Maximizing ROI from LinkedIn Ads with AJ Wilcox

In this episode of Agency Journey, Gray MacKenzie is joined by AJ Wilcox, the Founder of B2Linked, to discuss the benefits and challenges of LinkedIn Ads. They talk about the four key components of a high-converting campaign, why B2Linked is uniquely positioned to partner with other agencies, and what you can learn from AJ’s podcast, the LinkedIn Ads Show. Stay tuned.
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AJ Wilcox is the Founder of B2Linked, an agency specializing in LinkedIn Ads. B2Linked’s mission is to give accounts of all sizes the highest performing LinkedIn Ads strategies and the best ROI on the platform. The agency’s team is highly trained to help businesses get the most out of their LinkedIn Ads budgets through account management and consulting.

Before creating B2Linked, AJ was the Online Marketing Manager for Domo, where he managed LinkedIn advertising and grew the channel’s qualified leads by over 2400%. He was also the Marketing Manager for Big Fish Automation and the SEO Team Lead for OrangeSoda. In addition to this, AJ has been a member of Utah’s Digital Marketing Collective for eight years.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • AJ Wilcox talks about why he started his podcast, the LinkedIn Ads Show, and what makes it unique
  • How AJ’s previous professional experiences prepared him to start his agency, B2Linked
  • The types of clients that B2Linked is best situated to help
  • The ins and outs of B2Linked: team structure, data reporting, and more
  • How B2Linked has adjusted to the shifts on LinkedIn over the last year
  • Why AJ’s team frequently partners with other ad agencies and how they work out the logistics
  • The four key components of a high-converting LinkedIn Ads campaign

In this episode…

If you’re a B2B business, many of your ideal prospects and potential customers are probably using LinkedIn nearly every day. But, with LinkedIn being one of the most expensive platforms for advertisers, how do you know if the money you pour into LinkedIn Ads will give you the ROI you’re looking for?

AJ Wilcox created B2Linked to answer that question. His team specializes in creating high-performing LinkedIn ads for agencies of all sizes. They can help you figure out if your target audience is on LinkedIn, if your budget will give you the reach you need, and if you’re creating the right content for your campaigns.

In this episode of Agency Journey, Gray MacKenzie is joined by AJ Wilcox, the Founder of B2Linked, to discuss the benefits and challenges of LinkedIn Ads. They talk about the four key components of a high-converting campaign, why B2Linked is uniquely positioned to partner with other agencies, and what you can learn from AJ’s podcast, the LinkedIn Ads Show. Stay tuned.

Sponsor for this episode…


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Resources Mentioned in this episode

Episode Transcript:

Intro 0:03

Welcome to the Agency Journey podcast where we connect with agency leaders to uncover the hidden systems and processes that drive their success. Now let's dive into today's show.

Gray MacKenzie 0:17

Hey, is we're diving into today's episode of Agency Journey. Let me tell you real quickly about our sponsor Oribi. Oribi is a super cool on one marketing analytics tool. They've got Google Analytics squarely in their sights right now. And I can remember setting up Google Analytics as a sophomore in college and thinking this was just the coolest platform. And as it's matured, it's still super powerful, but it's become so complex to deal with. And Oribi has a value prop totally Aside from this, but what I absolutely love about my experience plugging Gary Vee into his empire comm is I didn't have to mess around with setting up what events I wanted to capture and tracking all my changes. And if I messed up view, then it would it would delete all the data that I had. just plugged it in it crawled, it captured all our all of our events made it super easy to see our funnel. And it just works a living. You'll see for example, how many people read the Definitive Guide to Click Up for agencies a blog post that I wrote, I don't know six months ago, see where those folks come from how that influences the buying process, the funnel the way that it works out. So super excited to have Oribi as a sponsor, you check it out, go to, it's all one word. If you spin up a free trial there, use the coupon code Agency Journey, same thing all one word that'll give you 20% off any plan, which is super generous of them. Remember, they can track all of our conversions. So check them out. That's a read that I Oh, we appreciate their sponsorship and let's get on with the episode. All right, welcome into another episode of agency journey. I'm your host Gray MacKenzie. I'm excited to have you here tuned in along with us today. I'm excited. I've got AJ Wilcox. On the podcast. And AJ is a LinkedIn Ads Pro. He founded, which is a LinkedIn Ad specific ad agency. And he started back in 2014. So official LinkedIn partner hosts the LinkedIn Ads Show podcast he's managed among the world's largest LinkedIn ads accounts. And side note, a little side notes, ginger, triathlete, which will have to dig into located out in Utah or kids. So we're in the same boat there. Things are crazy all the time. And his company cars a wicked fast go kart AJ, you gave a lot to dig into there. Welcome to the podcast

