Show Resources: Brand and Demand Playbook Why Every Startup Marketer Should Be Using Conver…
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with ideas for what you'd like AJ to cover. Show Transcript:
There are four LinkedIn Ads, ad formats, and 11 plus variants of them. LinkedIn figured out the right combination to use, and they just shared it with us.
Welcome to the LinkedIn Ads Show. Here's your host, AJ Wilcox.
Hey there LinkedIn Ads fanatics. LinkedIn just published a really valuable playbook, which contains absolutely prescriptive recommendations about what combinations of ad formats to use, and when for maximum effectiveness. Today I sit down with Ryan MacInnis from LinkedIn Product Marketing. He's going to share his research that he and his team just published. Ryan is over sponsored messaging as an ad category and shares with us some of his excellent insights. So without further ado, let's hit it. Ryan MacInnis, thanks so much for joining us. I'm excited to have you here on the LinkedIn Ads Show.
Yeah, thanks so much AJ for having me. I appreciate it.
Oh, of course and super excited to get to chat about the new playbook that you guys just released. I know you've been working really hard on it for our listeners. So this is Ryan Mcinnis. He's in the New York City Office for LinkedIn. I'm assuming not during COVID times you're working out of the Empire State Building.
That is right. Yeah, no, I'm actually in Connecticut. So I can see the city, but I'm not currently working in it.
Perfect. Get away from the hustle and bustle.
And Ryan is over the sponsored messaging product in Product Marketing at LinkedIn. So super excited to get to ask him all these questions and hear an internal response. Awesome. Okay. A very first question. Ryan, tell us about you. You know, what are you into personally? What do you love about work? What are you responsible for? Give us all that good stuff.
Sure. Yeah. So I actually started my professional career as a Boston Globe sports journalist, and that was in the end of college, beginning of kind of my professional years and I was covering high school and college sports. So I fell in love with storytelling kind of early on, and was exposed to B2B marketing from there. And I spent a lot of time attending startup events, realized how hard it was to take something that was really complex and position it in a way that not only explained what it was or what it did, but made it really clear to somebody, I'm like, what value they could get from it. So that's how I got into marketing and more specifically, product marketing. And talking about sponsored messaging at LinkedIn, it's really a situation couldn't have been any better for me. I've spent the last five years or so running early stage marketing teams at startups, whether it be the first in marketing hire, or leading a team where the company is less than 100 people, messaging and chat bots and whatnot, were a huge part of our marketing strategy. So aside from doing the really early stage startup stuff, I spent a little bit of time at Twitter on their product marketing team for the developer platform called Fabric that was eventually sold to Google. And yeah, even though I had that big company, express I still do consider myself an early stage marketer, since a lot of the skills you know, the frameworks and go to market efforts have been super helpful in scaling conversation ads, which was a new format we launched back in March. So that's kind of me professionally, me personally, big into sports. I used to be a basketball referee, a high school basketball referee. So spent a lot of time doing that. And yeah, love reading as a former English major, I guess you're never former you're always an English major. But I do like to spend a lot of time reading and kind of disconnecting from a lot of the nonfiction business world.
Well, I love that you have experienced as an early stage marketer, you also have experienced in product marketing at larger companies. So I think that puts you in a really unique position to understand your advertisers, which we'll get into here in a few minutes but this is why I'm so excited to have you like showing us this playbook. This is super exciting about the playbook. So I know you told me in the pre-show chat This has been your three plus months in the making. share with us the story behind it. Tell us about the new new playbook and why you decided to tackle this kind of project.
Yeah, so I'll first just kind of talk about what it is. And I'll bury the lead on that. So it's our new brand and demand playbook. And really what it is, it's a combination of tactical advice on how you use our different ad formats in both feed and messaging, along with our newest features such as retargeting together to help you achieve your goals on LinkedIn. And then it's also a source of inspiration. Kind of the second half of the playbook are nine customer stories that not only share the successes in the tactics on how advertisers featured used something like carousel ads and single image ads along with message ads, but you can get a snapshot into what their framework is for how they deployed these things. And so you get everything from the creatives that they use the quotes from the people who really went went big on this and believe that this is gonna be a big part of the strategy. And then you also see benchmarks and results. And so what we wanted this playbook to be for the first time, is the ability to kind of tell that cohesive story of how do all of these formats that marketers have available to them today on LinkedIn, how do they play best together? And how do we recommend which formats to use based on which stage of the funnel you're trying to engage your audience and then also give people you know less about us and more about the successes of our of our customers? How do we give them enough of that true playbook so they can learn and seek inspiration from some of the best marketers doing it today?
