The Top 5 Mistakes Companies Make When Using LinkedIn Advertising

LinkedIn has become the largest professional social media network on earth, with over 810 million monthly active users and over 57 million companies on board, making it especially appealing to B2B advertisers. Having launched its advertising platform in 2005, it has grown remarkably quickly to rival paid search advertising on Google. LinkedIn’s significant advantage over its key competitor, and the reason it is now snatching the lion’s share of so many marketing budgets previously reserved exclusively for paid search engine marketing (SEM), is its ability to target specific audience demographics such as job title, seniority, interest groups, industry, and location. When used correctly, LinkedIn advertising can deliver new opportunities in a far shorter time and significantly lower cost than the traditional new business sales team working behind email campaigns and cold calling.

With such impressive statistics, why do so many companies lose faith in their LinkedIn advertising exploits and fail to achieve the return on investment that could have been available? We often hear, “We tried LinkedIn, but it didn’t work”. Let’s dive in and share our experience of the top 5 mistakes companies make when using LinkedIn for B2B advertising.

Technology can find the needles in the haystack, but you must provide a thread to remove them.

It is a common misconception that having the ability to reach a very defined audience quickly means that you can skip the primary brand-building stages that are essential to move prospective customers along the purchase decision pipeline. This conceptual pipeline has been defined in many ways. Still, at a simplistic level, the following three steps must be followed even if you have access to highly targeted marketing communications.

Awareness.  Any potential customer needs to understand your brand as a solution provider to problems they are trying to solve. Through these initial engagements, you must portray core brand elements such as values, identity and maybe personification to drive emotional connections with your brand.

Consideration.  This next level of engagement aims to move your brand into the subset the customer deems as ‘viable’ solution providers to their current situation. During this stage, the customer will be comparing options, requiring more detailed information and pulling from available additional resources such as case studies, independent reviews, and peer endorsements. It is important to provide valuable content that is ungated (free to download) during this phase.

Conversion.  We are defining conversion here as the point at which the prospective customer is engaged enough to share their contact information in exchange for a gated asset, such as a detailed download document or other value resource we provide. Many agencies classify prospects reaching this stage as ‘leads’; however, we consider them as ‘opportunities’ at this early stage as no specific sales qualification has yet taken place.

Mistake No.1 – Don’t jump the gun.

Because the Cost Per Click (CPC) on LinkedIn can be higher on average than Google, first-time advertisers often need more patience and decide to run campaigns with gated content from the outset. As outlined above, you must first build awareness and trust in your brand as both a viable solution and a provider of valuable, trustworthy content before you can expect a prospect to part with their contact details in exchange for information. Despite the power of LinkedIn’s opportunity-targeting algorithms, there is no secret formula or unique trick you can use to create endless customers at the push of a button. Do not try to use LinkedIn to jump ahead in the customer purchase decision pipeline.

Mistake No.2 – Content is king, but avoid overpromotion

Each stage of the customer journey requires different levels of content. Indeed, within this journey, specific details of your product or service will be needed to help the customer make their final selections, but these details must be provided at the right time and in the right measure. Promotion is a significant part of LinkedIn, but it is only what some of the platform is for. If you overpromote your business, you risk pushing away potential customers who become tired of seeing repetitive marketing practices highlighting product features rather than helpful information that can assist them with informed decisions. It is incredible how often the Pareto principle applies within areas of sales and marketing strategy, and we firmly believe this rule should be followed regarding self-promotion. You should provide attractive industry-related information 80% of the time, with the remaining 20% dedicated to promoting your products and services.

Mistake No.3 – Avoid late sales cycle non-content offers

LinkedIn is inherently a content feed where B2B consumers find educational content. For that reason, valuable content offers such as white papers, eBooks, industry reports, and best practice guides generate much higher engagement than late sales-cycle calls to action, such as free trials, online demos, or 1:1 consultation offers. The relatively high cost of LinkedIn advertising can influence many marketers to want their LinkedIn campaigns to generate only highly qualified leads close to the end of the buyer journey. However, attempting to use LinkedIn in this way is counterproductive. These late-stage offers are best kept for the closing stages of your Account Based Marketing (ABM) process, which leads us nicely into mistake No.4.

Mistake No.4 – Do not hide behind digital marketing. Close the loop with a well-structured ABM process.

We firmly believe digital marketing has its place, but conversation builds relationships. We see so many sales and marketing teams that appear to hide behind digital marketing, reporting with great enthusiasm the click-through statistics of the campaigns they have running. Yet, they still need ABM strategy to develop and nurture these engagements. LinkedIn campaigns will provide a digital footprint of members who react to a campaign through likes, comments, or shares. Then, when we reach the conversion stage, we receive both a digital footprint and the email address of any member who has opted to receive our gated content. Both levels of engagement should be entered into a well-structured ABM process, which ideally should be linked to a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform that allows tagging and lead scoring to be set in place.

What is vital here is the nature of the approach made to LinkedIn members who have engaged with our campaigns. Campaigns should have an individual from the sales organisation selected as a critical stakeholder responsible for sending connection requests to any LinkedIn member who has engaged with a campaign. However, if accepted, the nature of that initial connection request and subsequent follow-up is vital. After viewing the requesting member’s profile, we have all received those LinkedIn connection requests, which appear to be a potentially beneficial extension to our professional network, only to be hit with a sales pitch message immediately after we accept the bid. This is an absolute no. We must remember that LinkedIn members who have reacted to our campaigns are not leads but sales opportunities. At this early stage, they are nothing more than industry peers who have shown an interest in our content. When we reach out to members with a connection request, we can add an accompanying note of up to 300 characters (correct at the time of writing, although this may be reduced in the future). We highly recommend that these characters be used wisely. Under no circumstances should your accompanying note resemble a sales pitch. 

Mistake No.5: Wait to quit before the race is run.

Walt Disney once said, “The difference between winning and losing is often not quitting.” That’s how you become unstoppable. We often hear from clients who have started their LinkedIn advertising journey correctly but need to understand the time required for prospects to gain trust in the brand to reach the conversion stage. As stated, there is no fast track when building a new brand or offering solutions. LinkedIn advertising does not accelerate your brand-building process, but it does provide powerful campaign algorithms that learn from all the interactions made with your campaigns as you progress. However, algorithms require data, and the more data they receive, the more accurate the outcomes, and all of this takes time. Never pull the plug on a well-structured campaign performing above benchmark due to impatience before reaching the conversion stage. 

Suppose you have gone as far as the consideration stage with successful ungated content. In that case, you are in a great position where gated content will provide valuable contacts that can be moved into your ABM process.

The Bottom Line

LinkedIn has the potential to be the most influential B2B marketing engine for any organisation if used correctly. It allows for granular budget control, geo-targeting, cost-per-click optimisation and conversion tracking, but the main benefit differentiating LinkedIn from its competitors is the demographic targeting capabilities. These are incredibly specific, allowing you to focus your targeting in many ways, for example, only employees from a particular company, by seniority level, years of experience and much more. Hopefully, our top 5 list of mistakes has illustrated that, although the LinkedIn algorithms are brilliant and powerful, they are not a fast-track formula to brand superiority and sales success. Customers have kept the way they react to brands the same and their need for different levels of information, and they progress through the sales cycles; it is just that our targeting tools have improved massively.

If you have embarked on a LinkedIn advertising journey that failed to deliver results, or you are about to start with LinkedIn, contact the team here at Plexus; we are always open for an informal chat with honest and impartial advice.

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