LinkedIn is a powerful tool for marketing -- in fact, a HubSpot study found LinkedIn generates the highest visitor-to-lead conversion rate at 2.74%

Businesses in industries ranging from higher education to financial services have all seen success advertising on the platform. Even well-established consumer brands like Subway, the U.S. privately-held sub and sandwich franchise, managed to convert new corporate customers with the help of LinkedIn's Website Demographics ad function.

However, advertising on any new tool can feel overwhelming, and if you don't already use LinkedIn to generate leads through advertising, you might be unsure where to start.

Fortunately, we've got you covered. Gaurav Nihalani, a Digital Marketing Manager at LinkedIn, was interviewed as part of HubSpot's new campaign, "Advertising, a Look Behind the Screens".

Take a look at the full interview series here, or keep reading to learn Nihalani's suggestions on how to successfully advertise on LinkedIn.

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Gaurav Nihalani's 5 Tips to Successfully Advertise on LinkedIn

1. When creating your ads, tap into the human element.

If you're a marketer without much prior experience in the advertising industry, you might be dealing with a little bit of imposter syndrome, wondering if you have the skills necessary to create high-converting ads.

Fortunately, Nihalani believes you can still create a powerful ad as long as you understand the human element.

As Nihalani says, "I think marketing is more about the human element, right? If you're able to speak to someone as you are speaking to me now, you should be able to market to that same person."

As an example, Nihalani calls out old-school advertising -- "You know, if you look at, historically, ads throughout the generations -- whether it was on print, radio, or television -- you know, the ones that were really successful were the ones that related to people the most … so if you think about brands such as Coca-Cola, you know, there was always a person drinking a Coke."

He goes on to say, "They were talking about things like happiness, family, and gatherings. They weren't really talking about, 'Hey, our product is the best-tasting Cola'. So, I think when it comes to things like that, you can be very successful if you're able to create a connection at a human level."

Of course, you'll want to A/B test to ensure you're creating content that best resonates with your audience, and you can use analytics to refine your strategy.

But ultimately, your advertisement will likely perform best if you understand your persona as a three-dimensional person -- What are his or her interests outside of business? What excites them most? These questions can help you formulate a more powerful, far-reaching ad.

2. If your business is booming, you still need to advertise.

If sales are steadily rising and your business is experiencing the benefits of a well-established brand in the marketplace such as name recognition, you might be thinking -- Do I really need to advertise right now?

Nihalani, however, advises against this way of thinking -- "I think there's a misconception in the world of marketing that if you're a successful business, you don't need to market -- and I think that's a poor decision on the part of a business, because when you are successful, it might be the best time to market."

Nihalani adds, "That's why when you talk about tissues, you say Kleenex, right? When you talk about sports shoes, you talk about Nikes, and it's not that those businesses have stopped advertising when they were successful."

"[Instead] they started advertising even more, because the more you get in front of someone, the more you talk about your values and your brand, the more you establish a human connection with that customer or that buyer."

He has a point. Plenty of well-established successful brands, like Nike, spend billions on advertising each year. Ultimately, long-term success is only guaranteed with long-term marketing efforts -- even if your sales are in a good place, it's still critical you use that success as leverage to reach more audiences and become a more widely recognizable and beloved brand.

3. Tailor content specific to personas in various stages of the buyer's journey.

To explore the importance of customized content that aligns with various stages in your buyer's journey, let's start with Nihalani's example for LinkedIn.

Nihalani points out -- "For LinkedIn, for our marketing business, we want to advertise to marketers, so that's a fairly broad function, but maybe there's some marketers who really value our messaging and are ready to make that purchase right away."

Alternatively, he says, "At the same time, there are other marketers who are maybe just brand-new. They just started their careers. Everything that we're saying may be a little over their head, so we can tailor different messages to them. Now, simultaneously, what we want to do is make sure that they all understand our brand, but we want to make sure we do that without spending too much money."

Nihalani adds, "We can create different personas within the marketing function itself, and tailor content specific to those personas so that we are maximizing our budget."

Of course, this is easier said than done, but Nihalani offers a few tactical steps you can do to begin defining your target persona on the platform.

First, it's critical you determine your goal or objective, as well as how you'll measure your success (is it in leads, click-throughs, or sales?).

Once you've determined your objective, you'll want to develop your target audience by considering a few critical questions, including -- Where does he/she work? In which industry is he/she in? What is his/her job title or job junction? Where did he/she go to school?

As Nihalani points out, all these questions can be answered on LinkedIn. For instance, he says, "If you want to find a decision-maker in a specific industry, you can do that today using LinkedIn advertising. If you want to target an individual who just graduated from school, from an undergraduate program, you can do that today."

Nihalani adds, "As soon as I graduated, I was seeing advertising from Master's programs, highly relevant to me. I was in the process of considering maybe making that decision, and so because of their ability to use LinkedIn targeting, [marketers]were able to get that message to me and not waste that advertising spend on anyone else who may not find that relevant."

Ultimately, LinkedIn is a phenomenal place to advertise because of the in-depth information it can provide on your target persona's personal brand, workplace, and both current and past roles. Use this information wisely to target particular segments within a larger demographic.

For instance, if you're selling email marketing software, rather than targeting all marketers (which is both expensive and time-consuming), you might consider targeting marketers with a current role in email marketing, and/or marketing executives specifically in the tech industry.

4. Brand awareness and thought leadership are just as important as acquisition.

When thinking about the goals of your advertising strategy, I'm willing to bet one thing initially comes to mind -- sales.

Of course, it's critical your ads drive revenue and results for your business.

However, that doesn't mean it should be the only goal you have when creating an ad.

Nihalani suggests, instead, you think of your marketing objectives in a few different boxes -- "One being pure acquisition, right? This is what you would consider direct sale ... they click on your ad, and they're going directly to a page where they're buying a product or they're giving you their personal information to have you contact them directly."

"But you also have things like brand awareness and thought leadership," he adds, "Which I think are [perhaps] more important than acquisition -- because why would someone give you money and buy your product if they don't believe in your brand, [or] they don't align with what you believe in as a business?"

He mentions that a successful marketer knows that selling a business's story is just as important as selling the business's products or services.

Nihalani says, "I think everyone does have a story, you know, and behind every business is a story, how they got started, how they became successful, maybe a failure that they had, what they learned from that and where they're at today."

"Businesses grow and shrink and succeed and fail every single day, and you've seen some major businesses in the past no longer exist today and some new up-and-comer completely take over markets. You know, LinkedIn is a great example of that."

5. Use LinkedIn resources to identify the tools that work best for your business.

When you first start using a new product, it can be intimidating to figure out how the product will fit into your overall strategy.

To help you identify the marketing solutions that are best-aligned with your needs, Nihalani suggests you start with the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions Success Hub, which offers case studies, tips and tricks on how to use their products more effectively, and LinkedIn's new product offerings -- including when to use those products, and when not to use them.

There's also a Get Started Guide which helps you create a free LinkedIn Page for your business, learn how to share high-quality content like blog posts and Powerpoints, and monitor your success with LinkedIn analytics.

Ultimately, however, Nihalani points out that you likely already have all the content and marketing information necessary to succeed on LinkedIn -- "You already know how to tell your story. Start there. Start using all of that kind of content and put it out on a platform like LinkedIn and advertise it, and from there, you can learn and develop and refine, just like you do today."

Learn more from Gaurav Nihalani and other advertising leaders by accessing an exclusive interview series with LinkedIn, Google, and Facebook.

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Originally published Nov 12, 2019 7:00:00 AM, updated November 12 2019

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LinkedIn Advertising