Case Study: How We Developed Highly Targeted Leads On LinkedIn For < 1/2 The Platform Average

Conversion Optimization, Digital Advertising

At the beginning of this year, a new client told us:

“I’m willing to give digital marketing a try, but I’m a bit hesitant because I don’t think my clients are online. I’m just not sure it’s possible to do online marketing with them.”

We hear this all the time from business owners. Sure, they know digital marketing works for some companies, but it won’t work for theirs. Their customers are just too specific to find online… or they don’t use the internet… or they won’t click on ads.

The truth is that pretty much everyone is online and they’ll click on an ad if it’s compelling and appealing enough to them. No audience is too specific, but some require a bit more testing and targeting research to engage.

Luckily, our client was willing to put in the time and commitment to grow his business online.

His audience is corporate executives at major companies who are looking to move from VP/EVP to C-level and he offers them training and coaching. We decided our best shot at success was to use LinkedIn.

On LinkedIn, we are able target by professional attributes and its users are primed to view career-centered content.

Still, we were aware of the ad platform’s challenges such as:

  • LinkedIn has a quarter of the users of Facebook and they spend significantly less time on the platform. Would LinkedIn advertising work for people who weren’t in sales or job-seekers? After all, it was possible our target audience tended to just set up their LinkedIn profile and forget about it.
  • LinkedIn’s ad platform is relatively underdeveloped. It has fewer targeting options by far than Facebook. Moreover, it can be cumbersome to test ads against one another.
  • LinkedIn is pricey! According to Hubspot, the platform average is $90/lead. But we’ve never aimed to be average. 🙂

Despite these hurdles, LinkedIn is an excellent platform to reach people for professional reasons such as B2B sales and career-focused content. It’s also great for reaching corporate employees who tend to keep their work lives off of Facebook. In fact, LinkedIn is known for being a platform ideal for hard-to-reach business-focused audiences.

Targeting Research

We first identified a profile of our client’s ideal buyer – this is the first step of Growth Planning, and a key element of Growth Optimization. We created a deep analysis of existing and previous customers. In short, our client’s ideal buyer was a frustrated, ambitious mid-level corporate executive.

Then, we created a report on how customers reveal themselves on LinkedIn. It turned out that pretty much every previous customer held a vice president title, often at more than one job. Moreover, they tended to be highly active on LinkedIn – with multiple skills and endorsements and 500+ connections.

This was encouraging news.

We knew that our ideal audience was on LinkedIn, using it actively, and followed patterns that we could target.

First Campaign

We decided that we could attract motivated corporate executives by offering a short assessment and report based on its results. The assessment determines their likelihood of being promoted (their readiness for the C-Suite) and looks like this:

We targeted older audience members with the ‘job seniority’ of vice president.

We opted for no-frills copy and creative that called out to our audience directly, articulated their challenge, and offered the assessment/report as a solution.

Immediately, it was obvious that the interest was there. The clickthrough rate (CTR) was .901% – 2-3x what most marketers on Quora said they considered a good CTR.

Moreover, the vast majority of clicks were from vice presidents of large companies. Our client was able to make a sale from one of the leads that came in, proving the power of online marketing to drive revenue for his business.

We had found his audience and they were interested!

That said, we were far from there. The cost per lead (or CPL) was $73… $17 cheaper than the platform average but still costly compared to other digital channels. The driver of this CPL was a lower than average conversion rate. While the clickthrough rate was solid, the conversion rate on the quiz was only around 11.5%. It seemed that in this case an assessment may have been too high a barrier and perhaps too personal for our first interaction with this ambitious, busy audience.

Moreover, the targeting needed some work. There were too many salespeople in our audience. (Welcome to LinkedIn!) When we tried to remove them, it drastically reduced our audience size – limiting how long we could run the campaign before users became saturated. ‘Job Seniority’ turned out to be simply too broad a brush to paint with, reducing our ability to whittle down our targets and giving too much power to LinkedIn to choose who was included.

