While most of my experience has been in dealing with affiliates and partner programs, it should be painfully obvious to anyone who has ever been a part of managing that kind of program that it’s a ton of work and babysitting.
While there is absolutely some awesome profits and relationship building to be had in this arena, you can’t let your business live or die off of that kind of traffic.
The dark secret about affiliate programs is that the rush of traffic can stop just as suddenly as it appears, and often only offers a momentary rush and leaves you with an unsustainable business. Anyone who tells you otherwise is completely lying to you. Are affiliate programs an important part of running a large operation? Absolutely, but so is SEO, a good social & content strategy etc.
Essentially what I’m saying is that there is more to the puzzle than simple referral traffic, and the most scientific part of that is paid traffic through Pay Per Click (PPC) on sites that have a congruent audience to what you are offering. If you can make the math work with paid advertising then you have something that will make you smile day in and day out.
Since I have many friends who live and breath by PPC traffic I figured I would try my hand at it without their help and make this an awesome learning experience, and I thought I would pick a network that people almost never talk about (although, after this experience it’s likely because it’s their best kept secret).
The Buzz & The “Good Old Days”
These days it seems like everyone and their mother is talking about how amazing Facebook Ads are. While I am sure there are plenty of people who have done well with this platform (there are case studies abound), I have personally found them very frustrating.
Their advertising approval proces is entirely subjective, for instance I’ve uploaded the exact same campaign 3 times to see what happened and one campaign was entirely approved while the other two were denied.
This process not only is like shooting at a moving target but it generally takes forever to get any feedback on the status of your ads.
We also had the hay day of Google AdWords where PPC was like the wild west. Clicks were cheap, there wasn’t a quality score rating that tried to decide the relevance of your ad and landing page to the search query (which allowed you to target the audience you actually wanted vs what Google thought you should have) and sending to dedicated landing pages was actually encouraged.
However, being successful with AdWords is also getting more difficult than ever to accomplish, and the fact that big brands are looking to Google to add a significant portion to their bottom line means many of us are getting priced out of the market.
So where is the next frontier? The little engine that could, LinkedIn.
Doing Some Math
Before I set out to spend a ton of cash on advertising, I had to know what my budget was based on the profit per lead at the top of my funnel.
The specific “widget” I decided to promote was in-person events for a client, which has a general breakdown like this:
Free event (register to show up = lead), then a $3,000 event and finishing with a $15,000 event. I know these prices are steep, but people find value in it and you just need focus to create a similar funnel.
The breakdown of attendance and conversion is generally 50%, 13% and 35%. For this example let say we get 100 people registered for the free event.
50 people actually attend the free event
8 people attend the $3,000 event
3 people attend the $15,000 event
This would mean that for every 100 people we have register for free events, we would see $69,000 in revenue.
Or put another way, each FREE lead we get to register is worth $690 in revenue. That’s pretty impressive numbers to work with, so it’s a great candidate.
It’s important to setup whatever business funnel you have with high margin up-sells to greatly increase the value of each new lead.
Creating Some Ads
While I won’t be showing you the exact ads I used because I want to be compliant with the LinkedIn terms of service and protect my market, I will walk you through the guiding principles I used to create my ads.
I’ll also be showing you the real world performance of those ads and showing you how much each lead cost me to acquire.
The first text that your audience is going to read, the title has to give them pause to read the rest of your ad.
I have personally found non-comital and no b.s. headlines to convert the best. In this case, it was events so many of the best converting ads were something like “Free Event in (Location Name)”.
What a title like that does is tell the reader what they can expect from a click (event), what the price is (free) and where it is (location name).
By starting with something free at the top of your funnel you are going to have a much higher conversion rate which is step 1 to getting sustainable sales – building an initial audience.
This is the most important part of your advertisement, and changing this alone has done as much as triple my click through rate.
In some cases, I’ve had ads that LinkedIn wasn’t showing (based on an algorithm for click throughs) and a new picture turns it into the best performing campaign I’m running.
Pictures that seem to work the best have bright colors so they pop off the screen, and show something that the viewer can either identify with or that they want.
For location based events in particular, bright pictures of a sunset or well known landmarks earned the highest CTR’s (click through ratios).
While not quite as important as the picture or the title, the body is the meat that typically pulls the final decision of a user to click or not.
Make it concise and complimentary to your title.
For example, if your title was “Free Event in New York” your body might say the specific location and date of the event.
Luckily the reporting in LinkedIn is pretty straight forward and the conversion rates of our landing page was a nice round number.
We found that our event registration page, which was the same for all campaigns with a drop down selector for the specific location a person wanted to attend converted around 10% from LinkedIn.
Below you will see a snap shot of the 30 day spend, which didn’t saturate our 10k total budget but came relatively close.
I’ve blurred out the name of the campaigns as to protect the actual location and brand of the campaigns.
Those who are in the PPC world are probably freaking out at the high cost per click, but trust me, the quality of traffic from this “professional social network” far exceeds that of the networks you are used to.
So what exactly did we get for our ad spend?
With 3,094 clicks and a 10% conversion rate we had 309 people register for our events.
If you recall from our funnel conversion rates above, each registered attendee is worth $690 within the immediate funnel and worth much more over time. However, for this example let’s focus on the immediate funnel that accounts for no-shows.
With 309 registrants worth $690 each we added roughly $213,210 dollars of new revenue for the cost $8,602.29.
Not too shabby if I do say so myself. I realize not everyone is going to have a funnel as profitable as ours but the mechanics are important and can be used in almost any industry looking for extremely qualified leads.
Curious what the earnings per click were?
With a 10% landing page conversion and an average CPC of $2.78 we only spent $27.80 for every $690 in new revenue.
Or put differently we made $69 in revenue per click that cost us $2.78, an earning of $66.22 PER CLICK.
Finding this treasure trove is undoubtedly going to be short lived as more and more people catch on, but for now it looks like a new gold mine does exist for those willing to take the time to build a profitable funnel and lay down the cash to make it work.
All I Ask In Return
I hope you found these numbers helpful in setting up your own profitable LinkedIn campaign.
If you did find this post useful, I just ask that you share with someone who might appreciate it. An easy way to do that is through a tweet, like the one below:
A 10k experiment with LinkedIn Ads that made over $200k in 30 days. Tweet This
Either way, I’d love to hear your experience with ads on social networks in the comments or answer specific questions on campaigns you have in mind.