The Top 8 LinkedIn Ads Mistakes Most Companies Make

February 2, 2021

B2B SaaS & tech generally has the worst and most unsophisticated paid social marketing out of any industry.

It hurts to say it, but it’s the truth. This conclusion comes from my analysis of hundreds of B2B SaaS companies.

There’s a good reason why most B2B SaaS companies don’t create compelling paid social campaigns - they typically don’t have to.

That’s to say, it isn’t a main revenue driver for most B2B SaaS businesses, even though it can be when using the right strategies.

Many B2B SaaS companies generate the bulk of leads from word-of-mouth, conferences and events, partnerships, and marketing that circulates among a niche group of buyers in their space.

The fact is, many B2B SaaS companies don’t consider LinkedIn ads a priority at all, and when they do invest in the channel it is done haphazardly without much thought, usually being handed off to a member of the team who isn’t an ads specialist.

In this article I’m lay out the top 8 mistakes most B2B SaaS companies when advertising on LinkedIn, and how they are leaving hundreds of thousands, and even millions in pipeline revenue on the table by not utilizing LinkedIn ads properly within their marketing mix

Mistake #1: A weak landing page

One of the most important parts of running ads has nothing to do with the actual ad, but instead the destination you send your prospect.

Your landing page is an extension of the promise you made in your ad, and it should match appropriately. Every ad platform will crawl your ad destination and will limit or increase reach based on your landing page experience, so it’s a crucial part of your campaign performance.

What do I mean by weak landing page?

Instead of highlighting what makes a landing page weak, I’ll instead highlight what makes a strong landing page that results in a high conversion rate and education of your prospect.

  1. Passes the ‘grunt test’ by answering the questions “what is it?” “why do I need it?” and “how do I get it?” within the first 5 seconds of landing on the page.
  2. Compelling Hero section with relevant imagery and strong value proposition
  3. Focuses on the user and their needs, wants, desires, instead of focusing on the company and product.
  4. Highlights user benefits over product features
  5. Answers all the questions and refutes objections a prospect might have.
  6. A clear call-to-action that we want the user to take
  7. Page load speed, optimized design, and more design and technical oriented aspects of the page.

A couple examples of effective landing page elements:

If your landing page doesn’t accomplish the above, it’s likely not converting traffic a very high rate.

Don’t worry about getting too fancy with design and animations on your pages, focus on the person at the other end. What ultimately wins on a landing page is communicating the value proposition of your product effectively to the person you are targeting. Words sell. Period. And when you can tell a compelling story about why they should use your product - you win.

Mistake #2: Poor Audience Targeting

LinkedIn hands down has the best business targeting options of any ad platform. Here are a few mistakes to avoid when using LinkedIn targeting, as well as some methods I use to hone in on our ideal customer persona (ICP).

1. Build a customer persona before launch, so you are specific in your targeting.

When you get specific about who you’re targeting and what their pain points, needs, and desires are - you’ll be able to build that audience much more effectively in your ad campaigns. Make sure to define your target ICP as thoroughly as possible before building out your LinkedIn targeting.

2. Don’t use audience expansion.

We see businesses running audience expansion all the time. Even if this occasionally works to bring in more lead volume, they are usually poor quality leads. Don’t click this checkbox, leave it off. That is all.

3. Exclude entry-level and unpaid positions, and any job seniority that doesn’t fit your ICP.

This is another one we see go overlooked all the time, and if someone does catches it, it’s usually after thousands of dollars in ad spend.

If you don’t exclude these levels of seniority from your campaigns, you’ll often find in your LinkedIn audience insights that a bunch of unpaid or entry-level employees are interacting with your ads.

Here’s a screenshot of how extensive our exclusions can get within campaigns.

4. Layer and refine your targeting

Build audiences with ‘and’ matching parameters to refine targeting. People who match an industry ‘and’ have a specific job title or listed set of skills, is a good way to narrow down the prospect you want to target.

In this campaign we have a company and contact lists we want to target, and used ‘AND’ matching parameters to further refine the list based on Member Skills we want to target.

Audience sizes can vary significantly based on your industry and what you’re trying to accomplish in the campaign. We aim to be refined in our targeting so we know we’re getting in front of the right people, and then we focus on serving the right content over all else.

5. Use tools like Zoominfo and Clearbit for data enrichment and ICP list.

As stated in the point above, we want to remove all doubt that we’re targeting the right audience. By using data enrichment tools to build prospecting lists, we can focus solely on serving the best content possible to educate our prospect on why our solution is the best fit for them, and create a compelling reason why they should choose us.

Mistake #3: Messaging that doesn’t match your ICP

If you fail to identify your ICP, then you won’t be able to write messaging tailored to them.  Once you’ve solved for Mistake #2 and have the right audience targeting, you need to create messaging and ads that speak to that prospect.

