LinkedIn Ads, The PPC Show

How to Generate Leads with LinkedIn Sponsored InMail [PODCAST]

Welcome to episode #85 of The PPC Show where we interview the best and brightest in paid marketing. This week we're joined by Candace Kim, Product Marketing Manager at LinkedIn to discuss Sponsored InMail ads for lead gen.

Stay tuned as we continue to talk about:

  • What are LinkedIn InMail ads and where do you see them
  • How to use them for bottom of the funnel lead generation
  • Tips for creating InMail Ads that drive ROI
  • BONUS: exciting features on the roadmap

Don't forget to check out our latest LinkedIn Ads benchmark report  and our advanced LinkedIn Ads suite for performance marketers.

Listen to the Episode

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Transcript and Show Notes

JD Prater:                     Candace, welcome to the PPC Show.

Candace Kim:               Hi. Thank you for having me.

JD Prater:                     Yeah, I'm so excited to be here with you today. We are in LinkedIn's HQ right here in downtown San Francisco with these amazing views of the Bay.

Candace Kim:               Yup.

JD Prater:                     Yeah. Thank you.

Candace Kim:               And luckily, it's sunny too. It's a nice San Francisco day.

JD Prater:                     Nice. Well Candace, why don't you go ahead and tell us a little bit about yourself and your time here at LinkedIn.

Candace Kim:               Sure. Yeah. So, hi everyone, I'm Candace Kim. I am a Product Marketing Manager here at LinkedIn. More specifically, I'm in the marketing solutions business division. So, what that means is, we create new ads and ways for marketers to reach their prospects on LinkedIn. So, been here for about five years now.

JD Prater:                     Wow.

Candace Kim:               It's gone by really quickly, actually.

JD Prater:                     I bet you've seen a lot of change.

Candace Kim:               So ... I mean, I can't even begin to tell you how much change I've seen. But, it's incredible, that's why I'm still here.

JD Prater:                     Yeah. I mean, even just a user of LinkedIn, you can just see the change and the innovation and where things are going. So, it's always exciting times. And so, we actually brought you on here to talk to us about InMail ads.

Candace Kim:               Yes, yes.

JD Prater:                     So, how long have you been working on the InMail team?

Candace Kim:               So, I guess I've been on the product marketing team for about three plus years now. And, I took on InMail about two years ago. And even within those two years it's changed a lot. It's one of four flagship products. So, a lot of R&D goes into it.

JD Prater:                     Nice. And we don't even care about the other products right now.

Candace Kim:               No. No, no I can't say that. I'm actually, I own the other three flagship products. And then, my counterpart owns sponsor content.

JD Prater:                     Okay.

Candace Kim:               So, there's four between us but, I was explaining this to you earlier that, it's like being a parent. You can't chose which one's your favorite. But you kinda have favorites, right? So like, LinkedIn Text Ads is one of my product lines, but it's like the oldest child, like you know it'll take care of itself, whereas InMail, it's like it's really my favorite. But you would never admit that.

JD Prater:                     Well fantastic. Let's dive into it. So we're gonna spend the episode talking about LinkedIn InMail Ads, and so let's kind of kick it off with, for those like listening, and maybe they've never tried InMail Ads or they're not really as familiar with them, tell us what they are. Where do we see them? How do we find them? And who should be using them?

What are LinkedIn InMail Ads?

Candace Kim:               Yeah. All great questions. So let me start with what they are. Sponsored InMail is a ad format that gets delivered to your prospect's messaging center. So I'm sure you all are very talented people and receive InMails from recruiters all the time. I'm sure that's the same for you JD. So it's actually delivering messages to prospects using that same messaging center. And as a brand and a marketer, you get to deliver your messages face to face on a very personal level, and actually get across what you're trying to say, and then of course have a call to action for folks to learn more or engage with you, all depending on your objective.

JD Prater:                     Pretty cool.

Candace Kim:               Yeah.

JD Prater:                     So you talked about using it with recruiters. So outside of recruiters, who else uses them or how can we be using them?

What types of marketers should use LinkedIn InMail Ads?

Candace Kim:               Yeah. Great question. So I find that a lot of bottom funnel marketers find success with InMail. So as you know, as I just explained, it's really personal, right, but it's skill. So you're sending messages to your prospect through the messaging app. It's delivered on both desktop and mobile. And when you see the icon, you actually see that you have a message. So automatically, you're gonna go in, check it out. It's usually addressed to you, so you can use macros, for example, to address the person by first name. And so as a result, it has really high performance rates. So I think one in two people actually open up the InMail, which is insane, right? It's almost, like it's guaranteed that you're gonna reach your prospect. And then after that, half of them are definitely engaging. And so for marketers who want to drive event registrations, webinar registrations, share content that will get opened. Basically any lead gen marketer, it's great for. I think the flip side is for brand marketers who are more, who don't mind that personal touch. So I can't say their name, but a luxury car brand, for example-

And so as a result, it has really high performance rates. So I think one in two people actually open up the InMail, which is insane, right?

