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Show Transcript

Should you stop advertising on LinkedIn and who’s had success against all the odds? We’re talking edge cases on this week’s episode of the LinkedIn Ads Show.

Welcome to the LinkedIn Ads Show. Here’s your host, AJ Wilcox.

Hey, there LinkedIn Ads fanatics. As he said, I’m AJ Wilcox, and I’m the host of the weekly podcast, the LinkedIn Ads Show. I’m thrilled to welcome you to the show for advanced B2B marketers who are looking to evolve their craft through LinkedIn Ads. Today we’re talking about when do you throw in the towel with LinkedIn Ads. We’ve said before that LinkedIn Ads isn’t really for everyone and there might be cases where it just doesn’t make sense. There are also cases when it shouldn’t work at all, it has no business being successful, and we’ll dissect a few of those cases as well.

First of all, in the news, LinkedIn released predictive audiences. They’re a lot like lookalike audiences. But with one little special trick up their sleeve.

When you create a lookalike audience on LinkedIn, it’s a snapshot. It’s a single moment in time. And yet, we know that audiences change. So, predictive audiences change dynamically with you and stay updated, which is really cool. Plus, we get control over how tight LinkedIn makes this lookalike audience. If you’re used to the slider on meta ads or Facebook Ads, where you get to slide from a 1 percent lookalike up to 10%, we get that same kind of slider action on LinkedIn now with these predictive audiences, which I really like.You can access them by going to Plan inside of Campaign Manager. And then audiences, and then you can create a new audience, and you tell it you want to create a predictive audience. You can base it off of a contact list, sets of conversions that have happened on the platform, or conversions that have happened on a lead gen form.Then you drag the slider from your minimum audience size of 300, all the way up to, and it can be 10 percent of the total membership of an audience.We’ve had conversations about predictive audiences in the LinkedIn Ads fanatics community. So I would encourage you, go join if you’re not already a member. Hop into the community and go see about the kinds of conversations we’ve been having.We’ve heard some success stories. We’ve also heard where it’s not quite measuring up. So it’s definitely worth testing on your part. I also want to tell you about a really cool new rollout that LinkedIn has. It’s called Website Action. And this affects your conversion tracking. Forever, we’ve recommended tracking your conversions through thank you pages that you create. Because it’s so easy to create a page, that you redirect to from after you fill out the form. Once someone lands on that page, you know you get to call that a conversion because there’s no other way to get to that page.It’s so easy. Even I can do this without a knowledge of JavaScript. And it’s also really easy. to troubleshoot if something goes wrong. If you wanted to use an event based conversion, you definitely can. LinkedIn has support for it. But boy, you have to get your developer involved who knows JavaScript. You have to include your tag manager solution on it. And what it does is, you create an event when a certain button is pushed, and then you have to trigger that event to fire and communicate to LinkedIn when it’s pressed.And a developer could tell me how you could actually troubleshoot this, I’m sure, but I could never figure it out. I was always stuck, like, ooh, I don’t really know if it worked, until I actually set it up and see conversions actually pouring in.

Well, now LinkedIn rolled out this new product that as long as you had the LinkedIn insight tag on your site, it allows you to set up conversions from any of the clickable elements on your site without any coding whatsoever. It really is magic. I’m not aware of any other platform that has a solution like this.I’m pretty sure that this came from an acquisition that LinkedIn made. Really cool technology to bring into Campaign Manager. And I would absolutely love to see this kind of thing in all the other ad platforms as well. But this is one of those times where LinkedIn really has a leg up on everyone else.And I’m sure we’ll talk about this functionality more, especially after I’ve had a chance to play with it and test it a little bit along with all of our employees. But one really cool thing I like about it is that it’s not only just for tracking conversions, although I do think that’s the best play for it.It is also for creating retargeting audience. So what you can do is, Hey, let’s create a retargeting audience of anyone who clicked on a specific button on the website, treat them differently. I think that’s really cool functionality. To access this, go to Analyze inside of Campaign Manager, and then you’ll see the new navigation item there called Website Actions.Then you get to navigate down to the button that you want to add to a conversion or a retargeting audience. Or you can actually click over to a specific page that you care about, and look at just the buttons on that page. It seems really easy to implement. I don’t have much experience with it yet. But I’m already a big fan.

