Busting Myths About Advertising On LinkedIn with AJ Wilcox

January 8, 2024 by Gary Stockton

Busting Myths About Advertising On LinkedIn with AJ Wilcox

Advertising on LinkedIn Doesn’t Have To Be Complicated

Are you exploring advertising options for your small business? Advertising on LinkedIn is one place where you can target your message, but it can be challenging and complicated for some. So this week, I sit down with AJ Wilcox, the LinkedIn ads myth buster himself to answer questions about advertising on LinkedIn and what approaches work best. During our chat, AJ shares expert perspectives on advertising ROI and the significance of LinkedIn ads for small businesses and highlights the power of LinkedIn’s data for targeting ideal customers in the business-to-business space. During the episode AJ dispels the myth that LinkedIn ads are expensive, emphasizing the higher ROI potential. We also spend some time talking about the use of video ads, showcasing their effectiveness in connecting with your audience.


  • 01:20Starting the Conversation: Advertising on LinkedIn
  • 02:26Understanding LinkedIn’s Advertising Costs
  • 03:09Optimizing Budgets for Stronger ROI on LinkedIn
  • 05:23LinkedIn’s User Engagement and Reach
  • 07:04Exploring LinkedIn’s Ad Formats
  • 08:10The Power of Video Ads on LinkedIn
  • 13:56Mastering LinkedIn’s Ad Management
  • 16:24Personal Lessons from a LinkedIn Ads Pro
  • 18:53Busting Myths about LinkedIn Ads
  • 20:59Conclusion and Contact Information

Watch Our Interview

What follows is a lightly edited transcript of our interview:

Gary Stockton: With so much turmoil taking place in social media this year, many business owners are asking themselves which platform offers the best ROI, particularly when it comes to spending valuable dollars to advertise. As AI continues to evolve, small businesses are worried about organic traffic to their websites, and which advertising partner would make the most sense.

Joining us today for expert perspectives on all of this is the LinkedIn ads myth buster himself, AJ Wilcox. AJ is a LinkedIn ads pro who founded B2Linked.com, THE ads agency in 2014. He’s managed over 150 million in spend on the platform. They’re official LinkedIn partners. He’s the host of the LinkedIn Ads Show podcast and has managed five of the world’s top 10 LinkedIn ads accounts. He’s a ginger, a triathlete, he lives in Utah with his beautiful wife and five adorable kids. And his company car is a wicked fast go kart. AJ, welcome to the small business matters podcast.

AJ Wilcox: Gary, thanks so much. I am so excited to finally be here with you. You and I have, connected about LinkedIn for many, years now. And this is so much fun. I think we get to just geek out a little bit on it.

Gary Stockton: Absolutely, I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while. So for our audience, who are new to advertising on LinkedIn, what advice would you give to help them get started and avoid some of the common pitfalls? And I’m going to make a confession here that. some of my campaigns have actually misfired on our initial attempts to run ads there.

AJ Wilcox: Yeah, I think that’s most of us. I think I spent, I could say wasted, but it’s not, it’s certainly not all a waste, but I spent about $10 million on LinkedIn ads before it finally clicked. And I went, Oh, I get what’s going on here.

So to give you a little bit of background, LinkedIn, because it knows who everyone is professionally, it knows us by our job titles and what companies we work at and company size, industry skills, seniority. the list goes on and on. There just is no other social network out there that knows this much about us professionally.

So especially in business to business, we, of course, want to use that data to be able to target people who are our ideal customers. And that’s great. What you need to know about LinkedIn ads is, and this is also one of the myths I think we’re going to be busting a little bit, but it is an expensive channel when you compare it, especially with Meta, Google, Quora, X, TikTok. And so because the costs are so high up front, it means we actually need to really investigate and find out like, is my company a good fit for this? And that’s a lot of what we’ll, dive into today.

Gary Stockton: So, for B2B companies. one myth that I hear is LinkedIn’s a great place to focus your brand and reaching a business audience. But I’ve also heard it’s expensive, particularly if you are new to digital advertising. How can businesses optimize their budgets for stronger ROI on LinkedIn?

AJ Wilcox: It’s a perfect question. So this is something I’ve seen time and time again. We’re advertisers, especially if you’re focused on North America, you’re going to be paying an average of $10 to $16 per click to advertise on LinkedIn.

So advertisers will look at that and say, wow, I can get traffic for $5 per click on Meta. So I’m going to go spend time on Facebook, and what we see of it and you we actually get this case study with our clients as well because we have this visibility into their, other platforms. Although, yes, Meta is cheaper and you can get clicks and you can get leads for much less expensive. When those leads make it to your sales team, we’re finding that 90 percent or even more of the leads that make it from Facebook have to be disqualified by sales for not being the right fit. But on LinkedIn, Only five to 10 percent of these are being cut.

