The Summary

In part 5 of our special series the Next Chapter Lynsey is joined by AJ Wilcox, the world’s leading marketing expert on LinkedIn Advertising. AJ is based in the USA and run B2Linked the agency and has spent more on LinkedIn ads than any other agency around the world and is also the only official agency partner for LinkedIn. Lynsey and AJ discuss the change to the LinkedIn platform post Covid and where LinkedIn allows greater opportunities than many of the other platforms. This episode has so many ah-ha moments and insights – it’s not to be missed for anyone wanting to learn more about running successful ads on LinkedIn.

The Guest

AJ Wilcox is a LinkedIn Ads pro who founded , a LinkedIn Ads-specific ad agency, in 2014. He’s an official LinkedIn partner, host of the LinkedIn Ads Show podcast, and has managed among the world’s largest LinkedIn Ads 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.

The Episode

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The Transcript

Lynsey (00:00):

Welcome back to the gospel of social media. And this is part five of our very special 10 part series, which we called the next chapter. And this is obviously about looking at what marketers need to do now in light of this emerging and crazy and changing world that we’ve found ourselves in as we’ve gone through COVID-19 and all these kinds of changes and unrest. So what do we do with our marketing plans now? And I am so excited for this one, and I’m going to freak out now because I am a bit of a fan girl. I am doing stay by the awesome AJ Wilcox, who is just like in the industry. There are certain people that I consider my go to’s when I want to get like the, the latest, the index and the accurate, and I’m so about, you know, transparency and accurate advice.

Lynsey (00:52):

And I have a couple of go to’s and industry that I, that I referenced. I hear something I’m like, no, I’m going to go and check with that person because I want to see what’s then an AJ is my absolute go to, for anything LinkedIn advertising. He has got an incredible podcast. So I know you guys love me, but I also want you to love this one because it’s called the LinkedIn ads show. And it is just, if you’re like, you guys are obviously geeks and nerds, cause you love this show, but if you really want to geek out all the things like LinkedIn ads, I highly recommend that he owns B2 Linked, an official, I’m going to let you probably introduce this again, cause I’m going to skip that stuff. Cause I’m just like, um, I saw AJ a couple years ago at social media marketing worlds and it was just phenomenal content, super, super nice guy. And he’s doing a workout and recording a podcast at the same time. So like legend in my book, Do you want to just maybe give people your background and sort of how you going and I found your story and how you got into LinkedIn and sort of why you’re in this space like super interesting as well.

AJ (01:52):

Thing. Well, first of all, thank you for the very kind intro. That is awesome. I’m so glad that I’ve been able to help in some way. Uh, my story is I started out doing search engine optimization really liked at a spin 14 years ago, but really likes the search side of things. And then at my last company, I got brought on to run all of digital marketing and on the very first day, my COO says, Hey, uh, go ahead and execute everything you were planning on. But just so you know, we started a pilot with LinkedIn ads about two weeks ago. So see what you can do with it. And I didn’t want to look stupid to my new boss. So I said, and I dove in and started trying to figure things out. And about two weeks later, one of my sales reps comes up to introduce himself and says, Hey Jay, we are fighting over your leads, whatever you’re doing, keep it up.

AJ (02:42):

And I went to go look at the leads he was talking about in the CRM, because I want to know what’s he talking about? And every single one was sourced from LinkedIn ads. And I was like, that’s not the only channel I have running. There’s gotta be something here. So I ended up growing that to become LinkedIn’s largest spending account. And after running that for about two and a half years, I said, okay, there’s gotta be more companies than just this one that would slay it on LinkedIn ads. And so I started in the agency because that seemed to be the easiest way to, uh, to spread that knowledge with as many people as possible. So that’s be two is our agency where almost six years old. Um, like you mentioned where we’re the only ad agency in the world. That’s that is an official partner with LinkedIn. Um, and we’ve run many of the largest accounts. I mean, no, one’s spent more money on LinkedIn ads than we have collectively. So, uh, we’re super geeky.

