How to create and test effective LinkedIn Ads with AJ Wilcox

How can you make sure every penny you spend on LinkedIn Ads is worth it? We caught up with AJ Wilcox to find out.

You'll learn

  • Why companies should try LinkedIn Ads
  • His A.M.O framework for creating an effective LinkedIn Ads campaign
  • How LinkedIn Ads is different from Google Ads & Facebook Ads
  • How to analyze and optimize your LinkedIn campaigns

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Anna Shutko:

Hi, everyone and welcome to another episode of The Marketing Analytics Show, the podcast that helps you get better at marketing analytics. I’m your host, Anna Shutko, and joining me today is AJ Wilcox, a LinkedIn Ads pro.
AJ is the founder of, a LinkedIn Ads focused agency. He’s also an official LinkedIn partner and a host of the LinkedIn Ads Show podcast.
In this opposite, we’ll discuss if a company should try LinkedIn Ads, how LinkedIn Ads is different from Google Ads and Facebook Ads. Aj’s AMO framework for creating an effective LinkedIn Ads campaign. And finally, you’ll get some tips on how to optimize your LinkedIn Ads campaigns. I hope you’ll enjoy this episode.

Welcome to the marketing analytics show and thanks for joining us today, AJ.

AJ Wilcox:

So excited to be here. Thanks so much for the invite.

Anna Shutko:

Awesome. And I’m really happy to have you here. Let’s jump right in. So what kind of companies should try LinkedIn Ads in your opinion, AJ?

AJ Wilcox:

Two things that you need to know about LinkedIn Ads before even considering them. The first is that the targeting is amazing around business professionals. We can target by job title and seniority and department and company size and industry. And it is perfect for large, especially business to business targeting. It’s amazing for that.

The big downside though, that most of you probably know, the cost is extremely high when you compare it to other channels. So it’s usually about three to five times more expensive than Facebook. And so initially as I’m thinking, okay, who should be using this? Number one, who’s going to get value out of really good targeting around businesses? It’s usually business to business, who’s solving a very specific type of pain point or a specific type of person. And then you’ve also got to have a high enough lifetime value or a deal size that paying eight to $11 per click to LinkedIn is still going to allow you to get a return on your investment.

So what we’ve found is if you have a lifetime value that’s 10, $15,000 or more, then LinkedIn Ads are quite honestly a total no-brainer. You’ll probably end up paying one to $4,000 to acquire a customer. And then when you go on to make 15, there’s plenty of room there to pay your marketing team and sales commissions and all that. We’ve also found it to work extremely well with things like recruiting, white-collar recruiting, and even MBA programs recruiting people because the targeting around education is quite good.

Anna Shutko:

Yeah. In fact, I do agree that LinkedIn Ads is an expensive platform and I think you’ve just perfectly outlined what it is and who it is for. Now, if we compare LinkedIn Ads to platforms like Facebook Ads or Google Ads, what are the pros and cons of LinkedIn Ads as a platform in your opinion, AJ?

AJ Wilcox:

Yeah. So it’s really helpful to compare LinkedIn to Facebook because both of them are social targeting where the targeting is quite good.

On LinkedIn, You know you’re going to pay three to five times more per click, and so I think of it like a sniper rifle. And if you’ll go with me on this metaphor here, each sniper rifle bullet is really expensive and you know it’s going to land exactly where you want it to. So that’s really LinkedIn, fewer shots, a lot more targeted, and a lot more expensive. And so you’d use it for the highest value type of customer, the highest value type of lead.

And then you have Facebook where on the B to C side, the targeting is extremely good, but on B2B, it’s quite challenging, because as soon as you’ve used custom audience, email targeting lookalikes and retargeting, those three things are amazing. But then when you get past that, you start getting really muddy into things like just general business interests. And then your sales team is going to start saying, Whoa, these leads aren’t very good quality and we have to throw out 80% of them in order to keep the cream of the crop, which is the 20%.

And so I think of Facebook as like a shotgun approach. Each shotgun shell doesn’t cost very much and you can shoot lots of them and they’re going to spray all over the target. So it’s a really good analogy to think about both of those two platforms. I suggest Facebook for most advertisers. Even as a big B2B company, you’ll still get a lot of value out of using custom audiences, the retargeting, especially the retargeting and the lookalikes. LinkedIn, I would say, if you fit those customer criteria, you have a high lifetime value and a really specific persona in mind. It’s probably going to be a really good fit but you’ve got to be the right kind of company.

Anna Shutko:

Yeah, I do love the weapon analogy there. I’m definitely going to be using this one if I’m to explain how LinkedIn Ads versus Facebook Ads works to somebody else. Let’s talk about the process now. So say you have a new client called Supermetrics and you’re about to set up your LinkedIn Ads campaigns. Could you please tell us how you’re going to do it?

