Apr 7, 2020
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Absolutely positively the most important element in your LinkedIn Ads. We’re talking about it today.
Welcome to the LinkedIn Ads Show. Here’s your host, AJ Wilcox.
Hey there LinkedIn Ads fanatics, the most important part of your whole LinkedIn Ad strategy is your offer. Now the offer is whatever you’re asking your target audience to do. Sometimes advertisers will ask prospects to do things like “hey, read a blog post”, or “download a piece of content” or “buy something now”, or even “hop on the call with a sales rep”. So let’s dive deep into what offers work on LinkedIn Ads, and which don’t. Let’s hit it. As for the news, LinkedIn announced a new ad format called conversation ads. Now because this episode airs a few weeks after it’s recording, it should be available to everyone listening. These use the same inventory as message ads, what they just rebranded as from sponsored in mail, and it’s much more versatile. It feels like a conversation a lot more than message ads, which feel like cold outreach. So check out the link in the show notes for a little bit more about the release, we had really good success with these, we were part of the the early pilot with one of our clients, and it ended up going really, really well. We’re really happy with it. So definitely check out that ad format as you get a chance if there’s a good use for it. Okay, so here’s the rub on offers. You can buy ad space anywhere, and you can ask anyone to do anything, but it certainly doesn’t mean that they’re likely to do it. You could ask people to buy your teleportation machine from your new storefront on Mars, but you’ll definitely have a zero percent conversion rate, which would be actually good because if someone did buy you wouldn’t have anything to give them. So there are all kinds of different things you can ask someone to do from an offer. I’ve seen a lot of companies ask for a buy now or talk to sales, or take a trial of certain kind of software, download a piece of content, come to an in-person event, read a blog post, listen to a podcast episode even. And what influences someone as to whether they’ll be actually interested in converting on whatever you’re asking them to do from your offer totally depends on their mindset and your relationship with them. So if someone is actively searching for something, let’s say they’re searching on Google, or they came to your website to fill out a contact form, then they’re definitely ready to buy and you really can cut right to the chase. They’re asking you for something and you can just give that to them. And then we have these audiences that we call warm audiences where the audience already knows, likes, and trusts them. Maybe they’ve been subscribed to your newsletter for a long time or they regularly consume your content. That means that anything you ask, they’re probably going to be receptive to it, and they’ll give you the benefit of doubt. They will oftentimes be willing to take an action that a cold audience would not. And that’s simply because you’ve built up goodwill with them. But then when you have an audience that doesn’t know who you are, we call them a cold audience, you still have to earn their trust. And this is where LinkedIn usually sits. I picture that every impression from my LinkedIn ads go out to someone who has never heard of me before. This is the first time a member has ever heard of my client or heard of my company before. So if you have a cold audience, you really do have to lead with something that’s either going to increase their know like and trust factor, or you have to lead with something that is so incredibly attractive to them, that they are willing to jump to the middle of your funnel, rather than the top to get to know you to consume this information. If you happen to already have a strong brand, let’s say it’s your one of the Fortune 500 then the majority of your audience already knows who you are and you can cheat a little bit, you can ask more from people than they would normally give from a cold audience because you’ve already built up goodwill and name recognition with them over the years. So 95% of the time, if you go and put out a demo request ad, or a free trial, or a Buy Now, in your LinkedIn ads, it will fail. We’ve found about 95% of the time, it totally falls flat. What that failure means is we will see low click through rates that turned into really high costs per click. And then the clicks that we do get turn out to have really low conversion rates, oftentimes between about one and a half to 4%. It will feel like pulling teeth trying to get LinkedIn to give you traffic, and therefore you’ve got this inability to scale. That means that you could spend all of your budget now which is great, but if in two months, your boss comes to you and says let’s double down. Let’s spend more this channels work in great, you won’t be able to scale because LinkedIn just won’t give you the traffic, you’re not earning it. I say 95% of the time that fails, but the other 5% of the time. The exception here is that when you’re offering something that’s so Earth shatteringly disruptive that people have been waiting for it, they’re chomping at the bit. I’ve got an example from a client who ran a helicopter taxi service. And it was so funny, I was sure that this was just going to fail miserably. But asking people to sign up for like a lift ride, but in a helicopter, that was really expensive. We had from a hard offer asking people to immediately book a helicopter taxi ride, we had 17% conversion rates, which were