What is a "full-funnel" LinkedIn digital marketing strategy?

July 21, 2021


Sales organizations that thrive on a steady flow of inbound leads have an opportunity to leverage paid social for lead generation. LinkedIn is a viable source for some, but not all businesses. Jacob Shibley joins the show to talk about his experience with LinkedIn ads, and what a “full-funnel” strategy looks like. In this conversation, we talk about:

  • The companies that benefit from LinkedIn ads
  • The three primary objectives of LinkedIn campaigns
  • How data privacy changes impact LinkedIn
  • Examples of successful “full-funnel” campaigns


John Tyreman:  Hi gang. Welcome to The Digital Marketing Troop, where we talk about changes and trends shaping the world of digital marketing. My name is John Tyreman and I’m joined today by Jacob Shibley, Senior Paid Media Manager and Team Lead at Silverback Strategies. Jacob, how are you doing today?

Jacob Shibley:  John, good. How are you? 

John Tyreman:  I’m doing just fine, just fine. And you know I love today’s topic because LinkedIn is a platform that I’m familiar with mostly as an individual user on the organic side of things, but today we’re talking about LinkedIn ads. And LinkedIn is really a B2B platform, primarily. I’m curious, what kind of B2B products or services do you see performing well on LinkedIn, versus other ad platforms, let’s say like Google? 

Jacob Shibley:  It’s really a variety of different products, services that we work with that have success on LinkedIn. You know it’s anywhere from B2B SaaS to, you know, a lot of our higher education clients, especially when they’re targeting for postgraduate degrees, because you can target folks by degrees. But it’s really more about the audience than it is the product itself. Usually our clients will sort of answer the question for us on whether or not we should be on LinkedIn when we ask them, “how should we target your target customer”, or “how do you want to go after them”. When they give us a list of job titles or degrees or skills, companies, LinkedIn is always our best bet when we’re going after that. If they’re giving us keywords or demographic information then maybe Google or Facebook is right for them. But usually we’ll know pretty soon, based on who your target market is if LinkedIn is gonna work.

John Tyreman:  So, looking at LinkedIn, but they’re kind of… their overview of their ad platforms – there’s really three primary campaign objectives that you can build a campaign around: awareness, consideration and conversion. Could you give an example of like a campaign for each of those three different objectives?

Jacob Shibley:  Yeah, totally. And I think just from a high level, LinkedIn, as an ad network, for me, historically has been best right at the middle of the funnel, because we’re able to target people, you know, and we know exactly who they are. We know what their job title is, who they work for, how big their company is, but we don’t necessarily know what they’re looking for. So, that middle of the funnel was really where we focused. You know we’ve focused on you know gated content, softer asks, just to get somebody’s attention and get them in the door. So I’d say that’s where a lot of our historical activities have been on LinkedIn, but more recently I think LinkedIn has really grown in its abilities as an ad platform. What they’ve introduced with their video ads, and their ability to retarget video viewers, has really helped us start at the top of the funnel and say, you know, just getting somebody’s attention is enough because now we can retarget those folks, again, with a harder offer. Then the middle of the funnel, like I talked about, that’s mostly gated content. And at the bottom of the funnel, LinkedIn is coming out with a lot more targeting for people who are interested in particular products, but also you know with their remarketing capabilities you can remarket to people who have opened a lead form, filled one out, or watched a video, and you know that just gives us a lot more opportunity at the bottom as well when we’re thinking about our more sales focused lead goals. So, when LinkedIn has these campaign objectives, most of what you’re seeing within the platform are just what LinkedIn is optimizing for. So from an awareness standpoint in the platform, that’s mostly optimizing for reach objectives. Most of our clients don’t necessarily sit in that bucket of caring that much about reach. Where I would define a video view as an upper funnel objective, LinkedIn is defining that as a consideration. So there are a few technicalities within this LinkedIn platform that I might dispute but overall I think LinkedIn is becoming much more of a full funnel play for us.

John Tyreman:  So investing in digital ads on a platform like LinkedIn, obviously, you need to be able to prove impact on revenue, return on ad spend. You talk about how LinkedIn is becoming more of a full funnel play, how can companies connect the awareness and consideration parts of the funnel and parts of those campaigns, how can they connect those to revenue?