Lynsey (03:35):

Yeah, I can, can you see, this is why I’m super excited, cause this is just like, I’m like give me the data, give me the data. So I’m going to jump in now, obviously the theme behind this series on the podcast is we are coming out of this kind of post COVID-19. We are global pandemic sort of world. We know that consumer behaviors have changed. Digital it’s really changed things in the digital landscape. And so this show is really for it’s for marketers who had that, you know, they had the 2020 marketing plan and it was all hopeful. It was all exciting. And now they’re sort of looking at this things and it really is now what does this playbook still work now? What am I doing? So I’m going to give you that really open kind of question first, like, like what do we do now?

AJ (04:18):

Yeah, that’s a really good question. I think one that everyone’s trying to figure out something we saw and we saw a whole bunch of our clients pause during that initial two weeks of panic. And, uh, we saw we were still getting leads over the whole quarantine time, but, uh, there was diminished, um, diminished, close rates. It seemed like people were reticent to sign any sort of longer contract just because they didn’t know if we were about to be plunged into a worldwide recession or if this is just a temporary while everyone’s losing their jobs and getting furloughed. Um, but now, I mean, just in the last three weeks, my calendar has been back to back, blocked off with sales calls and we had a record week. I mean, last week we closed five new clients within a single week. And so it sure seems like we’re starting to get the confidence back.

AJ (05:11):

Um, something we noticed that was so interesting was when everyone panicked and budgets got cut, we see, we saw the cost per click on LinkedIn drop about, you know, five to 10%. So not nearly as severely as Facebook and YouTube, I heard costs dropped like 40% plus. Um, but it was such a good time to be advertising on LinkedIn because costs were low and LinkedIn ads tends to be a channel that is for longer sales cycles anyway. So cheap way to start conversations in relationships that aren’t going to close for six months or 12 months down the road anyway, just because we’re dealing with longer sales cycles.

Lynsey (05:54):

So I’m just going quickly on that. And this is a, we get asked all the time around the cost difference between Facebook and not just do it. Cause obviously we know that the pandemic, we did an episode on this, that costs, on Facebook dropped everybody’s at home, everybody’s online, every shopping and eCommerce, cause it can’t leave the house. Like it was just, it was like a golden play day for like a couple of eCommerce businesses and things and a couple of brands where it was really challenging for companies under heavy restrictions. Some people just skyrocketed, what does that sort of cost modeling look like? And obviously it was cheaper during the pandemic time of LinkedIn, but what does it look like if we were to put LinkedIn against a Facebook or YouTube or a Snapchat or that kind of thing in terms of costs? Cause this is something, you know, I think puts people off advertising on LinkedIn.

AJ (06:39):

Yes. So I’m going to mention stats and benchmarks here in North America because that’s the majority of the clients that we have, but realize that as soon as you leave the English language costs drop considerably, cause there’s, there’s a lot less competition as soon as you leave North America in terms of a target cost drop considerably. So anyway, don’t, don’t hear these numbers and go, Oh, I could never do that and shut your brain off. Um, what we find is here in North America, we’re going to pay eight to $11 on average per click and on Facebook for a B2B click, we see sometimes between two and $3. So it’s pretty easy to look at that and go, man, LinkedIn is four or five, six times more expensive. Um, we’d rather spend our budget over on Facebook. But what we find is because LinkedIn’s targeting is so specific to business users, you can make sure that every single impression is served as someone who’s really your ideal customer. Whereas with Facebook, the targeting around businesses is a lot more broad. And so sales teams are telling us that they’re throwing out five out of every six leads just cause they’re, they’re not a good fit, their moms and pops a tire kickers. And so, I mean, if you’re a sophisticated enough marketer to follow things past the initial conversion, and you’re looking at your cost per marketing, qualified lead, or cost per sales qualified lead, then all of a sudden LinkedIn starts to look really good, even though the initial click costs a million.

