AJ Wilcox is a LinkedIn Ads pro who founded B2Linked.com, a LinkedIn Ads-specific ad agency, in 2014. As official LinkedIn partners, they manage among the world’s most sophisticated advertising accounts worldwide. He’s a ginger & triathlete. He & his wife live in Utah, with their 4 kids, and his company car is a wicked-fast gokart.

You actually have a go-kart that primary motive. Gestation, unfortunately, it’s not my primary mode of transportation. That would be a lot of fun. But basically I’m a giant man child that never grew up and hear about six or seven years ago when I was doing okay in corporate. I was like man as a kid.

I always wanted a go-kart and now I’m grown up and have a car. I still want that go car. So I wouldn’t bought one of them. I’ve the fleet has grown a little bit. Really? Yeah. That’s that’s awesome. I’m down here Orlando, Florida and I’ve seen since you know, we have great weather pretty much year-round.

I’ve seen some guys with some pretty. Staying vehicles in go-karts and golf carts. And so you we see it all down here. So, um, I think you you would be right at home here in Orlando area. If you if you pull pull out of your driveway with one of those that’s right. Yeah. Well, you know really excited to be talking to you today, you know, the topic of today’s podcast is going to be primarily talking about LinkedIn ads and primarily using LinkedIn ads for B2B lead generation, which is actually a topic we haven’t really.

Dove into or dwelled into too much on this podcast at all. So I was really excited to talk to you about it. But before we get started and we get into all of that, why don’t you tell? Us a little bit about your background and how you got into what you’re doing today. Sure. Well, I started out as I’m sure many of your listeners are comfortable with I started out as a search engine optimization guy doing Google ads as well.

And that was about 12 years ago, and I landed a position at a local. Highly funded VC VC funded Tech startup here in the state of Utah and I went on my very first day I was talking to the CMO my new boss and she hired me to run all of the digital marketing and as I’m laying out my plans for SEO and PPC and Facebook ads and all that.

I remember her saying okay all that sounds great go ahead and plan on executing it. But just so you know, we started a pilot using LinkedIn ads. So see what you can do with them and I saluted and said, yes, ma’am. Absolutely and I walked out of. Office kind of exasperated and said what is LinkedIn ads?

What have I gotten myself into? Yeah, I felt as a veteran. I’ve been doing digital marketing for like six seven years at that point but didn’t have never even heard of the platform. So basically I went and started diving in trying to figure things out and about two weeks later. I had a sales guy come up to me who said AJ nice to meet you and everything, but just want to let you know whatever you’re doing.

Keep it up. We’d love your leads. Okay, and I was curious what he was talking about which leads so I logged into. Force our CRM and third looking at them and without fail every single lead he was telling me about was sourced from LinkedIn. So I went wow this is not the only platform. I’m I’m running right now, but it’s sure the ones that the sales team are appreciating so I should focus on this a little bit more so that began my love for Lincoln ads.

Okay? Well, that’s awesome. That’s a kind of a great way to get into it and I think your initial reaction to it was probably some of the lot of. Because I guess you could say LinkedIn there there a little bit. I wouldn’t say late to the game but not a lot of people know about really what they have going on as far as ads are concerned and what you can do and that which really kind of leads me to the my initial question.

You know, really? What are all of the add options that are available to businesses via LinkedIn and you know, what are the typical average? Yeah, so the there’s some fantastic things about LinkedIn ads and there are some not fantastic things and probably the reason why I hadn’t heard of them and use them up to that point is they started out really expensive when LinkedIn ads came out.

They said no one’s ever going to pay less than two dollars per click and immediately that precludes a whole bunch of advertisers from from being able to afford it. It kind of prices them out and. So now as time has gone on competition has gone up you’re probably going to pay on average between about six and nine dollars per per click.

That is basically what that means is you have to have a bigger deal size on the back end so. Yeah, well what I tell people is if you have a lifetime value of your customer of over about 15 thousand dollars, then LinkedIn ads make sense hundred percent of the time. It’s less and for things like e-commerce, which I know your audience knows it probably isn’t a good fit because you either way margins pretty quickly it 69 bucks of Click.

