Are LinkedIn Ads Worth the Price?

While ads on LinkedIn can be expensive, if you know the right formula, they can be very effective.

One of the biggest complaints I hear about LinkedIn is that ads are just too expensive and don’t generate results.

Well don’t tell that to Janet Driscoll Miller, CEO of Marketing Mojo. Janet and her firm have not only seen great results for their clients on LinkedIn, it was one of the reasons why they changed their company name.

In this episode Janet and I discuss the subject of LinkedIn ads, including:

  • The technique she used to increase sales by 281% for a $20,000 product
  • Why Sponsored Updates are worth trying.
  • The types of ad budgets you need to be effective.

The Show Notes

Are LinkedIn Ads Worth the Price?

Voiceover: This is the Missing Link with your host, the insufferable, but never boring, Sean Jackson.

Sean Jackson: Hello everyone. It’s Sean Jackson, your host, and I am not joined as always by the cheerful, positive, or otherwise fun-to-be-with, Mica Gadhia. Why? Because Mica is on vacation this week and she’s left me behind to go spend time with her family and kids on a beach somewhere. I’m all alone. There’s no one to go against my witty repartee. There’s no one to laugh at my double entendres. It’s just you and me listener on the podcast today.

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For today’s show I wanted to address one of the biggest complaints I hear about LinkedIn. That is, “LinkedIn is great, but buying ads on LinkedIn is too expensive. I don’t get the results Sean. I’d love to spend more money buying ads but dammit I just can’t get the response rate there to justify doing that.” I know a lot of people have had questions on the discussion group about LinkedIn ads and their effectiveness. Today we have a very special guest to help address that.

Janet Driscoll Miller is an expert in using LinkedIn for her clients and helping them drive business — including buying LinkedIn ads. With that said, when we come back from the break we’re going to go through detailed case studies and address that concern head-on with our very special guest, Janet Driscoll Miller. Stay tuned.

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Sean Jackson: Welcome back everyone. As promised we are going to get into LinkedIn ads. Are they worth it or are they not? Can you do anything with them? To join us is Janet Driscoll Miller, CEO and President of Marketing Mojo. Janet, welcome to the show.

Janet Driscoll Miller: Thanks Sean.

Sean Jackson: I am so excited to have you here. Tell our listeners a little bit about you and Marketing Mojo and what you guys do.

Janet Driscoll Miller: Sure. I’ve been working in digital marketing for well over 20 years now. I formed this company — actually this is our 10th year. Originally we were Search Mojo and LinkedIn, in part, is one of the reasons we changed our name to Marketing Mojo. We extended beyond paid search because of all the great benefits we found in platforms like LinkedIn, and all the great demographic targeting. We knew we had to change our name.

About a year and a half ago we changed to Marketing Mojo, and the rest is history. We’ve been doing a lot of great work with LinkedIn as well as Facebook advertising to gather demographics to help us target better — even on the paid search side.

Sean Jackson: I want to tell our listeners how we met, Janet, because I was just fascinated by this. This was several years ago folks. Janet, I, and Jabez LeBret were on a panel together, and it was like the last panel of the conference, but the room was quite full right?

Janet Driscoll Miller: Yeah.

Sean Jackson: So Jabez gets up there, and I know what Jabez is going to talk about. He talks about groups. I’m talking about some black hat techniques on LinkedIn that you shouldn’t do, or to be careful of. So we’d kind of known each other — Jabez and I did — and then you get up. I’m going to tell the audience, Jabez and I were blown away by your presentation, Janet.

The story that you shared of how you used LinkedIn. How you literally went from a Google ad buy to a LinkedIn ad buy, and the results that you got from that — blew us away. The audience was aghast. We were like looking at these charts and going, “Oh my gosh!” Janet, for the benefit of our audience please share some case studies on how you’ve used LinkedIn advertising effectively.

The Technique She Used to Increase Sales by 281% for a $20,000 Product

Janet Driscoll Miller: Sure. Like I said, part of the reason we even changed our name was because we saw as a company how effective this demographic targeting was. One of the greatest challenges we saw with paid search was while we were using AdWords — keywords can be very telling about the demand that’s out there and what someone is looking for, but you don’t really know who that person is when they are searching. Unfortunately, as sophisticated as Google AdWords is with a lot of different information, they really don’t have very good B2B targeting. There’s a lot of demographic information missing there.

We decided to branch out and try out LinkedIn with this beta customer — this company that is an IT management services company. They do software monitoring, database monitoring, etc. The challenge was we were trying to target very specific people, which we couldn’t really do in AdWords except through keywords. In using LinkedIn what we were able to do was target with very specific messages — very specific pain points — to their business audiences, and find people to bring them in.

The result was when we compared a four-month study of AdWords alone versus AdWords combined with LinkedIn demographic targeting and using retargeting through AdWords — what we found was we were able to spend significantly less. About half the budget or less than that. We were able to increase the number of conversions by as much as double or more. And what everyone really cares about, of course, is pipeline and sales.

