How agencies can use LinkedIn ads to grow their businesses (featuring Anthony Blatner)

Tips to find and engage with prospects on the largest B2B social networking platform
Anthony Blatner - LinkedIn advertising

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In this conversation, Anthony Blatner of Modern Media explains how agencies can use advertising on LinkedIn to grow their businesses. Anthony offers practical tips on how agencies should think about LinkedIn advertising from the perspective of building a pipeline of prospects and increasing revenue.

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Transcript

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CHIP: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Chats with Chip. I’m your host, Chip Griffin. And my guest today is Anthony Blatner. He is the founder of Modern Media. Welcome to the show, Anthony.

ANTHONY: Hey, Chip. Thanks for having me.

CHIP: It is great to have you here. And I guess before we get started, why don’t you share a little bit about yourself and modern media?

ANTHONY: Sure. So me in modern media, we specialize in LinkedIn advertising and b2b lead generation. Through the years, we’ve not in my career, I’ve done a whole lot of different marketing. And I kind of come at it from the software and tech world, where I got started helping build software and build apps. And naturally seem that those apps after you launched it, they needed marketing, so we got pulled into that direction afterwards. I can talk more about a lot more about that, but that’s what got me into the marketing world and then doing various forms of marketing. With my background, it always ended up being b2b and Like, more enterprise tech, so just find me on LinkedIn over and over again with the best platform for a lot of projects.

The last few years, we’ve solely focused on LinkedIn advertising.

CHIP: And so LinkedIn obviously, I think most listeners to this show will have accounts on LinkedIn. Some of them probably use it quite actively, some of them probably set it up and forgot about it. Maybe they’ve maybe this is even a good reminder to go back and at least update your personal information on it if you haven’t, at least done that recently. But, you know, how should if I’m an agency leader, how should I be thinking about LinkedIn? For my business? I mean, is it something that could help me grow my business?

ANTHONY: I yeah, yeah. So so I’m, yeah, I’m sure most people have an organ account. And if you are the average person you probably haven’t used at a time. But LinkedIn is becoming even more popular, especially right now because we’re all kind of forced online with all quarantines and COVID right now. activity on LinkedIn is through the roof. Our rep gave us a graphic that’s like over 2,000%, which is, you know, well, yeah,

CHIP: I can sense just by looking at my own account and the feed that there is a lot more activity. But that’s, that’s an interesting statistic.

ANTHONY: Yeah. So so we can dive into that, like ad performance is really improved, because it’s an auction. So Facebook is for the more eyeballs less, more cheaper the ad cost is, but for the most part, what I tell a lot of people who are like just kind of getting started is, you know, start using LinkedIn from the organic side of just like updating everything and starting your activity on there and connecting with people to the organic side. The thing, I think think about is a lot of times even what I know what I noticed, what I do is like when I’m researching somebody else, you might search for them and their company, and probably the first thing you’re gonna land on is like their LinkedIn profile. So as people are doing research, whether it’s your potential clients researching you, or as you’re hiring and stuff like that people are gonna be researching you So, I definitely found like, you know, when you search for somebody, maybe their Twitter profile shows up, maybe their company page shows up. But you get a lot more info about somebody by looking at their LinkedIn profile, their work history, kind of where they came from, where they live, and then into their activity on LinkedIn. So I’ve noticed I do a lot of my research there and like talking to like, various of the salespeople in our clients, like people are just doing the research there. That’s a good high quality profile. So I always say step one is get dressed up to go to work. These days, we’re all work from home. So getting dressed up means filling out your LinkedIn profile, making sure it looks up to date. People do judge a book by its cover when when that’s all the information that you have about somebody is a LinkedIn profile. So now make it clickable, make it high quality. Make sure it’s all filled out.

CHIP: Right, right. Not you do have to make sure you at least get the basics but I, as you say, I think it’s a great tool for doing research and I very rarely go into a meeting without checking Have someone’s LinkedIn profile to learn about them. If I’m, if I’m doing research on a company, I’ll always look for their executives on LinkedIn, things like that. Because you, you can learn so much about a business or an individual just by looking at their profile.

