Most savvy B2B marketers will agree that LinkedIn B2B lead generation is one of the most successful tools in their digital marketing kit. Just look at the data – 96% of B2B marketers used LinkedIn to distribute content and 80% of B2B marketers put paid media spend behind their content on LinkedIn between 2020 and 2021. And with over 55 million companies across 200 countries and territories, you’re unlikely to find a better community of professionals to drive actions that are relevant to your business than LinkedIn. And yet not everyone knows how to use LinkedIn for B2B lead generation or appreciates the enormous potential value it delivers.
LinkedIn lead generation opportunities are available in a host of paid and non-paid formats for businesses to gain relevant exposure and engage with other related companies (and potential customers). LinkedIn’s Campaign Manager is a paid ad management tool that enables users to create, launch, and evaluate the performance of their paid LinkedIn ad campaigns. These campaigns can generate leads on LinkedIn, drive website traffic, and build brand awareness. LinkedIn also offers free means of engagement that generate organic leads, such as LinkedIn Pulse, where users can share company blogs and news, keep up with the latest news regarding their interests, and engage in the online conversation with other members in their industry.
So why isn’t everyone pursuing lead generation on Linkedin? Well, it’s not as straightforward as signing up, filling out your LinkedIn company page, and waiting for the leads to roll in. Successful LinkedIn lead generation ads and campaigns require intentional strategies and a little creativity to reap the full benefits that the platform offers. We’ve narrowed down our top ten tips for improving your B2B LinkedIn lead generation strategy using both organic and paid methods.
Optimize the Heck Out of Your Company Profile Page
The first step in understanding how to generate leads through LinkedIn is understanding what impact your company profile page is having on potential customers. This is all about looking professional so when prospects visit your page, they take your company seriously. People who see your ads will often come visit the company’s LinkedIn page first to learn more before visiting the website or clicking the ad, so your LinkedIn page may very well be the first impression you make. Clean up your look by doing the following:
- Standardize the cover image, profile photo format, and messaging for all employee profile pages. Ensure all the photos that you use are of the highest quality.
- Make sure you provide a compelling overview, AKA company description, and sneak your social media links in there.
- Research and include relevant keywords in your company description to boost your SEO.
- Include a Tagline that summarizes your value proposition.
- List up to 20 specialities within the company overview.
- Add up to 3 hashtag topics that matter to your page so you can see and respond to trending posts from the hashtag feed.
- Build a simple lead gen. form that page visitors can fill in and start generating organic leads right from the company profile page.
Make Connections & Build Credibility with Social Networking
Social networking is easier said than done. Content is king, and you need to post a lot of it. If you want to grow your followers, it needs to be relevant, it needs to be frequent and authoritative, and it needs to be posted consistently. Being active in LinkedIn groups shows authority and that you care.
- Use a social posting/scheduling platform such as Hootsuite or Sendible to schedule posts out and generate a program and cadence that is more frequent, yet easier to manage and measure.
- Use the 4:1:1 rule – this content-posting method ensures that your content is varied, new, and interesting. The rule is: out of every six posts, four of the posts should be content that is educational, entertaining, new and/or interesting, but not your own generated content; one post should be a soft promotion, such as news, events, or shared (un-gated) content of your own creation; and one post should be a hard promotion with a call-to-action, such as a contest or some self-serving post of your own creation.
- Consider launching LinkedIn Follower Ads, which helps you expose your brand and page to a broader audience. You can acquire more followers faster and grow your influence when they see and engage with the organic content you share on LinkedIn. We also noticed a hack where you can run Follower Ads with the engagement goal and get lots of impressions but little to no clicks, and thus not have to pay much or anything at all….free awareness!
- In LinkedIn Groups, you can connect with like-minded people in your industry, build community and trust, and establish yourself as an authority in your field.
LinkedIn Follower Ads can help expose your brand to a broader audience and acquire followers.
Contribute to LinkedIn Pulse
LinkedIn lead generation services are so much more than just ads. LinkedIn Pulse, once a separate slide sharing tool, has now been integrated into every users’ homepage newsfeed, and functions as a space where users can put together trainings and other slide decks, and then share them for free. Pulse offers great visibility and an opportunity to build credibility and gain respect from other B2B companies in your vertical market. Here’s a few different ways you can make the best use of the new LinkedIn Pulse:
- With Pulse, you can follow new businesses and individuals and automatically see updates from these businesses in your newsfeed. This is a great way to make new connections and expose new people to your expertise.
- You can follow topics and news channels on LinkedIn and Pulse will automatically populate your newsfeed with the latest updates from these channels, ensuring that you stay abreast of the latest news and trends in your industry.
- Pulse is a great means of engaging in online conversation. You can share, comment on, and “like” posts in your newsfeed. This gives you opportunities to interact and connect with like-minded individuals in a way that is far less formal and much more natural than a cold call. Show your support by sharing their content and add your two cents and affirmation in a comment.