AJ Wilcox 2:24

graph. Super excited to be here. Thanks for the invite.

Gray MacKenzie 2:26

So your fellow podcast host as well. He run the LinkedIn Ads Show. podcast, obviously, how long have you been running the podcast?

AJ Wilcox 2:34

Just a little over a year. Okay. And it was a long time deciding to start because I'm a huge podcast fan. I've been listening to shows. I've got like 30 that I subscribe to and listen to to it at two and a half times speed like yes, trying to get through the content. But it wasn't until about a year and a half ago, when I finally decided to take the leap, I realized that there's probably room for a tiny little niche show about LinkedIn

Gray MacKenzie 2:58

ads. There definitely is. Well, and we've not that's why I was excited to have you on. We're going deep on LinkedIn ads, we had Steven Perchikov on from the Art of Sales Academy, I want to send you the episode 199. We had him on. He does a lot of cold outreach or, or LinkedIn outreach. So more of the organic side of things LinkedIn, LinkedIn. And I was talking this morning with with Jeremy Weisz that we had on the podcast recently in Episode 216. From Rise25, production agency. And I mentioned your name, and he he knew who you were right away and the LinkedIn ads guy. So. So anyways, I'm excited to dive into the paid side of LinkedIn, because I think there's for different it's funny to talk to different agencies who are looking at at breaking into that area. And some are like, Oh, no, it's just too expensive. And then other people like this works great. But there's there's a whole kind of range of experiences that agents have. So let's start with the background here. You've had B2Linked since 2014. What was the start it was the jumping in point.

AJ Wilcox 4:09

I jumping in point for me was getting fired from my last job. It's embarrassing to say because I hate to admit that I've been fired before. But at my last company, I that was where I discovered LinkedIn Ads, got to spend, you know, huge budgets there got to learn and test. And then after I got laid off, I was like, Well, I know more than anyone else on the planet about this ads platform and no one seems to be taking it seriously or talking about it. Maybe I should do something with that. So that was the genesis of it. Then what so breaking in who were the types of clients who you are getting right out of the gate. Right out of the gate, I was charging too little and having too linear of contracts. So I was charging hourly. I used to do SEO consulting and so I just like oh well Whatever I was charging for SEO, I'll do the same thing for LinkedIn ads. And I had a close rate of 100%. So that tells you something. Yeah, probably not not asking enough. But because there was no commitment everyone wanted to try. And so I was getting lots of small companies, lots of the wrong ones. Yeah. But the only experience I had with LinkedIn ads was this one SAS company. So it was really good for me to go and work with a ton of different kinds of companies to see like, what works and what doesn't.

Gray MacKenzie 5:30

Right, right, that makes sense. So today, you run an agency somewhere between 15 and 20 people. Right now, who are the types of clients who you're working with? I guess maybe another way of asking the question is, there's two parts of the question here. One is whose LinkedIn ad? Who is the right fit for LinkedIn ads? And then two is the there's probably a subset of those people who are also the right fit for you.

AJ Wilcox 5:51

Yeah, I think, for a long time, they were one on the same it was if LinkedIn ads are going to be good for your company, then we're the right partner to work with. And the ones that we found that work especially well, most of it, I would say 80% of our clients, our business to business, lead generation, types of objectives. And any kind of b2b where they they want to target a specific kind of user. And if they have a large enough lifetime value, let's say it's no $15,000, or more than LinkedIn ads is a total home run. So that's the biggest. And then there's a little bit of recruiting and financial services that are technically b2c activities. But they also work quite well on LinkedIn.