We ended the campaign after 29 days, encouraged but not yet satisfied.

CPC Average $8.43
CVR Average 11.5%
Cost Per Lead 8.43/.115 = $73/lead

Second Campaign

Our priority with the second campaign was lowering the cost per lead by reducing the barrier to entry, while still ensuring that leads from LinkedIn were people he could sell services to.

We settled on a guide for introverted corporate executives for two reasons:

  1. because this topic had generated a lot of engagement for our client in one of his blog posts and
  2. the guide could be downloaded without completing any assessment.

It sounded like an exciting topic but we believed calling it a “guide” would be too intense for this audience at this early stage of the funnel. We changed the name to “9 Habits of a C-Suite Ready Introvert” to make it sound a bit less heavy and to play off the classic 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People (a book we figured was probably popular with our target audience). Also, people just love numbers and lists.

The new campaign also presented an opportunity to create a more nimble targeting system by targeting by Job Title rather than Job Seniority. (If you recall, we discovered “Job Seniority” to be too broad a brush and too clunky an attribute when it came to screening out salespeople and other less than ideal leads in our first campaign.)

We targeted dozens of relevant job titles, an attribute that allows for more precise audience-crafting. We also targeted ‘skills’ that were popular among current clients since people who use that feature tend to be LinkedIn’s most active users.

Finally, we opted for LinkedIn’s lead generation ads, Lead Gen Forms. This is a new ad feature that allows users to simply give their information while on the site with two clicks, eliminating several steps in the opt-in process compared to the quiz.

Testing Copy & Creative

We tested 12 ad units: 4 variations of sponsored content copy and 3 variations of lead generation forms.

In particular we were testing two major questions.

1. Would it help to put the Call To Action (CTA) first in our sponsored content?

This is an unusual tactic for us since we normally aim to make sponsored content ‘blend in’ with the other organic content on the platform. But the lead generation forms create a different user experience and we thought an early Call To Action could get people into ‘conversion mode’ early.

  • Vs.
2. Should headlines on our Lead Gen forms be headline-based, offer-based, or problem-based?
  • Headline

  • Offer

  • Problem

The Results

We were thrilled by the reaction to this new lead magnet, which generated a 2.4% clickthrough rate – more than 2.5x the last campaign – a strong indication that people found it compelling.

This was particularly critical because LinkedIn’s cost per thousand impressions was twice the last campaign’s. We believe this is because we were using their lead gen forms.

Our conversion rate for people who clicked was 20.5%, a little less than double the CR of the last campaign.

Most importantly, though, the leads that came in were even better than in the last campaign – they offered more information and almost all of them were qualified for our client’s services.

After two weeks, it was clear from the data that people were just as likely to click on an ad with a CTA first in the copy and way more likely to convert to a lead once they did (since they were primed to do so).

It also appeared that Headline and Problem lead gen form headlines generated a better conversion rate than Offer headline. However, the Headline and Problem headlines generated an almost identical conversion rate – a fact that surprised us since they’re entirely different.

We doubled the ad spend, paused all but the best sponsored content ads and watched our cost per lead sink even further. Here is where we are right now:

CPC Average $7.33
CVR Average 20.5%
Cost Per Lead 7.33/.205 = $36/lead

Not that we’re done… In our opinion, 20.5% is a conversion rate that can be improved upon. We’re excited to test other lead gen headlines and copy as well as fewer form fields.

We also want to try using our own landing page and avoiding the extra cost of using LinkedIn’s lead gen forms.

Finally, we’ll be returning to Facebook – at the moment, to retarget our leads and lookalike audiences.

Even a small conversion rate lift or lower cost per click would significantly cut the cost per lead for our client! We’re determined to do just that.

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About the Author

Lucas Garvin

Co-founder of Visify (@Visified) - a New York digital marketing agency. Serial entrepreneur, biohacker, #MarketingNerd & coffee connoisseur...

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