B2B Marketing
Lead Generation

5 Tips to Optimize LinkedIn Ads for B2B Lead Generation

Published by in B2B Marketing

According to a study from ReachForce last year, just 44% of of B2B marketers have generated leads from LinkedIn – which is surprising given that it’s a very good platform for lead gen, with 93% of B2B marketers stating it’s their most effective social media platform.

If you’re among the 56% of B2Bers who have not generated any leads from LinkedIn yet, you’re missing out on a sizable lead channel of nearly 350 million registered users (a third of which are based in the US).

I’ve compiled a list of tips and tricks to get you started with advertising your software on LinkedIn, and some ways to help you quickly figure out LinkedIn’s lead generation potential.

Before You Start…

Before jumping in, let’s quickly go over what kinds of ads LinkedIn offers. There are five main types: LinkedIn Display, Sponsored Content, LinkedIn Ads,Sponsored InMail, and LinkedIn Lead Accelerator.

LinkedIn Display Network

Since LinkedIn’s acquisition of Bizo last year, LinkedIn also just developed a brand new type of advertising: LinkedIn Display. LinkedIn’s display network allows you to create banner display ads on websites outside of LinkedIn, but use all the same targeting criteria that LinkedIn offers.

Sponsored Content

Sponsored content is similar to a status update ad on Facebook– a way to promote company updates in a user’s update feed on the homepage of LinkedIn. You can either:

  1. Sponsor company updates that you’ve previously posted on your company page, or;
  2. Create “direct sponsored content,” which allows you to craft status updates that will only appear in your targeted audience’s update stream (and not on your company page.)

Sponsored content ads are probably the best way to get engagement with your ads, but they are a bit more expensive than other ad models because they have a higher reach. You can bid to optimize your sponsored content on a CPM ( cost per thousand impressions) or CPC (cost per click) model.


LinkedIn Ads

The other type of advertising, traditional LinkedIn ads, appear on the side bar of LinkedIn’s homepage, groups, and user profiles. Unlike sponsored content, these ads are similar to a Google AdWords or search engine ad. They contain only a headline, a picture and a small amount of copy. You can also optimize these ads for CPM or CPC.


Sponsored InMail

For more qualified leads, you can use LinkedIn’s sponsored InMail to reach users in their LinkedIn message inbox. Sponsored InMail is priced based on an auction price for the specific audience you are targeting, but will widely vary depending on how many other advertisers are trying to reach those prospects. Sponsored InMail can be fully branded with your company’s creative, and it can either come from your company itself or from an individual employee at the company.


LinkedIn Lead Accelerator

Just announced in the past few weeks and also a result of LinkedIn’s Bizo acquisition is LinkedIn Lead Accelerator (LLA). LLA is a way of retargeting visitors to your site using the above ad formats to reach abandoned site visitors– either within LinkedIn or through display ads on third party sites. What makes LLA so exciting is that you can collect your website visitor demographic data based on their LinkedIn profile information. So now you can see what the most common job functions, industries, job seniority, company sizes, and more are for visitors to your website. This level of data is noticeably missing from other social media ad platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and even search engines like Google or Bing. Understanding LinkedIn demographic information about B2B website visitors could be a huge win for B2B marketers– only time will tell.

Here’s a diagram of how the various types of LinkedIn advertising maps to your marketing funnel:


With all the various ad types covered, here are my five tips to best optimize your spend on your LinkedIn lead gen campaigns.

1. Build a Buyer Persona

Don’t roll your eyes at me. I know everyone always says to build a buyer persona first about literally everything that involves marketing – but they say that for a reason. You have to know your customer to know how to sell to them. You’ll see that’s especially true when you start to build your target audience for your LinkedIn campaigns.

Building a buyer persona for LinkedIn is going to be a little different than building a buyer persona for, say, a print ad. LinkedIn gives you very specific targeting parameters, and you should have an understanding of all the criteria for your ideal target buyer before you start setting up a campaign.

You can target by multiple criteria including geographic location, industry, company size, company name(s), job title, department/job function, school(s) attended, fields of study, LinkedIn groups, skills, gender, and age. Location targeting can get as specific as a metro area.



With those specific demographics in mind, you can build a buyer persona that fits all those things.

2. Target! (Not Walmart)

Having said all that about buyer personas, I should also mention you should target like CRAZY. LinkedIn allows you to layer your targeting. Meaning, if you’re a membership management software company, for example, you could target your ads specifically to people in Virginia, who work in the non-profit industry, whose companies have 11-50 employees, and with titles of “president” or “member coordinator.”

LinkedIn allows you to build segmented campaigns to test different targeting criteria, and I recommend that you use that feature to figure out what works best for you. Segmented campaigns let you to run the same ad multiple times, but aimed at different demographics, so you can more or less multivariate test to find out which group converts the highest.

When starting out your campaign, it’s best to start out with fairly broad targeting, and, as you test different ads and demographics, slowly start honing in. For instance, as a membership management software company, you could start by targeting your ads only at people who work in the non-profit industry. You could test those same ads for people with the title “member coordinator” in a simultaneous campaign. Then you could learn whether industry or title is a better indicator of a quality lead, adjust your bids accordingly, and start to limit both of those campaigns so that they only show for companies with 11-50 employees. If you see success with that modification, you could eliminate any people who are interns or unpaid volunteers and increase your bid to better reach that narrower audience. And you can just keep on testing from there.