JD Prater:                     There you go. There you go.

Candace Kim:               ... will often use these to say, "Hey," you know, and they'll direct it towards like decision makers who we know have X amount of salary, and say, "Why don't you come in to check out this sweet new ride. We've got office locations near you. Sign up for a quick appointment. We'll give you a test drive." Alright, so it's very personal.

JD Prater:                     That's pretty clever.

Candace Kim:               So those are the type of marketers that I think would find the most success from this type of ad.

JD Prater:                     Nice. And well, I think most of the marketers listening to the podcast are those type of performance marketers, so I'm sure everyone listening, you might wanna have your ears definitely paying attention 'cause this one is definitely gonna be a good one for you guys to kind of listen to. So talk to us about some of the ways that you were talking about with targeting. Is the targeting the same as you would do with text ads or sponsored content?

Targeting with LinkedIn InMail Ads

Candace Kim:               That's exactly right. So you can use any of the targeting. I personally find that folks who use matched audiences to retarget folks from the upper funnel do really well, right? So you can't ... It's like being at a bar. You don't wanna just go up to the guy or girl you're interested in and say, "What's your name? How man kids do you want? When do you wanna get married?" You gotta warm them up.

JD Prater:                     That's right.

Candace Kim:               So you do that with things like Sponsored Content, Text Ads, and then you get personal. So InMail's a great way to get that engagement when you know they're warm. So using matched audiences to retarget folks is a great strategy to have. That being said, you can use any of our targeting capabilities such as company, function, seniority, et cetera.

JD Prater:                     So it's even great for the marketers that are doing ABM as well.

Candace Kim:               Yeah. No, absolutely. I think that's exactly right. So you can upload a list of accounts that you're interested in, and really warm up those prospects before you hand off leads to sales.

JD Prater:                     Sweet. Well let's get into some different types of tips that you may have for us. So we kinda talked through like what they are. So anytime you guys see those messages  in your notifications, and like those recruiters reaching out, that's probably it, an InMail there. And for you, 50% that are not opening those, I don't know what you guys are doing, but it's like, I'm always opening. I open every message.

Candace Kim:              Yeah. I agree. I'm so nosy. Like even though I don't know the person sometimes, I'll just open it 'cause I'm curious.

LinkedIn messaging trends

JD Prater:                     Right.

Candace Kim:             But it's funny. Messaging in general has grown so much.

JD Prater:                     Yeah.

Candace Kim:             And I'm sure you guys experience this as well, right? In terms of active users, the top four messaging platforms now outperform or outreach just our social media platforms. Isn't that crazy?

JD Prater:                     Wow. That's huge.

Candace Kim:               Yeah. So like WeChat, WhatsApp, all those top messaging platforms, they've more unique actives when compared to like a LinkedIn, Facebook, et cetera. So we've seen that trend on LinkedIn as well. So the folks who message on our platform, it's grown so incredibly much. And so as a result, we also know folks are opening those InMails. So one thing to keep in mind I always tell folks is keep your message sweet and short. Your prospects are probably getting a lot, and I don't wanna curse, but a beep ton of messages. So be short. Be to the point, but be engaging and personable. I think people try to make it like an email. It's not an email. Keep it under 500 characters. And if you keep it under 500, we've actually seen that you get 45% more click through rates.

And if you keep it under 500, we've actually seen that you get 45% more click through rates.

JD Prater:                     Oh wow.

Candace Kim:               Yeah.

JD Prater:                     So-

Candace Kim:               So, just be casual, and let them know what your intent is and what the clear call to action is.

JD Prater:                     Nice. And I think with you guys thinking through, like when I'm at work, and I might be checking in on my desktop, I love that you guys have surface towards the bottom there.

Candace Kim:               Yeah.

JD Prater:                     In like the bottom right. I always see like the messenger. And of course, I hate seeing that little red dot, and me not. It's like, "I must clear the red dot."

Candace Kim:               Yeah. Exactly. So that's, I mean, you're not alone in that JD. Everyone else is the same. So that's why for marketers this is a great product, 'cause you're ensuring that you get in front of the right people.

JD Prater:                     Yeah. That's ... I think that was like the really huge one, especially to contrast, right, so thinking how marketers are starting to like use like messenger for example, like Facebook to do these things. Well LinkedIn's already got it.