Yeah, and what was the pain point? I'm assuming you guys were hearing customer feedback, people expressing a need or a pain, wanting certain kinds of information. How did you decide to even come out with this playbook? Yeah, I guess let's start there.
Yeah, definitely. So when I joined obviously conversation ads had just launched and we had more recently launched you know, video ads and retargeting was coming up right around the time that we're starting to think about this playbook. And we had conversations around how there really wasn't much advice on how to use these formats best together, even though we were seeing really good results from advertisers that were. And so it was solving a problem that many advertisers on LinkedIn, they kind of go into their strategies saying, this is the piece of content I want to promote. Here's the one format and I was personally guilty of this as a B2B marketer previously to and then you judge the success of the content based on how well it did there in that format without thinking about how other kind of like supporting cast members can help lift that up, ie, you know, text ads, or video or things like that. So what we're really trying to do is help advertisers be more successful and we believe that it wasn't until we had all of these things like the most engaging ways for you to capture someone's attention in video and conversation ads. And then of course, with retargeting and being able to really dig in and tap into that behavior that you were able to understand a bit better. You could actually figure out how you would connect the dots between running an ad in the feed with really trying to drive conversion and messaging, for example. So it was a really kind of a call that we wanted to answer on how we could help advertisers get more out of the tools that they had access to, even if, you know, some of the lines weren't super clear on what they can do with them.
And Ryan, this is awesome. I'm a huge believer in using other ad formats together to really multiply your efforts. And I didn't come to that understanding until I was in a quarterly business review with one of our clients. And LinkedIn gave us a report that said, here's how people click on your sponsored content ads, who haven't seen another ad format from you. And here's how they click when they when they have and it was like a 30% lift and I went, ah, there's the value. You may not see a direct ROI from any single ad format, but as you bundle them together, it starts completing the rest of the story.
Definitely. And to your point, exactly. I think it's helpful for a lot of marketers to understand not only the context of what somebody is doing or thinking about when they're on LinkedIn, maybe they're there to just passively browse. They're there to learn from their peers. Or maybe they're saying, hey, this helpful piece of content, or this webinar is going to help me get that next promotion in my career or, you know, make me a better, you know, insert job title. But the other thing that I don't think a lot of marketers realize is that everything that you're doing in the feed because it is the kind of most prime real estate you have on LinkedIn is essentially providing context and warming up people that you want to have as customers or convert on a big activity that you're promoting. So anything that they see in the feed is kind of contextual relevance for anything that they may see in their inbox. So if I were to want to promote an event, like we were talking about a few weeks back, like carousel ads in the feed to promote some of the speakers and so if I'm in the feed, I know that hey, this company is has this event coming up. I know that the speakers will be there and then maybe in my inbox because we can be a bit more targeted and tailored to an individual person, we can say, Hey Ryan, we know you're in Product Marketing at LinkedIn and this is a pain point that we think you're really going through right now. This is why you should attend this event, use our lead gen forms, and you can register right then and there. And you have the context as to why you're receiving that message. And you understand kind of what the value was in the feed. So to your point, the more that you can help these things work better together, the more successful a lot of these marketers will be.
Yes, and you are in a fantastic position. Seeing all of this data, I mean, as the platform you get to see anything that was touched with a lead form. You get to see the exact conversions happening, the confluence of all of these ad formats. So you're in amazing position to actually tell what combinations of things and I'm sure you're using really cool machine learning and AI algorithms to figure this out. But you now know what's going to be the best combination. And now you're sharing that with us. And quite frankly, in the past, I've seen quite a few of the playbooks that LinkedIn has created. And I would say they haven't exactly been brimming with actionable information. And I've gotten to review this one, and it's completely the opposite. I'm actually really happy with this one. What changed with this? And is this a pattern for the future?
