Lead generation is never an easy task, but it can be especially challenging for B2B companies. Businesses within all industries are constantly looking for new ways to reach and engage with their target audience. Well, there is one advertising tool that can be really efficient when used the right way – LinkedIn Sponsored InMail! It might be surprising how many companies aren´t taking full advantage of it yet.
Today, we will learn what exactly is Sponsored InMail, and what are some of the best practices that will help you generate high quality leads:
What is LinkedIn Sponsored InMail?
Sponsored InMail, also known as Message ad, is among the most popular and effective LinkedIn ad formats for lead generation. It allows you to send direct and highly customizable messages to LinkedIn users right into their inbox.
Some of the biggest benefits of InMail, compared to other LinkedIn advertising formats such as Sponsored Content, include:
More direct communication
The one-to-one approach of InMails make them a great tool for reaching your target audience on a more personal level.
The company is not hiding behind a faceless banner; instead, the message is delivered by an actual person. In fact, users can even check the sender´s LinkedIn profile for additional information.
Instead of having to send the message one by one as in regular InMails, you can actually deliver hundreds of customized InMails at once.
High Open Rate
Compared to other forms of advertising such as email marketing, in which emails have an average open rate 0f 25-30%, InMail significantly outperforms this number. According to LinkedIn, the average open rate of an InMail is around 45%, but can reach up to 80-90% for some industries!
What are some of the best practices for sending InMail messages?
While the benefits of Sponsored InMail can be huge, it will really be up to you to craft successful, high-converting InMails.
Here are some of the best practices that you can follow:
Earlier, we mentioned that one of the biggest benefits of InMails is their high credibility compared to other forms of advertising.
However, credibility doesn’t come precisely by default. Yes, on one hand it does, because there will always be a sender with a real LinkedIn profile behind. However, choosing a trustworthy sender with a high credibility will be key for generating qualified leads that want to interact with your business.
What does that mean? It might vary across industries, but generally speaking, the name associated with your message should be relevant to the recipient. Job title is also really important.
For example, receiving a LinkedIn Sponsored InMail from the CEO of the company usually has much more value than a message from the Marketing Specialist. (No offense, I am such myself 🙂 )
Usually, the higher the job title, the better, as it gives more credibility for the recipient, and makes him feel more important.
2. Keep it short and sweet
Let’s be honest: nobody has the time to read a long text message that takes forever to get to the point. In reality, you will need to be able to convince your read to take action in less than 500 words.
According to LinkedIn, concise InMails that are shorter than 500 characters usually have a 46% higher CTR (Click-through rate). This means that you will have to craft a compelling argument without taking too much of the reader’s time.
Furthermore, let’s not forget that a lot of these InMails will be read from a smartphone. Which means that a message that is too long for a desktop will look even longer on mobile. As a company, you should always care about mobile experience – did you know that mobile traffic accounts for more than 50% of the web traffic worldwide?
3. Personalization is key
Personalizing your message is key for generating high-quality leads that want to engage with your business. For this reason, LinkedIn allows you to add macros such as the first name of each recipient.
As for the message, how do you personalize over 2000 InMails that you are sending at the same time?
Well, you might not be able to personalize each specific InMail, but there is a way to make it a little bit more personal. The key is to use your target audience.
Let´s say that you are organizing an event and you want to invite people with the following job functions:
- Business Development
- Media and Communication
- Product Management
Instead of launching a single campaign for everyone at once, what you can do is launch 4 separate campaigns:
Refining your audience through the Job Function filter so that you have one different campaign for each target job function.
Now, what you can do is create a more personalized message adapted to each specific profile. Even if job functions is not your case, you can always play with campaign filters to try different messages!
4. Start with a catchy subject line
Probably the very first element that grabs users´ attention upon receiving an InMail is the subject line. It needs to stand out from the crowd if you want your message to be seen (and most importantly, read).
Here are some questions that might help you craft a catchy subject line:
- What need does my product meet for the user?
In this example, the company´s product will help me generate more leads with LinkedIn ads. Which is definitely a strong need for pretty much all companies!
In this one, the subject line covers another common need for most companies – growing their business.
- How can I make the user feel important and unique?
Exclusive invitations for competitions, events, webinars, and other things are an immediate attention-catcher!
- What element of interest will the user find in my message?
By making a hint to your offer in the subject line, you will excite the user to read the whole InMail and find out what it is:
Of course, there are other elements that you can use to attract the attention of your target audience.
According to LinkedIn, some of the best performing subject lines include the following keywords:
- Job opportunities
- Exclusive invitation
- Join us
It is really a matter of testing to find out which lines and keywords work the best for you!
5. Include a clear Call to Action
Another essential element that will help you generate more leads is having a clear and enticing Call to Action.
You see, the point isn´t precisely to make your users read a message. If that was the case, you could have just sent them a link to your blog instead of paying for Sponsored InMail.