Gray MacKenzie 6:39

Right? That makes sense. So in terms of the weight, let's talk through because this is all agency owners, we're all agency owners here, listen to the podcast, and in the conversation. And so one of the things that people are always curious about is the way the infrastructure, those you went from running to all yourself, as a freelancer doing hourly work, the team you have now, how are you guys structured? Is it a conventional agency where you've got account managers, and then you've got media buyers on the back end? Or what's the team structure?

AJ Wilcox 7:09

Yeah, we've, this has been fairly recent, we've, we've kind of switched into this, cuz I've never run an agency before I'd never run a company before. And so I was just trying to run as lean as I could. And so what what it was was, I was managing all of the direct media buyers, and our media buyers, we call them account managers, they do everything for the client. So they are communicating with the client. They're running reports, they're writing ad copy, they're designing, you know, the ad imagery, they're publishing, the publishing the actual ads. So it's a lot to ask of someone to do all those things. And just having me up above them, I couldn't manage them all, effectively, I didn't have the time. And so I promoted a director above all of them. And just in the last year, we brought on our growth consultants who was like, now it's time to become a real agency like, so we, we've promoted three directors, and now we have pods of, you know, three to four account managers under each director. And now we're actually a big boy happen epic.

Gray MacKenzie 8:16

Makes sense? What are you doing from a client? reporting perspective? Okay, so tell me tell me a little bit about what that looks like.

AJ Wilcox 8:25

Yeah, every client has different objectives, different needs. So it's really hard to create just like one dashboard, where it's like, hey, this will work for everyone, right? So initially, what we do is we find out, we'll send probably a reporter to showing what we think is the most valuable data. And then we'll ask the client, what else do you want to see? Or what would you want to see instead, and then we start customizing all the future reports for them. We've got a really cool, like back end database for reporting. And so we collect all the data, and then it's just as simple as throwing together a pivot table to find out anything we want. We want to learn and so we present those to the clients and then have them lead us what they want to see.

Gray MacKenzie 9:08

Yeah, that's super cool. And those are mostly is that mostly monthly reporting?

AJ Wilcox 9:13

Oh, yeah, we we do like a weekly report. That's kind of a here's what we did last week. Here. We're gonna do next. But then our monthly reporting is a deeper dive.

Gray MacKenzie 9:25

Yep. Yeah, that makes sense. So in terms of DuckDuckGo, people recently have been playing around the LinkedIn game both organically and a little bit on the ad side and LinkedIn service to make some changes. And I say that, like, I know what's happening, but actually, it's all fuzzy to me. Like, I know a couple things with connection limits and a couple specific pieces that people have pointed out. But what would have been the big shifts that you've seen on the LinkedIn platform here in 2021, as we're recording this halfway through the year, and then has that impacted your business?

AJ Wilcox 9:58

Yeah, the biggest change ads that we've seen. LinkedIn actually pushed it out pretty quick during COVID. And it was a feature I've been waiting for for a long time, which is event based retargeting. So it used to be that you'd only be able to retarget people when they came to your website. But now we can retarget people who opened a lead generation form, or watched 25% of a video ad, or visited the company page, there's just a lot of different ways that we can retarget people that aren't relying on the cookie, because as I'm sure most of us know, cookies are their days are numbered. So that's the big one. And honestly, since that release, that was kind of like mid 2020. LinkedIn have released quite a few things that are little, you're in there, but nothing, that's monumental, nothing that I think is even worth listing.

Gray MacKenzie 10:50

Yeah, that makes sense. And are you guys also outside of the LinkedIn ad side of things is that the only service line that you have? Do you have some other smaller service lines as part of the agency,

AJ Wilcox 11:00

um, we run retargeting across Facebook and Google just because they, they augment what we do on LinkedIn so well. But it's a very small sub segment of clients who we've offered that to. So we're trying to at least right now, sticking to what we're best in the world at, which is just the LinkedIn ads side of things.