Yeah, I mean, I definitely think it's going to be something we're going to look to do more of. I think it's important to say that a lot of the playbooks in the past were foundational kind of owner's manual guides that you could read and understand how products worked. And they were really important just to understand the nuts and bolts before you could kind of get into the tactical How do these work together? But there are definitely a couple things, especially during our time being you know, quarantined and spending more time at home that magnified this, that made this playbook kind of look like what it what it does, that you'll read. And the first thing is that obviously we have even shorter attention spans I think, than we did before COVID-19. Especially those that are balancing homeschooling, taking care of loved ones, kids and whatnot. And then the other thing that was really interesting is that many marketers felt like there was a window of time, or maybe they could innovate in ways that they couldn't have before. When many of their competitors were decreasing their spend or moving slower than they would in the past. And so we were really hearing a lot of feedback on, hey, we know that this is a window for us to gain a competitive edge or reach an audience in a way that might be a bit unexpected given that everybody's trying to reach them through email, for example, how can we innovate on that? And then the last thing that I think was was super interesting is that, you know, as a former advertiser on LinkedIn, I think there's a lot of preconceived notions about advertising is like, especially from what you've been exposed to. So maybe you only understand a sliver of the products that we offer, or you only understand a little bit of how we talk about targeting and how you can reach kind of the right persona within the right company that's really important for your ABM efforts. So that was kind of the behind the scenes thinking that went into this no nonsense approach, which is if I were a B2B marketer, and I needed something that was easy to digest during this time when everybody wants my attention. How can we create a piece of content that would be valuable for them?
Ryan and I think you nailed it. Thank you for that. As you were working to create this brand and demand playbook, I'm sure you were looking through a lot of different research. What do you feel like is your biggest bombshell that you experienced in researching? Was there anything that just stood out like a sore thumb?
Yeah, it's funny you use the word bombshell. Like I don't think it can be any more obvious to a lot of people once they've done it themselves. And once they've read the playbook, which is the opportunity cost of not using feed and messaging together is just enormous, right. And I think many advertisers are advertising just in the feed, which obviously is the most competitive real estate and even though you can reach millions of people there, it's extremely hard to get someone to take an action on a lead gen form. For example, most people come to LinkedIn to explore, to learn, to do these things mainly on a mobile device, you know, and so nothing is more jarring than clicking an image and a form pops up, and that be your only chance to really engage with somebody. So I think when we looked at a lot of what made our customers successful what we were seeing, particularly with how they were using, you know, video retargeting with ebook promotion and a single image ad and how they're actually putting together their own strategies for how these ad formats can work best for them. We really wanted to drive home this feed plus messaging narrative, because we knew that kind of warming up your lead that narrative would result in a subset of your audience seeing both to your point earlier. So seeing a piece of sponsored content, and then actually having that contextual relevancy on why they should convert in the LinkedIn inbox. And so when you know more people are being exposed to that context, ultimately you can lower your cost per lead and increase your lead gen form conversion rate, which is a lot of marketers are really looking for especially during this time.
Oh, I love it. And then this may be similar. I don't know you tell me if this is the same as bombshell, but what do you feel like was your biggest takeaway, or the biggest takeaway you'd suggest for advertisers after now having been through the playbook?
Yeah, I think obviously, we talked about my first big takeaway, which is that the formats work best together, not in silos. And it's no secret that the majority of advertisers are looking to advertising the feed first and kind of messaging is an afterthought. And we're really trying to do is change that narrative and saying, how can messaging be a bit more of a not just a supporting cast member, but you know, maybe a second leading role and how you think about a particular audience. So that was kind of the biggest takeaway that I think a lot of people when they when they read the playbook, we'll see how prominent messaging is within each stage of the funnel and how we recommend using it, or even within the success stories at the end, a lot of our customers are using message ads and single image ads or video single image ads and message ads. And so there's a very healthy mix on how they can be powerful together. But, I think the other takeaway that many people will have is that there are so many people you can seek inspiration from and the willingness of these marketers who so graciously approved for a lot of their creatives and their strategy to be put in this playbook. They're great models for people to look at. And the best part is, is maybe 30% of them have similar tactics, like it's pretty unique the way that these marketers are thinking about it. So that's the biggest takeaway, aside from how these formats work well together, is that there's so many marketers who are doing this well today that you can seek inspiration from and coming out of it, not only will you have a better idea on how you can use these different formats and targeting facets, but also based on what industry, what region you're in, where you are in the world, kind of which story resonates most with you and how you can kind of seek inspiration from that.