incredible. These are what I would consider bottom of the funnel purchase behavior that we were getting at the rate of like downloading a white paper or something. It was incredible. So sure, I am totally floored and surprised 5% of the time when this works, but so 95% of the time I’m just predicting, yep, when I asked too much too soon, it’s probably going to fail. So when you choose to force it, you choose to force people who don’t know who you are, you don’t have a relationship with them to go immediately to the bottom of the funnel, we regularly see $400 to $1,000 per lead, which is incredible, because I’m amazed that anyone would pay that much for a lead. But certainly if it’s working, that’s great. I wish them well. But when you have the right offer for your audience, magic happens. LinkedIn Ads sits in this really interesting place in the market, where it’s priced like it’s the bottom of the funnel, kind of ad traffic, but it’s traffic that acts like it’s top of funnel. And if you move forward to an audience and you give them something of real value, they are willing to jump from the top of the funnel to the middle of the funnel, and they will give you their contact info. LinkedIn is so good at getting in front of your exact target audience. These are the most highly valuable people that you could get your business message in front of. So what you want to do is give them an offer that they are so incredibly excited about. It’s something that adds a ton of value. And what they will do, then this is your ideal target audience. By the way, they will click on your ads at a much higher than average rate, which results in tons of volume at lower costs than LinkedIn is normally going to give you traffic. It’s not uncommon for us to be able to pay below LinkedIn’s floor price, when we have excellent content offers. They also convert at 15% or higher, which results in really low costs per opt in. Some of our better ones are between $25 to $40 per opt in. And that’s awesome, especially when you compare that to companies who are paying $400 to $1,000 per bottom of funnel lead when you’re not leading with value first. So the economics here, the way that this works out, you’re willing to pay $25 to $40 per opt in. And that means for the same price that you paid for one lead, one phone call when you were trying to force people to the bottom of the funnel for 400 to $1,000, you now have 20 plus contacts, who are your most valuable target audience, and they are ready to be nurtured by email, ready to be reached out to by sales, ready to be nurtured with other retargeting ads. They’ve also consumed your content and interface somewhat with your brand. So they’re starting to know, like, and trust you, which is exactly what we need to take a cold audience and turn it into a warm one. What we found is usually about 10% to 20% of these opt ins will be open to hopping on a call with sales. So if you follow the math, would you rather have a single demo request for $400? Or would you have rather have one to four demos booked along with 10 to 20 names in your database, all with goodwill pointing towards you. That’s exactly why gated offers works so well on LinkedIn and why I recommend everyone use them. I built a model that I call the offer friction funnel, and it shows the relative friction of each type of offer each type of ask that you could give someone. And I’m actually putting a link to this in the show notes. So definitely open it up wherever you are. And I want you to take a look at it because it’s a little hard to describe a visual just over audio here, but I’ll try. It’s shaped like a funnel where the top is wide and the bottom is narrow, which we’re used to with funnel imagery. And the top tend to be offers that are lower in friction, meaning that more people are willing to do them especially cold audiences. And at the bottom, we see offers that are much higher in friction that people are less likely or willing to do. Now your conversion rate will generally follow the level of friction so low friction offers at the top will tend to convert at a higher rate and higher friction offers at the bottom will tend to convert lower. Totally make sense. The one exception here is that the very top of the funnel, you’ll see is like blog posts and infographics. And those are very low friction, because you’re asking, “Hey, come and read this blog post”. And there’s very little risk for your visitor in doing that. If they get to your blog post, and they read a paragraph or two and decide they don’t want to be there anymore, they can just leave the page and all they sacrificed was a little bit of their time. But those blog posts and infographics, they very naturally have a very weak call to action, meaning that if you’re actually measuring a conversion rate from that content, it will be very, very low or maybe even non existent. So that’s why we talk about friction being from low to high instead of just talking about conversion rates, because at the very top of the funnel, you won’t have a conversion rate. But as soon as you gate something as soon as you start asking for someone’s information. That’s when you start to see conversions. I get asked all the time, what is the content? What is the style of content, the medium that gets the highest conversion rates? Essentially these companies asking what should I build? Well, I’ll let you know, the real value is not what the content is, it’s the promise of what they’ll be able to do once they’ve consumed it. I’ll repeat that, again. Because it’s really important. It’s the promise of what someone will