If you look at it from a cost perspective, LinkedIn could be, LinkedIn is already, let’s call it like three to five times more expensive per click, but when you’re looking at the actual ROI, once it makes it to sales nurtures those, and you’re calculating a cost per sales qualified lead, a cost per proposal, and then a cost per closed deal and ROI. LinkedIn actually pulls way ahead. So I think that’s the myth that needs to be busted is just because the cost is higher upfront does not mean that you are going to have a lower ROI. In fact, your opportunity for a much higher ROI is there because you’re willing to pay more upfront to reach more of the exact right people.

Gary Stockton: Yeah, that’s, it’s a great point. And I would pay to get those qualified leads that, would be more of a fit for my product than, a hundred that I’ve got to wade through and pay, my, my business development team to really see if they’re even qualified. One thing that I’ve heard is LinkedIn is, much smaller than other social networks, although they are starting to grow now, with, with what’s going on with, Twitter. And the members on LinkedIn are not on the platform as consistently as, say, Facebook. Is that a myth and, can I get reach there?

AJ Wilcox: I do think that’s probably accurate to some regard. when we look at LinkedIn as a network, all the other social networks are happy to publish their daily active users numbers and let us know how they’re doing.

LinkedIn always seems to be scared to release its daily active users numbers. So the most recent data I have access to is that people were spending on average, 37 minutes per day on Facebook. This has been many years ago, but. but they were only spending 17 minutes per week on LinkedIn. yeah, it’s the network that people don’t tend to spend nearly as much time on.

But when they do, it’s focused time. It’s focused on their job, their career, and growth. And so it actually makes quite a good test bed for a place for us to market and advertise to them because we’re getting them while they’re in exactly the right mindset. Yeah, I’ll, stop it there. I’ve got like plenty more to share, but that’s, that’s the basics.

Gary Stockton: Cause I think I don’t want people to have illusions about, the amount of, reach. I think it’s, concentrated reach, right? It’s, more targeted and because we’ll get into the targeting maybe a little bit later, but I understand that you can do some incredible targeting there on, on LinkedIn by job title and such,

AJ Wilcox: Totally.

Gary Stockton: there are different ad formats that we can leverage. Is there one that you have used with your clients that works better than others?

AJ Wilcox: There are actually three that I love. And so I better mention all three. I can’t just mention one. Okay. If I have to mention just one, it’s going to be the single-image sponsored content. It’s a newsfeed ad type. And so the newsfeed it’s, your default experience, whether you log in on desktop or on mobile.

So a lot of people see these and you give me four minutes with. Microsoft Word Open and Canva, and I can put an image and, 200 ish characters together of written content, so it’s, I would call it like a shortcut to getting ads created, but I would also suggest that you could read Microsoft I don’t know, five of my guides or white papers or something and still not feel like you knew, liked and trusted me. And that’s what we fight against in business to business is we know that we have to get someone to know, and trust us in order for them to purchase. So what is the fastest way to make that connection with someone emotionally? It’s video. And so I have to say video ads are very high on my list of priorities.

But the third is one that I think is going to be a little bit of a shocker for people. I love text ads. This was the original ad format that LinkedIn came out with back in 2008. And they’re all over in the right rail, only on desktop. They’re not on mobile. they have a click-through rate that is minuscule. It’s two and a half clicks out of every 10, 000 times these ads are shown. So you might be asking me like, AJ, why is this of your top? there’s 14 ad formats to choose from. Why do you like these ones that no one clicks on? It is precisely because no one clicks on them or very few people click on them. They are so low cost to run. And they, pretty much every time that you load a page on LinkedIn, you’re going to be seeing one of these ads and you share it with two other advertisers. And they’re the lowest cost ad format. When someone does click, you can pay all the way down to 2 per click. So we’ve found that when we’re running these text ads, when you have your logo showing up, every time someone loads a page on LinkedIn, you may not see much of an effect from those ads, but all of a sudden in your newsfeed ads, you’ll see a, we’ve seen a 13% increasinnd click through rates on average.
And I think it’s simply because when you see my other ads, you’re going to go, Oh, I’ve heard of that company before. They must be legit.