Great! We as advertisers, I think we tend to think of each of the ad formats kind of in their own little silo. I tell people all the time, sponsored messaging ads are really good if you have a special VIP kind of offer, but don't use them if you don't have an offer that grabs them at first. And what we've found is so many advertisers have come back to us and said, hey, we actually found sponsored messaging ads to work really well as a retargeting ad for, you know, a different ad format. And it makes perfect sense. And one that I'm a little embarrassed that I did come up with.
No, and you're totally right. I mean, one of the success stories we've seen recently with conversation ads are advertisers using even if it's high intent behavior on your website, and using that as a retargeting audience for a conversation ad promoting an ebook download. You know, you wouldn't believe the successes that a lot of these advertisers are seeing when an audience has that context as to why they're being reached out to. Very similarly, with with marketers on their own websites, the ones who are really good from an automation perspective are able to give, you know prospects and people who are on LinkedIn a lot of that helpfulness. Like why are you asking me to read this message, why are you asking me to take action on this CTA and the easier you can make that decision, the better the experience,
Yeah, surrounding them so they've they've seen your brand before, they feel comfortable. There's already that know, like, and trust factor. It's a brilliant way to approach it. And then here in the brand and demand playbook, this is very prescriptive, as opposed to, I would say other playbooks or other content that LinkedIn has published before. What am I trying to say? It's much more prescriptive than other content that we've seen LinkedIn recommend before. How did you decide on the different recommendations? And I guess, how did you approach the different recommendations that are very prescriptive in here?
Yeah, that's a good question. I think as a product marketer, I look at three things on a weekly basis. The first is customer behavior. The second is sales feedback. And then the third is market dynamics, which obviously are are changing because of, you know, what's going on the world, but essentially that is what technology will marketer use today? If not tomorrow? And how can we understand like where we should be building products and making recommendations to to meet them where they want to be. And so I think for this playbook, it was the results that our customers are seeing that whereas was most important. So in my case, it was conversation as we've seen conversation ads grow a tremendous amount since launching in May, in March, rather, and I wanted to understand why advertisers were having success with it. And if they weren't, why they weren't. And for many times, more times than not, they were a result of using multiple formats together were conversation as were a key piece of that to your earlier point around how they can work best together. And so, as I mentioned earlier, like carousel ads to highlight speakers or even you know, product features, if you're trying to get somebody to buy in on the narrative of one platform to help them solve all your problems, maybe each tile tells that story or, or highlights a different aspect of your platform. And then conversation ads is a great way to get them to convert. So some of the things we're seeing you know, to be honest, is, you know, well over 50% lead gen form submission rates with some advertisers who not only are using conversation ads best practices, you know, really short, engaging content, two to three calls to action, using lead gen forms as your first CTA, but also having these formats be supportive. And what they're trying to do is, is anywhere from five to seven times higher than sponsored content alone. And so we started to pick up on what sort of behavior was most valuable to marketers that we wanted to share with even more marketers. And so the other source of inspiration as we were starting to think about this was what customers the success they were seeing with, you know, Lan, LinkedIn Audience Network and retargeting, so I'm kind of more on that, like reach in context layer. And so we took some of these findings, started to form some perspectives on which formats and targeting facets were the best for marketers to use based on what we were seeing from our best customers, and then how we watched an audience respond to it, that was really important as well. And so that's why you'll see a lot of visually engaging recommendations at the top of the funnel, like single image ads, carousel, ads, video, and even conversation ads, depending on if it's you know, kind of a brand play, or really trying to promote a blog post that is around a particular movement or whatnot. And then also, you can see, kind of towards the lower end of the funnel, where message ads or sponsored messaging is maybe more of an investment because as a prospect is lower down the funnel, there's more context, you've warmed them up a bit more, and now you're shifting to kind of the best place to have that intimate conversion opportunity, which is in messaging. So we decided on this based on a combination of what are our best customers doing today and why and then what behavior are we seeing, you know, members respond really well to LinkedIn? And how can we help marketers meet them where they want to be met?