Ultimately what happened with our case study was we saw a 281 percent increase in sales. 281 percent. Then we saw 1200 percent increase in pipeline, meaning we were creating opportunities out of that. We are talking about a product that costs — best-case scenario: $20,000 entry fee to start playing with this software. We were wanting to target the right people, and to have that type of increase in only four months was just absolutely revolutionary. We knew we had something great with LinkedIn.

Sean Jackson: Now everyone knows why Jabez and I were blown away by Janet’s presentation. I want to drive in on this a little bit more because what really got me was, and correct me if I’m wrong, but you were buying ads on LinkedIn to drive them to a landing page and setting a Google retargeting cookie on that landing page to follow them around. Am I essentially correct?

Janet Driscoll Miller: That’s correct. LinkedIn today currently still does not have its own retargeting capabilities. That’s why we coupled it with Google AdWords.

Sean Jackson: I love that. What really got me was how you took a medium like LinkedIn, driving them to a landing page using another platform like Google retargeting, to again follow them around to constantly engage. Again, you know that this person clicked, because you had that demographic data in LinkedIn. They clicked to this page. They didn’t transact on the page, but you are following them around driving them back to the page. That was brilliant. A big clap, by the way, right here.

Janet Driscoll Miller: Thanks.

Sean Jackson: Even though it was several years ago when you presented it, I still to this day think that that framework model is awesome. But dammit Janet — and Rocky Horror Picture fans rejoice. Yes, dammit Janet, let’s face it. A lot of people are saying ads are too expensive and there’s just not enough volume to justify it. What would you say to somebody that had that as their objection?

Why Sponsored Updates Are Worth Trying

Janet Driscoll Miller: First let me say that there’s two different types of advertising on LinkedIn. There’s the Marketing Solutions side, which is managed by LinkedIn and requires a $25,000 minimum investment to get started. Those are the banner ads you see on LinkedIn. Then there’s self- serve, is what they call it on LinkedIn, which are text ads and so forth.

The challenge with the marketing solutions version, which is the banner ads — and we did a lot of testing with both text ads as well as banner ads — was that they guarantee the impressions on the banner ads. Sometimes you have to increase your targeting to a larger group than you would like. You can’t be as niche with your targeting with that group because they want to guarantee a certain number of impressions over a certain time frame. We didn’t find it to be as successful for many of our clients and it was a very large initial cost to get in.

Now from the text ad side, like any platform, it’s evolving. As the word gets out and people get impressed and excited about these stats … I’m telling you, more folks want to get into that bidding structure. I will tell you that what we are seeing in LinkedIn today is a move towards mobile.

Unfortunately, LinkedIn hasn’t been great at getting new types of ads on to the mobile platform. But a lot of folks are using LinkedIn on the mobile device now more than the desktop. What we found is that you can use sponsored updates and that actually works in some cases better than the traditional ads. nd Abecause sponsored updates are the one type of advertising that you can see on LinkedIn via mobile, I highly recommend that. You can still do a lot of very specific targeting.

Sean Jackson: Now sponsored updates, that is something that an individual can buy. They don’t need to go through ad sales at LinkedIn. They can go into LinkedIn, create an account, and do the self-serve model to do the sponsored updates.

Janet Driscoll Miller: That is correct. Also, another area we found that worked very well in both the case study I mentioned earlier and for many clients we’ve worked with in the past, is that to get some very niche targeting you can go to groups. You were talking about LinkedIn groups earlier.

LinkedIn groups are very active, so you know that there are very active users in those groups because they are having discussions. That’s a great place to be putting ads as well. We find those are very responsive. I will say sponsored updates has been — especially this year with the year of mobile — it has been one of our best performing ad units.

Sean Jackson: What are some tips that you would recommend? Let’s talk about a budget first off. Yes, it’s great if you have $25,000 a month to spend. There’s a lot of flexibility in that. Quite frankly, people want to try. They want to test. They want to do something. What are some tips around that. What kind of budget are we looking at for testing? What are some things that people can do right now after listening to you to start experimenting with ads in a cost-effective manner?

The Types of Ad Budgets You Need to Be Effective

Janet Driscoll Miller: One thing I’ll let you know is when you do this demographic targeting on the self-serve basis, you do have a requirement of at least 1,000 people in a group. Which, surprisingly, is not that hard to reach in many cases. I had to try and target casino managers in the United States. How many casino managers are there? I really thought that there couldn’t be that many people, but I definitely got over 1,000. There are folks out there on LinkedIn. Just know that you have to be careful about being too niche, but typically that’s not an issue.

From a budget perspective, using the AdWords and LinkedIn combination — if you are going to do the retargeting, one thing you want to keep in mind is you don’t want too low of a budget. Because you are spreading your budget across two platforms. If you put too much into one platform and not into the other, then you’re not going to get the return that you want. However, I will say retargeting on that side tends to be more cost effective in the clicks that follow.