Jacob Shibley:  It always depends on the company for us, and what CRM they’re using. Typically with LinkedIn lead forms, or if we’re driving folks directly to the site, we see the most success when we’re able to have those conversations with our clients of what’s coming through in your CRM, are these high quality job titles, are they moving through the sales cycle or the lead nurture funnel, and we’re able to tie that through to the back end. So, all of the solutions that we have with LinkedIn are great. You know we are definitely able to measure the exact job titles we’re capturing, companies we’re capturing, things like that. But I think the key to success on LinkedIn is really having that connection between what’s happening in the backend with our clients and their sales and what we’re doing in the front end in terms of the lead generation.

John Tyreman:  Have you seen campaigns where you start with, or you have the awareness in the consideration campaign setups, you’re optimizing for reach, you’re optimizing for whatever various consideration metric you’re using. When you set up campaigns like that, have you seen metrics like pipeline velocity increase, are they going through the sales cycle quicker and is revenue realized quicker because of that thought leadership and nurture that you put in on the front end? How does that impact the flow later on down the line?

Jacob Shibley:  Yeah, that’s a great question. I would say most of what I’ve seen, you know, if we’re running a video, then we’re retargeting to those video viewers with middle of the funnel content, we’ve seen that video really improve the conversion rates of that middle of the funnel content. So more people who have seen the video are going to be more likely to fill out that form, and truly become a lead in our CRM. You know, it really depends on the client. You know the lead nurture cycle. Many of our B2B clients have pretty long cycles, could take six months for somebody to even start a conversation with sales after they become a lead for us, so it’s a little harder to measure that full funnel aspect and if it drives people to sale quicker, but it definitely drives them to convert the first time quicker and makes them a lot more likely to engage with their content along the way.

John Tyreman:  That makes sense. And it’s, I can see how it can be hard for marketing leaders who want to prove impact on revenue but really need to take a step back and measure things on a longer time scale, right?

Jacob Shibley:  Yeah. What you’re getting with LinkedIn, you can’t really get anywhere else in terms of your lead quality so that’s always a good thing to connect it to. It’s, you know, maybe we’re not saying you’re getting a sale tomorrow but we can say, 90% of the leads we drove you were at the C level or VP level, or, you know, here are all of the job titles we drove you. Are most of these good? Probably. So I think that’s always an indicator for us with LinkedIn as we’re always able to get really into the weeds with who we’re targeting and who we’re capturing and we can make those adjustments along the way as well.

John Tyreman:  I think there’s a really great point. And I want to dive into that a little bit. So, what stands out for LinkedIn is your ability to target, you mentioned by job title, by industry, those sort of firmographic, demographic variables. On other platforms, like Facebook, I was talking to TJ James the other day about Facebook and we were talking about how the impact of Apple’s new app tracking transparency feature on the iPhone devices, that’s impacting the ability to measure demographic information like age and sex and geography and things like that. I’m curious, is that having, are you seeing any impact of that on LinkedIn campaigns?

Jacob Shibley:  So I think LinkedIn is a lot less affected by this change. Certainly everyone is affected, but where Facebook a lot of the information that you’re using to target folks, is through like a lookalike audience where algorithms are matching based on what these cookies are guessing about us, but with LinkedIn it’s a lot more straightforward. A lot of the time it’s just based on your profile, you know the job titles, the skills, the industry your company sets itself at, you know, the groups you’ve joined, so it’s a lot more straightforward from a targeting perspective. There are lookalike audiences, things like that, but honestly the most success that I’ve seen are targeting methods that are a lot more straightforward. And then from a, you know, tracking and remarketing standpoint, LinkedIn hasn’t always been the best to remarketing platform just thinking about you know, a website visitor, they’re probably more likely to be on a website that’s on the Google Display Network or, you know Facebook just has a much larger user base. But when we are able to retarget on LinkedIn, a lot of that comes from within the walled garden of LinkedIn. So somebody who opened a lead form or watched a video as I mentioned before. So when you’re using a full funnel campaign, just in LinkedIn within that walled garden, you should be okay with the remarketing options that are available to you there too. So again, I mean it’s still an impact, but I think LinkedIn out of our three main platforms that we use is the least impacted by this so far. 