You certainly won't hear me arguing with a 50% conversion rate. That's amazing. So for performance focused demand gen marketers, let's say testing out LinkedIn Ads for the first time. Let's give him a an imaginary budget of, let's say something like 10k, how would you approach a brand new account? Do you have any recommendations for what you'd put into which ad format and which audience and how?
Yeah, I think for performance focus dimension marketers, obviously, any type of retargeting would be extremely valuable. So if you've never advertised on LinkedIn before, that's totally fine. Maybe you're using some of our conversion tracking on your website. And so you can definitely plug in some of the high intent behaviors as audience types that you would like. So people who have converted on ebooks previously, or visited pricing pages or other high intent pages that you find valuable, and then for 10k, I really think you can get a lot of value right now with conversation as I'm not just saying that because I'm the product marketer for it. It's definitely a format that is the most delightful way possible to receive an ad right now. And what I mean by that is you have 500 characters or less to explain to somebody why you want their attention. You give them the ability to provide context, additional calls to action if they're just not quite ready to convert as opposed to you know, message to your point. An exclusive offer it's binary, either you convert or you don't. Conversation as are definitely a bit more informal. And you can, see a lot of great results for not a huge investment right off the bat. And then of course, we're talking about brand and demand, we're talking about feeding messaging, link text ads, dynamic ads, any way that you can kind of get your, your brand in the top of someone's feed, even if it's not, you know, right in front of them and in the feed itself, but on the side, kind of the right rail way of advertising. They are going to see that on LinkedIn and that is only going to help lift the conversion rates with conversation ads. So from a targeting perspective, definitely recommend an audience that is already warmed up in some capacity. And then I think for performance marketers if your goal is lead gen, obviously, that conversation ads right now paired with something like text ads, or even, you know, you can do something around like spotlight ads and whatnot. You can see really good results for for that 10k number.
Oh, beautiful. Thanks for that advice. And just digging into a little bit of what you've seen from conversation as because they are new. What are some of the best calls to action that you've found being successful with conversation ads?
Yeah, it's a good question because I think as a marketer, you're trying to understand and dig into exactly why people are behaving the way that they do. And so with conversation ads unlike message ads, you don't have a subject line, you don't have all of these great things when you can say as many words as you as you want, or at least much more than with conversation ads. And so the calls to action in the language that you use is very important. And I think what we're seeing anecdotally is is kind of this like passive and friendly way of using these call to actions particularly around lead gen forms. So if you are promoting an event, instead of register now, maybe it save my spot or you know, like, sign me up sort of thing. And I think that most people tend to look at these call to action is very formal. So I connect with a member of our sales team or download now it's like get your free copy, like get your free copy is a lot more informal, a lot less intimidating. And so from a CTA perspective, we always recommend you think that you're having a conversation with a friend or a colleague. And if I was trying to get you to read the playbook, I wouldn't send you an email and say, you know, click this link or, you know, click this button and download it now, I'd say, you know, like grab a free copy or something like that. So I definitely think a lot of the things that marketers are seeing success with an email right now and the language that they're using can definitely be transferred over to conversation ads.
Excellent. So how would you recommend dividing budgets between, let's say, the feed, messaging ads, and even right rail, do you have a rule of thumb that you'd follow?
Yeah, I mean, I don't have have anything prescriptive or I'm not going to at least try to make any of those recommendations here, but I would just kind of recommend based on what the goal is, if it's more brand focused, I definitely think investing a bit more in the feed makes a lot of sense with video with single image ads, really trying to understand the behavior of somebody on LinkedIn, especially with video retargeting now, so watching more than 25%, more than 50% and using that behavior to send them something more enticing. I think the feed is extremely valuable. And then I think as you move down the funnel with your audience, making sure that messaging is as much of your strategy as sponsored content. So sometimes that's 50/50 for people that I've seen a ton of success with sponsored messaging, but it should least be kind of that 70/30 60/40 split when you get towards the bottom of the funnel, or at least in that high intent consideration phase where you're trying to get someone to download an asset, attend an event, or things like that. Because we definitely see that people will give sponsored messaging and try, but compared to the amount that they're investing in sponsored content, I think that this playbook will help them think about it as more of a pillar of their strategy.
That's perfect. That's exactly what I think everyone here wanted to hear. So kind of going into back to your personal or business life here. What are you most excited about or looking forward to coming up right now?