I would be willing to put more of my budget towards LinkedIn because we know who those people are — can really seriously demographically target them. Once I pull them in the retargeting is a lot cheaper, so I don’t have to spend quite as much on the Google AdWords side. I will tell you that depending on your industry and who you are trying to target I would definitely not spend probably less than $5,000 a month across those platforms if you can avoid it. It depends, again, on how niche you are trying to get. We generally recommend — out of the gate — think about starting with $5,000. You can start with less. There’s no limit or minimum limit to how much you spend on LinkedIn, but I will say that’s probably a realistic number.

Sean Jackson: That makes sense. That’s true even if you are running Google AdWords, right? I mean you have to have money to experiment with advertising. That’s why all advertising is expensive. Yes, you can buy a per ad cost fairly cheap, but you have to have enough money to do the type of testing to see what’s effective.

Again, I can’t stress enough to the audience this idea of combining LinkedIn with the Google retargeting capability is huge. It’s huge in my opinion because Google content retargeting is less costly and LinkedIn ads are rich ads. Insofar as you know who is clicking them, now you can start to pair those two data sources together. Oh my word, I just love it! Janet, are you primarily working with B2B people? Is that big B2B enterprise?

Janet Driscoll Miller: We do work with quite a few enterprise corporations and then some smaller startups or smaller software companies. We also work with B2C. We typically go to Facebook for the B2C –Facebook have expanded their demographic targeting with jobs and business information — but I’d still say LinkedIn is the king to when it comes to the information on business information.

People tend to be fairly honest on LinkedIn because they want to get a job. You know, that’s a lot of the reason. They are networking. They want to get jobs, so they tend to be pretty honest, or at least forthright, about the type of industry they are in. Although I know that you and Jabez were scaring the heck out of fake IDs and all this stuff, I haven’t really run into that too much thankfully. I still think LinkedIn for business is going to be one of the best platforms and best bets you can do.

Sean Jackson: I think that goes right to the heart of it. The complaints about it being expensive are probably true, but it’s also who you are targeting and if you are doing it en mass, right? There are some great B2C plays. But, again, in the B2C spend, you are talking about tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars a month. And in a B2B space, yes, it’s going to be a little bit more expensive. Normally, what you are selling tends to be a little bit more expensive to boot. Is that a good way of putting it?

Janet Driscoll Miller: Yeah. Think about it this way. As marketers how many times have we had this conversation with the sales people in B2B who are saying, “I want quality and quantity.” The old quality/quantity debate.

Sean Jackson: Right.

Janet Driscoll Miller: At least the benefit of LinkedIn is you know exactly who you are talking to.

Sean Jackson: Right.

Janet Driscoll Miller: They are very high quality. And if you do the tracking … If you do the testing you need to test it against AdWords. Again, that example I gave about the pipeline — track it all the way through to opportunity in sale and see how many of those people came from LinkedIn. What you will find — depending on how long your sales cycle is — but over time you will find those are some of the highest quality leads out there. Especially over just AdWords and the keyword advertising alone.

Sean Jackson: Well Janet, this has been fantastic information, and I cannot thank you enough for sharing it because the story has carried with me. The way that you guys put this together — and I think it’s also amazing that you changed your company name to sit there and reflect the fact that you went beyond just search and looked at LinkedIn as part of that mix. That alone is evident of the fact that there is a lot going on on LinkedIn, especially combining it with other platforms to really be able to get results. I cannot thank you enough for sharing that story and for giving us the great insights that you have.

Janet Driscoll Miller: Oh, thank you, Sean. I was glad to be on today.

Sean Jackson: So the big take away from the interview with Janet, and I really think this is the most important, is that yes, ads are expensive on LinkedIn. However, they are best used in context with other platforms like Google retargeting. I cannot stress that enough because to me it goes from this idea of, “Well I buy an expensive ad, they don’t convert. Hence I’m all pissy about this thing.” I understand that.

I also believe that by buying ads and then retargeting those individuals — and that’s the key, the individuals because you know who they are. By retargeting them and tracking that conversation, that loop back so when they come back to that landing page is extremely valuable.

We really live in a more sophisticated time period in online marketing where it’s not just one thing that is the end all be all. It is usually an amalgamation of multiple things. I think Janet’s story — the success that she had — that was hugely insightful into what you should be doing. Always remember that this LinkedIn journey we’re going on together it really is a process of learning.

While Mica is not here with me today and I’m a little bit alone, you don’t have to be alone. Why? Because you can join our group on LinkedIn and send that text message — if you are in the US — to 41411 with the keyword ‘mylink.’ Or if you are international, just send an email to missinglink@Rainmaker.FM so you can join the discussion that is already going on with all of the loyal listeners of the show, so that we can all be on this journey together.

Well, that’s it for me. My lonely self. No one to laugh. No one to sign off with. But I truly appreciate you, and thank you again for listening to this episode of The Missing Link.

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