From Scratch: Building an Effective LinkedIn Lead Gen Program

By
John Perkins
October 19, 2022
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Did you know? The expression “start from scratch” originated as a 1700’s track and field term, referring to a starting line scratched on the ground. 

Similar to a runner on the blocks brimming with anticipation for the starting gun, when our team began a partnership with Webflow’s enterprise demand generation program, we were excited to get off to the races. If you’re not familiar, Webflow is used by more than 3,500,000 designers and teams to create, collaborate on, and scale beautiful websites in a completely visual canvas — with no coding needed. 

With new teammates and fresh eyes, we launched program efforts on the channel largely from scratch. Bamboo and Webflow teamed up to reinvigorate an inactive LinkedIn Ads account to scale up acquisition of enterprise leads. We quickly discovered that there was room to improve the program to reach our lead volume goals. 

Our Challenges

The benefits afforded to an enterprise lead gen program by LinkedIn Advertising are immediately apparent: through its unique targeting options, you can reach highly-specific groups with tailored messaging on a platform where people are engaging in a business mindset.

The challenge on LinkedIn is to run campaigns cost-efficiently. There’s no getting around it – impressions and clicks are pricey on LinkedIn. The average cost-per-click for LinkedIn ads is around $5.26, while Facebook’s average CPC is $0.97. Cost of course varies case-by-case, but the same principle generally applies between platforms.

How does one reach those juicy LinkedIn audiences at a favorable bang-for-buck? The answer is simple: commit to gradual improvement overtime, and aggressively search for opportunities to optimize. Just as 108 years of gradual improvement can result in two totally different Olympic races, 6 months of committed optimization can make your campaigns look like night and day.

Our Approach

Easier said than done. In order to generate meaningful performance improvements in our LinkedIn campaigns, we’ve launched countless tests, taken big swings, learned from our losses and iterated upon our wins. Ultimately, our recent success on the platform came down to the following key strategies:

  • Shift away from full-funnel approach, consolidate into KPI driving campaigns only
  • Test and refine core audiences
  • Lean into lead magnet assets and gated content
  • Leverage unique ad formats like Conversation Ads
Collapsing the Funnel

At the beginning of Bamboo’s partnership with Webflow, one of our early strategies was  based on general paid media intuition: construct a marketing funnel within account by engaging audiences with editorial content, then retarget with firmer asks like gated content or product demo offerings. 

Ultimately, we observed that when upper-funnel campaign spend is incorporated into overall CPA, the blended rate was not efficient enough to achieve our goals. In response, we collapsed the funnel into two stages: gated content at the top and demo offers at the bottom. Either way, a conversion in either of these campaigns would result in a lead.

Test and Refine Your Audiences

On many social platforms, broader audiences are often stronger performers than narrow ones. Having larger audience sizes allows platforms like Facebook and Instagram to algorithmically optimize and deliver ads to folks that are most likely to convert. On LinkedIn though, the converse is often true. If you’re using LinkedIn Ads at all, chances are you have a very specific message that you want to serve to a very specific audience.

Our team was able to evolve our targeting approach by casting a wide net to start, and then testing out different segments within that pool. When a  winning segment was identified, we would get even more specific. Over 6 months, we’ve now developed a robust, segmented approach to targeting that incorporates many layers of LinkedIn’s unique offerings, including:

  • Job Functions: target user by their purpose within their organization (Ex: Design)
  • Job Titles: based on users’ job positions as described on their profile (Ex: VP Marketing)
  • Company Size: target smaller or larger companies according to the scale of your offering (Ex: targeting companies with 200+ employees is especially impactful for reaching potential enterprise customers)
  • Member Skills / Interests: target users by specific abilities attributed to their profile (Ex: website marketing, HTML/CSS, etc.)
  • Member Groups: target users by interest-specific groups they’ve joined that align with your offering (Ex: Ecommerce Experts: #1 Group for Ecommerce Best Practices)
Leverage Gated Content

While the no-strings-attached editorial approach proved to be too costly on LinkedIn, it also evidenced the appetite for content on the platform.  On average, ads promoting Webflow’s blog content had 25% higher CTR than our product demo campaigns. 

We leveraged this insight to find a happy medium between the two approaches – keeping audiences engaged with content offerings, with the caveat that the asset is unlocked through submission of a contact form. This approach allowed us to capitalize on the clear interest in relevant content from our audience. The friction of adding an enterprise form to the user experience proved to be insignificant when compared to the high volume of valuable leads driven.

Example of a top performing gated content ad
Lean into Native Lead Forms & Conversation Ads

Like many digital paid media efforts, our initial campaign approach was to drive leads on conversion-oriented landing pages. While that method resulted in adequate performance, we unlocked a whole new level of volume & cost-efficiency by testing formats for on-platform conversion. 

Beyond image ads that show up in user feeds, LinkedIn offers a few interesting capabilities that are more conducive to converting on the platform itself, rather than sending users to a landing page. Our team found early success with native lead gen forms and conversation ads. 

Native lead forms are similar to image feed ads, except when a user clicks on the ad, they seamlessly enter the form experience. Rather than waiting on page load times and navigating a foreign website, a user can simply consider the offer and complete their gated content request without ever leaving their LinkedIn feed.

Example of the native lead form user experience

For our more direct enterprise campaigns, we leverage conversation ads for their similar benefit of keeping the experience on-platform. Conversation ads also have a cool decision tree mechanism that functions like a chatbot or choose-your-own-adventure game. Through macros, they can also match to a user’s name, position, company, etc. The end result is a highly targeted, highly personalized message delivered directly to a user’s inbox. 

Example of LinkedIn Conversation Ad

Following early success with these ad formats, we proliferated our efforts and leaned hard into native lead gen forms and conversation ads. 

Our Results

Through our broader philosophy of continuous learning and improvement, these key strategies compounded to deliver massive improvements in performance toward our KPIs. We’ve evolved our LinkedIn campaigns to reach valuable audiences with a seamless, high converting ad experience. In six months since our start from scratch, our team has driven the following results:

  • +2X Spend
  • +10X Lead Volume
  • +6.5X Cost per Lead Efficiency (-85% CPA)

John Perkins

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