Lynsey (08:09):

Yeah, absolutely. We just, like, as I say, Facebook knows how people live, witness their interests and their habits, but LinkedIn’s got so much more of that rich, you know, business targeting data where you’re going after job types and companies that will B to B world, it just can’t compare. Facebook tries really hard and there’s a couple of job title protocols in there, but are they accurate? Does anybody ever take their job title on Facebook? Not really. Um, so what do you, what do you think that in terms of things that marketers should do now, moving forward, looking at their marketing plan or their sort of some, if we would narrow it down, cause I’m sure there’s so much you could tell us, but if there were kind of three pieces of advice that you could give marketers now that are getting into LinkedIn post COVID-19 they’re reexamining, reevaluating, their marketing plans, what should they be doing now to move forward?

AJ (08:58):

I think the biggest thing that everyone needs to do is think of how they provide value to their customers. And not just when someone buys our product, here’s the value. Uh it’s this is generally in terms of the lead magnet. So we know that you can ask anyone to do anything from an ad. You can say, you know, uh, I mean even asking me what to do anything crazy stuff, but it doesn’t mean that they’re actually going to be willing to do it. And so I tend to order things in my mind, like the types of calls to action or the types of offers that you can have by level of friction. So in my mind, the things at the top are like very low friction kinds of offers. Things like, uh, come and read this blog post, or look at this infographic. And many people are going to be willing to do that because there’s no risk in it for them.

AJ (09:48):

And then you have things at the bottom that are really high friction. Things like buy something now or hop on the phone with a sales rep, um, take a free trial of something. Those are things where people go, Oh, that’s a lot of work. I know I’m going to have to talk to someone who might put a high pressure sales pitch on me. And so what we find is both of those kinds of offers the extremes. They don’t tend to work very well on LinkedIn. Uh, at the top, you’re paying eight to $11 to get people, to read your blog. I mean, blog posts don’t really convert all that well. So you’re going to have a really high cost per conversion and at the bottom you’re scaring people away because you’re asking too much. So they’ll click because their interests are there. They’re curious at least, but then they only convert at one and a half to 4%.

AJ (10:36):

And so you ended up with these astronomical costs. So what we find the magical type of offer on something where you’re providing real value in exchange for their content. So think lead magnets, like a free checklists, cheat sheets, guidance, webinars, that kind of thing. And of course anyone can put together a webinar, but if you have a webinar that really does address a pinpoint, something, that’s keeping your prospects up at night, they will join at like 15% conversion rates and above. And if you have a webinar that’s just a product demo or something it’s like pulling teeth to get anyone to fill out the form. And so really it comes down to understanding your customer, understanding what their pains are and providing real value. You’re not just digging for a product brochure that you can put behind the gate form anymore.

Lynsey (11:32):

Yeah. How do you find, so I’m going to kind of ask you two questions on that. How do you find, cause you say that blog posts obviously don’t and we, I’m not a little bit biased cause I’m, I’m, I’m not a wonderful writer and I’m so much more a fan of like the written and spoken word and video content. And we find that definitely on Facebook blog posts do not get the same traction as video know that Facebook set up to favor video. How does that sort of work on LinkedIn versus how LinkedIn appreciates content that’s in blog written form, maybe taking them off site versus the same information sort of place in a video.

AJ (12:05):

Yeah, it’s interesting because LinkedIn isn’t quite that sophisticated yet where they’re on the organic side, they are like, they’ll look at your video and written content and decide how much distribution they want to give you. But on the paid side, if you’re willing to pay their cost per click, they honor them all the same. It’s all on the backend, a CPM model for them. And so they’ll say, yeah, anyone. I mean, if you want to keep people on LinkedIn, if you want to send them to a landing page, all fine by us, as long as you’re willing to pay our CPS,

Lynsey (12:33):

They’re not quite as angry about that as Facebook is because Facebook doesn’t Facebook does not want people to keep telling you guys do not send people off Facebook, keep them on Facebook and Facebook will love you forever and then sneak them off Facebook with retargeting and also just, just quit.

AJ (12:49):

It does favor the click through rate. So if you have something that gets clicked on at a high rate, that’s where you start getting rewarded. Okay.