You do this by:

  1. Understanding the customer pain points and speaking to them directly
  2. Demonstrate how your product is the solution to their problems and pain points.
  3. Focus on benefits over features. Speak to the benefits first to appeal emotionally, save the features for the logical part of the brain when they are digging deeper into your product and already have buy-in on your benefits.
  4. Don’t try to be everything to everyone - focus.
  5. Test the top benefit and pain point messaging to make sure you cover all

Mistake #4: Not investing in quality top of funnel traffic

For many B2B SaaS companies shouldering the pressure of closing quality leads, they find that remarketing has more success, and therefore that’s where they spend all of their budget.

But in order to maintain sustainable and scaleable LinkedIn campaigns, you need to invest in quality top-of-funnel traffic that feeds your bottom-of-funnel campaigns.

For top-of-funnel prospecting ads, I focus on the following:

  1. Serving content with messaging that matches a cold audience of my ICP.
  2. Having a variety of ad formats and content that appeal to multiple value propositions and benefits, pain points, and different selling angles.
  3. Use video when possible so you can retarget based on video view % and pre-qualify an audience

As you know, B2B sales cycles can be long, so you need to play the long game and mitigate the urge to go solely for short-term results. When you put in the proper time to educate and engage prospecting audiences with the right content, it will pay off over time.

Mistake #5: Not having an optimized e-mail nurture sequence and follow-up sales process

A big mistake we see companies make is spending thousands of dollars on ads to generate contacts, and then not following up with them in an e-mail sequence to provide further value and nurture them in their journey.

Some prospects might be in-market and ready to buy, many will not. So it’s your job as a company to continue to provide value to your prospects so that you can be top-of-mind for when they are ready to make that decision. With a good nurture sequence, you can also accelerate that buying decision greatly.

To avoid this mistake, do the following:

  1. Understand your customer journey and the time it takes for prospects to convert, how many stakeholders are involved, and what information they need before buying.
  2. Give value and educate above all else.
  3. Provide a different call-to-action that makes sense and is appropriate for how the user has engaged.
  4. Use SDRs wisely when they are most needed. Calling a prospect after they download an E-book is borderline harassment, get permission to call and you’ll have a much higher close rate.

Remember that once you have paid for contact information from LinkedIn, you want to keep your marketing in your owned channels as much as possible. Ads are always a great way to engage and re-engage audiences, but being that it’s pay-to-play, you want to use ad dollars wisely and make sure you have the right follow-ups in place to maximize each dollar you spend.

Mistake #6:  Having a strict lead generation mindset instead of Demand Generation mindset

A true demand generation strategy requires a mindset shift. You have to be able to shift away from a short-term lead generation mindset and shift into a longer-term, more holistic, mindset so that you can do REAL marketing.

What is marketing?

Let’s operate off this definition of marketing from American Marketing Association

"Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large."

To run effective marketing, you can’t obsess over getting contact information on first touchpoint. I get it, for most marketers you can’t just shift to a demand generation strategy and and stop prioritizing leads. It’s a tough sell to your boss, board, and other stakeholders. If you can get full buy-in, that’s great.

By the way, we can help with that discussion, book a call here: Visit First Spark Digital.

But the more you can shift into a demand generation mindset and start to put more ad dollars towards awareness, engagement, and signals of value beyond just clicks and leads - you’ll be able to see an overall lift in more qualified pipeline that will come to you, without you needing to pester them and waste valuable SDR time.

Marketing and sales teams need to understand that if you treat LinkedIn the way you would T.V. or print ads, or a blog post, you can generate better leads at volume over time. There will always be a place for lead generation ads, but to make LinkedIn ads a viable channel over time, you need to go much deeper.

To start executing on a demand generation strategy for LinkedIn ads now, do the following:

  1. Categorize all your existing content - from ebooks, blogs, videos, webinars, podcasts, etc, and match them to your ICP and different stages of your customer journey.
  2. Identify content gaps where you’ll want to produce content that you don’t have yet, and put a plan in motion to produce that content.
  3. Set up your content in ads and on landing pages to serve to your audiences at different stages. Some of this content may be sent in e-mail or other owned channels.
  4. Measure the right metrics: key accounts engaged, organic search lift, direct traffic lift, video watch time, qualified pipeline lift MoM, LinkedIn messages, profile visits, follows, etc. All of these are indicators outside of traditional lead generation metrics that can tell you if your campaigns are working.

Don’t forget, this strategy is ultimately intended to drive MORE bottom line revenue to your business. (So tell that to your boss and anyone who’s skeptical 😉)

Mistake #7: Having a weak value proposition

No amount of marketing can fix a bad product. But if you have a great product and your LinkedIn ads and other marketing is falling flat, it’s likely just a problem of not communicating your value proposition effectively.