ANTHONY: Right? Exactly. Like what they put on their website is one thing and like, you know, what somebody was on the website is very, they create that experience, but will you see what from them on LinkedIn, along with their connections and their activity? I feel like you get a much more higher fidelity community picture of that.

CHIP: Right? Well, I also find that you know, LinkedIn that the timeline aspect of it, as far as you know, your own career history, that can help you too, because oftentimes, when you look at someone’s biography or the about page on a website, it doesn’t, it doesn’t give you that same flavor of longevity that you get from looking at a LinkedIn profile. Exactly. So now obviously, your specialty as I understand it, is on the advertising side of LinkedIn, right. So I’m sure you’re very good at the, you know, the filling it out and how you use it to interact but let’s talk about the advertising side. Because I think that’s Something that a lot of folks haven’t given as much thought to it, you know, certainly compared to Facebook or Twitter or Google ads, or those kinds of things where I think people are more used to buying advertising. But you know, there is an opportunity on LinkedIn. I know me personally, I’ve I’ve dabbled in it, I would say in the past, with my various companies, but you know, let’s talk about, you know, what is the state of LinkedIn advertising today? How does it stack up against the other platforms?

ANTHONY: Yeah, so LinkedIn, LinkedIn ads, I’ll give you I’ll give you all the comparisons on LinkedIn, if you ever logged into LinkedIn ads. So say you’re an advertiser, maybe you advertise on Google and Facebook. Those are very mature and advanced platforms. If you log in on LinkedIn, you’re going to feel like you’re in Facebook 10 years ago.

CHIP: kind of expect that going into it. So I saw lap hair when I log in.

ANTHONY: It works wonders.

ANTHONY: I’m getting into LinkedIn. The platform is more basic than like Facebook and Google buts You know, those platforms heavily rely on like AI and the algorithms behind it. What I always say to people is you don’t, you don’t need much AI when you have the perfect targeting. So on Facebook, we usually give it and I have done a large amount of Facebook advertising in my career. So I can help show some comparisons. On Facebook, you usually give like a big audience and you let the AI algorithm go find Who’s most likely to convert, Who’s most likely to purchase, you have to give that big audience for the algorithm to find those people. But on LinkedIn, you have the perfect targeting of job titles, the company size and company industry they want to go after. So there’s very little that even needs to be left up to the algorithm. LinkedIn obviously is a much smaller platform doesn’t have nearly as much data points as as Facebook does. So there is not as much AI available to to rely on for optimization. But you know that right out of the gates, everyone who’s gonna be seeing your ad is going to be in that audience. So LinkedIn, we use it largely for lead generation and LinkedIn. Lead quality is just awesome. So I never forget, like the first account that really kind of cemented this for me. So we had been doing. We’ve done a lot of different types of marketing over the years. And there was one account that we were auditing a client we were bringing on, and they were running the traditional Facebook and Google ads. They are a big data platform, it’s a pretty expensive product. So you need to be a bigger company to have the need for it and to be able to afford it. They were running the Facebook and Google ads, it’s just finding a lot of people on Google we’re searching for a lot of times that people are searching for information like researching data science or best practices, not necessarily like looking to buy this product. So they’re getting a lot of students looking for research or people looking for jobs. And like a lot of the account they were following best practices for like, keywords and like negatives and all stuff like that, but Just finding a lot of those leads were still getting through. And then on the Facebook side of things was people were signing up. But it was more like people who are clicking through because it was an attractive picture or appealing video that kind of grabbed the attention. But a lot of these people was the average, maybe they weren’t professional, but average consumer, for the most part that were just signing up because I thought it was interesting. And when we took him over to LinkedIn, we targeted data science people CTO CIOs at larger tech companies, and just right out the gates, immediately, their sales team was like, these leads are perfect. This is amazing. Give us more of these. Because beforehand, they were they were generating a lot of leads, but as they were calling them it was taking a long time to call and reach out to all these people. And all the conversations were just not qualified not able to buy stuff like that. So that one was just like a night and day picture of like, you know what, if you are a if you need to target a niche audience, a niche decision maker, then LinkedIn is likely the place for you.