Lynsey (12:58):

And this is just a new thing that’s come out. So obviously we know that LinkedIn is now allowing us to retarget from video in content. So would you sway your you, so if you have the opportunity to present the information in a blog article for clicks or to sweat, present the motion in a video now for clicks, can you then still retarget from those video? These, if somebody watches a video and then clicks through to the post, does that give you like a secondary retargeting option now within the platform?

AJ (13:23):

Ooh, good question. Yeah. So anyone who watches any sort of videos. So as long as they’ve watched at least two seconds of a video, all the way to completion, you know, 25%, 50%, 75%, uh, all of those become audiences that you can now reach target on LinkedIn. You can’t pass that data outside. So that is, uh, you know, really stuck within the gated walls of LinkedIn. Um, but it’s really cool that we have it. So it used to be video was so expensive and there wasn’t anything you could do with it. So I wouldn’t recommend it now. I actually do. However, if you are going to send traffic to a landing page, now you can retarget it with your Facebook retargeting, which is by far the best retargeting on the planet, you can pair that with your Google and get everywhere on the entire Google display network, which is like 90% of the web. You can also do LinkedIn’s retargeting, which isn’t nearly as robust, but at least it’s something, I feel like traffic on your landing page on a website that you own is so much more powerful when you’re doing cross channel stuff. That if I had the choice, I would rather send to a landing page though.

Lynsey (14:31):

Yeah. And well, yeah, this is a big thing that we talk about is Omni channel and, you know, tag everybody stalk them everywhere. If you have an opportunity show up then, um, in terms of like the ad formats and things that are working has covered changed, I mean, it’s changed our usage. Could you give us a bit a summary in terms of how the usage on LinkedIn has changed sort of moving out of COVID. I know it’d been like things like time on platforms, how people are consuming content and then what marketers can actually use from those learnings to shake up their calendar sort of moving forwards.

AJ (15:07):

Yeah. It’s really interesting. LinkedIn didn’t release much data on this. Um, but what we do know is that when everyone started working from home, uh, I think there were a lot of people who were afraid of losing their jobs. So they were on LinkedIn, boning up their resume a little bit. Um, and yeah, trying to make connections and maybe see what’s out there. So there was increased usage of LinkedIn. There’s also this market force of if you have LinkedIn or any social network up on your screen at work, um, you might catch judgement from your boss or your coworkers, but working from home people, weren’t afraid of having it up. And so there was a lot more time spent on LinkedIn and it looks like it’s, uh, staff are somewhere between about 20 and 40% more time spent on the platform during coven. So, uh, this was a really a good thing, but, um, when people are looking for a job on LinkedIn, they’re in a very different mindset than someone that you might be trying to lure in with content because you want to sell their company something. Uh, so a lot of the advertising that we’ve done during this time period is doing things like actively excluding anyone from our audiences who, uh, who LinkedIn knows is looking for a job. So things like that.

Lynsey (16:27):

You’re like, dude, I want your money. I don’t want to hire you. Okay. Just pass me on to the guy who’s replacing you. Cause that’s who I want to talk to really, but good luck. And what kind of, so if a marketer is to look at this now, like in terms of sort of how they would work, has there been any changes to how they would structure their LinkedIn campaigns based from the changes or the usage now on the platform? Or is it still kind of, it’s kind of getting back to business as usual. You know, it’s a good platform. It’s time to really step up your game on the platform.

AJ (16:57):

I mean the only change I can think of account wise, I might adjust to have offers that maybe speak to what people are experiencing. So if you have offers that help them through COVID or help them through black lives matter or anything that they’re experiencing, then creating offers and writing ad copy that include those things could be a really good thing. But I say other than that, I mean, life is usual. I wouldn’t change my targeting in any way because of COVID at the only thing that we saw is because people are spending more time on the platform. If you have an audience of 60,000 people that used to spend, you know, a hundred dollars a week, now it might be able to spend 150 or $200 a week because that audience is more active and more willing to click. So I don’t think I would change anything about strategy except maybe just matching tone of and your offers with what your prospects are experiencing. Awesome.