AJ Wilcox:

So, I want to understand three things about any new company. And I use the acronym, also keeping with the guns. Sorry, I’m not a big gun person, but all of my analogies have to do with guns. It’s AMO, A-M-O, and it stands for your audience, your message, and your offer. So your audience is who it is that you’re targeting. So we’ll jump in to understand that here in a moment. The message is what is the prospect going to see? What ad format are you using, which imagery or video and ad copy are they going to see? It’s your first impression. And then the, O, the most important is your offer. What is it that you’re going to offer to these people to get their attention?

This is one thing that is really important for LinkedIn Ads that most people don’t really think when they try it out for the first time, is you’re showing your ad to people. It’s not like search with Google where they came looking for you. You’re showing it to people who probably feel your pain point, but they’re not actively looking for you. They’re not in the sales cycle yet. And so you have to get their attention and provide value first. So if you put up an ad that just says, click here to buy something or click here to talk to our sales rep, no one’s going to click that ad, it’s just going to get a poor relevancy score and LinkedIn’s going to stop showing it.

So generally 95% of the time, you’ve got to start with something of value where it’s gated content. You’ll get at least a first name, last name, and email address out of it. So that’s our AMO framework here. And I’m going to turn this over to you. I think I have a good idea because I know Supermetrics quite well, but let me know, who is your audience? Who is the ideal type of target for you on LinkedIn Ads?

Anna Shutko:

Yes. So, our audience is quite big, but if we roughly subdivide it into two groups, there would be 50% agency markers and 50% in house markers. And then, of course, these can be further subdivided by products or there can be, for example, people using spreadsheets or there could be these, how we call them, marketing MacGyvers who are very data-savvy and they would love to use a more comprehensive tool, for example, a BI tool or data analytics tool to have their reporting setup there.

AJ Wilcox:

So I’m imagining that there are two different personas here. You have the advertising persona, and it probably goes all the way from individual contributor to executive, I’m guessing maybe depending on company size. And then you’ve also got analytics professionals who happen to work with the marketing team but are more of the data guys and gal. And this is great because LinkedIn can segment by whether you are in-house or agency. It can segment by company size. So you could say, Hey, a CMO at a 10 person company might be the one dealing with how we get data for our own reporting. But the CMO at a 5,000 person organization, that’s far beneath them, would never pay attention. So we can segment that.

We can segment by skill and seniority. So we could say, if you have Google Ads or Google Analytics or Facebook Ads skills with an individual contributor, which LinkedIn calls senior seniority or maybe manager director, then we can target you. We could do the same thing if you have a skill around Tableau or Alteryx or NIME, SQL at a marketing agency, then those could be good shots too. So I think we have a lot of possibilities to hit your exact right customer. So that’s our A in AMO, our audience. The M the message, really, we’re going to figure this out later. It’s whatever the offer is kind of dictates what we say.

So now let’s jump to the offer portion, the most important. So like we mentioned before, we can’t really go right for the kill and say, Hey, here’s Supermetrics, this is what it can do, get the data today. Instead, we have to lead them in with something that’s of value first. A lot of times in B2B, we see this like, join this free webinar or download this free checklist or cheat sheet or guide, something like that. Do you have anything currently or are you thinking about developing something that would be really good to offer these people?

Anna Shutko:

Yes. Recently, my colleague has written an ebook about marketing data warehousing, what it is and who would benefit from it best. That can be a good LinkedIn Ads asset don’t you think?

AJ Wilcox:

Yeah, totally. And the thing about it is, we just never know how good an offer is until we test it. Because some of our best offers we’ll see getting 35% or higher conversion rates. And we might release something that we think is really valuable, but if it gets a 10% or lower conversion rate, then we go, Oh, either we screwed up the message or we screwed up the offer. Sorry, either we screwed up the message or we screwed up the audience, which it’s not likely we screwed up the audience or the offer just isn’t interesting. And most of the time we find that it’s like, if you find what the pain point of your audience is, what’s keeping them up at night or what they’re dying to know, and you give something to them, it’s probably going to convert really high.

But if you say, Oh, we think that data warehousing is really important to them and no one clicks and no one converts, you might just be early and say, okay, well, data warehousing, they’re going to care about it later, but at least for right now, they don’t. And so let’s try another offer.

Anna Shutko:

Yeah, it does sound like an excellent framework indeed. And now my next question would be, how would you optimize these campaigns once you’ve set them up?

AJ Wilcox:

Yeah, I think I would start initially by saying, let’s start our first AMO combination. So we know we’re going to target these personas with messages that describe this data warehousing ebook, and we’re going to give it a shot. And we also really like to test offers against each other. So let’s say you had this awesome e-book, but you want to test it against maybe an upcoming webinar or something like that. We could do inside of each campaign, one ad targeting the e-book and one targeting… sorry, not targeting. One ad describing the e-book and one describing the webinar. And I would first want to just see, especially based off of low bids, we’re telling LinkedIn, Hey, we’re not going to throw a bunch of cash at you, we just want to see which of these offers converts best.

And I tell people that in LinkedIn Advertising, we can lead a horse to water and we can get them to take the first drink. So we can get them to fill out forms, but everything after that is up to your marketing nurture and your sales process.