CHIP: Right? Well and you know, I remember The old days and I’m sure some listeners are as old as I am and have have been around pre World Wide Web. But I do remember back. Gosh, it was my first PR agency that I worked for back in, I guess was probably 93 or 94. And we had a reporter call and asked a question about something that was going on on the internet. And the senior vice president of the agency came to me and said, you’re kind of a computer geek, can you explain this internet thing to me? And and this was this was, you know, before the, you know, the World Wide Web even became popular, this was actually before it was an email list. That was the topic of that particular article. But in any case, back in the day, we were always interested in getting as highly targeted a list as we could for direct mail, because that was, you know, one of the techniques that you would often use. So I think people back then would have killed for the level of granularity that you can get with LinkedIn. Not to mention the accuracy, right, because when you would buy from a direct mail list vendor, it was out of date. It was a lot of them. The things we’re guesstimates as far as company size or those kinds of things mean on LinkedIn, you have real world real time data that you can tap into.

ANTHONY: Yeah. LinkedIn is always like one of the first places people update when they get a new job or a promotion. Of course you don’t they want to, they want to share that with their network. And, you know, they want to show off like, Hey, I got my promotion, I got this promotion, I got heard of this company. Or maybe they’re starting a company, and they want to post it on there. So LinkedIn. Yeah, the data is very up to date.

CHIP: Yep. So now as you look at LinkedIn ads, you know, what kind of ads tend to work best? As far as lead generation? Are they? Are they ones where it’s specifically targeted at, hey, talk to us about our product and serve product or service or are they ones where it’s, you know, here’s an ebook or some sort of informational educational type piece. Let me talk to me a little bit about you know, what you’re seeing as far as effective tactics.

ANTHONY: Yeah. So most of our most of our campaigns, what we see from most people Depends on the brand. Most companies, unless you’re a major brand, this is probably the first time that there that this prospect is seeing your company, your name and your logo. So it is it is usually a top of funnel strategy of we’re doing lead generation to be able to sign up or interested in starting the conversation. So most of our campaigns are lead magnet focused, which is, which is Yeah, offering some kind of guide or asset of value that the prospect is going to be interested in. That gives them a reason to sign up, it gets them interested. This is again, this is probably the first time that they see your brand name, your name, your company name, so they don’t really have much of a reason to trust you. So you have to start with focusing on on them their problems and the solutions that you can offer them. That’s what gets them interested. So most of our campaigns are focused around the lead magnet, PDF and guided checklist. People are signing up for that, that starts a conversation with them and then it’s important to you know, then, nurture your leads over time of email, recharge We can call out to them and then get a conversation from there.

CHIP: And I’m sure it varies quite a bit depending on who you’re targeting and what you’re offering. But you know, what kind of guidance would you give folks who are looking at, you know, what’s the average cost per lead? You know, what, what, you know, what do you what would you have to be budgeting or thinking about at least before you decided to get into LinkedIn ads?

ANTHONY: Yeah, good question. As LinkedIn is a more expensive channel than then typically like a Facebook. On Facebook, it you’ll usually see, you know, maybe $1 or $2 per click, or audiences. And on LinkedIn, LinkedIn has set the floor for their ads to be a about a $4 50 CPC in the US. So that’s when you’re when you’re starting at like $1, maybe on Facebook, and you’re up to starting at 450 on LinkedIn, as a big jump. So what we see on LinkedIn is visit more expensive platform and resulting cost per lead. We’re usually getting is usually between 30 and 60 bucks per lead. So, you know, usually when I’m talking to somebody, they might be noticing, oh, I’m getting $5 leads on Facebook, but you need to go back and look at your data and see how many of the leads are good qualified leads, right for your company. And that’s that kind of then helps you see your conversion, no sudden LinkedIn, nearly all the leads that you’re gonna be signing up as long as your target rate should be in your target market there. So costs are generally a lot higher on LinkedIn, but your lead quality is usually a lot higher.