Gray MacKenzie 11:21

The cool thing about that focus that I think a lot of agencies overlook is that it makes you very non threatening the brand partner. So if they were Are you there's a million in one agency consultants out there. And if we were a generic agency consultant, and not hyper focused on Ops, we'd be huge that there would really be no partnership opportunities. But we've got great partnership relationships, because 90% of the marketplace is focused on growth. And it's easier to sell growth services than it is to sell operation services. But it makes us really easy to slide in and say, Hey, we'll fix your operations or get your processes and systems in place, talk to them pilot, they're not going to come encroach or infringe on our business on the growth side of things. And we don't have to deal with all the technicalities of your project management and your process development and all that all those ins and outs. And so you're in that same boat, I'd imagine where Hey, we're super tightly focused on LinkedIn ads, most agencies that we're working with, even if they're looking at it, like I don't really want to have to touch one more ads on more its platform. So is that been a good partnership channel for you is working with other agencies?

AJ Wilcox 12:25

Yeah, it's great. Because when we go in to a new client, that they might say, oh, here's this agency who's running Facebook, and here's an agency who's running search, we go in and there, they always have their guard up, they're always worried that a new agency is going to come and edge them out. But when they find out that LinkedIn ads is all we do, and we're not after their slice of the pie, you know, more often than not, they have a really good experience working with us just because we're very good at what we do. And then we end up having that agency refer us into into more deals in the future, because they liked working with us, and we want

Gray MacKenzie 13:00

to hear from him. That's awesome. How do you normally structure this if you're comfortable answering this on the podcast, and it'd be helpful for people to hear? Are you normally doing a so if you get referred in by another agency pulls you in? Are you doing like a one time commission? fee? Is it a recurring structure? Is there no structure? How have you handled that to this point, you might still be figuring that out. But I was

AJ Wilcox 13:25

always working on the partner channel for sure. But the method that we've used and found a lot of success and is recurring for the first year, so we'll give 10% of our revenue that we get the first year, basically, after after the first year, we figure like, if they're sticking around, chances are we've done something right. And though we have that payment,

Gray MacKenzie 13:48

right, right. Yeah, that makes sense. Well, it's, there's always the tracking challenges of our most of your engagement structured, is it month to month, is there a 12 month commitment or a six month commitment?

AJ Wilcox 13:59

We ask for a three month commitment up front, and then after the initial three months, if they're sticking around because they're seeing a lot of success, then we usually want to lock them into a year contract.

Gray MacKenzie 14:09

Sure, that makes sense. Yeah, I think lining up some of those lining up those commission structures with what the term of that initial engagement is makes a lot of sense as well. So on the podcast, this is one thing and it's up. Anytime I'm talking to an agency owner who's also running a podcast, I'm always curious about what the purposes what the format is, but also how it's run. So there's a couple of main strategies you can pull there, one is absolutely target and the direct prospects that you have are going to your dream prospects, let's get them on the podcast, then there's let's talk to their influencers. What's been your approach with the podcast and how it's structured. You know, that

AJ Wilcox 14:44

was one of the biggest things that kept me from launching a podcast because, you know, I wanted it to be really good and informative. I hate when I join a webinar and you know, you get to the end and you're like, wow, they shared nothing of value. That was just a sales pitch. I didn't want my podcast to be like that. So I want it to be ultra meaty. And if I, if I try to think of, okay, who out there is really good at LinkedIn ads I can have as a guest. The list is small, it's like five or fewer of people that I would trust to bring on. So I decided early on, it was going to be a solo show. And the whole point of it is, I imagine that the person I'm talking to is one of my employees that I'm training. And this may not be the optimal podcast strategy, but it's something I sure feel good about is, you know, all the episodes, I think there's, you know, 50 ish out right now. They're all a masterclass on LinkedIn ads, I don't hold anything back. And the few interviews that we do have, it's usually a LinkedIn employee, or someone who adds something to the LinkedIn ecosystem, you know, that would benefit others.

Gray MacKenzie 15:51

That makes a lot of sense. How do you hold yourself accountable to actually produce the podcast?