Candace Kim:               Yeah.

JD Prater:                     And we've already got a great audience. And you already almost guarantee delivery, which I think is great when you think through actual, the people you wanna reach-

Candace Kim:               Yeah.

JD Prater:                     ... and getting that message.

Candace Kim:               Exactly.

JD Prater:                     That's pretty cool.

InMail Trends 

Candace Kim:               Yeah. And I think something else to keep in mind is messaging apps for LinkedIn, it's no longer seen as something where you just log on during weekdays, right? You're not just going on to see, "Okay, I'm professional Monday through Friday, so I'm gonna check my LinkedIn." It's no longer the case. In fact, with InMails, we've seen that people open them the most during weekends.

With InMails, we've seen that people open them the most during weekdays. But they actually respond and perform the call to action on weekends.

JD Prater:                     Oh wow.

Candace Kim:               But they actually respond and perform the call to action on weekends. So we know that folks are actually to only reading the, going onto LinkedIn and reading your sponsored InMails on weekdays, but they're also actually taking action on weekends. And my hypothesis is obviously, right, you have more time. You have it top of your mind. And then you can actually go and do something about it.

JD Prater:                     Well that too. And you guys have done, again, a great job of giving us like answers. I love that you guys kinda like surface what you can reply with, right?

Candace Kim:               Yes.

JD Prater:                     So for like the recruiters as an example, you can say, "Yes, I'm interested," or "No, not right now," or "No. Not at all," right?

Candace Kim:               Yeah.

JD Prater:                     And I think, I love that you guys give that ability to kind of give that call in response-

Candace Kim:               Yeah.

JD Prater:                     Even as someone that receives InMail.

Candace Kim:               Yeah. Absolutely.

JD Prater:                     It's really cool.

Candace Kim:               Yeah. I mean, I'm so glad you brought that up.

JD Prater:                     Yeah.

Candace Kim:               So internally, we call that the quick replies functionality.

JD Prater:                     Quick reply. Right.

Candace Kim:               Right now, with InMail, you have a call to action. You click through to the advertiser's landing page. We're investing a lot into this product to actually make it more two way and conversational. So quick reply for example is something that we're starting to investigate and bring onto this ad format.

Candace Kim:               So for those who are going to try InMail or have tried out InMail, just know there's a lot of research and development that's being put into this product.

InMail Ads Ad Tips from Candace

JD Prater:                     Cool. Cool. So we talked a little bit about keeping it short and sweet, less than 500 words. Do you have any tips around like headlines or anything that you kind of like think through for, as I'm kind of thinking through, how do I get someone to even open it?

Candace Kim:               Yeah. So, I mean, I'm sure this is the same for you guys. The attention span for humans is ridiculous. I think I read somewhere it was like, the average attention span is seven seconds. Right. So, myself included. So you-

JD Prater:                     Everyone's checked out of the podcast.

Candace Kim:               Yeah. Sorry guys. But you know, make it short and sweet. Make it concise. We know that if it's personalized, people also tend to open it more. So we have macros available for the InMail, right? So unlike other platforms, where you can't really say, "Hey JD, check this out. We actually want to talk to you." So use the first name macros. Use the company name macros, et cetera, to catch people's attention. In terms of like the call to action, make it low pressure. So we recently did a study, and we actually found that the top performing CTAs were try, free, today, click and apply. So there's not that much commitment there, right? Just like, "Hey, check it out. I though this would be interesting to you." It's just like, I know I keep going back to this dating scenario, but like you can't pitch yourself too hard.

So use the first name macros. Use the company name macros, et cetera, to catch people's attention.

JD Prater:                     Yeah.

Candace Kim:               Right? Then you're like, "Oo, that' smells desperate, like something's going on. I don't know why you're being so weird." Be casual. Be normal.

JD Prater:                     Yeah.

Candace Kim:               I mean just put yourselves in their shoes, and kind of think through what kind of message you'd like to receive.

JD Prater:                     Cool Cool. And within that, outside of words, can we do images or anything in there as well.

Candace Kim:               Great question. So right now, not, no. That functionality is coming down the line. You can put things like hyperlinks to videos for example, an they'll in scroll. So you can include like a video link in there. You can also add just general hyperlinks. And we've actually found that if you add hyperlinks, InMail actually performs better. Yeah. And so I think it's because people are afraid of commitment. So you kinda wanna check out the product, or check out the service. And then people definitely come back to the InMail and will follow up on that action.

JD Prater:                     Pretty cool. I like that one as well. So as you guys are kind of thinking through, you know, you talked a lot about the measurement aspect. Does, how do you guys think about the conversion pixel? Does the LinkedIn conversion pixel also help out with InMail?