CHIP: So if I’m a PR marketing or digital agency, I’m thinking about using LinkedIn advertising to grow my business. So not necessarily directly on behalf of my clients, but to generate more leads for myself. How should I be thinking about it? What have you seen that’s working for agencies or similar types of businesses?

ANTHONY: Yeah, so we use a similar approach for ourselves. We have put together a few different pieces of content.

ANTHONY: I think my favorite ones are

ANTHONY: We have a foundational modern guide to lead generation, which seems to convert very well. And then we have a swipe file for all the, what we did was we took the Inc 5000 fastest growing companies, we broke it down by industry and then took the top companies there, and then went to go look at all those companies and found all their LinkedIn ads. So we made a giant swipe file for all like the LinkedIn ads to the top of the fastest growing companies. They’re useful for like inspiration if you’re looking to go plan out some ads. And then we have a checklist for getting started with LinkedIn advertising. So we run those three lead magnets for ourselves, we get a lot of people signing up or interested in those. There’s a lot to like the positioning of your lead magnet like lead magnet strategy. Like I said, most most people that are advertising unless you’re a major brand, this is probably the first time someone’s hearing about you. So you want to so you want to focus the topic and title of your lead magnet on on their problems in like sushi, you can offer that. So usually it’s focused on something that they might be interested in. So it’s not it’s not like a product catalog, but it’s, it’s it is that checklist for getting started with something. So people were signing up to get our LinkedIn ads checklist, you know, that they they’re interested in, I guess our thinking that’s so smooth, smooth transition into the follow up afterwards of you know Julie’s sending me an email with more information, learn more here and then having sales call out to those leads to offer them to set up discovery call center free consultation. And

CHIP: and, you know, how important is it to be creating lots of different variations doing a lot of a b testing, I mean, obviously, with with some of the other platforms, that’s really important with some, like Facebook, a lot of it’s handled by AI, so you don’t necessarily have to do quite as many. But you know, how does LinkedIn work in that regard? Do you have to create a lot of variety.

ANTHONY: Um, so when we whenever we launch new campaigns, so think about an average client campaign. Wherever wants to start Get Paid, we always do have a split test running for that. And my thought on that, what you just asked is, it kind of depends on how mature the company is and how sure they are of their angles and their offers that they’re gonna be making. for newer companies, we do tend to split test more effectively lead magnets where they might say, Oh, we you’ve seen these three or four perform pretty well, but we’re not sure which is the best. Maybe we’d run all three or four. For the most part, we’re using split testing to see if they’re, if they’re very sure, or our data around their top performer. Maybe we’ll just do one but for the most part, we’re split testing two lead magnets. And kind of the broader structure of a typical campaign. Most most companies have maybe more than one customer segments. So often we are split testing customer segments, and then we’re split testing targeting to those customer segments. What that usually looks like is what testing job title targeting versus maybe function and seniority targeting, or split testing certain types of skills that you might target within there in different groupings of those skills. Maybe different industries are going to target our company sizes. But split test customer segments split test two different types of targeting towards customer segments and then split test two different offers. So your lead magnets to those audiences and then of course will test your ads that are new.

CHIP: And you know, we talked a little bit earlier about how the pandemic and quarantine and all that has changed LinkedIn and more people are going to the site, how have you seen it impact advertising? Has it impacted click through rates? Has it impacted pricing? What what changes have you seen in the last couple of months in that regard?