Okay, do you have a question, a review, or feedback for the show? Message me on LinkedIn personally, or you can email us at Send us a little audio file of your voice telling us. I’m happy to keep you anonymous or shout you out and tell what position you’re at at what company.But I’d love to be able to take a clip of you speaking and insert it right here in the audio of the show. So let’s try this out. Shoot me over any sort of feedback, a review, a question on a past episode. Let’s get it started.A really good use for this would be to point out anything, any special use cases on LinkedIn ads that I might’ve missed or got totally wrong on this episode. So feel free to let me have it.

All right, onto the topic at hand. Let’s hit it. So the LinkedIn platform is definitely not for everyone. If you’ve listened to past episodes, you’ve heard me talk about our qualifications quite a few times.But let’s first talk about who really does make a great use case for LinkedIn Ads. I say any sort of high value lead generation, this is mostly B2B, but there is some B2C, works really well. The reason why we want high value lead gen, if generating a lead that turns into business is only worth a few hundred dollars, well, LinkedIn’s costs on the front end are going to basically make it impossible for you to get a return on your investment.

So we talk about having a high value product that you’re generating leads for on LinkedIn. That’s probably the top use case, especially for B2B. The next is in any sort of white collar recruiting. This would be like showing ads to someone based off of who they are. You know, they would actually be a good fit for an open position that you’ve got. You can show them ads, enticing them to apply for the position you have open. And this kind of thing works really well. We also see a lot of higher education, mostly MBA programs who are recruiting on LinkedIn because LinkedIn ads is the only ad platform out there that lets you be able to target at scale by things like, did someone get their degree? What did they get their degree in? Where did they go to school? And you can put a great MBA offer in front of them on that. Now, I’ve mentioned that we want a high value kind of offer for LinkedIn ads. The way that we classify this is usually by talking about the lifetime value of a deal that you close.I would call a high lifetime value, anything over about 10, 000 that, sure, maybe it’s SaaS software and you close the deal and maybe they’re paying a few hundred dollars a month or, uh, or a couple thousand, but over the long term, you’re definitely going to be making more than 10, 000 from the average customer.I also recommend that you have a budget over about 5K, and this actually goes hand in hand with LinkedIn’s costs. Because in North America, we’re seeing average costs per click in the 10 to 16 range, and some paying even more than that. You need to make sure that you have a large enough budget, you can spend enough on those clicks, and actually get data that tells you if you’re doing a good job or not. Is this being successful? Or, no, I better cut bait and run.Of course, you can make it work on lower budgets. We’ve got a couple past episodes that talk about what you can do on low budgets. But I would highly recommend if you don’t have a budget of 5k per month or higher, then you’re definitely gonna want to let things run longer. Be patient.You’re also gonna want content assets to share that provide high value to your prospects. If you are advertising and you don’t have anything that provides value, It’s going to be really hard to get their attention and keep it.You also want a clearly defined target audience. The reason why on this is because if you don’t really know who your target audience is, It’s much better to advertise on other platforms where the initial costs are so much lower.But if you have a clearly defined business target audience, then LinkedIn is the only game in town. That’s why they can charge what they charge as a premium for us to advertise on LinkedIn. It’s for when we want access to very specific people. We’re willing to pay that because it’s worth it. You also really need to know your positioning as a company.

If you’re just going to be firing off random ad copy, coming up with it on the fly. Oh, it’s all going to feel really disjointed and the prospects will feel that as well. You have to be able to clearly state how you are different than your competitors and how you’re better. I would also highly recommend that you are doing effective marketing on other digital marketing channels as well, because you can borrow from where you’ve seen success on other channels and bring it over to LinkedIn. If you’re testing just on LinkedIn, and this is the first marketing you’ve done. You are paying a premium for these clicks, and it’s going to be difficult to make sure that you’re saying exactly the right thing from step one. But if you can borrow from other sources, seeing where you’re actually having success, and then leveraging what makes LinkedIn special based off of that, you’re going to be doing a lot better.

I would also highly recommend that you are in this for the long haul. Absolutely, if you’re doing it right, you will see success. You’ll at least see signs that are leading you to early successes. But you don’t want to just try for a month on LinkedIn and go, Oop, it didn’t work because we didn’t hit an absolute home run. And then decide to shut the whole program down. Marketing takes time. We know that the average B2B deal closes after 17 touches with a brand. You’ve got to stick around and be present for all those touches. I also want to mention you want to make sure that this is a good business to begin with. A helpful sign is if the business is successful without LinkedIn or without other marketing channels, Then that’s a huge vote of confidence for me, saying that, yes, this business has legs. It’s going to be successful without LinkedIn. So as we add LinkedIn, it’s just like pouring fuel on an existing fire that’s already going.