Yeah. Yeah. That’s that’s that’s pretty pricey for sure. Yeah, but what you get for that is pretty incredible. They have by far the best business targeting of any platform out there. So. While you can hop on Facebook and try to Target by job title or company size company name that kind of thing.

Not very many people are putting that information into their profile. So you might get access to, you know, four to six percent of the people who fit that criteria whereas on LinkedIn, you know, you’re getting like 95% of the business professionals, and you can Target them a lot more granularly by job title by the department they work in bye.

Their level of seniority individual skills or even groups that they’re members of company size company name just goes on and on and on it’s really rare when I made a B2B company who can’t using linkedin’s targeting Define exactly who their buyer is gotcha gotcha. So what we drill down a little bit further, I know you said, of course.

Based on the kind of the cost-per-click that kind of excludes a lot of different types of businesses. Why don’t you I guess bring it down a little bit further and say what would be I guess a typical revenue of a company where LinkedIn ads with the appropriate or applicable for the where it kind of made sense for them.

Yeah, I love it. So I don’t necessarily look at like the revenue of the company for it to make sense. I’m more look at who who they’re hoping to bring in and what that’s going to be worth. So because we do have very large customers and we do have very small customers and they could be going after the Phantom type of persona and they can both make it work.

So what we find is there are three different types of companies that end up using. LinkedIn ads really successfully number one is if you’re in business to business doing lead gen with a high lifetime value called over 15K, then it’s a no-brainer a lot of times. That’s a software or medical equipment or you know things that are just big purchases that businesses have budgets for so that’s number one.

Number two is White Collar recruiting. So if you’re trying to bring on a new sales manager or a new marketing person you can show ads to. Someone who already has that same job title in your area and just say you look interesting you want to apply and a lot of times you can get your coffee option from a really really qualified person down lower than even your recruiter can get them for and number three is higher higher education things like MBA programs or PHD programs looking to recruit new new students.

Okay. Gotcha. Gotcha. Yeah that makes sense that really kind of helps out. So if we’re looking at. To kind of make this make sense for some of the listeners that are out there as far as if they’re let’s say there are B2B e-commerce business. Can you give me an example of a I guess a specific business type maybe someone that you’ve doubled in the past that has utilized.

LinkedIn ads and where they’ve been successful just so we can kind of really get a good picture.  Yeah, so in general eCommerce is really tough. Especially these larger purchases over any kind of social platform, but it’s especially pronounced on LinkedIn anytime to a cold audience. We approach them and say here open up your wallet.

It’s really really difficult to get them to do that and you might have near zero percent conversion rates are so. The only times that we found e-commerce to work well getting someone to open up their wallet is with a warm audience. So something like showing ads to your current subscribers showing ads to retargeting audiences.

That’s when you can start to make that happen. I’ll share it an example that it doesn’t necessarily put us in a great light but it showcases a really important learning about about LinkedIn ads. So we were working with a company who creates software for HR departments to help them onboard keep track of.

Their employees and do Paychecks all that kind of stuff. So. They gave us four different assets that we could play with their pretty sophisticated marketers and they were like a couple ebooks and a guide and so we were trying to show ads to HR managers and above at large tech companies. And we’re showing them here download this guide and what we found is we were having a really hard time getting people to click on these guides and then the conversion rates were really low.

So we were running like a hundred and thirty-three dollars cost per conversion. Wow, and of course. Me as the agency owner. I’m going crap. We’re gonna lose these guys like no one can keep paying $130 for an ebook download. That’s ridiculous. Yeah. That is we ran that for about three months and then finally overnight they said hey, we got this new asset up and running.

Let’s start sending traffic to that instead and the asset was called the definitive guide to on board. And I’ll tell you Arlen we ran through and did a whole bunch of testing on those other assets. I mean rapid iterations of imagery and headline and intro and all of that and we just could not get the cost per conversion down lower than like a hundred and thirty bucks.

We launched this new asset and overnight. I mean we didn’t do anything special use the default image whipped up some ad copy and. Overnight we were getting a $23 cost per conversion and that asset lived now solidly without to heavily saturating for like four months straight it became our star performing asset.