Lynsey (17:56):

What do you think have been some of the benefits and I know it’s, we have been it’s a year that nobody’s ever seen before. It’s been a huge global tragedy. It’s been huge wake up calls, but what do you think some of the benefits for businesses have seen from this period and for marketers to sort of really embrace

AJ (18:12):

And I mean, I hate experiencing this kind of disruption, but it’s been so good for so many companies to kind of get that wake up call because the economy was so good for so long. And, uh, you know, we would give advice to people like, Hey, rather than pushing people, right. To a demo. How about you come out with, with content and structure your sales team so that they’re, you know, in more of a nurture kind of approach rather than just part sharp sell. Um, and this really caught a lot of people by surprise. They were preparing for things to kind of go awry. And so they started immediately thinking, okay, what does the future look like if we have to get a lot more efficient than we are, what do we need to do? And it pushed a lot of people towards more disruptive internal behavior of people taking actions. That high view is very intrepreneurship rather than, than entrepreneurship, uh, which is great. I think it’s going to force us all to become better marketers, even though the pressure that we’re experiencing right now, isn’t very fun to experience. Okay.

Lynsey (19:16):

And I would, I absolutely agree with that in the sense that I think it’s a lot of people have to step back and go, okay, if I can’t depend on the things I’ve always done, and if my world now looks different, what are the possibilities? What are the options for us out there? You know, so many businesses that we’ve seen that have never thought about having an e commerce channel or having an online delivery for their services. And now they’re suddenly going, well, if we don’t have this, we’re never going to experience it. They, they really, you know, pivot and change for the work quickly. And we’re finding this now in Australia, things are starting to open up. People are not letting go of those sides of things. Now it’s not like the e-commerce try to shut off. The online services are shut off online consulting shut off. They’ve actually looked at this going, wow, this is actually a second revenue stream for the business. Now that we can actually, we can do this. We hold our meetings on zoom We can do this stuff. And they really started to embrace that digital side of their business. And I think that’s going to be a really good opportunity for marketers that they’ll have more things that they can potentially do and talk to and pick from,

AJ (20:13):

Oh, that’s such a good, a good rundown. Lindsay. I love that. I didn’t even think about that. I just watch so much disruption happen on the B to C side. Like, uh, there’s a movie theater nearby us who obviously can’t show movies anymore. And so they put screens and projectors on the outside of their building and turn all the parking lots into a drive in movie. And I got to go for my birthday.

Lynsey (20:37):

That’s so cool.

AJ (20:38):

So, uh, anyway, I love seeing that disrupted so cool that it’s, it’s making its way into B2B as well.

Lynsey (20:44):

I, I just, you know, it’s funny, we talked to another, um, guests on the podcast, Kate and we were both talking about how what’s amazed me is watching businesses go from, you know, the doors are shut. So the next day they said, okay, well, you can still be like, I saw a local cafe and it’s like, the doors are shut, but you can still do takeaway. So they opened up the program, one of the windows, they opened up, they had a takeaway kiosk the next day. And then the day started because people couldn’t get, you know, there’s panic buying. People can get stuff from grocery stores. So they started doing like boxes of food. Like you could order the night before these little boxes with bread, milk and supplies and these things. So they started doing that. So they started doing more groceries and then they were allowed to get a couple of people in.

Lynsey (21:21):

And so they had the delivery and the coffee, and then they had like a grocery thing cause they could still go to Costco and all the suppliers that they were doing that for their local customers. And they ever had, obviously they had to put all the social distancing measures in and there were lines and things, but there was literally a line outside their business every single day. And every time there’s a change. Every time a restriction happened, every time something moved, they did I’m hot cross buns over Easter and they have the world’s best talk, cross buns. Like I’ll fight anybody over that statement. They were incredible. And they know that these were really, really famous and that people would come, people would drive from all over Sydney to come and get these hot cross buns. They’re so, so good. I waaay too many of them.