Candace Kim:               Yeah. So I think what you're referring to is conversion tracking.

JD Prater:                     Conversion tracking. Yep.

Candace Kim:               Perfect. So I would 100% tell all advertisers, if you're not using your own tracking, try conversion tracking. It helps you optimize your creatives, and it really tells you how they're performing. And then with conversion tracking, you can see post view conversions and post click conversions. Little known fact. InMail actually does so well post conversions. It actually outperforms any of our other ad formats. So we know for bottom funnel, this thing works. And obviously it's because it's more personal. You have more of a recommended next step. And so, yeah. Enable conversion tracking. You'll know what ROI you're getting, and then you can always optimize your creative.

Little known fact. InMail actually does so well post conversions. It actually outperforms any of our other ad formats.

JD Prater:                     Man, you're just full of tips today. This is great.

Candace Kim:               I'm on fire today. I got it.

JD Prater:                     Yeah.

Candace Kim:               I got 'em for you.

JD Prater:                     Well what else am I missing here? What are some other tips you got for us?

Lead Gen Forms + InMail Ads = Conversions

Candace Kim:               Let me think. Have you heard of lead gen forms?

JD Prater:                     Yes.

Candace Kim:               Okay. So for folks listening in today, lead gen forms is a capability. They're pre-filled forms that you can add to any of our ad products, so Sponsored Content of InMail. When you click on the call to action, a form will appear, and it'll be prefilled with information from their member profile. As an advertiser, you can tell us what lead fields you wanna collect basically. And makes it really easy 'cause everything's prefilled. It's accurate data, and you just submit it with the click of a button. And right away, the advertiser or the marketer gets that lead information. And so it's beneficial for both parties, right? For marketers, you're getting access to better information at the ROI you need. And for members, it's really easy for them to engage with you as a brand and get the information they'd like, whether it be for a white paper or signing up for an event, they can do it all within the platform now.

JD Prater:                     Wow. That's a huge win.

Candace Kim:               Yeah. It's a huge win. So what we've seen is when you use InMails, or I mean lead gen forms, rather than allowing folks to go through your landing page, you can actually drive four times more conversions with InMail. So I would highly recommend for those lead gen marketers out there, try adding a lead gen form to your email campaign and you can actually drive four times more conversions, and get those CPLs down really low.

Try adding a lead gen form to your email campaign and you can actually drive four times more conversions, and get those CPLs down really low.

JD Prater:                     Wow. Dang.

Candace Kim:               Yeah.

JD Prater:                     So use InMail plus the lead gen form all within the same kind of like ad unit.

Candace Kim:               Yeah. It's one go guys. It's literally two birds, one stone. And you get all the leads you want.

JD Prater:                     Yeah, especially from the companies I want.

Candace Kim:               Yeah. Exactly. And then put the ABM strategy in your targeting.

JD Prater:                     Yeah. That one's a really good one. I think as we kind of think through not just getting leads to get leads, but getting leads from the right companies or like the right titles, right? That's where I'd see this being a huge win, whenever I'm kind of thinking through my own lead gen strategy.

Candace Kim:               Yeah. Absolutely.

JD Prater:                     That's a nice one. I like that one.

Candace Kim:               Yeah. And so it's easy to do. It's literally within the same platform. So it's all in one go.

Candace Kim:               I think for folks who haven't used InMail, one thing I always like to say is bundle it with Sponsored Content.

JD Prater:                     Okay.

Pair Sponsored Content & InMail Ads for full-funnel marketing

Candace Kim:               So I'm not gonna beat around the bush. A lot of people complain to me that LinkedIn is really expensive. There's premium to using it. I think most of our marketers out there know and understand the premium. It's a different type of audience. But they also do complain that sponsored content CPLs are too high. Well try adding InMail to it. Because InMail has those high conversion rates, you're gonna get the results you want by actually bundling the two products together and taking that multi-product approach.

JD Prater:                     Yeah. That's a really great idea.

Candace Kim:               Yeah.

JD Prater:                     I really like that one. Instead of relying so much on just the newsfeed, I think you're, like I kind of like that you were kind of bundling it with the personal trends of us using messages and messengers more. So it seems like a natural fit.

Candace Kim:               Exactly. You're doing full funnel marketing. So even though you're a demand gen marketer, I mean, it's not just your part of the funnel. You've gotta think, now that we're all very objective based, you gotta think about the whole journey of the prospect.

JD Prater:                     That's pretty cool.

Candace Kim:               Yeah.