be able to do once they’ve consumed your content that makes them more or less likely to convert. To prove this, we did a study where we took the same report from one of our clients, and we broke it into a one page checklist, a seven page guide, and a 30 page ebook, and we advertised all of them to the same audiences. And what was so interesting to us time and time again, when we’ve done these studies, we noticed that they all have relatively similar conversion rates. So regardless of the medium that someone chose, it was just as valuable because we weren’t advertising, you know, this one’s a guide because of that you should get it. There’s probably some of that built in. But it was the promise, here’s what you’re going to be able to do, Here’s the value that you’re going to get out of this offer, once you consume it. And if it happens to be a 30 page ebook, there will be some people who love reading, and they will be willing to download it because of that. There will be certain people in your audience who go, I don’t have time to read an ebook, and so they’ll forego, but it’ll average out all about the same. So the goal here then, is to go out and build your content around something that your audience would find extremely valuable. Don’t go and build an ebook just because someone told you to go build an ebook, build it for a purpose to actually provide value. Okay, here’s a quick sponsored break. And then we’re going to jump into the different types of offers and what we’ve seen work and not
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We’ve talked about what happens when you go too deep into the funnel too soon. When you’re asking for a demo, asking for a trial, or asking for a purchase, those things to a cold audience just are very, very rare when they work. But you have these gated offers that are kind of in between where you’re giving value first, and all you’re asking them for is some of their personal information to be able to follow up with them, to be able to nurture them. So let’s go through each type of gated offer and from my experience what I’ve found to be a pro and con of each and what works and what doesn’t work. So very first off checklists, I love checklists. They work really well with advanced professionals, as well as beginners. Because advanced, people want to know if they’ve missed any of the checklist items. So something like “hey, the 11 things that every LinkedIn ads account needs”. If you’re a total LinkedIn Pro, you’re probably still willing to download that asset, just to see like, Oh, yeah, I probably know 10 of them. But it’s probably worth my time to figure out that 11. And, of course, if you’re a total beginner, you’re going to look at that and say that sounds like a resource I’ll want to learn, because I really should know all 11 items that LinkedIn advertisers need to know. And of course, this is just an example I don’t actually have a piece of content called the 11 items that every LinkedIn advertiser needs to know, but maybe I’ll look to create something like that. A checklist also feels really easy to consume. So it feels low risk to a prospect. You could very quickly look over it, find the one or two items that you need, and then move on, it didn’t take 30 minutes from your day. I also really like this idea of interactive checklists, meaning that people will keep it around digitally. And they love to check things off. So there’s a company out there called listables.com that does this and I’ll throw a link in the resources, where people will keep an interactive checklist around, just so people will continue to stay top of mind digitally, and their prospects will want to come back and tick things off as they complete them. All right, the next one is a cheat sheet. And think of this like a resource that people will hang up in their offices or cubicles with your branding on it. The best example for this was early on in my career, I followed a company called Moz, religiously, moz.com. And this was when I was really into search engine optimization or SEO. They had the SEO developers cheat sheet or something like that. And I remember it was a pretty PDF, I printed it off, and I kept it up in my cubicle for like five years, I had something Moz related always up in my office or cubicle. And it felt really high value to me. And it was really easy for me to consume to use as a resource. And of course, that built a lot of goodwill with me. Then you’ve got resources like guides, and the feeling you get with a guide is I’m going to hold your hand and walk you through something that you don’t already know how to do. And so it feels highly educational, it feels helpful, and it feels pretty simple to consume because you’re going to walk them through step by step. Then there’s white papers and white papers. This is a pretty old term. And think of them like long form content designed to promote the products or services from a specific company. I pulled that definition from investopedia. I didn’t come up with that one on my own. But I think white papers really depend on the promise because if this is essentially a product brochure, no one is willing to give you their email address. And first name last name in exchange for a company brochure. That’s the kind of stuff that should be made free. So make sure if you are really designing a white paper to be a white paper, make sure you’re leading with the value to them. Then you have ebooks. I think as a not great reader myself, I just get so bored when I’m reading books. And so that’s why I love podcasts and audiobooks so much. But I perceive when someone