Lynsey (22:00):

And what they did is they figured, you know what? People really love this product. Why are we not doing this once a year? Let’s cheer everybody up. And that’s what they called it. We’re gonna cheer you up or we’re going to sell more hot crossbuns. And they started doing this product. Like they did this for like four weeks in a row. And they still had lines every single time because they just doubled down on what was working for them. And I’m like, this is there. Literally a husband and wife team. The son works with them. They’re a local business and they just took it in their stride. And I’m like, that’s what I want all businesses to do right now. t dig deep and just find it every opportunity,

AJ (22:32):

Business geniuses right there. And I love that it’s a mom and pop store that was able to pivot so quickly.

Lynsey (22:38):

It is. And I said, it was absolutely amazing. And I’m hoping that this is what comes out from this from marketers is that they start to look at other tools in their toolbox. And I would absolutely say if marketers are particularly in that basic base space, yes, we can do a little, I’m a diehard Facebook chick that is Mark Zuckerberg. Um, but I really think that the targeting and the ability that LinkedIn offers businesses is just phenomenal in terms of that space, that if they’re not embracing the LinkedIn platform, it’s a good place to start. Now, I haven’t done this course, but I understand that you have a course that can help. Cause where do people like go to learn this? And I think you have a course for LinkedIn.

AJ (23:20):

Yeah. So I was lucky enough to be chosen, to be the course instructor for the LinkedIn ads course on LinkedIn learning.

Lynsey (23:27):

I like say humbly. And I’m so lucky that I was able to be chosen when you’re like literally the guy who’s ever spent the most and done the most ads for LinkedIn. Like they should have picked you.

AJ (23:37):

Well, I’m so glad they did. It was like a, like a two, two and a half year. I kind of ordeal to it to kind of work through that. Um, but I mean, knowing that this is LinkedIn’s platform, they love to plug their own employees into things. Um, they, they do have some of their own trainings. And so I was, Oh, surprised they let someone external do it, but I’m so glad they did. So anyone who wants to go to or LinkedIn, but if you search for just LinkedIn ads or LinkedIn advertising, uh you’ll you’ll see me like a chubby ginger guy going like this on the cover. They took the silliest picture. Um, then that’s the course and it is, it’s just over an hour long, but it’s really good taking you from the very basics of here’s what LinkedIn is all the way to campaign creation and tracking and attribution.

Lynsey (24:24):

Awesome. And then AJ, how would people get in touch with your work with you? If they’re interested in, you know, your agency looking at their ads, they’re interested in, obviously guys, you need to listen to the podcast you just did, but how do people reach out to you? How do they work with you?

AJ (24:37):

Yeah, really easy to get ahold of us. If you go to our website, be to So the letter B the number two and the word, fill out the form on any of those pages. And you won’t go to a sales rep. You won’t be put on our spammy newsletter. You just go directly to my inbox and I’m not a sales guy. So feel free to reach out, ask anything you want.

Lynsey (24:58):

Awesome. And I have to say, I was actually very surprised at all the people I’ve invited on podcasts and things. I don’t understand strike back. My, I was like, this is actually like unclean fobbed off from personal assistance. So I’ve been chasing people and I was just like, right. I’m like, this is the actual dude. This is so cool. Thank you. Is there any other parting advice or things that you could leave for marketers just around that whole Lake? No, again, that’s a huge, big, massive question, but just any parting words or advice for advertisers getting into LinkedIn.

AJ (25:25):

I think it really has to be lead with the offer.. It’s going to turn into a lead generating machine very quickly. If you try to force someone to do something that they don’t want to do, it’ll feel like pulling teeth and it’ll feel like LinkedIn is just stealing money out of your wallet. And, uh, so obviously go towards where it’s easy. Find something that people actually care about and start there.

Lynsey (25:53):

Awesome. Thank you so much, AJ. I really appreciate your time. You got some miles in, you know, as we were talking, which is good. Um, guys as always send us your PMs and DMs questions and comments. If you’ve got any feedback about the show, we will be joining again. Next week, we have another incredible guest talking, all things marketing and how we move forward into the next chapter after this. Thank you all so much for joining us

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