Gary Stockton: Wow. So really getting that focusing on the, copy in that text ad. So it performs a really, we’ve got chat GPT, right? We’ve got all sorts of tools now that can help us really optimize that.
so don’t be dismissive of the, the humble text ad. It could be a secret weapon in your toolbox. And you mentioned video. Video can be difficult for people like me who have a face for radio. Can you advertise effectively using videos? And if so, what are the best video formats that convert to leads for small businesses?

AJ Wilcox: I actually fought against video for a long time. I used to argue, if we would have talked two years ago, I would have argued that LinkedIn’s, cost per video view is so much higher than you would pay on, Meta or YouTube that it was not even worth it. And people just don’t spend that much time on LinkedIn anyway.

So why are they going to stick around and watch a video? just in the last six months to a year, we have seen extreme changes in video where, yeah, the costs are still high, but if you’re comparing them to your cost per getting someone to a website, we’re finding on average that we can get three people to watch at least 50 percent of a full video ad for the same price it takes to get someone to a landing page.
And after that, my mind is blown like, wow, three people watching half a. This is a video that’s 40 or like a minute 12. So we’re talking about over 30 seconds of airtime of getting to connect with someone makes it very powerful. So then we get to talk about the small business side.

So a lot of the times we go and talk to our larger customers and we say, Hey, you need video. What do they jump to? They jump to, okay, we have to go hire a studio. We have to go hire professional video. Editors and a whole crew and this is going to take six months to produce and it’s going to cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, but when we talk to our smaller customers, smaller businesses and we say, we need video, it’s a completely different story.

We’re talking about the founder literally picking up their phone and recording themselves talking about “this is my passion”, “this is why I started the company”, “this is the problem we’re solving”, “this is my WHY as a founder, as an entrepreneur”, and those videos we’re finding, they cost next to nothing. You might be paying, $30, $40 for someone to edit it and it took you 10 minutes to record with your phone and writing up a quick script and now all of a sudden, this is more effective than the types of video content that large companies are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for. So don’t let video scare you away.

Gary Stockton: The person that comes to mind when you talk about that kind of video is Chocolate Johnny. Have you heard of him? Chocolate Johnny. Okay. He has a chocolate company. And, he makes caramel and all sorts of things, but he’s a confectioner, that’s his business, the chocolate business, and he’s in Australia, but he is fantastic at social media and awesome at just showing, insights about his company, making chocolate, and he’s just, super engaging too with the people that interact with him. And I think that’s the other part of video too, is not just putting it out there and not responding to the comments. You have to be interactive with the audience to some degree?

AJ Wilcox: I totally agree with that. I think I don’t know of a brand too large to actually respond to everyone who, responds.

It’s one of the best things we can do both personally and from a company perspective is make sure we comment on every, or we respond to every comment because that’s how people go out on a limb a little bit in leaving a comment on a company post because they never know if someone’s even on the other side and if they care and if we show them that we care by like actually responding to their comment, I think we make people feel special and we win fans for life over something very trivial.

Gary Stockton: Yeah. okay, more myths. Another thing I’ve heard is LinkedIn is difficult to master in terms of ad management. Is that, is it hard to use and scale?

AJ Wilcox: I would have to say yes to this. Like I, I wish that this is a myth I could bust, but, LinkedIn has put a lot of effort into their platform over the last. I don’t know, five, six years. It looks totally different. they’ve added a whole bunch of new tools. but if I’m really being honest, if I’m going to go and start my first campaign on, on Meta for Facebook, if I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m going to go down and select like all the defaults and just say, okay, I’m okay with all these things. I don’t know what they do. I’ll just keep going. And. I’m going to do okay. Like it may not be the best thing I’ve ever done, but I’m going to do okay. If I go and do the same thing on LinkedIn, I am going to get absolutely boiled. there are five settings that in LinkedIn’s default building of a campaign are not in your favor as advertisers at all.

I’ll give you an idea here. One of the first ones, there’s a box that LinkedIn automatically checks called enable audience expansion. And that is like the worst thing that you can possibly do for your campaign. But LinkedIn insists on making it a default selection. And so what happens is you are very thoughtful and selective about the audience that, that you say, I want my I want to show this audience my ads and then LinkedIn goes, great.

Now let’s throw a whole bunch of other people that they didn’t select into that audience for the purpose of making other people aware. if you have a small budget or a focused budget, you don’t want to spend it on people who might could be tangentially related. all of that to say, yeah, LinkedIn does make it hard to build a campaign, that’s why I have a job because if it were really easy and everyone could do it, like no one would come to an ad agency like ours.

That being said, I’m a self starter. I’m the, kind of person who every new thing that I want to try out. I want to build it myself. And so if you are like me, absolutely, you can build, you can master, you can scale. but just realize like you, as you’re learning it, there will be a, big cost of scaling along the way. And, that’s okay. You, take that on yourself as a self starter.