is pitching me an ebook that it’s going to take me a lot of time to consume, and that might turn people like me off, it might make it less likely to get consumed. So certainly try an ebook. But you might also take exactly the same content and package it up as a guide and see if that increases your conversion rates because people might see it being a little bit less friction or a little less difficult to consume. Then webinars. Oh man, I still love webinars for years. I’ve wondered when people are going to stop signing up for it and consuming webinars, but they just keep going. Webinars are so interesting. Of all of the different gated content I’m telling you about, webinars are the one thing that really stands out to be really nuanced. If you want to follow someone who is brilliant about webinars, go and follow Daniel Wass, his last name is spelled Waas. He’s German. He has some of the best content about webinars I’ve ever seen. He spoke at the Inbound conference back in 2019 about it, and I took so many notes during his his presentation, I felt like my hand was gonna fall off. So anyone doing webinars, make sure to go and consume his content. But here’s what’s so interesting to me about webinars, about 50% of the people who sign up won’t attend, but at some point, they put their name on the list because you are offering to solve a problem that they need solved. So even though only 50% will show up. The other 50% are definitely still marketable. So don’t write them off, continue to market to them. Now the 50%, who do show up, now they know like and trust you more than if they’d read five white papers of yours. They have heard you speak, they’ve gotten the goodwill from you sharing content that’s helpful to them, as long as the webinar was good and helpful. And now they’re going to have a much higher likelihood of closing in your sales cycle. Many signups will expect to just watch the replay so they don’t have an intent of actually showing up live. But when you do a live webinar, you can really stoke this, this FOMO this fear of missing out and this urgency that the fact that because it’s live, they’re going to miss it if they don’t put it on their calendar. I’ve seen a lot of advertisers try to use on demand webinars just because they take so many fewer resources. And what I found is your conversion rate drops on signup and your attendance rate is also much lower as well. So certainly you saved the time of yours to create content. But people see right through it, it loses that fear of missing out, it loses the urgency, because they know that they can consume it anytime. And it spurs them to inaction. So my recommendation, if you are currently using on demand, or you’re trying to use an on demand type of webinar, try just performing it live, give yourself a good three weeks ramp period to advertise it on LinkedIn, and see if you can have better results pushing towards a live webinar. Obviously, it’s more work. But if it turns out that you’re getting a much lower cost per lead, and you have a higher attendance rate of people willing to come and talk to your sales team, then it’ll be well worth your time. I found that free in-person events tend to work really well as well. And there’s a ton of urgency and FOMO on the side of the prospect here as well, because they know that there’s going to be some event that they’re not going to be a part of if they forget to put it on their calendar, and they’ll miss it. Oftentimes, there’s opportunities to network with their peers, get drinks, have food, get educated on a topic that they may care about. So I’d realize this is a ton of work to put together an in person event. But these work very well as an offer on LinkedIn. They feel very VIP. People feel really special. And so this will work especially well with message ads, with conversation ads, and with sponsored content. It’ll feel special. I get asked a lot about case studies as well. Case studies to me are surprisingly bottom of funnel even though it is something like gated content, or might be viewed by your marketing department as gated content. But to a prospect, you’re most likely not willing to download a case study and even care about the contents until you’re already considering working with that company. So if you’re not already in this consideration, phase of working with someone, meaning you would be a warm audience anyway, you’re probably not going to be interested in a case study. So what we found is to a cold audience, a case study may have a really low conversion rate. And you might get high costs, like it’s a bottom of the funnel type of asset, even though it really is content. So I don’t generally like to lead with case studies, that might be a good retargeting type of asset.
Similar to in person events, online summits can work quite well, especially because it’s the ability to run an in person event, but be able to get many, many more people because everyone’s virtual and technology is cheap. So getting someone into a big online summit with LinkedIn Ads, as a cold audience would probably be just as simple as trying to book them onto a webinar. So then you’ve got the things that are a little bit lower in the funnel, like a demo request, people expect a sales pitch, and so they’re not going to do a demo request until they’re getting pretty serious. So that’s pretty bottom of funnel. You might be able to get a few people to do it, but without that know like and trust factor built up, it’s probably going to be a very small percentage of the population leading to high costs per, and then really low conversion rates.