If you haven’t validated the business, maybe LinkedIn is the first channel that you’re trying out. Make sure you are validating the best you can. Validate with friends and family, although sometimes they’re going to tell you, like, oh yeah, it’s great. Even though in the back of their mind, they’re thinking like, There’s things that could be improved, but do the very best you can to fully validate before you really make an investment in LinkedIn.

So you’ve probably picked this apart a little bit as we’ve been talking like, oh, here are the things that AJ says are successful. But I’m going to walk you through who is typically not a good fit, and we’ll talk about each of these points.The elephant in the room here is B2C, or business to consumer.I’ve already mentioned this, but if you can reach your consumer because of their interests and who they are personally, you’re gonna do this a lot less expensively on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat. All of these platforms totally are based off of who someone is personally. And LinkedIn is so focused on who they are professionally, the costs are just so much higher when we’re trying to talk to people by who they are professionally. The offer that we have for them is based off of who they are personally. I hope that makes sense.But don’t shut the door on B2C, because we do have some edge cases here. But we’ll talk about e-commerce specifically. I haven’t yet found a case where e-commerce works really well with LinkedIn Ads. We did have one client where it was an e commerce shop, but they were selling products that were higher cost, that they knew someone wasn’t just going to click right from an ad and buy then.It still had to go through a buying committee, and so they wanted to get the products in front of people so that they could discuss. And that actually was pretty successful, but this was kind of a high end business furniture e-commerce shop.

We have talked a little bit about low lifetime value that, for obvious reasons, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. We’ve come across SaaS software that maybe charges like a hundred dollars a month. And although, yeah, you want to be able to target people by who they are professionally, because that’s how we know who these products would work well for.But at the same time, LinkedIn Ads are too expensive to really reliably see an ROI from this. So I tend to discourage those people from using LinkedIn Ads. But absolutely LinkedIn is the right network. You just want to go after it organically and not from a paid perspective.If your product has broad interest, it’s probably going to be cheaper to go after other channels before you try LinkedIn. But I will say, if you’re already trying this on other channels, and it’s working well, and you want to come to LinkedIn Ads as like, hey, let’s diversify our traffic streams, just in case our meta account gets all of a sudden shut down, like, happens so often, then I think that’s a totally valid strategy.

What about affiliates, or media kinds of sites, maybe news related? Or an arbitrage play where you’re trying to bring in traffic for less than you can make off of them by once they get to your site and take certain actions.We found that LinkedIn’s costs are just too high where unless your affiliate commission is huge, it’s probably not going to make perfect sense. Arbitrage, again, because the costs are so high, it’s really difficult to arbitrage, And then media sites, same deal. I just don’t see where it might be worth $10 to $16 a click to get people in, to your news site.

What about app installs?This one’s really difficult because there are some very business focused apps that you think would do a really good job on LinkedIn. But here’s the big challenge we see with apps. LinkedIn won’t let us target by device type.If we could target by device type, we could say, Oh, if you come in from iOS, we’re going to show you an ad that sends you to the Apple store. And if you come in from Android, we’re going to send you to the play store.So then you’ve got to do some sort of like a sensing of who their user agent is and try to do a redirect on the fly. But we’ve just noticed that every time you try to do some sort of a redirect, it takes extra time and more and more people will bounce before they actually end up on the page.So we found app installs to not work super well, but definitely worth a shot if you have an app that really makes sense for B2B. I’ve got a lot of friends who specialize in D2C or direct to consumer. From what I’ve seen and tested on LinkedIn, you just can’t make D2C work because the margins tend to be lower. And of course, we’ve touched on small budgets. You really do want to make sure that you’re working with enough of a budget that you can tell like, yes, this is working or no, this isn’t. If you have to wait a long time in between gathering that data and making decisions, we found that you either just tend to forget about it or not give it enough attention.Things just kind of run and eventually you just cut the spend because you’re not learning what you should be learning.

So if you’re using LinkedIn Ads for any of these use cases that we’re talking about. And maybe it feels like you’re pushing a boulder up a hill that anytime is just going to roll back down and crush you, this may be able to provide an indication as to why you might be feeling that way.In most cases like this, I would recommend against advertising on LinkedIn. But don’t give up hope because there are definitely some edge cases on LinkedIn where you can have success and I wasn’t predicting that it would be possible.

Here’s a quick sponsor break, and then we’ll dive into some of these LinkedIn Ads use cases that shouldn’t have worked, but did.