Okay, and so. It doesn’t necessarily put us in a good light because you know, it wasn’t anything we did. It was actually something that the client did but it shows the importance of approaching someone with an asset that is truly interesting and not just some drivel that your content people came up with right you guys shit that makes sense.

You know, I appreciate that breakdown. Why do you think in this scenario that you mentioned for these types of businesses that are doing the you know, the B2B lead generation. Why do you think lead lead? LinkedIn ads rather are so effective and why is it such an effective platform for that? Well, if you’re trying to show your ads just to people who are in HR who are in management positions.

It’s really hard to Define that audience any other way you could do a little bit with Facebook. You could try it through search and just say, okay. Well, these people are probably searching for HR Management Solutions and HR is software you can. Try to do that but it’s really difficult to try to find any way to reach these people in in a bulk kind of way and Linkedin just does that so so well gotcha.

Gotcha. So basically if you’re looking to reach out to these specific management level people like you said the HR management level people most of these most of this community are these types of people that have these positions. They’re on LinkedIn. They’re pretty active. Probably they use it as.

Not only you know, I guess a presence for them socially in the social network. But as a way to do recruiting as well, I would imagine being able to collaborate with others. Is that correct? Yeah, that’s exactly right. I mean we found you can Target any business professional on LinkedIn, but we find that if we target people who are in HR or people in sales, okay, both of those people live on their computers and they also live inside of LinkedIn for their jobs.

And so it creates a whole bunch of AD inventory which brings prices down God so. Both of those are great audiences. But yeah in general how you think about Lincoln ABS I would I would recommend, you know, whenever you hear LinkedIn ads think sniper rifle and whenever you hear something like Facebook ads think shock, okay, because we know we’re going to pay a little bit more for each of the clicks.

But this is the way that we can scale ably hit exactly the right people without much collateral damage, whereas, you know, Facebook shotgun, you’re going to hit a whole bunch of people maybe not all of them relevant kind of spraying a little bit. Yeah that that really. Sense and I like that analogy to sniper vs.

A shotgun. Now with that being said, I guess it’s pretty clear and safe to say that the LinkedIn ads would definitely would not be appropriate for us for all types of businesses. You can’t just you know, a mom-and-pop stablishment and you want to do you’re trying to reach other businesses, but and think that you’re going to have an instant win with LinkedIn, is that correct?

Yeah, it’s a good point. I mean there are a couple things that stop really small players from having a ton of success on LinkedIn ads. And number one is the cost what I’ve found is if you’re not willing to devote somewhere between about 3 and 5 K a month. You’re probably going to end up with small data sample sizes that will lead you to say, I’m not seeing the business impact.

I’m going to shut this off. So if you’ve got a small Mom and Pop A lot of times they don’t have. Now a 5k marketing budget, right? The other thing is if you show an ad that just says here’s what we do click here to talk to our high pressure sales rep. No one is going to want to click on that ad it just doesn’t happen.

So you’ve got to have some kind of content like I used in that example, you know a free ebook a free guide a free checklist a free in-person event or a webinar something like that. Catch their interest and help them first before you ever ask for something at a small mom and pop they probably don’t have a someone whose sole job.

It is to create really good content. Yeah that that really makes sense. So. You’re not going to get it instant sale or you know, just expect to just put an ad out there and immediately get a conversion right there. It says there’s got to be some type of relationship building and that could be done.

Like you said through a webinar or ebook providing them some value initially and then kind of earning their trust. For me the relationship and then to kind of taking it to the next level, you know after that so yet that that really totally makes sense. Now, I’m always an advocate of looking at other companies and you know, not Reinventing the wheel and kind of seeing what other come successful companies have done what companies that are out there that you’ve seen other than other couples that you mentioned have made some effective LinkedIn ads that have business can actually use as a model.

But the ones that I really like to look at I like and you can see this by going to these companies company pages and just see the types of content that they’re sharing organically and a lot of times if if a company sharing something organically, they would probably be sharing something similar to that to their advertised audiences.