Yeah, so obviously, this playbook is probably the thing that I've been looking forward to most. But I think much bigger than that, going to sponsor messaging specifically with conversation ads. I'm excited about getting a lot more of my former colleagues in the startup space, kind of this mid-market marketer to give conversation ads a try. I think the perceived notion that LinkedIn is an expensive place to advertise isn't wrong for people that don't have a strategy that helps them use all these things together really well. So you're not using retargeting Not thinking about kind of a very intimate audience and we're startups. And you know, smaller marketing teams fall in as they think that this is a place that's kind of unattainable for them to advertise. And that's not true at all. And so we have a blog post, that by the time this podcast comes out will be live. It's called why every startup marketer should be using conversation ads. And it's kind of like an open letter to myself, which is, if I had conversation ads, obviously, in previous roles, why should I be using it? What are some of the success stories we're seeing from a lot of these scrappy marketing teams that are trying to use their budgets really effectively? So I'm excited for more of these smaller marketers or those with a bit smaller budgets to really find a ton of great value out of conversation and specifically, and then how LinkedIn can be even more impactful for them.
Great, and we're going to link to the why every startup marketer should be using conversation ads down in the show notes will also link directly to the Brand and Demand Playbook. So all of you can can consume this and even follow along. So that's fantastic. Congratulations on the release of such an awesome asset. By the time any of you are hearing this, this should be available. So obviously Ryan and I are talking before it's fully released, and it's a big burden on his shoulders, and that will be lifted on Tuesday. So that's great. Yeah, Ryan, this has been fantastic. Just getting feedback from you and hearing really how marketers can better use the ad formats in tandem with each other. Do you have anything else you'd like to share with us or anything that LinkedIn advertisers should be paying attention to?
No, I think there's a lot of great things that we're coming out with from a product perspective, I think, you know, LinkedIn live and events and things like that are gonna be something we're gonna continue to invest in. If you are a conversation ads customer or you want to try it. We just came out with a new reporting feature called Flow Chart that I'd love to, you know, kind of plug which gives you CTA level, engagement, understanding verse similar to how you would think about it. Google Analytics or where people are dropping off in your conversation. And so I would definitely ask you to to look at that if you're thinking about conversation ends, or you want to understand how this new format can be helpful in your goals, because you're gonna learn a ton about the behavior of somebody in the inbox that you never had before. So that's gonna be great.
And I have definitely gotten a chance to check out the flow chart view of the conversation ads. And that was a brilliant addition. So thanks so much for that. And with that being said, thank you so much for being on the show, Ryan. Sure. Appreciate your insights. And is there any way that you'd want listeners to connect with you?
Yeah, sure. I mean, if you're active on on Twitter I'm at @RKMAC, or I'm on LinkedIn, you can you can find me there.
Perfect. And I'll go ahead and link both of those down below in the show notes. Ryan, thank you so much for being on the show, and we'll look forward to hearing from you soon.
Perfect. Thanks so much for having me, AJ. Appreciate it.
All right. I hope you enjoyed that talk I had with Ryan. I've got the episode resourcescoming up for you right now. So stick around.
Thank you for listening to the LinkedIn Ads Show. Hungry for more? AJ Wilcox, take it away.
Okay, the Brand and Demand Playbook that Ryan mentioned, I've got the link down there below. So definitely check that one out. I think you'll like having that one reviewed and on your hard drive. He also mentioned the blog post, why every startup marketer should be using conversation ads, I've got the link down below for that as well. It's definitely worth checking out. Ryan shared his Twitter handle as well as you can connect with him on LinkedIn. So I've got both of those links for you. And if you are new to LinkedIn ads, or you have an employee or a colleague who needs to learn it, definitely check out the course that I did with LinkedIn Learning. It's incredibly inexpensive and very valuable. And then take a look at your podcast player right now and see if that subscribe button is already lit up. If not, give it a nice loving touch. And while you're at it rate us of course, I'd love to see five stars on everything, but rate us whatever you legitimately think we deserve. And I would love to hear you review our podcast to on whatever service you're using. leave us a review and I'd love to read it aloud and help shout you out. With any show ideas, topic suggestions, any sort of feedback, hit us up at [email protected]
. And then with that being said, we'll see you back here next week, cheering you on inyour LinkedIn Ads initiatives.