I have spoken with a couple of clients recently who have tested LinkedIn's Ad Campaign Manager, but not received the results they were hoping for. Disillusioned, they returned to the apparent safety of Google Adwords or Facebook Ads. Whilst there are endless variables with all paid advertising (yes here's my caveat!), here are three reasons, with possible solutions, why marketers often fail with LinkedIn advertising:
1. Not using the Campaign Manager effectively
The LinkedIn Ads Campaign Manager has irked agencies for years with a time-consuming setup process, no lead generation ad formats, no remarketing, no custom lists, no video and no account promotion. LinkedIn is still absolutely essential though and does get a lot of stuff right too. After listening to this feedback from frustrated marketers, LinkedIn responded, upgraded and relaunched the new Campaign Manager in 2016. The new version contained loads of improvements to overall design, ease of use and technical efficiency when managing campaigns. A new account overview page has enabled us to locate and access multiple advertising accounts through a single interface. The vital task of testing ads multiple times against performance metrics is now much easier. More updates arrived last Thursday too, with a revised back end for a faster data upload during setup and one-click breakdowns with more personalised campaign data. There's a new navigational structure to switch between accounts and, overall, making it easier for marketers to use. So if the user-experience got you down before, you went live before testing or you abandoned the whole LinkedIn ads idea half-way through, I'd nudge you gently to give it another chance.
2. Not understanding LinkedIn's position within the customer lifecycle
The purpose of LinkedIn, as its own marketers describe, is to 'connect the world's professionals to make them more productive and successful'. The majority of users are there to make professional connections and have conversations within their relevant industry, network or interest groups. This is where marketers often miss the mark. Marketers assume that they can expect similar clicks and conversions to that of Google Adwords for example, where users are more actively searching for product information with a high intent to purchase. This is not what the LinkedIn network is primarily used for and therefore to use the same ads or expect the same performance is misunderstanding the platform. It is no surprise therefore that poorly pitched LinkedIn ads are falling short of users who are simply at a different stage in the customer lifecycle. Targeting on LinkedIn is very effective. However, the best performing ads from my experience are those that use several layers of communication to move users through the buying process. They are often heavily tested and refined over time, which with the relatively high LinkedIn cost-per-click (CPC) and static pricing arrangement means marketers need to commit to the long-game.
3. Not carrying out adequate testing and effectively managing bids
All too often marketers test their ads with the minimum bid possible, which on LinkedIn at the moment is just above $2. The problem with this strategy is that other advertisers are inevitably bidding against you and therefore with a $2 bid, your ad is unlikely to be entered into the auctions. If this happens, the ad is not seen by your target audience, you receive a low performance rate on your test and are a disappointed marketing manager, not to mention the time lost on setting up and running the test in the first place. What's more, if you aren't being entered into auctions fast, the algorithm might sideline your ad anyway because it is not getting impressions quickly enough for LinkedIn to recognise it as relevant enough to the target audience.
So what can you do to improve your results from LinkedIn Ads?
First, have a good hard think about who your customers are, where they are in the customer lifecycle and whether LinkedIn is a good place to reach them. If it is, then make sure you pitch your messages appropriately. They might not even know they need your product / service yet, so you need to help them get there! Test, test, test and give yourself a fair test with a realistic managed bid. Never stop testing and as always, where one ad works for some of your audience, it won't work for others, so you need to mix it up and learn. All paid advertising should be an iterative process, so focus on the long-game.