ANTHONY: Yes, the biggest thing first of all is activity. Um, so there’s a lot more traffic available on the platform right now. When you go to size up your you’re going to start your campaign LinkedIn is going to tell you just like Facebook, estimated number of people in the audience, we’ve seen those numbers have increased as far as like, if there was not anything that might have been rather small, we’ve seen those numbers have slowly increased a little bit. So we usually like to have a minimum of like 30,000 people in a targetable audience to run a campaign to make sure you have enough eyeballs. So first of all, as we’ve seen a lot of traffic is is just the pure number of people coming through the funnel lead volume. And then also, of course, ad costs have improved, because it is an auction similar to Facebook that the more eyeballs that are available, and a number of big companies have pulled back their ads, Ben, so there’s less, less, less people advertising. So that means ad costs are at like a like the all time best that we’ve seen in the last few years. Like I mentioned, LinkedIn has a floor of about 450 in the US per click. We found that we can bid pretty much down to that floor and we’ll be getting we’ll be spending our budget

CHIP: And what about the quality of the leads that you’re generating? Has that shifted at all? You know, I know one of the things that we’ve seen in some other media is that, you know, the different people are interacting with some of these platforms that might otherwise so senior executives are spending more time on LinkedIn than they might have been three or four months ago when they were stuck in meetings all day. Is that is that impacting the quality of leaders? It really kind of that holding steady?

ANTHONY: Yeah, good question. Um, I’d say that’s held steady, because who’s out who’s always good lead quality and hasn’t decreased? So I’d say that’s, that’s held steady.

CHIP: Mm hmm. And so if I’m, if I’m thinking now about getting into LinkedIn advertising to help grow my agency, or regrow my agency, depending on how I’ve fared so far during quarantine, you know, what, what should I be thinking about? First? It should I first be thinking about that lead magnet, you know, what do I need to be thinking about in terms of overall budget? I mean, can I can I get in with just a few hundred bucks a month and see what happens? Do I need to, you know, have a larger amount to really be able to test it, you know, What what are the key things you would advise me to think about as an agency leader?

ANTHONY: Yeah, so as an agency leader, I’d say first of all, is, number one, make sure your niche is on LinkedIn. And I am always surprised sometimes when somebody gives me a very, very narrow niche, how many people I am able to find. But that said, sometimes people will say, Oh, I need these very specific people with these very specific skills, and there might not be that many out there. So number one, make sure your niche is on LinkedIn. If you’re a digital agency, and you’re serving any kind of common industry, then they probably are. So number one, get on there, make sure your audience is available. Number two is think about what it is that you can offer them. Think about what your lead magnet is going to be some kind of getting started guide, some kind of checklist, maybe a webinar, and then as far as budget. So if you’re running an agency you’re probably pretty familiar with advertising on LinkedIn is a self serve advertising platform. You can take the budget to wherever you want. It’s minimum $10 per day, minimum, CPC is about 450.

ANTHONY: So we’re gonna play with

ANTHONY: that when we run a client campaign, you know, just so that we have enough data get full performance out of it. You said the minimum is 3000 a month.

CHIP: And I mean, out of curiosity, what took you to LinkedIn is the place to focus on versus I mean, there’s obviously, you know, tons of things in the digital advertising space that you could focus on. So what, what was it that really attracted you to LinkedIn?

ANTHONY: Yeah, so it’s not the probably the more backstory is I originally started so I kind of come at it from the b2b. I’ve been in the b2b tech world for a while. I think just that industry lends itself more to a platform like LinkedIn versus, say, Facebook. My background is I got started by doing e commerce consulting for IBM, where I go out to big, big companies, help them build the e commerce stores. And then I started a mobile app development agency where we’re building mobile apps for different whole variety of different companies. And I think just being in the tech world, and like largely in the b2b space, most of those target audiences were better found on LinkedIn versus like a Facebook, like that big data platform that I mentioned. You know, like the data scientist, sure they might have been on Facebook and wanted to kind of find like a needle in the haystack there. Whereas on LinkedIn, you can target just those people and not worry about getting all these other leads and people signing up and not worry about wasting the time trying to call them all. So LinkedIn, it’s all about the lead quality there and you know, if you have an offer that you’re looking to just target all business owners then then Facebook might be a better channel for you, because you can target that on Facebook, but when as you are niche into if you wanted business owners real estate, then then you’re starting to get more niche. If you wanted business owners for HR companies or or accounting firms then you’re getting more niche

ANTHONY: That’s when you want to use a platform like LinkedIn.