- You can post your own content – especially training slide decks – on Pulse to establish yourself as a highly engaged and informed authority in your industry. Ensure you’re frequently posting and that your content is valuable and interesting. Use SEO keywords so that your content is searchable and publish content at times of the day when people are most likely to see it.
Give Your Best Posts a Boost (Sponsored Posts)
Sponsoring posts helps extend their reach through a simplified version of a full LinkedIn advertising campaign. When you boost a post, a quick campaign will be created in a LinkedIn Campaign Manager account associated with your Page. You will be taken to an easy-to-use UI where you can put some spend behind the post and choose some targeting to ensure more impressions and, hopefully, engagement. Essentially, boosting is a way to pay for more impressions on your best organic content without having to run full-on ads in LinkedIn Campaign Manager.
Since you need to set up a LinkedIn Campaign Manager account to even boost a post, you should consider using that interface to turn your post into a full LinkedIn ad.
This gives you greater control over your audience and ad format than you would have with the limits of “sponsoring” a post in the organic interface of LinkedIn, which can allow you to target exact companies, job titles, and more.
Sponsoring is a lighter campaign creation experience with somewhat more limited options than you have with Campaign Manager, but you can still easily set objectives for boosting the post, define the audience to which the post displays, measure the results, and set a budget and schedule to limit how long the post is boosted. Sponsored posts are billed through ad accounts in Campaign Manager, not the LinkedIn Page.
Originally an organic post, this Forbes article post was sponsored to a targeted audience to increase visibility and engagement
Share Your Thought Leadership in LinkedIn Ads
What is thought leadership? It’s more than being a subject-matter-expert. Thought leaders are frequently and consistently active in not only becoming experts in their industry, but also in curating and sharing informative and interesting content. Thought leadership content marketing establishes your businesses as an authority and there is almost no better platform to get more eyeballs on your best content than LinkedIn (organic and paid).
In competitive B2B landscapes, having a stellar service or product isn’t enough. Prospective customers need to trust you, and thought leadership content is a great way to build that trust. Yet, we live in a pay-to-play world, and you could spend a lot of time (and money) generating some of the most stellar content in the world, but it won’t matter if nobody reads it. That’s why we advise leveraging your best content across LinkedIn, so that not only more people consume your content, but the right people consume it. Some of the best ways to get more engagement with your best content on LinkedIn include; Messaging Ads (formerly Sponsored InMail), Conversation Ads, On-Platform Lead Gen. Forms for gate-worthy content, and video ads.
Leverage On-Platform Lead Gen. Forms
Lead Gen. Forms are now available on-platform in LinkedIn when a target user clicks on one of your ads, and they’re a super convenient way for prospective customers to connect with you. Lead Gen. Forms come pre-filled with accurate profile data, helping LinkedIn members send you their professional information with just a few clicks, which greatly reduces the number of steps it takes from serving an ad to getting a lead in your database – and they are almost always high quality since LinkedIn profiles are assured to belong to real people.
You can prove the ROI rate of your lead gen. campaigns by tracking your lead form fill rate, the number of leads you’re getting from specific professional audience segment, and the campaign’s cost per lead. Here are a few of our LinkedIn lead gen form best practices:
- Have a unique form for every campaign so that the form messaging backs up the ad messaging and makes reporting a lot easier.
- Sync forms with your CRM (HubSpot makes this really easy, and can then be mapped through to SFDC). You can of course use either HubSpot or Salesforce to then nurture and further qualify the leads.
- Create and leverage your best thought-leadership or data-centric gated assets that then closely match the target audience in LinkedIn Campaign Manager, which ensures a higher conversion rate.
- Case studies with relevant data work surprisingly well as a gated asset on LinkedIn as we typically don’t advise gating case studies on websites.
- Minimize the amount of fields on your forms and use autofill options available.
- Use hidden UTM fields to pass even more information about the lead ad campaign (name, content, etc.) through to HubSpot and other CRMs.
Get Up Close & Personal with Account-Based-Marketing
Account-Based-Marketing (ABM) is, as it sounds, account-specific. The ABM approach tailors highly customized messaging to a specific set of target accounts (typically, people or companies). Instead of casting a wide net with their lead-generation efforts, B2B sales and marketing teams need to work closely together and be in sync to develop personalized, account-specific programming and content for buying teams. The long-term goals of ABM pairs perfectly with the short term goals of lead generation.
On LinkedIn, B2B marketing teams can upload lists of exact contacts or companies to target that you have generated either as first party or third party data, and the system has a very high match rate and low threshold requirements in order to be able to target ads on LinkedIn Campaign Manager. Some ABM best practices include:
- Identify high value accounts (companies) to focus on, i.e. the most likely to be profitable, long-term, happy customers.
- Identify influential individuals who can help drive consensus among the key stakeholders for a purchase decision.
