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How to Use LinkedIn Sponsored InMail for Lead Generation

Abby Nieten
September 2, 2015
Min Read

In March 2015, LinkedIn announced that it was relaunching its Sponsored InMail product, which allows you to send targeted emails to its audience of over 300 million professionals. We sat down with our very own Lindsay Johnson, Demand Generation Team Lead, to talk about her recent experience testing the platform. Here are her thoughts on the new product and how digital marketers can get the most out of its lead capture functionality:

Prior to LinkedIn introducing its Sponsored InMail feature, what was your opinion of/familiarity with LinkedIn’s ad platform? What advertising offerings existed before the feature?

LinkedIn has always had really great targeting options because it has so much data on a person’s professional life specifically. It has resources that you can’t get on other platforms, such as job title, areas of expertise, past employers, etc. Besides Sponsored InMail, LinkedIn has always given marketers the ability to sponsor updates (expanding the reach of posts to your company profile) and to create sidebar ads that can target your audience profile.

Describe the first test you ran using LinkedIn Sponsored InMail.

We tested the LinkedIn InMail feature when promoting our webinar with Tim Ash, “7 Form Conversion Killers (And How to Avoid Them).” With this webinar, we wanted to target people who were trying to optimize their landing pages and forms for better conversions. We created our audience of digital marketers, specifically manager-level and specialist employees—people who are really in the trenches of trying to convert more traffic.

How easy was it to create your campaign and targeting with this feature?

With Sponsored InMail, you write the copy, and then LinkedIn will give tips on how to make it more appealing. You can choose to send it from your company overall or from someone within your company (we chose to send it from our VP of Marketing, Chris Lucas). The great thing that sold me on testing the feature was LinkedIn’s 100% deliverability promise. It sends the Sponsored InMails as people are signed on, meaning they will be delivered in real-time. It’s a little more personal, and because of the great targeting, you can really find professionals and make them feel like you’re crafting a specific message just for them.

Looking at the use cases for LinkedIn InMail, a lot of them are related to job prospecting and networking. How do you recommend digital marketers use InMail for LinkedIn lead generation?

First, I want to distinguish between Sponsored InMail and regular LinkedIn InMail, because they are actually two different offerings. You can buy the ability to send anyone an InMail message on LinkedIn, which is generally what recruiters or job seekers use. Those cap out after you have sent a certain amount each month. With Sponsored InMail, you can send your message to thousands of professionals, but it is marked as a sponsored message. LinkedIn recommends this feature for lead gen specifically, and one of the use cases LinkedIn actually recommend is promoting webinars. If you’re targeting people who are at their jobs and thinking about their jobs, Sponsored InMail is great for lead generation—through webinars, e-books, etc. I’ve actually gotten some sponsored messages about events as well, like “we’re holding a networking lunch on this date and wanted to let you know.”

Without giving specifics, how much/little is the cost for using this feature compared to other social media promotional offerings? Was the cost per lead (CPL) relative to what you see on other platforms?

The initial investment is much more than other social advertising platforms, like Facebook or Twitter. With LinkedIn InMail, you’re required to have a committed budget before you begin, rather than having the ability to run a small test budget before scaling the campaign. It’s a bit more of a risk because you just have to hope your targeting is in place and that you’ll see the results you anticipated for the spend. The cost per lead has been a bit higher than what I’ve seen for our campaigns on other social platforms, too. We’re still compiling our results, but the hope is that the leads are a higher quality because of the advanced targeting, which would justify the higher CPL.

How well were you able to track the success of your Sponsored InMail campaign in LinkedIn?

LinkedIn might have plans in the future to provide a back-end platform for its Sponsored InMail feature, but right now you can’t see any of your results within the app. You have to request an email with those stats, and LinkedIn provides an overview on total emails sent, open rate/number of opens, and clickthrough rate/number of clicks. The platform really just provides the baseline stats so you can see where the bottlenecks were in your campaign, like if you need to improve your subject line or something for the next send. The results aren’t in real-time, but you can pretty much get the picture within a few days.

Overall, would you recommend Sponsored InMail for lead capture? Why or why not?

Overall, I would recommend the feature. I’m hoping it will evolve a bit more. I would love to see less expensive testing functionality (LinkedIn currently offers InMail testing, but at an additional expense) or even more of a self-service model. But as long as you’re sure on your audience, I think LinkedIn lead generation through Sponsored InMail is a good investment. Because there is a substantial initial investment, it’s important to make sure you’re targeting the right people with the right content.

For a closer look at how Formstack can help you better track and capture leads, sign up for a free trial here.


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Abby Nieten
As Senior Manager, Content Strategy, Abby leads an amazing team of marketing content creators toward a shared content vision. She's been growing with Formstack since 2015 and spent several years as a professional editor before that.
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