CHIP: Right? And I would imagine, too, if you have, if you know, the particular titles, you know, you’re trying to reach CMOS or VPS, or something like that. LinkedIn really lets you get in with that granularity much better than a Facebook where you can. Facebook lets you generally target by industry or by small business owners, things like that, but doesn’t really give you that same title precision that Lincoln would give you. Right?

ANTHONY: Exactly. So kind of advice to agencies is like if you’re at your client accounts are needing to target that niche decision maker then, I’ve talked a lot of Facebook agencies that are advertising, maybe the b2b tech companies or like niche companies on Facebook, but it’s really like finding a needle in the haystack at that point. You have to like sift through a whole lot of leads to find the good ones. If you’re working on it to have account, I’d say check out LinkedIn and the targeting options there and see if that’s gonna be a better option for you, your client.

CHIP: And if you were to pull out your crystal ball look into the future. And we know how good crystal balls are right now we were joking before we started recording here that neither one of us had had accurately predicted the way 2020 would go as far as a pandemic and lockdown and all that. But if you were to look into your crystal ball and and look ahead to the future of LinkedIn advertising, you know, how do you see that evolving over time? Which, you know, what are your thoughts on that?

ANTHONY: Yeah, that’s a good question. So we we have seen Facebook or LinkedIn does tend to follow Facebook a lot of ways. Facebook is a more mature, more advanced platform of people on it. We’ve seen so many different types of ad units and functionality on Facebook. LinkedIn has taken a lot of steps in that similar direction. So for example, you know, Facebook has Facebook Lives. LinkedIn now has LinkedIn lives, Facebook groups, Facebook events, LinkedIn just released events. Some of these rights on event like oh, it’s just now being released, but LinkedIn events have just been released in the last few months. So you can now create events Around, say webinars or product launches or something like that. And what else just recently, holes just came out? a new type of ad unit just came out, which is called sponsored messaging. These these are more like a chatbot like experience in a messaging ad unit. Leads always have like the sponsored in mail, which is kind of like an ad that’s sent as a message to your prospect. Right? Well, I get it, I get a ton of that.

CHIP: A lot of it not very good to be honest with you. If

ANTHONY: you’ve ever logged into LinkedIn, you bet you’re probably your third one down is probably a sponsored email right now, even if you only have a couple messages. Yeah, you probably have one now. But these new sponsored messaging ones are now more of a chat like experience where you can start the ad by offering a few different options where somebody can select you know, maybe you have a few different offers or it’s kind of a Choose Your Own Adventure like experience and ad unit. So those, those are pretty new. So, you know, things that I’m excited for coming up in the future is going to be more more around video on LinkedIn, and then getting add functionality around a lot of these new features that have been released, say, events and holes and stuff like that.

CHIP: Hmm. Well, great. This has been extremely helpful. And I’m sure that listeners have gotten a lot of little nuggets that they can apply to their own businesses, their own agencies. But if someone wants to find out more about you, Anthony, your modern media, where should they go?

ANTHONY: So you can find me on LinkedIn. I think I’m the only Anthony bloatware on there. Looking on there, send me a send me a note. And then you can reach me at Anthony at modern media.io is my email and our website is modern media.io. If you’re looking to learn more about LinkedIn advertising in general, or the elite types of lead generation funnels that we’re doing, we have a number of blog posts that if LinkedIn ads, best practices and some walkthroughs about how some of these funnels work. So feel free to go check those out. And then actually, questions.

CHIP: Right well thank you again. My guest today has been Anthony Blatner, the founder of Modern Media.