John Tyreman:  Interesting and just so listeners who might not understand what you mean by walled garden can you explain that a little bit?

Jacob Shibley:  Essentially, with third party tracking, a cookie would need to be placed on a user’s browser once they leave, LinkedIn site, Facebook site, whatever site that you’re on when you click the ad. Within a walled garden is essentially saying, if you’re on LinkedIn, and you watch a video on LinkedIn, LinkedIn doesn’t really need to cookie with a third party cookie, instead they already know that about you because you haven’t left their site. And the same with a LinkedIn lead form that’s on the LinkedIn site as well. So, basically, the more activity you can track before somebody leaves the LinkedIn site, the better you are off for success, essentially,

John Tyreman:  Thank you for that. That’s pretty interesting. So we touched on the third party cookie deprecation a little bit, and I take it that that’s not going to have a big impact on LinkedIn, specifically as opposed to other platforms right?

Jacob Shibley:  Yeah exactly. For the same reason, you know, I think, our most successful LinkedIn campaigns that we’ve run, have been utilizing mostly on LinkedIn features. So, you know, a lead form that you can fill out on LinkedIn, where you don’t really have to leave the platform, we’ve seen conversion rates much better for those just because there’s so much more frictionless. But then that also gives us the benefit of knowing exactly who filled that out through LinkedIn, even the ability to retarget to people who opened it, without relying on a third party cookie. So, yeah, I mean, I think, again, there’s a bit of loss there because clients do like to lead folks to their site eventually right? It would make sense but I think there’s so much data on LinkedIn that doesn’t rely on that, that most of our campaigns will be okay.

John Tyreman:   Jacob, do you have any examples of a campaign that you’ve worked on the LinkedIn platform that’s really stood out to you or that you found joy in doing?

Jacob Shibley:  One of our B2B providers that I’ve worked with for a long time has kind of gone through this journey that I’ve been mentioning throughout our podcast here of, we worked with LinkedIn for a long time, just in the middle of the funnel. We’re promoting like white papers, reports. And, you know, the lead cycle takes as long as it takes when we drive those conversions. They go through the email nurture process and it takes, you know, months for them to become a sale eventually. When LinkedIn came out with their more robust video retargeting, we worked with them to sort of expand across the funnel. We created a new video just to capture the top of the market, get people interested, then remarketed to them with a harder offer. So we’ve been able to sort of skip that nurture step and get people right in the door to request a demo. I think, you know it’s not one particular campaign but it’s that concept that I’ve really seen work is that you know, you can stick to one aspect of the funnel, but if you’re working every phase of the market, you’re able to capture people’s attention. And sometimes that’s okay to just capture people’s attention right away. And then, divert them I suppose to a harder offer if you think they’re ready. You know if we’ve given them a really good value prop, then we can say, request a demo or talk to sales right now. And it’s worked so much better than when we’ve tried that on its own.

John Tyreman:  That’s interesting. It’s got to be a tough sale though right? I mean you got to be able to… you’re kind of taking a leap of faith, but you know it’s going to work. How have you successfully navigated those waters?

Jacob Shibley:  It’s been a lot of trial and error and when these things were not connected, when we weren’t able to remarket to the people in the top and middle of the funnel, it was very expensive to get a demo. But I think just through testing that and using the features as LinkedIn came out with them, we were able to find efficiencies to get us there.

John Tyreman:  Jacob I know we’re coming up on our time here. Thank you so much for your insight. If listeners want to connect with you, where would you have them go?

Jacob Shibley:  Yeah, just to my LinkedIn.

John Tyreman:  Right on.  Well, LinkedIn is the place to be. That was the topic of our conversation today so I imagine that listeners who are listening to this are also active on the platform. So connect with Jacob Shibley, on LinkedIn. Jacob, thank you so much for taking the time and we’ll chat soon. 

Jacob Shibley:  Yeah of course. Thanks John. Thanks for having me. 

John Tyreman:  If you found this podcast episode insightful, please subscribe, tell a friend and leave a rating and review. And to learn more, head on over to silverbackstrategies.com where we have a wealth of digital marketing insights on our blog and Resource Center. We’ll see you next time on The Digital Marketing Troop.