B2B marketing can be just as emotional as B2C - marketing is simply communicating to other humans, at the end of the day. Your job as a marketer is to create and capture demand by closing the gap from Point A, where your prospect is now, to Point B, where they desire to be. Your product isn’t what’s important to them, the final destination is. If you can paint the picture showing how you can take them to Point B - how you take them there isn’t important. More than simply showcasing the benefits over the features of your product, you want to tap into the core desires that your ICP has when it comes to succeeding at their job or growing their business.

To help find your core value proposition to use for LinkedIn ads, do the following:

  1. Listen to your target ICP and find out the top problem and desire they have. These can be existing customers or prospects. Research, collect surveys, hang out in forums - anything to get to know them intimately.
  2. Identify the benefits of your product and what makes them valuable.
  3. Connect the value of your product benefits to the ICPs desire or problem (brainstorm, collaborate, refine, and get feedback as much as possible).
  4. Differentiate yourself in a clear and easy-to-understand way.
  5. Create ad content that demonstrates your expertise and adds value.
  6. Test different angles and messaging with your ads. Look at watch time, comments, clicks, engagements, and other signals that you’ve got your value propositions right.

Mistake #8: Not utilizing the variety of LinkedIn ad formats

LinkedIn has been adding many new features, ad placements, and formats as their platform has become more popular. There are advantages to every format and for a good demand and lead generation strategy, you want to test and utilize them all.

We see many companies pigeon-hole themselves into a single format and don’t experiment enough to see which ad type works for the specific message and their objective.

Here is a run down of each type and how you can use them for your LinkedIn ad campaigns:

Video ads

Video is great to use at any stage of the funnel, but we utilize video at the awareness / top-of-funnel level as a way to generate video views and initial engagement & education. You can retarget based of video view % (how much of the video someone watched) which can be an initial signal for interest.

Single Image & Carousel

These are static image ads with a single image or multiple images. Single image ads can be used for anything from e-book download ads or schedule demos. The versatile nature allows for quick iteration of creative which can be tested at every stage of the funnel.

Carousel ads have the additional benefit of being able to tell more of a story or highlight multiple value props within an ad. A carousel ad that flows together in a seamless message can convert better and also do a better job of educating upon impression, even if the user doesn’t click through.

Conversation ads

Conversation ads allow us to engage prospects in their inbox on LinkedIn, and one of the very cool features about this ad format is that we get to own their inbox for 30 days over our competitors.

We typically use these for remarketing and more middle and bottom of funnel activities. Conversation ads have the added advantage of being able to give multiple calls-to-action for our user - so if they aren’t ready to schedule a demo, they can still visit the website, download an e-book, or sign up for your newsletter instead.

Message ads

Message ads give you the ability to send a message to someone’s LinkedIn inbox, without the full conversation aspect.

These are great for getting your message in from a warm prospect who’s familiar with you, and giving them a single and very clear call-to-action.

Lead gen forms

Lead gen forms are LinkedIn’s native forms that auto-populate user information and create a more seamless experience for the user because they don’t need to navigate off LinkedIn to fill out the form.

There are upsides and downsides to using lead gen forms. The updside is that it’s frictionless and very easy to submit the form for the user, often leading to more leads and a cheaper CPL. The downside is that often times the lack of friction in the process leads to lower quality leads. You also don’t get the added advantage of having the prospect visit your website and learn more about your product and solutions.

Document ads

Document ads are a newer ad type that allow users to read and download documents right within LinkedIn. This a great way to provide educational content to users and give them the luxury of not needing to leave the LinkedIn platform.

Similar to lead gen forms, they reduce friction and can lead to a higher engagement and view rate. This ad format is great for top of funnel educational content as well as nurturing and building trust in the middle and bottom of funnel.

Follower ads

Follower ads prompt your prospects to follow your LinkedIn or Showcase Page on desktop or mobile devices. These ads are tailored to each member as they feature their profile photo next to your company’s logo, plus their first name and your company name in the ad copy.

This ad format can be great for a demand generation strategy and work well in the middle of funnel for warmer audiences familiar with your brand. This ad format is also great if you are actively producing organic content on your LinkedIn profiles where these new followers can see your posts without the need to pay for their attention.

Text ads

Text ads are a smaller ad placement that allow for a small image and a headline and description. These ads are great to stay top of mind with prospects and are less obtrusive in their LinkedIn feed.

The added benefit of the text ad format is that you can choose to pay-per-click, and since they generally have a lower click-through-rate, you’ll get free impressions to your prospects without paying any money for clicks. This is a great way to provide further ‘air cover’ for your demand generation strategy on LinkedIn while being more cost-effective.

Make sure to utilize and experiment with every ad format. Marketing is all about communication and relationships - keep testing to find the right mix of how to communicate with your prospect.

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