3. BYOT – Bring Your Own Tracking

Unlike Facebook or Google AdWords, LinkedIn does not have a built in conversion tracking code, so you will need to add tracking parameters to the end of your ad’s URL and/or have the ability to capture lead source on the landing page your ad points to. Remember that the tracking code should be different for every ad/targeting variation, that way you can tell which ad is doing best. If you go with the tagged links, I recommend standardizing the way you tag them. For example:




A conversion tracking code is really useful, not just because it tells you which ad is doing best, but because with it, you can figure out exactly which ads and campaigns your leads came from, how much each lead is costing you, and, ultimately, your ROI on LinkedIn advertising. It’s a no-brainer, really.

Without conversion tracking, you are limited to just the impression and click data available in LinkedIn’s analytics:


4. Make Great Content

Of course, you should always put great content into your ads, regardless of the channel. But LinkedIn makes sure that you put great content into your ads by taking your ads out of circulation if they have an engagement rate lower than .025%. An engagement is when someone clicks on your ad, and, in the case of sponsored updates, when someone likes or comments on the ad content. But .025% is such a low engagement rate that you really shouldn’t have to worry about it at all if you use remotely good content.

That said, what makes for great content in a LinkedIn ad?

For a sidebar ad, since you only have three areas you can work with and a limited amount of characters, there’s only so much you can do:

  • Make sure your picture really stands out. It’s a tiny photo, so the content of the picture is actually less important than the colors. LinkedIn works with bright blue, gray and white space a lot. In order to make your picture stand out, try to use a picture where the colors are mainly red-toned – orange, pink, maybe a very orangey-yellow are all good options. And don’t let there be any white space on the edges of your picture – you only have so much space. Maximize it.

These are good ad photos – although two of them have more white space than might be desired.


These ad photos don’t stand out as much as they should.

  • You only get 25 characters for your headline so make them count (i.e. shamelessly go for the click-bait.) If you’re advertising to those nonprofit people, you could say “Free 30-Day Donor Mgmt” or “Save 25% on a Member DB”. Words and phrases like “free,” “save,” and “bonus” are very eye-catching. For more words and phrases to help turn your copy into click-bait, check out this comprehensive list. Also try numbers in your headline help your ad stand out, and even mention the specific types of people you’re targeting. For example, “Attention Member Coordinators!”
  • For the rest of the copy, again, you get 75 characters and you need to make them count. You need to give a decent idea of what you do, and urge them with a strong call to action. One of the above ads is a good example: “Fraud is the #1 reason for chargebacks.  Dramatically reduce fraud… fast.” The ad’s grammar is a little off, but I’ve fixed it up here, so you can see that, with a little editing, this is quite good copy. It tells you what the company does, why it does it and how it does it. They made two mistakes which you should not repeat, though: they didn’t say who they were, and the grammar, of course.

Sponsored content is a whole different beast. You can promote multiple kinds of content, such as a video, an article, or an image. With the ad copy, again, you just want to go for something that makes people want to click. It’s important not to sound sales-y when showing up in the update feed, so you need to strike a careful balance between a click-bait sales pitch and a conversation-engaging question. (While engaging conversation can be worthwhile for brand awareness, if your goal is ultimately to generate leads, you want people clicking on your ad, not just commenting on it.)

Our online ads strategist at LinkedIn recommends a few things for sponsored content:

  • Use a “‘hook’ within the first 35 characters of your post to engage the mobile users. (Ads will show up differently depending on the device the user is using).
  • Keep your character count under 140.
  • Use images and shareable visuals to stand out.
  • Make sure you have a call to action! (This goes for all ads, of course.)

HubSpot Update

You can also use sponsored content to link directly to a lead generating landing page so people can sign up for a free trial, a demo, download a white paper or eBook, etc. We’ve found sponsored content to be more effective for lead gen than the sidebar ads because you get more copy to work with and more exposure and clicks when your ads show up in people’s feeds.

Domo Update

5. Use a Relevant Landing Page

Since we’re talking about lead gen, let’s assume that you are going to link your ads directly to a lead generating landing page. So make sure that you don’t launch an ad campaign in LinkedIn until you have a landing page that matches your offer. 98% of online ads underperform because their landing pages are not optimized. You can find boatloads of helpful online articles to help you create the perfect landing page, but I’m going to boil it all down to two tips:

1. KISS – Keep it simple, stupid.

This means: don’t blast your visitor with four paragraphs of text and eight pictures. Pick one picture (preferably a picture of a trustworthy-looking human being), and one simple call to action. If you have a form, keep it short and sweet. Everything about your landing page should scream “Trustworthy and no commitment necessary!”

2. Message Match.

There is nothing worse than clicking on an ad that says “Free Stuff,” and then landing on a page that says, “Buy These Shoes.” Chances are, unless those shoes are real Jimmy Choos on sale for $20, no one is going to stay on that landing page and buy those shoes. If your ad says “Free Stuff,” your landing page should say, “Free Stuff.” And if you’re trying to sell $20 genuine Jimmys, just advertise them that way. You’ll probably sell out in an hour. There’s no need to lie on that one.

That’s my list. What kinds of tricks have you learned in order to optimize your B2B LinkedIn ads?

Looking for Lead Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Lead Management software solutions.

About the Author

Cara Wood

Cara Wood

Cara Wood is a marketing associate at Capterra and a graduate of Mary Washington! When she's not hard at work at Capterra, she can be found horse-back riding, reading and just generally having a good time at life.



Comment by Narendra Reddy on

Great article, thanks for sharing these amazing tips for us. Linkedin is the best platform for b2b business, I got a lot of information on this article really it will help me a lot. Keep on updating for latest trend topic on lead generation.

Comment by Taylor Cook on

Thanks for the great article, Cara!

We’re preparing a LinkedIn campaign aimed at professional businesswomen at the moment and this is a really useful guide. Appreciate your work!

Taylor Cook
Avery Verse Bag Co

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