s program, our MBA program where we teach you how to go out and earn a lot of money.

There is also something new in LinkedIn, as of 2019, we got access to interests. So interests are not that great on their own, because they’re very broad. We’re talking about LinkedIn picking up on the types of content that people share and interact with in their new feed. Do they talk about AI a lot, or marketing or business to business marketing even. And I don’t know about you, but I feel very uncomfortable in understanding or knowing that maybe I’m categorized as an interest that I’m not really interested in. I just happened to interact with a few things in the feed like that.

They also pull from your Bing search history, if you have a Microsoft account. And if you happen to use Bing. So they are pretty broad, it’s hard to know, what classifies someone is having an interest, is it one or two clicks of the like button on a post with a hashtag in it? Or do they have to have interacted with that kind of keyword and that kind of content for months, and, and I just don’t know this, so because of that I wouldn’t go on my own with with just that interests target. But it can be really good to shave down an audience that let’s say, you know, my recommendation is always to have an audience between about 20,000 and 80,000. It’s a really good size number for me.

So let’s say I’m building an audience and I’m at like 110,000, it feels a little bit big to me, I could layer on something like an interest to help pare that down. Now, certainly, because I mentioned 20,000 to 80,000. Don’t say, “Oh, my audience is smaller than that are larger than that I shouldn’t run it”. The fact of the matter is, you should run any audience that you feel like is a good fit for you. Larger audiences can be beneficial because you can bid lower for them and still get traffic if your budget is limited. Because it’s larger, there’s going to be more opportunities to win ad inventory there. But it also means if it’s too large, it’s going to be less targeted. So you’ll be learning less about that micro segment of an audience where you could split it up into two separate, compare the results and understand you know, what makes one audience tick versus another.

And then if your audience is size is too low, let’s say you’re 1000, 2000, 3000, that is not a problem. What it means is you are extremely targeted, and you’re probably going to have to pay quite a bit more per click, because in order to spend any money at all, you’re going to have to incentivize LinkedIn to show your ads more than a competitor. So if you’re targeting a large audience, maybe you could bid all the way to the floor, let’s say the floor is, you know, $6.75, you could bid all the way down there and maybe still spend all of your budget.

Whereas if you have an audience size of 300, it’s the minimum size, and you’re just trying to get in front of very specific people, let’s say for an account based marketing campaign, you may have to bid $12, $13, $14 per click to get in front of them. So be aware. It’s very powerful to be specific, but try to be as specific as you need to be for lead quality but also broad enough that you can actually spend a budget, and it doesn’t feel like you’re pulling teeth to get LinkedIn to take your money.

Here’s a quick sponsor break. And then we’ll dive into how you can use this precision broken out targeting to get insights into who your persona actually is.

Alright, let’s jump into my favorite part about LinkedIn’s super tight targeting. If you’re used to something like Facebook ads, this will feel really strong to you. Because Facebook, you really have these fuzzy dimensions where you’re trying to type in a keyword and there’s no real systematic way to go about this. But we talked a little bit about this before, but think about making these micro segments of your audience and treating them like a silent focus group.

So any facet that you want to learn about, you can break out into a separate campaign and you can even run the same A-B test, the same two ads in, and end up seeing the difference between the two.

So I absolutely love to break out my audiences by seniority. If I had a client come to us who said, we want to target marketing decision makers, immediately, I would build out 16 different campaigns, where, you know, four of them are job titles, four are job function, four are skills, and four are groups, then we have four at the manager level, four at the director, four at the VP, and four at the CMO level. And that would be 16 separate campaigns.

But over time, I’m going to get these amazing insights. Like when I watch how click through rates change among seniority, I’ll know what these audience segments care about, what they’re most interested in, what they’ll click on. And then I can look at things like their conversion rates to understand which audience you know is actually willing to take action.

So this is how I understand, you know, a piece of content that I have, is it going to resonate with managers, directors, individual contributors, or the C level audience? So like I said before, when in doubt, break it out. If you have a very small budget, you may not be able to do this because every campaign has to have at least a $10 per day budget. But if you have a significant enough budget, that you can break out your audience into 4, 10, 20 different campaigns, I highly recommend you do it, because your competitor is going to do the same thing. But they’re going to break it out into like 1, 2, 3 campaigns, and really just take whatever comes to them.

And you’re going to get really ninja by finding out which targeting types and which seniorities your audience actually is, and you can bid up the ones that are significantly outperforming, you can bid down the underperformers, and you can straight shut off the that just aren’t valuable at all.

Like I mentioned before, I like audience sizes between about 20,000 and 80,000. And if you keep your segments to breaking out by one level of seniority each and using one of the combinations of job title, or job function with seniority, skills with seniority, or groups with seniority, that’s generally enough to get you in that group.

Great. So now you have all the tools you need to not only use your campaigns to generate the leads that you want, or recruit the candidates or whatever your real purpose is, but you’re also learning about them along the way. So the next pieces of content you create, you can create for the right level of seniority and the right company size. This is how you learn about it.

I’m going to give you some great resources here right after the break. Stick around if you’re ready for those.

Alright, so here are a couple of great resources that you may want. Check out the checklist that we have here in the show notes. If you go to B2Linked.com/checklist that will give you access to the same checklist that we use when we onboard our new LinkedIn ads customers. So whether you’re looking to onboard your own clients, or get your own ads setup, that will be a great set of shoulders to stand on to start your account out right, and hopefully let it be as smooth as possible.

I’m also going to include a slide that I use in public presentations when I train on this stuff of the targeting types with each of their pros and cons. We did mention this, but as you know, over audio, it’s really hard to picture so I’ve got a cool grid I can show you here.

So as with any podcast I’m sure you’ve ever heard, I’m going to ask you to subscribe on whatever podcast player you’re listening to. This podcast is still brand new, I would absolutely love to have you subscribe. And of course, like I mentioned the last episode, you may be the first to rate or review this show on whatever your platform is. And so I would absolutely love it. If you do that it would do me a huge favor.

I hope you take everything here and you go out and become a real ninja by using LinkedIn targeting. It’s so tight that it allows you to hyper segment and that gives you incredible feedback data. And I hope to go and use that and really blow things up with your account. And I of course, hope to see you back here next week.