As of November 2016, LinkedIn have made bulk Sponsored InMail advertising functionality publicly available via their marketing solutions platform. Prior to this, only companies with significant marketing budgets were given access to this bulk InMail functionality as a means of B2B lead gen. Small-medium size B2B companies simply had to make do with the 15-30 one-to-one InMails they were granted per month as part of their Premium or Sales Navigator account or use Sponsored Content/Text Ads to drive leads.

If you’re curious about how this new advertising functionality can power your B2B lead gen, read on!

How does LinkedIn Sponsored InMail work?

There is a pretty detailed step-by-step guide to setting up a LinkedIn Sponsored InMail available over at Lynda.com so I won’t go too much into the specifics of the set up. However the basis of LinkedIn Sponsored InMail is that you can craft a personal message – similar to a personal e-mail – which includes a call-to-action button (you define the message on this button) and a 300 x 250 display banner as a complement and send it to an audience of LinkedIn users based on selected criteria. Companies are charged for every InMail sent but an InMail is only “sent” when a user fitting the selected audience criteria logs into their LinkedIn account.

The below is what recipients will see when they open the Sponsored InMail in their LinkedIn inbox.

B2B Lead Gen - Linked Sponsored InMail

What’s so great about Sponsored InMail?

Direct contact with your target audience without sending an unsolicited e-mail

Sending a sponsored e-mail blast to the e-mail subscribers of a 3rd party B2B industry network can prove expensive while sending an unsolicited direct e-mail can sometimes generate a negative response. Sponsored InMail provides a cost-effective means of directly messaging your target audience without it being considered spam or unsolicited. Receiving Sponsored InMail is simply part and parcel of being a LinkedIn user so it’s one of the most effective means at your disposal of directly contacting members of your target audience who have never been exposed to your product/business before.

Open rates are very high

Subject lines have a key role to play in InMail open rates – transparent messaging with stats and industry related facts tend to work well e.g. How 72% of B2B Marketers Are Building Quality Back Links. However from LinkedIn’s initial beta testing and from my own experience, with the right targeting and subject line, open rates of Sponsored InMails can sit at circa 40-45%.

Low cost-per-send

The cost-per-send will vary depending on your selected audience criteria but I’ve found it to average no more than 60-65 cent per send. That means your InMail B2B lead gen campaign can land in the LinkedIn inboxes of 1,000 members of your target audience for approx. €600-650. With the standard open rate at around 40%, this means for your €650 spend, you’ll get a very direct message in front of at least 400 members of your specific target audience.

How can Sponsored InMail help with B2B lead gen?

b2b business meeting

Precise audience targeting

You need to define an audience size of at least 1,000 members to run your campaign however the level of audience targeting available is very specific. You can use InMail to send a direct message to employees of specified companies, employees with a specific job titles in a defined industry, members of specific LinkedIn groups – there are numerous options to choose from. The precision of targeting ensures exposure to an audience most likely to convert to a lead.

Strong potential for conversions

With a CTA button, the opportunity to hyper link copy in the InMail and a clickable display banner all at your disposal, the opportunity to engage your recipients into taking a course of action is very strong. Typical click-through rates are about 4-7% – and I’ve seen this to be true myself with B2B Sponsored InMail campaigns I’ve managed to date.

B2B lead conversion rate can work out at about 3-4% of those who have received the InMail depending on the CTA you use to drive leads. Offering a relevant gated content download has proven most effective for gauging leads via Sponsored InMail. Putting a downloadable content piece that specifically addresses key pain points/interest of the recipient right under their nose unsurprisingly has a strong conversion rate.

Considering giving LinkedIn Sponsored InMail advertising a try? I’d love to hear your insights and to learn about your experience with using the medium to drive B2B leads so drop a comment below.

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