Every single InMail has a clear purpose: to convince your audience to take an action. Do you want them to register for your webinar? Or to download an ebook? Or maybe to learn more about your product? No matter what your exact purpose is, it needs to be clear for the user.
Your CTA will appear both on top of your message (as a button) as well on the bottom. So you better make it compelling! The general rule of thumb is to not make it longer than 3 words – shorter CTAs show a 13% higher CTR.
According to LinkedIn, some of the top performing Call to Action buttons for InMail include:
6. Include visuals
Sponsored InMails that are shown on desktop can be accompanied by an image to go along with your message. (It is not available for mobile yet).
Including banners that resonate with your text is a best practice that will not only increase your brand visibility but will also make your message more enticing.
Of course, your image should be a complementary element to your InMail but not too distracting or overwhelming.
After all, the point of your InMail is to have a more personal approach with your target audience through text. If you want to grab the attention of your users in a more visual way, there are better ad formats on LinkedIn such as Sponsored Content.
Another reason why you should include a visual to your InMail is that if you don´t, LinkedIn might show an ad from another company in its place:
In this example, you can see that the LinkedIn Sponsored InMail is from a technology company but the image in the right column is from Telepizza, a Spanish pizza company.
What´s worse for your company than having your target audience getting distracted with pizza? I mean, who wouldn´t? (Yes, I do realize that the banner is not precisely about pizza but I am hungry, so…)
Tip: Check out this page for the advertising specifications of InMail! The size for your banner should be 300×250.
7. Take advantage of the A/B Testing feature
As in any form of advertising, it is always a best practice to be A/B testing your ads all the time. Sponsored InMails make no exception.
There are a lot of elements that you can (and should be testing constantly):
- Subject lines
- CTA buttons
- The opening sentences of your message
- Closing sentences
- The length of your InMail
- The sender
And of course, the whole body of your InMail! For example, you can try shorter messages vs longer messages to see which one works the best for you. Although the general recommendation is to keep them less than 500 characters, you never know if you could be the exception!
LinkedIn allows you to run multiple InMail versions at the same time (I have censored some things in this example):
By observing the performance of each campaign, you can see which one works better in the context of your own industry. However, never stop testing!
If you see that one InMail works better than the other and you pause the second one, this doesn´t mean that your job here is done. Keep testing other elements and versions! Just make sure to only change one variable at a time. If you change too many things at once, you might never find out which was the one that actually worked.
8. Selecting your Target Audience
One of the most important steps before you actually launch your Sponsored InMail campaign will be to select your target audience.
As a general recommendation from my own personal experience, try not to go with audiences that are too big (or too small). Audiences that are too big might dilute your budget and it will be hard to analyze your results to try and identify common patterns later.
On another hand, small audiences might gain traction too slowly because InMails are only delivered when LinkedIn members are active.
You might ask: Ani, what do you mean that an audience is too big? Or too small?
Well, the most annoying answer of all is: it depends. But in general, campaigns with audiences that have less than 10,000 users are in risk of taking forever to deliver your InMails.
Whether an audience is too big will depend on your budget. Unless your budget is unlimited, I would hardly recommend an audience bigger than 300,000 users to anyone. This kind of segmentation is usually too generic and might not be a good idea if you are trying to reach your ideal customer.
Of course, these numbers will depend on your industry and target audience! This is what I found that works for me.
9. Pair your Sponsored InMail with Sponsored Content
A highly recommended practice is to send your Sponsored InMail at the same time that you have your Sponsored Content active for the same campaign/product.
The trick is to use the same audience for both. This way, you have a higher chance of impacting the same users twice through multiple channels as both ad formats can complement each other.
10. Put Analytics into use
Using Analytics tools to measure and optimize your campaign performance is among the best practices for every form of Advertising.
To do that for LinkedIn Sponsored InMail, go to your Campaign Manager, select the campaign that you want to analyze, and click on Demographics or Performance:
Here, you will receive detailed information about your ad so you can continue optimizing its performance:
11. Use Lead Gen forms
Another great way to generate more leads with Sponsored InMail is to use LinkedIn Lead Gen forms instead of your own landing.
Lead Gen forms auto-fill your lead generation form by extracting data from the LinkedIn profiles of your audience. It sounds creepy but in fact, it is just the data that you chose to be public on your profile. Instead of having to fill out numerous fields manually, LinkedIn simply does that for you:
Obviously, I´ve censored my Job Title and Company Name in this example, but they do come auto-filled from my LinkedIn profile.
Lead Gen forms are a great way to improve user experience and generate more leads quickly. From my experience, the cost per lead decreases significantly with Lead Gen – in some cases, 2-3 times!
Now, it´s your turn! Which best practices are you excited to try? Have you tried some of them already? Let me know in the comments below!
As always, thank you for taking the time to read my article, and see you in the next one!
Featured Image Source: lynda.com