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All right, let’s jump into some of those edge cases on LinkedIn Ads that shouldn’t have worked, but have. My absolute favorite use case here was a client who, I won’t say their name, but they were doing helicopter taxi rides from LA to Orange County, California and back. And when they came to me, they said, we just want to charge like a taxi service would for, let’s say, $200 to $250 per way. And I told them straight up, there is no way that this is going to work. This is absolutely destined for failure. The reason why I said that is because we have these audiences on LinkedIn that are effectively cold audiences. And if they don’t already know, like, and trust you, they’re not ready to buy yet. And so if we ask them just to put your credit card in here, they’re going to revolt, and a revolt looks like a click of interest, but then no conversion rate. But they pressured me, and they said, we just want to try, so I went ahead and went along with it. I was absolutely floored, this actually worked. They were showing a real scalable ROI based off of this.So why did it work? Well, I think what it was, is if you live in Orange County, California, and you commute into L. A., that’s like an hour and 20 minutes commute, every single day, both directions. And that’s if traffic isn’t too bad. We were able to target executives, especially CEOs of large companies based in LA. And of course, we should have been able to see, but there were going to be some of these executives who they didn’t want to be late for a board meeting, and of course, if you take a 20 minute helicopter ride, you’re gonna get there on time. And for 200, 250 bucks a pop, the company will pay for it.

So I do stand by the statement that cold audiences aren’t ready to buy. And I’d say this is 99. 9 percent of the time, but there is a certain case where, yeah, you have this latent demand built up in the marketplace, where you’re solving a real problem that no one else has, and yeah, maybe you can make that work, cold audiences buying immediately.

Along a similar vein, we have a client called Video Brothers And we’ll talk a little bit more about them in a future episode, because results have been crazy, and so as we’re talking to video brothers, we’re telling them, yeah, you’ve got to nurture them more with video. Well, what they do is they create funny professional videos for companies, and they just said, hey, we’re going to test it on ourselves. And sure enough, I was wrong again.We found by having creative that truly stands out and is funny, you could really cut through a lot of that noise and a lot of the concerns that people would have in actually hopping on a call with someone who they didn’t already know, like, and trust.Now, similarly, we’ve seen B2C examples. In especially travel, luxury, and automotive, where, yeah, it doesn’t quite make sense, but boy, it still works. So you can have B2C use cases and still be successful on LinkedIn Ads. Although I’d say, yeah, it’s a little bit more rare. You’ve got to fit some certain criteria, but don’t let the fact that you’re B2C stop you from giving it a shot.

Now, a couple of these cases that I’m about to bring up, they’re not ad related. But, they were so successful on LinkedIn organically, that I have to imagine this could be really good for idea fodder for you.The first was really surprising. There’s a bikini brand that does really well on LinkedIn organically There was a while that I was seeing it all over the place, and I was connected to the founder. But because I didn’t want to see bikinis in my newsfeed, I ended up unfollowing but it was so interesting that a B2C clothing brand was doing incredibly well on LinkedIn. It’s amazing.

The other one I want to bring up is a site that you’ve probably all heard of, and it’s called Cheddar News. Now, I haven’t seen it a whole lot in my newsfeed recently, but there were a few years where every single time I was on LinkedIn, I would see an organic post that I wasn’t following Cheddar News, I would see a post from them, and that’s really caught my eye, because I love the kinds of posts they put together. And what they were was short videos that are showing you some disruptive technology that you would absolutely love in your life, and it’s right there in your newsfeed, and I would just, I would watch these. I remember one of them were tiles that you put underneath your driveway and you could install it yourself and it would melt all the snow on your driveway so you don’t have to shovel anymore. That was really attractive to me for obvious reasons. They would show videos of things like personal aircraft or flying cars or all of those kinds of things that if you’re interested in technology and new inventions, they would capture your attention.

Now, I’m sure Cheddar News is not actively advertising on LinkedIn, but I do think that if you have content like this that is so cool, that really catches people’s attention. I do think there might be a play for it because if you put out ads that get a ton of interaction, you can really bid by CPM and get your effective cost per click way, way, way low.There are some other really cool uses of LinkedIn ads that you might not have thought about. For instance, if you’re a company that’s looking for additional investment, maybe from private equity or venture capital, with warming up these private equity and VC companies by showing them about the company, news, news, Interesting information, getting it on their radar. So when the company goes to raise their next round of funding, the private equity and venture capital firms, are much more likely to, hear them out and consider the deal. We’ve done this several times for clients, And although it’s really hard to measure the direct effectiveness of this, when someone closes a new round of funding at a high rate, it’s absolutely worthwhile.