So I would say go check out think with Google anything Google does on LinkedIn ads is usually pretty good and then there are some very large advertisers like IBM and Salesforce know. Have things pretty pretty dialed down. So, you know, check out what they’re doing and see what you can learn from what they what they’re sharing.

Okay, great. Yeah that said that’s a while some advice. You know, one of the things that I’ve talked to some other guests before recently about, you know, kind of gleaning some things off of other advertiser’s one of the things that I’ve seen especially with Facebook specifically at now that they’ve they’ve kind of opened it up a little bit more is with Facebook ads they have.

Where you can go into a company’s profile and then there is a adds an info section where you can go in there and see kind of a history of all of their ads that they’ve done. So it’s a great way to really see entire history and kind of most a timeline of the advertising that company is done does LinkedIn have anything like that or anything similar where you can kind of glean that information quickly.

Now, you know what Lincoln is about four years behind Facebook. So I’m after I heard that Facebook knows I was like, oh man, I can’t wait for four more years until Lincoln gets that that would be so cool for competitive intelligence, right? Yeah that that definitely would be yeah. I just didn’t know if they had something like that.

But yeah, you’re right. I guess Facebook is get several several steps ahead now with with LinkedIn and you’ve kind of being you know, kind of any LinkedIn expert there any specific. I guess you could say statistics on. Activity LinkedIn activity whether it’s searching whether it’s the amount that a specific like you said, let’s say our HR manager accesses per day or there certain areas of LinkedIn that a business would kind of need to be mindful of before they really kind of get into that advertising space of it.

Yeah, yeah should have some good stats for you. So Lincoln just barely announced that they have 595 members globally. Sorry 595 million. Okay, 595 would be a very small number so. I mean when you talk about Instagram and Facebook having in the billions of users, it sounds very small But realize that these are people who are six-figure earners and you know, it’s the Right audience for these large purchases and deal sizes.

We also know that Lincoln doesn’t publish their numbers about who sticks around very often because it’s like a monthly active users is. It’s something that everyone in Silicon Valley is concentrating on LinkedIn is numbers don’t ever look good because it’s not a place that people want to come and spend a lot of time.

But what they are saying is that people are spending its year-over-year. They’re spending 40 percent more time in their Newsfeed than they were before. Okay. So the average LinkedIn user is probably logging in to LinkedIn once or twice a month and. Now they’re finding more and more use from what’s being shared in the news feed that they’re coming back and spending more time.

So I think we’re going to keep seeing that number climb. And of course the more people that spend time on the platform the more effective your ads are going to be. Yeah that that is true and I’m starting to see that it just myself looking at my LinkedIn timeline. There’s definitely a lot more activity.

I think people are a lot more comfortable sharing and posting through Linkedin because they know it’s going to get. No, more views views and more visitors than in the past and one of the things that I see now is there’s a lot more video now in the in the timelines and the ads that people are doing and I think video to an extent right now is is really just maybe only slightly tapped.

I mean, it’s not really that saturated like I guess you could say Facebook is where now Facebook it’s like this so much video, whereas in the past, you know, you’ve hardly any video. So I think that maybe have yeah. Yeah, when you’re on LinkedIn when you see a video you still stopped to say oh what was cool enough to be worth creating a video over whereas in Facebook.

You’re scrolling past them going man. Why there’s so many videos. Yeah. Yeah. Exactly. It’s not so it’s almost it’s almost too much on Facebook. But yeah, I think they’re Facebook now, you know, they’re doing all these things now, too. To kind of hold things back into the way they really started out to be and even though they’re of course.

They’re they’re down to make money there are business. They’re trying to come in kind of say, you know, this is all about the community. It’s all about relationship building, but I don’t know if my opinion I think it’s a little too late because they’ve obviously made an incredible profit from the amount of data that they have and what they provide to advertisers.

Businesses.  Yeah, and on that point Facebook ran out of AD inventory. I think it’s around the beginning of this the beginning of 2018. And so what that means is now in order to have your ads shown you have to bid higher than someone else. That’s what we’re seeing prices rise. So no doubt about it.