- Define and create targeted campaigns. Combine job functions, industries, and years of experience to make the targeting even more relevant.
- Cross-reference your findings with your creative to ensure lead generation is high quality.
- Measure and optimize: measuring ABM results is not the same as measuring the impact of standard lead-generation tactics. In ABM, you need to track account engagement, opportunities created, and closed-won deals and their value. After results are generated within the typical purchase cycle, adjust strategy if necessary.
Get Creative with Ad Optimization
Ads that have data or pricing can work well to pre-qualify clicks
Ads that have contextual illustrations with added data points work well
Your business can increase the performance of ad campaigns on LinkedIn by optimizing the ad creatives. Align your creatives with your targeting and stick to these optimization best practices:
- A/B test your creatives. Always have at least four creatives running concurrently, measure their performance, and replace under-performing creatives with new ones.
- Keep any copy short and impactful – under 150 characters.
- Be specific – tailor your messaging to a specific, relevant customer/audience.
- Consider designing assets in a vertical format, which tends to garner more engagement than horizontal assets.
- Avoid highly technical language and industry jargon. Not everyone will be familiar with you and your product/service, and you want to generate demand, not just leads.
- Address your reader directly with a call to action. They should feel you’re speaking to them as individuals with a clear directive.
- Inject data into your creatives. Numbers and statistics attract attention, especially for B2B.
- Videos are an effective and visually compelling format for impactful storytelling. Plan video content based on your objective – for brand awareness and consideration, position yourself as a thought leader, tell your brand story, or share stories of customer success; for conversion, show a quick demo of your product, give a sneak peek of your webinar, or preview your event.
- Experiment with newer ad formats like Conversation Ads – especially when targeting a remarketing audience and try to push targets down the conversion funnel.
- Use messaging ads in a creative way instead of the typical spammy approach. One idea we used recently was to personify a physical product and have it look as though that product was emailing (Message Ads) prospective buyers about “hiring” them to do the work that needed done for the business. The open rate and engagement rate was incredible.
Take Control with Manual Bidding
Automation isn’t always better. Automated bidding will always favor a middle-of-the-road approach to save you money and is really just a veiled attempt to make something that is a bit complicated seem easy so more people will spend money on digital ads. But if you want to win more auctions, you need to be willing to spend more money. This is where manual bidding becomes a more effective approach. With manual, the system will give you a range based on your audience selection and you pick the higher bid amount within that range, which will allow you to be more competitive in more auctions and thus win the better impressions and clicks before some other advertiser does.
You do risk burning through your daily budget faster, so you may need to increase your budget, which will be worth it in the long run if you find the leads from the campaign are high quality and turning into deals (ROAS / ROI). Manual bidding gives you more control when you know you have a winning campaign. Measure the results and determine if it’s worth it to pay more for a click, whereas with automated, an algorithm makes that decision for you, which may be fine at first when you are experimenting with different types of campaigns.
Conversion Tracking and UTMs: Analyze Lead Quality Beyond LinkedIn Analytics
UTM parameters (utm_source / utm_medium / utm_content) used in LinkedIn allow us to see different ad performance when a user clicks through to our website via Google Analytics.
We’ve discussed how to get people to see your ads and how to get them to open the ads, but what about after they click on the ad? That’s where UTMs come in. UTMs are custom query strings that we can manually add to the end of a URL. UTMs are essentially a tracking module that functions to track clicks and users through to your website after they click on a LinkedIn ad. This enables you to attach more information to a new user in HubSpot and other CRMs so that you can attribute the lead to your ad efforts then follow up appropriately.
- Use hidden UTM fields on LinkedIn Lead Gen. Forms to attach more info to a lead (ad content, campaign, targeting and more).
- If you are driving LinkedIn traffic to your website, your Lead Gen. Forms should also use hidden UTM fields for the same reasons.
- UTMs allow for more ways to slice and dice the data in platforms like Google Analytics and HubSpot.
- The data from UTM parameters can be passed all the way through to sales tools so that marketing and the specific ad platform / ad get the credit (attribution) and you can measure ROAS and ROI.
Final Thoughts for Better LinkedIn B2B Lead Generation
Understanding how to generate leads on LinkedIn gives you a major advantage over businesses that only participate on the platform passively or sparsely. Whether you’re leveraging free means of engagement to build brand awareness and generate organic leads, or promoting your business with ads and sponsored content, LinkedIn offers a full suite of highly effective solutions to improve your B2B lead generation and get a leg up on the competition. Implement our best practices today to start reaping the full benefits of LinkedIn B2B lead generation.
Alastair is Senior Vice President of Digital Marketing at Firebrand Communications. With over 15 years of both creative and analytical marketing he combines wisdom from both arenas to drive measurable and memorable marketing results for clients. Prior to joining Firebrand, Alastair has been a web designer, creative specialist, and PMM, for a tech manufacturing company, entertainment agency, and mobile gaming startup.