Free trials are pretty similar, unfortunately, because people know that there’s a big time investment into trying out a product. There’s also a huge pain in the rip and replace of a software solution. And so people dread it, they don’t want to get involved in a new trial. Doesn’t matter how attractive the trial is, or how “easy” it’s going to be for them to try. It’s a lot of work up front, meaning that this likely won’t convert with a cold audience very well. Although it might do better than a demo request, you might get a slightly higher conversion rate. And of course, asking someone directly for a purchase, this is really difficult to a cold audience and this just isn’t for LinkedIn. This is for any cold audience. Asking someone for a purchase if they are a previous customer or an existing warm audience who already has that know, like, and trust factor, those can work, okay. But this is too much to ask from a cold audience. And whether you’re selling a product that costs $2 or $2,000. Both are really problematic on LinkedIn. Because if you’re asking for something that’s cheap, let’s say it’s $2, you’ll never be able to overcome LinkedIn’s high costs to make a return on that investment. And if the cost is high, if it’s $2,000, then maybe you can recoup the cost from LinkedIn. But because it’s expensive conversion rates going to be really low and unlikely you’ll get enough people who actually will do the action. So that’s a walkthrough of pretty much all of the offers that I see regularly being used on LinkedIn. And my biggest recommendation here is to call the offer whatever you want, because as soon as everyone starts using a tactic, it ceases to work. You probably remember 20 years ago when people started offering, every company had a free consultation, and it probably worked really well back then. But now because everyone does it, it doesn’t feel special anymore. And it’s hard to actually spur someone to action with an offer that feels like everyone else is doing this too. So maybe try calling it something like a free Strategy Session or a free Power Hour. Change things up a little bit and make it feel a little bit more special. Okay, so you’re sold on this, you know that coming up with a really valuable offer is the best thing that you can do for your LinkedIn Ads program. So now you need to come up with this content offer because this hasn’t occurred to you before. My recommendation is to go and meet with people in your team who interface with customers all the time. Oftentimes, this is sales. And you go and sit down with them and find out what are the most frequently asked questions that are keeping customers up at night. What’s in the news and relevant to them that they would get excited about. An interesting example here is we ran a programmatic advertising guide to a whole bunch of marketers for one of our clients and it was so interesting. We had these crazy high conversion rates with VPS and CMOS. And we wonder why in the world was that. And it turned out that people who were, let’s say, Manager, Director level, and even individual contributors, they already knew what programmatic advertising was and they were consuming it, trying to decide if it was right for them. But you had these VPS and CMOS, these high level marketers that were expected to know what programmatic advertising was, but they didn’t kno. They were looking for someone to educate them, so that when they got asked about it, they didn’t look stupid. So think about things that will solve the pain point for someone that it’s keeping them up at night. And maybe it’s in the news and relevant to them. I think this content is so well produced within a company because you guys know your own customer and you know your own product and industry very well. But one outsource approach I found I’ve got a friend who it’s a husband and wife team and she’s a journalist, and he’s a writer, and they go and interview customers, prospective customers leads that didn’t close, and they go and find interesting subjects and pain points. And then they write it up in this pretty package of, you know, here’s the content from the research. And it just goes to show that when you actually solve the problem, people will beat down your door to get it because that content always performs super super well.