Gary Stockton: That’s great advice. AJ, in your long career as the myth busting LinkedIn Ads Pro. What are some personal lessons that you’ve learned that you think would be helpful to our listeners interested in advertising on LinkedIn?

AJ Wilcox: It’s interesting. When I started in LinkedIn ads, there just wasn’t anyone else out there who was talking about LinkedIn. I grew up in the world of Google ads and the world of SEO. And as I grew up in these worlds, there were all of these thought leaders who would actively publish and share and speak on stage and teach about what they were doing.

So when I chose LinkedIn ads as my niche, I jumped in and there just wasn’t anyone else to learn from. And so I spent a lot less time reading blogs and researching what other people were doing, and I put that time into running my own tests and coming up with my own hypotheses, and I kind of turned into a bit of a scientist in the way that I approached the platform, and I learned so much, and I got to learn the things that I cared about, not just someone wrote a blog post about this new Google update, and so I have to learn from whatever they decided to test.

I get to test my own thing. And so that’s I think the biggest recommendation I’d have for everyone is like approach your craft like a scientist and rely a lot less on what other people are publishing and go run your own tests. And I think that’s the best thing I’ve learned. that, even though there are now a lot more people talking about LinkedIn ads, I’m going to keep doing the tests at the same cadence that I was before. Because I realized I loved it and I learned so much more this way.

Gary Stockton: It must have been so exciting, in the early days of your business to see that LinkedIn was in your tests, in the lab, so to speak, that you were seeing, you were getting new clients. You were starting to really grow the business. Is that’s a true statement, right?

AJ Wilcox: Oh, absolutely. The, I think my favorite thing about it was when I would do tests and I would find one thing, the results from it were applicable to every other client that I was working with. And LinkedIn didn’t know. It’s almost like you find a little loophole, a hack, a trick, and you get to exploit that.

That was so much fun. It was so much fun to be on the inside and then realize I can go and get my clients. three, four, five times the results than they could get on their own because I found these little things. that’s, nothing makes me happier than finding some of these little chinks in the armor, things that I can exploit and use.

Gary Stockton: That’s cool. So are there any other advertising on LinkedIn myths that we can set about busting on Small Business Matters for our listeners?

AJ Wilcox: Yeah. as I’ve listened to people talking about LinkedIn ads publicly for the last, 10 years, the two that I hear the most often are LinkedIn ads are too expensive and they don’t work.

And we’ve already talked about the expensive part, who cares how much something costs per click if you’re getting a great ROI off of it. So I think we’ve, well covered that. But, the “it doesn’t work”, we have seen over and over for our clients that LinkedIn ads gets you access to exactly the right kinds of people who are your ideal clients.

They close larger deal sizes than any other channel out there. We can use them to get people’s attention to build that know, and trust factor with them. And then they do close, they do turn into actual deals. So in my mind, when I hear someone say, Oh, LinkedIn ads doesn’t work. It’s either a mechanical thing like, Oh, maybe they don’t have a high enough lifetime value to be able to get an ROI because of LinkedIn’s, higher costs. Or more than likely, they didn’t really give it a chance. They treated it like a cash machine of I’m going to go to these cold audiences and I’m going to show ads that say hop on the phone with my sales rep and buy something now and surprise, surprise when no one is willing to jump right to the bottom of your funnel because they don’t yet know and trust you to go out and say. Oh, it doesn’t work or I spent $300 on it and it sure seemed like that $300 was wasted because you do, you need a lot more data to know whether or not something’s working and B2B sales, they take time, they, they’re longer than, Oh, I tested it for a month and that’s it. That’s the big myth.

Gary Stockton: Well, AJ, this has been great. I feel a sense of calm and confidence coming over me as I listen to you. Where can our audience find out more about B2Linked and starting a conversation with you?

AJ Wilcox: Yeah, I think it’s really easy. You can either follow me on LinkedIn. if you want to connect, just let me know that you heard me on Gary’s show in the, invitation to connect. Cause I get a lot of those connection requests and I don’t accept them unless I, I see like why someone’s connecting, but you can always follow me there. I’m always sharing new tips, tricks, and strategies that I’ve found on LinkedIn ads there. and if you’re interested in working with us in any capacity, just go to our website, B2Linked.com and, it’s pretty easy there to, get in contact.

Gary Stockton: Thanks so much, AJ. It’s been great having you on the show. Thank you.

AJ Wilcox: Thanks so much, Gary.

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