JD Prater:                     Yeah, especially even another trend with marketers being held more to like pipeline contribution or like revenue goals, right? It's like, "Well how much is marketing bringing in?" And you're like, "I'm over here doing Text Ads," or whatever. No offense to text ads.

Candace Kim:               No. We love text ads.

JD Prater:                     No. I'm just, I think this is a really great way to make sure that you are getting the revenue from a company that you wanna get revenue from. Or at least a really great, least who your sales wants to.

Candace Kim:               Exactly. And to your early point, now that we have conversion tracking, and lead gen forms, it's the same. The reporting's all in campaign manager. So you can actually prove out the ROI not only to your teams and your stakeholders, but also to sales, to say, "Hey, we got you X amount of leads, or we got you X amount of post click conversions. Let's convert that business."

JD Prater:                     Yeah. That's always a fun conversation in and of itself. She can't help you win that conversation, but I do think this is something that can be really, really cool. So we'll kinda wrap up, like well, what exciting things are coming down the line? So I know you guys are not stopping with what is there now. You guys are always innovating and always trying to improve the product. Is there anything that you can leave us with, maybe like a little teaser?

Updated InMail frequency caps

Candace Kim:               Yeah. Absolutely. So one recent enhancement is we updated our frequency caps. So be sure to go on the links that we'll provide after this podcast. But sponsored InMail is actually only delivered to members every 60 days. So that makes it really special, right? You only receive a very finite amount, so you're not inundated by brands.

JD Prater:                     Okay.

Candace Kim:               So as a result, we know that that's why you're getting those high performance metrics. Well we've actually lowered the frequency cap to 45 days. So the reason why we did that is because actually the people want more. They're telling us we're finding this content useful. We wanna hear from brands. And the performance it obviously there. So the good news is you can actually now target your prospects a little more frequently which is great.

We've actually lowered the frequency cap to 45 days. So the reason why we did that is because actually the people want more.

JD Prater:                     Wow. I mean, it almost sounds like a handshake and a high five to marketers actually giving out good content. So high five to marketers for not-

Candace Kim:               I agree 100% Not harassing our members.

JD Prater:                     Exactly. Well sometimes, as marketers, we have a tendency to do that. So I'm glad to hear that it's working really well and people are finding a lot of value in it.

Candace Kim:               Totally. And I'm guilty as well guys. You're not the only one.

Candace Kim:               Some other things that we're thinking about is to play off of that messaging trend, we're doing a lot to make it more conversational. So we've rolled out new designs for example. So when you send the message to your prospect, we now have like a bubble of the logo or the person sender. So it's more of like a text message, right? In the text messages, you see bubbles. So this is just a step in a very long roadmap that we have to make sponsored InMail more conversational, more friendly, 'cause we're finding that that's how our members, and that's how people like to interact. It's no longer through email. It's no longer through phone call. It's actually just through messaging.

JD Prater:                     Yeah. Don't, don't call me. Don't. Yeah. I'm with you on that. Even In, I'm sorry, email. Most of the emails I get now, I'm just like, "Unsubscribe. Trash," right?

Candace Kim:               Yeah.

JD Prater:                     But it's actually a really good point. Yeah, I like that. I didn't even think about that within my own personal use. So all of you guys out there, think about your own personal use. Do you wanna be called? Do you wanna be spammed on your email? Or would you rather have a high value message coming in to you?

Candace Kim:               Yeah. And it's got the context of the message. So you don't actually have to go through and be like, "Who's the sender?"

JD Prater:                     Yeah. Exactly. Cool. Cool. Well, let's wrap up. Anything else that we should touch on or anything you wanna leave the listeners with?


Candace Kim:               No. I think for our marketers out there, if you're looking for healthy conversions and almost guaranteed engagement, check out sponsored InMail. And like I said, try adding a lead gen form onto it, or definitely enable conversion tracking to see that ROI you're getting. And as you guys continue to set up these kind of campaigns, feel free to ping me on LinkedIn. Of course I'd love to hear about the use cases. I'm always surprised at how marketers get so creative with these messages. So can't wait to hear those stories.

JD Prater:                     Fantastic. Candace, thanks again for coming on the show and talking to us about sponsored InMail ads and what you guys are doing here at LinkedIn. Sounds like a lot of great stuff coming down the pipeline, and especially with proving out ROI.

JD Prater:                     So for all those listening, make sure you guys go out and give it a try. We'll be including all these links in the show notes for you guys to get started.

Candace Kim:               Yeah.

JD Prater:                     So that's it.

Candace Kim:               Great. Thank you for the invite. And hope you guys all have a great day.

JD Prater:                     Alright. Thank you guys. And that concludes the show for this week. We'll see you guys next week.

AdStage Team