So the gist here is you go and solve a real problem for them or satisfy a real curiosity. And you really can do no wrong. You could do things like have a misspelling in your ad, or insult their intelligence or have a crappy landing page, and you’ll still see 15% or higher conversion rates, you’ll get endless scale with your audience, and you’ll have super low cost access to your ideal target audience. It will be brilliant and it will feel like magic and the only difference is the piece of content. A good example of this is we had a client who was offering five different content assets and we went through and did super hyper testing on all of these assets, we could not get our cost per conversion under like $129. And we’ve been working with this client for four months, and I was absolutely certain they were going to fire us because there’s just no way that downloading a guide or a white paper is worth $129. Then one day they came out with a new piece of content. It was titled The Definitive Guide to Onboarding and it was an HR offer to companies HR, who were constantly onboarding new employees and trying to give them a better experience. And overnight, that piece of content totally changed our entire initiative, the entire program. Click through rates tripled, and conversion rates doubled. We ended up with cost per conversion under $29, which was a total change and allowed us to scale way up. So that was a great example to me of same audience. We’re using the same tactic to get in front of them, but the content made 100% of the difference. We’ve got a client called Xant.ai. That’s the letter Xant.ai. And they have a product that connects salespeople to the buyers better. They have a dialer solution so they’ve done tons and tons of outbound sales and they have all the data around it. And we put out this offer that was like, “Here’s the best time of day to contact people”. “Here’s the best cadence to follow up”. “Here’s the best number of times to do each kind of outreach to result in the best success”. And this converted super super well. We also had a client who was partnering with Google to do a breakfast at Google’s headquarters for marketers. And the landing page wasn’t special, the targeting wasn’t special, the ad copy wasn’t special. The offer was. Marketers were so excited to go and have breakfast at Google and learn about these things. So it had a 55% conversion rate, which was Incredible. We did exactly the same thing with Microsoft and Bing, a couple months later, and it didn’t have nearly the same conversion rate. So remember, these things are very special, and they are in the offer itself. So turn all of your guns towards creating the right content that people will kill for. And you will see the results in your LinkedIn Ads. There are some people who are doing really cool things in the space for increasing your conversion rates. There’s a company called Hushly, I think it’s Hushly, who will take all of the traffic on your website who are looking at a piece of content. And using exit intent, they will pop something up and try to get that user to then re-engage and give you their information. So these are only the people who are going to leave anyway and then they charge you on a per lead basis of the people who they got to convert that wouldn’t have converted already. Really cool solution. Really not expensive. And then I mentioned listables.com earlier. That was like a dynamic checklist that someone would not only want to give their information to download, but they’ll want to keep it around so they can always check back with it and check things off. I’ve got a friend named Chris Dayley, D-A-Y-L-E-Y, who runs Smart-CRO.com. And he’s a conversion optimization consultant. And he helps companies who have a lot of traffic, do a lot of AB testing to figure out what people will convert on better and what they won’t. And so those are three of the cool things or people I’ve seen who are working wonders in this space to try to increase conversion rates on top of whatever offer it is you’re looking for. Okay, I’ve got some cool episode resources coming right up, so stick around.
Okay, as promised, here are the resources that we talked about this week, there is the link to conversation ads release that LinkedIn just came out with a week of recording. So definitely check that link out in the show notes. There’s also a link to the content friction funnel that we talked about. This is a slide that I regularly use when I do public speaking and teaching and training about LinkedIn ads. So check that one out. It’s just a link to a JPEG of my slide, where you can visualize and see what types of content work at different areas of friction in the funnel. Then we also talked about listables.com, they’re the interactive checklists that you can subscribe to get for your company or your clients. There’s hushly.com, the company who takes with exit intent and charges you by the lead only for those that you would have lost anyway. And there’s Chris Daley from smart CRO, who’s a consultant that anyone who wants to check out and hire someone to help them do AB testing better, learn about their audience. He’s a great resource that I know I use quite regularly. You’ll also see the link to the LinkedIn Ads Course on LinkedIn Learning that I did. This is a great one if you’re just getting into LinkedIn Ads. It’s a very cheap course, that goes into a lot of depth. Like I’ve said in previous episodes, it covers usually about the first hour and a half of my training that I’ll give one on one, and I charge $500 an hour for that, you can get the course for 25 bucks, not a bad deal. Also on whatever podcast player you are listening, please do subscribe. I would love it if you could have all of our future episodes just fed right to you so you don’t miss a beat. And then of course, if you like what you hear, please do rate and review on whatever podcast player you are listening on. It makes a huge, huge difference to podcasters and I would give you a personal high five anytime I see you or a big digital hug if you do that for me. As always reach out to us at Podcast@B2linked.com with any ideas you have for the show, or any feedback, I’d absolutely love hear it. You know, this is Episode 10 so far, and so there’s a lot more coming out. And I’ve got a lot of ideas, but certainly love your impact as well. Okay, see you back here next week and I’m cheering you on in your LinkedIn Ads initiatives.