So we’re really good at measuring how efficiently we can get that horse to take the first drink. And if we find one of your assets, let’s say the e-book wins and it gets a 20% conversion rate, then we’re going to immediately say, shut off all ads to the lower performing webinar and let’s send all of our traffic to this ebook because we know that everything in social has a finite life and we want to take advantage of that.

Because if people stop being interested in this ebook, let’s say 60 days or 90 days down the road, we want to get as much mileage out of that one asset as we can before we have to go and develop a whole new asset, which is obviously very expensive to a marketing department to do.

Anna Shutko:

Yeah actually. And if we think about this, LinkedIn Ads sounds like an awesome platform with all these creatives and targeting and different kinds of ad types and the whole structure, but it also looks like it is a platform which could give marketers a large room for mistakes. So could you please tell us what are the common mistakes to look out for when it comes to advertising on LinkedIn?

AJ Wilcox:

Yeah, really good question and one that’s really important. I’m so glad you asked because LinkedIn is not what I would call a generous platform. And for comparison, I would say, anyone who goes to try Facebook Ads for the very first time, may not know what every option does or what it means, but if they just take what Facebook suggests and take the default option all the way down, they’re not going to make a huge mistake. It’s probably going to do okay. Whereas with LinkedIn, if you take LinkedIn’s like default advice all the way down when you’re building your first campaign, they’re going to throw three things at you that are just poison to your campaign.

So the first is, there’s a box that you’ll come across called enable audience expansion. And what that does is… Facebook has the same kind of thing, but it’s not default ticked, but it’s basically permission for LinkedIn to stick anyone into your audience that they think. And they think that most advertisers should be using this. And I totally disagree. I think if you’re paying eight to $11 for a click, you might as well make sure that every single one of those clicks comes from your ideal explicit audience that you chose. So we differ in opinions for what that is, but that’s the first mistake I see made is someone leaving that box checked. The next is the bid type that LinkedIn recommends to you by default is called auto bidding. And auto-bidding for those who don’t know is essentially CPM bidding where you don’t choose your own bid. And CPM bidding is the most expensive way to pay for clicks on LinkedIn 90% of the time.

So 10% of advertisers are going to have success using it, but the other 90%, are going to pay way too much for clicks. And the third thing is, if you were smart enough to decide to change auto bidding to cost per click because you want to take that risk away, you want to say, Hey, I’m not going to pay if you’re not going to send me traffic. LinkedIn’s going to recommend to you this crazy range that’s like, Hey, other advertisers like you are paying 16 to $33 per click. And I will tell you as someone who’s run, many of LinkedIn’s largest accounts, no, they’re not. No one in their right mind is paying above 13 bucks a click.

So the first thing that you should do is just ignore LinkedIn’s advice and start by bidding really low. the reason why is if you’re bidding… Let’s say the minimum is $6 a click. If you’re bidding $6 per click, and you’re able to spend your entire budget, if you were to bid any higher, you would just get fewer clicks for your budget from your target audience. So it’s in your best interest to put your bids really low. Because if you’re not getting enough traffic, you can always slightly increase those bids. So those are the first three mistakes I see people make that are pretty easy to fix.

Anna Shutko:

Yeah. Thank you so much. These are really, really good tips. And actually, I did not know about the bidding strategy advice you’ve just shared. This is very contrary to what I usually see people advise when it comes to LinkedIn bidding. So bid low first and then slowly increase your bids. Very interesting. And now if people want to learn more about LinkedIn Ads and you, and obviously now they do because they were such an awesome guest, where can they go ahead and learn more?

AJ Wilcox:

I’m pretty easy to get a hold of. If you go to our website and fill out the form on any of our pages, you won’t go to a sales rep and you won’t be put on our spammy newsletter or anything like that. It just comes directly to my inbox and I’m not a sales guy. So feel free to ask whatever you want. I’m also the host of the LinkedIn Ads Show podcast. And so, because you’re listening to this, I know you listen to podcasts. So if you want to get ultra geeky and get really, really in-depth about LinkedIn Ads, just in your podcast player right now go search for LinkedIn Ads Show. You’ll see a chubby ginger guy in a purple shirt. And that’s how you’ll know it’s me.

And we go really deep. I mean, as at the time of recording, I think there are 26 episodes out. And it’s essentially what I would consider a master course on LinkedIn Ads.

Anna Shutko:
All right. Awesome. Thank you so much, AJ. If you want to learn more about AJ, do go to and fill out a form there.

AJ Wilcox:
Well, thank you again so much for the invite. I love getting geeky about LinkedIn Ads, so excited for anyone who wants to get geeky with me. Thank you so much for letting me share with your audience.

Anna Shutko:
And that’s the end of today’s episode. Thanks for tuning in. Before you go, make sure to hit the subscribe button and leave us a review or rating on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or wherever you’re listening. If you’d like to kickstart your marketing analytics, check out the 14-day free trial at See you in the next episode of The Marketing Analytics Show.

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