Facebook has built an incredible ad platform, but now, you know just watch they have to show a 20% return year over year. Quarter-over-quarter to Wall Street to hit expectations. So we’re going to see them figuring out new ways of showing ads to people to create additional ad inventory that doesn’t exist today.

So watch over the next six months they’re coming out with new stuff because they’ve got it. There’s that’s the only way for them to grow now that all of their ad inventory spoken for yeah that that makes sense. Yeah. We’re going to see things slowly change for sure, I guess 2019. Really going to be interesting with the direction that they’re going to go.

Well AJ. Yeah, I really appreciate all the information that you’ve brought us into a to our listeners is an area that we really hadn’t talked too much about on the podcast LinkedIn and I know just from what I’ve seen and like you said it’s growing they may be a few years behind with regards to their advertising but for some businesses, it definitely makes sense because it seems like it’s one of the few areas where there’s a specific demographic like you said.

That own kind of hard to get it to get in touch with anywhere else. Like you said the HR hiring managers and other sales managers those type of people. It’s a great vehicle a great platform to kind of reach into them. But yeah before I close things out. I always like to now ask my guests just kind of switch gears here one final question.

And that’s a kind of a fun fact question. What’s what’s one thing that our audience would be surprised to know about. You know what? We’ve already talked about the go-kart thing a little bit but I love speed. I love off-road vehicles. I love you know sports cars so I although I don’t own a car.

That’s anything to be too excited about my fleet of other things. I’ve got a side by side and a couple go-karts and a motorcycle just I’m a glutton for Speed God’s a guy. That’s it. Yeah, that’s that. That’s awesome. And yeah, I’m at this speed Enthusiast. I’m a fast car Enthusiast, although I don’t have one of those I’ve I’m at the point where.

I’m going to I feel comfortable investing in something. Like I’ll try went out and I met one of the things I may do down here. Down here in Florida in Orlando. They have a number of places where you can do the the luxury the super luxury car rental, you know for like a day or whatever that may be as far as I go.

I just don’t know if I’m at the point where I’m going to invest, you know, couple hundred thousand in a in a bikini or a Ferrari anything like that, but we can always admire from afar. Well, I’ve gotta ask you. What’s your dream car? You have a favorite very good question. What is my dream car? You know what I would say, you know, I just may be dating me a little bit but I fell in love with the Delorean from Back in the future Back to the Future.

Yeah, if I had my wish what I would do is I would actually. Have somebody retrofit a DeLorean and make it all electric probably kind of maybe pull out some components of a Tesla and put it into a DeLorean and just really soup it up everything inside. Just totally. Totally computerized that that would be my dream car.

That would be a catch a dream. I love it. I’ll tell you my dream car is a little bit dated as well. I love the Aston Martin DB9. It’s dated because there they have a DB 11, which was its replacement. But there’s no replacing the DB9. It’s sex on Wheels. It is the prettiest car that’s out there. So hoping one of these days when I’m old and retired, I’ll be rolling one of those around.

Yeah, that that would be awesome. Well great AJ. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you know, if any of our listeners want to get in touch with you. How do they do? It’s pretty easy. If you go to our website be to length, that’s the letter B the number two and then the word linked.com. If you fill out the the form at the bottom of the page, you won’t go to a sales rep and you won’t be put into our newsletter or anything like that.

You’ll come directly to my inbox and I’m not a sales guy. So any questions you have about anything we’ve talked about in the interview or especially LinkedIn ads fire it off and I’ll definitely respond. Okay, great. That sounds awesome. Cheryl listen is what would definitely be take? Then we appreciate you being open to that, you know to receiving that being able to touch base with our listeners.

So, yeah, well, thanks again AJ for joining us here on the e-commerce marketing podcast. It has been a pleasure. Oh, the pleasure is all mine, Ireland. Thanks so much for bringing me on. All right. Thank you. Thank you for listening to the e-commerce marketing podcast. You need to get more feedback and reviews from your customers and improve your customer retention.

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Podcast Guest Info

AJ Wilcox
Founder of B2Linked.com