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How to generate B2B leads with LinkedIn’s Sponsored InMail

In the B2B space, marketing qualified leads are the metric of choice. Unfortunately, for marketing in B2B, the “qualified” part is what’s so difficult.

While search engine optimization is great, we still don’t have demographic data we can use to organically target our persona. For paid search, we can assume our audience would “type” certain keywords for what we offer. The difficulty in B2B is that you can’t guarantee that the people who find you from search engines have at least 500 employees and work in a vertical that you have great case studies for.

With these issues at the bottom of the marketing funnel, B2B organizations are relying on referral partners, conferences, outbound sales, and — gasp! — social media.

Social media is no longer an important thing that you should probably be doing; it’s a critical part of your marketing funnel. Now, I’m not saying that you need to be sharing or tweeting three times a day (not that that’s a bad thing). I am saying that you need a targeted and affordable way to advertise to your exact persona, and Facebook and LinkedIn provide that to you.

On both platforms, you’re able to layer your targeting (you can’t do this very well on Twitter yet) so that you can, for instance, find people who work in computer software, have a title related to digital marketing, at a company with more than 500 employees, and then serve up a relevant ad.

By now, we all should understand why social media must be a critical part of your advertising strategy — so now, we’re going to dive into an even more direct way to use social advertising: LinkedIn’s Sponsored InMail.

As you can see, this is a direct and very personal way to target your B2B audience at a low cost. Below, we are going to go through:

  1. Targeting
  2. Segmenting
  3. Messaging
  4. Call to action

Grab a coffee, and let’s begin!

1. Targeting for Sponsored InMail

LinkedIn offers a wide variety of targeting for Sponsored InMail: audience targeting based on pages visited, list-based targeting directly from your CRM (customer relationship management platform) or demographic-based targeting around LinkedIn data.

All three of these have a place to be experimented with when running Sponsored InMail. But instead of running through how to click the buttons, here are two innovative ways you can use Sponsored InMail targeting to generate leads:

  1. You can upload a list of all your dead prospects from your CRM to re-engage with them in a new channel. You can also upload a list of all your current outbound sales prospects who are in your sequences/cadences and use Sponsored InMail to add a new layer of sales touches.
  2. You can target people who have downloaded a specific report. Imagine you are in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant. You can now target everyone who has gone to your landing page, then exclude everyone who converted. The same goes for any or all pages on your site. You can retarget users with Sponsored InMail, and then exclude all converters to retarget in a more personal and direct way.

With so many innovative ways you can target, these two ideas can get the ball rolling.

2. Segmenting in Sponsored InMail

All the targeting in the world is useless if you do not segment and narrow your audience. Remember, Sponsored InMail is a personal and direct touch; at least it should be. So if you do not segment by vertical + persona, you will be left with poor conversions and performance.

I know, because I launched with only partial segmentation: vertical — and was left with no results. But, when segmenting into not just one desired vertical, but also persona-based messaging, it worked.

As a side note, persona-based messaging means that you are appealing to each persona in your target accounts differently. I have found CEOs want to know what opportunities they might be missing, while CMOs want to know benchmarks and trends, while managers want help executing. Each has a unique need and requires a unique message.

Fortunately, you can do this quite easily in Sponsored InMail by creating a campaign for each vertical + persona. So one might be B2B Software and VP of Marketing. Now, your messaging can be personalized and scaled up for that exact persona in that exact vertical.

As you can see, you can get as granular or broad as you like, but the key is segmenting by at least two levels deep.

3. Messaging for Sponsored InMail

Getting the messaging right is impossible without the segmentation talked about above. But with great targeting and proper segmentation, messaging can be a breeze. Before we break down our learnings from outbound messaging, take a look at the copy below:

Let’s break this down by subject line, introduction/body and conclusion.

Subject line

I’ve tried countless subject lines over the years of doing outbound. From an open and replies standpoint, few have ever outperformed: “Hi FirstName, Hoping to Help.” But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t experiment. A great experiment you can run is to appeal to your segment + persona in your subject line:

  • How We Help VPs of Marketing at SaaS Firms

Have fun, test these, but ensure you have a sure thing running so you don’t waste spend.


For the introduction, it’s critical that you use merge tags to personalize your message. You want to scale up personalization and retain the human element.

Next, you want to explain your firm’s unique value proposition and how it directly impacts them in no more than two sentences. Notice that introduction and body are the same — you don’t want to be long-winded. If you don’t have a true value prop for an exact segment, why send anyway? It won’t work.


Your conclusion should have a simple and clean call to action. I purposely created a final piece to this called “call to action” because LinkedIn allows you to add a button.

But for the conclusion, you have to remember that people can’t actually respond to your Sponsored InMail. Because of this, I recommend adding your email and phone number in the signature. (I didn’t know this at the time I ran the above ad.) By doing this, you’re more likely to be contacted by them if they save your message for later. Oftentimes, the conversions come later, when a prospect finally reviews their messages.

4. Calls to action that work

The call to action is the trickiest part of Sponsored InMail. Because you can’t reply to the message (makes no sense, in my opinion), it’s critical that you’re able to get your contacts from interested to an inquiry.

In my testing of this channel, I tried multiple things. First, I tried to do a traditional “Get Quote” call to action which went to my multi-step form. No success. Second, I sent them to my best piece of content. Unsure of success. Third, I sent them to our case studies page. Limited success.

Frustrated, I went back to the drawing board. I knew that I wanted them to be able to simply and easily communicate with me in a manner that was as personal as the message I was sending. After my first four failed attempts, I decided to use a Calendly link.

With Calendly, the user could now click on the call-to-action button and immediately be able to schedule a meeting with me. Within a couple of days, we had our first meeting, and now we are optimizing for more traction.

Hopefully, this post can show the value of social advertising and the impact that Sponsored InMail can have on your pipeline.

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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