AJ Wilcox 15:55

Oh, man, for quite a while, it was just my, just my reputation was enough. Like when I commit to something, and I call it a weekly podcast, I want to release that weekly. And then back in November, I had knee surgery. And that totally derailed me. I went for like weeks without releasing an episode just because I was struggling to keep things up. And then I had a whole bunch of crazy stuff happen, like in my home life. And so for the last six months, there's probably only been like three or four episodes, they've gotten out. So I'm off the bandwagon at this point. But that's one of the first things I get back into now that I'm kind of getting some semblance of a real life. Right,

Gray MacKenzie 16:41

right. Back in no sense. I know. For me, we've picked around myself and Andrew, my business partner. We launch another podcast at some point doing the same thing because that that has some appeal to I love the podcast because I get to learn from people who are way smarter than me. Yeah. But there's also an element where we can just give people a condensed hey, here's the here's the roadmap, promotion, work and share that I think there's some value there. But boy, it's nice and I'm pretty disciplined person, but it's, uh, it's much easier to get stuff out. Hey, I've got to go get on at one o'clock and I'm talking with AJ and we're gonna have a podcast and then there's gonna be a podcast episode. It's gonna get out after that. Definitely. accountability.

AJ Wilcox 17:24

Yeah, when it's on the calendar, it's gonna get done. For sure. What's the story with this go kart? Oh, man, I ever since I was little, I love cars. I love driving. But when you're little, the most that you can drive is like a four wheeler or, or a go kart. And so I dreamed of go karts the whole time I was growing up. And I even this was in the hot Arizona summers, my parents would take me on. I'd be on rollerblades to deliver phone books. We did that all summer long to earn up enough money so I could get a go kart. And then at the end of the summer, I walked in cash in hand ready to get this? It was a dual engine, you know, 10 horsepower would go like 45 miles an hour's so awesome. I took it into the dealership and they said, Oh, that model just got discontinued for safety reasons or whatever. Not important. But my dreams were dashed as a little kid. So obviously now I'm a grown man like I own a car and I can legally go wherever I want. But probably about 10 years ago, I saw an ad for a racing go kart in the classifieds. Neeraj. And I was like, I'm a grown man. But I have to have that. So I got a pretty wicked Go Kart. How fast will this thing go? I actually funny story. The first one I got would do about 45. And and then I ended up getting a shifter one that'll do like 120. So that my goodness, yeah. Where do you live in Utah? I'm about 30 minutes south of Salt Lake in an area called Lehigh.

Gray MacKenzie 18:59

So I mean, the only place you can drive it that you have to go to a track, obviously,

AJ Wilcox 19:03

I actually have a good enough relationship with my neighbors that they won't call the cops on me. So this might be incriminating evidence, right? Yeah, but I do. I ride it around the neighborhood and I give like neighborhood kids rides and stuff. And I will take it to the track because that's where you can really

Gray MacKenzie 19:20

wring it out. Right. Oh, man, that is awesome. My Best Buddies grown up and go karts, but I mean, they were like, we had a little junkie go karts that we would drive through the woods and constantly be on stamps and Yo, knock them over and beat him up and then figure out how to fix them. childhoods. That sounds. That sounds way cool. That's awesome. Cool. So I want to throw this at you. First, a couple a couple of things that people should take away from this, for sure. One is if they want to learn more about LinkedIn Ads Show podcast, you've got the Solo cast rocking with a lot of awesome info there. And then if they're interested in white label partnerships, reaching out directly to you, but if they're looking at running LinkedIn ads campaigns in house, or or clients, what are the key components? Have you talked through some of the pieces that make somebody a fit or not fit Berlin, running LinkedIn ad kin ad campaigns? But in terms of the how, or the How to what are the key components of the campaigns that actually convert?