Now, there are also opportunities in B2C, even if it’s not for direct acquisition, where LinkedIn Ads can be successful.One opportunity here is with channel partnerships. So, yeah, maybe you can’t use LinkedIn Ads to directly get a purchase for your e-commerce store. But what you can do is target others who could make really good channel partnerships for you. Maybe a tangential product or service that you could somehow collude in the marketplace to make things happen.

Also, what about co-marketing opportunities? What if you could target someone and say, Hey, could we advertise together? Put both of our logos in the fray and capitalize on getting more of our investment together.

And another concept, what if you could use this for your public relations? Think about using LinkedIn Ads to target influential people in media, reporters, those kinds of people, and show them ads based off of what you’re doing in hopes that they could pick it up and end up doing a news story on it.

Now this next one, I haven’t had a chance to try it, but I do think that there’s big opportunity for influencer and collaboration opportunities, maybe even with celebrities on LinkedIn. I think this is made especially much more powerful since the release of LinkedIn’s Thought Leader Ads, where the ad can actually be a personal post rather than a company post chair.And it really doesn’t have to be business related necessarily for this to be successful, because we as business people, we’re also consumers, and we have our own hobbies. I could only imagine if someone like Marvel Studios used a Thought Leader Ad to talk about the upcoming new movie that they have, and maybe publish it out through the LinkedIn profile of one of the head actors. You could imagine how people would go way out of their mind to go and click and want to learn more.

So I hope this gave you some ideas. I want you to be on the lookout for any red flags, anything that lets you know when you’re trying out some things on LinkedIn that maybe you’re not headed towards success. But I do really want you to try it out and test it and make sure that you give it a real shot. You don’t want to just spend $200 on the platform over a weekend and say, well, it didn’t work. And this concept applies to everything, but no matter what, if you’re trying to break the mold, you absolutely need to stand out. And that means you need creativity, you need to stand out in someone’s newsfeed, you need to provide value that they haven’t found anywhere, and we need to surprise and delight and even make them laugh. And this is a little bit uncomfortable, because a lot of the brands that we work with are going to say, Nope, we have brand standards. All our ads need to look a certain way. And yeah, that totally works. You can preserve your brand standards, but you also need to ask, like, do I also want to be successful? Because if you just blend into the background, you’re not going to be successful because you’re not going to get their attention.

There’s a really cool article written by Marcus Sheridan. He’s one of my favorite thought leaders on the planet. And he’s talking about creativity in advertising for B2B. We’ve linked to that in the show notes below. And of course, if you have any crazy LinkedIn Ads use cases that shouldn’t have worked, but totally did, I would personally love to hear about it. I’m happy to shout you out on the show and share it or just keep it between us. But I would absolutely love to know anytime someone breaks the mold.Okay, I’ve got the episode resources for you coming right up. So stick around.Thank you for listening to the LinkedIn Ads Show. Hungry for more? AJ Wilcox, take it away.

All right, so like we talked about the link to Marcus Sheridan’s article there, all about how we need creativity in B2B, you’ll see that link I also want to call out episode one of this podcast. This has been years ago, but in that episode, I went into a lot of detail about who should and shouldn’t advertise on LinkedIn. It’s probably worth a listen, especially if you want to go deeper here. If you’re looking to learn more about LinkedIn Ads and collaborate with some of the top minds who are working on LinkedIn Ads, Definitely join the LinkedIn Ads fanatics community. By joining the community of course you get access to the community all these other Like minded advertisers that you can bounce ideas off of and come up with gold together learn from each other’s mistakes and all of that But by being subscribed to the LinkedIn Ads fanatics community for a really low monthly cost, you’ll also get access to all four of our courses, taking you from absolute LinkedIn Ads beginner to total LinkedIn Ads pro. I can’t stress it enough. If LinkedIn Ads are important to you, you’ll want to make room in your budget, especially because it’s such a low cost to be in the LinkedIn ads fanatics community. You can go to to get there. If this is your first time listening, we’re excited to have you here. Thanks for joining. Make sure to hit that subscribe button. But if this is not your first time listening, I would ask you, please do go and leave us a review on especially Apple Podcasts or Spotify. If you listen in one of those two places, that is by far the best way that you can say thank you for us putting this content together week after week. With any questions, suggestions, or corrections based off of what we’ve talked about, please do reach out to us at And with that being said, we’ll see you back here next week. We’re cheering you on in your LinkedIn Ads initiatives.