AJ Wilcox 20:37

Yeah, so there's four things that I really care about when I'm like approaching a campaign. The first is I want to make sure that my audience is there on LinkedIn, because it's expensive compared to especially other social channels. So if I can reach that audience a different way, it's probably going to be cheaper. But in b2b, we care about people by their title and their seniority and company size, and industry and all that. So as long as that's good, like, that's step number one. Step number two is they've got to have a significant enough budget to make a dent, we find that after someone spend about $5,000, if they're targeting North America, they generally have enough data to know whether it's going to work or not, and have a pretty good idea of how well it's working. So I suggest, you know, even if you have to spend less later on, start with a budget of five km on, yep, the third I already mentioned, which is make sure you have a high lifetime value or large deal size, because you know, you're going to pay eight to $12 per click for LinkedIn ads. So you have to, you have to make that up in the deal. So yeah, that's that. And the fourth is you have to have something of value to advertise. Because if you're just saying, This is what we do, click here to talk to our sales rep, no one is going to click that. And it's going to cost a bundle for anyone who does. So you know, starting with some sort of a lead magnet, a valuable piece of content, we're willing to give their their contact ID from information for, if you've got all four of those things, you're golden. So an agency or company looking to do this in house, why not those four things, make sure you're a good fit. And my best advice is work on a really interesting asset that your ideal customer is going to love. And that it'll convert 45%. That's what you want.

Gray MacKenzie 22:28

What have you seen from this higher converting assets? Is that I mean, for a while there, we all made 20 page ebooks. And the thing that actually converted better became the two page checklist. And video series and email courses is there any favorite type of stuff is an interactive tools, I think, still have a lot of potential and have gone in and out of popularity,

AJ Wilcox 22:52

yet tons of potential for anything dynamic and interactive. There just hasn't been enough out there for me to get a good view on it. But we love checklists and cheat sheets, just because even a busy executive is going to look at it go, Well, I've got time to check out a one pager. When you start calling something an E book guides are kind of a good middle ground, but an E book people are going I don't have time to consume. But something we've noticed, I mean, webinars are kind of old hat. But, boy, so many of our clients have success with them. Because, you know, initially, someone's going to look at a webinar and go, Ah, 45 minutes in the middle of a busy day, like I don't know if I can make the time for it. But the ones who do, they watched and listened to your expertise for 45 minutes. And now they're going to be, you know, infinitely more likely to respond to a sales invitation, or, or want to hop on a demo. So we find lower signup rates, but much higher close rates. Yeah,

Gray MacKenzie 23:57

that makes sense. And then in terms of so the budget is helpful. Having a range of budget in mind to get started, I assume that's where the three month initial commitment with you guys comes in and say let's test this out for three months. We're gonna know for sure, by the end of three months, whether this is gonna work for you or not gonna work for you, where you jump in from totally. off the back end of that, are you often plugging your clients into like, is it mostly the folks who are working with a large enough that they've got their in house marketing team and they're rolling? Are you often putting them into other agencies to do you know, marketing agency or Who's your, you know, whatever, whatever other agency in pull them into?

AJ Wilcox 24:39

Yeah, I get asked pretty regularly just because as an agency owner, you're, you have a lot of friends who are agency owners and, and you're pretty well connected, obviously. So, yeah, I get asked pretty regularly like, Hey, who do you recommend for SEO or who do you recommend for PPC, and so it does, it gives good opportunities to kind of cross pollinate But

Gray MacKenzie 25:00

Right, right, that makes less sense. Awesome. Cool. Well, AJ, I appreciate you being willing to come on and bounce all over the place with me here and and share what you found works. So for folks who want to check out more, B, the number two. And then linked L-i-n-k-e-d dot com. Is the site The LinkedIn Ads Show? I think I know I had looked this up there is on the site as well. Right or is there separate? Yeah.

AJ Wilcox 25:30

Yeah. And then if any podcast player you listen to if you search for LinkedIn Ads you'll see this chubby ginger, it'll be the first thing that shows up.

Gray MacKenzie 25:38

That's awesome. Anywhere else you're on point people.

AJ Wilcox 25:40

I you know, if you want to connect to me on LinkedIn, just make sure you customize the action request. Just say you heard me on Gray's show. That way, I am sure to notice it and accept. I'm, I basically don't accept any sort of connection request in case it could be a sales pitch. So yeah, customize it now. I'd love to be connected.

Gray MacKenzie 26:03

Awesome. Cool. Well, I appreciate you coming on and sharing AJ This is really fun. Anytime. Great. have me back anytime.

Outro 26:11

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