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CMC Interview Series: AJ Wilcox


[00:00:08] Welcome everyone. I’m here with the famous AJ Wilcox. Thanks. You’re famous at least in my eyes A.J. I know you have many fans here. You ran a workshop for the first time here yesterday. Tell us about your workshop and what that what a deep dive looks like in how much time you wish you might have had with linked in ads your specialty.

[00:00:26] Well the workshop was really fun. Like you said I was the first time I’ve ever done one of these are the conference and it ended up working out really well. The idea originally was to have me talk about ads for the first half and Josh timely to talk about the organic side of Linked In the second half. And I thought for sure I was going to go in there and say OK who’s here for the organic thing. And most of the hands would go up and I go OK. Who’s here for the ads and if you would come up and then I would be speaking to that small group of people. But it worked out so well especially with the attendees that you’ve brought here who are so hungry. I said Who’s here for the ads and almost every hand went out who’s here for organic. Almost every hand went up. It was just it was the perfect audience. And I shared for an hour and a half the first half was like I was expecting to give the basics and and then I got to the cue and a portion and they start raising their hand and asking really advanced questions. I went oh I’ve got slides for this since I advanced to like more of my advanced time and all the questions.

[00:01:25] There’s so much to learn with Linked In. It’s daunting but it’s also exciting. Give us a few of the exciting tips and thoughts you have on why you think LinkedIn is an incredible platform that you need to be marketing on.

[00:01:36] Well LinkedIn especially right now is in the the place where Facebook was probably eight years ago where when you share something LinkedIn actually wants people to see it. So it’s the easiest network in the world to go viral on right now to give you an idea. I’m connected to about 3000 people so you know 32 hundred people are going to be eligible to see my content. It’s not uncommon for my posts to get between seven and eleven thousand views. And obviously that means there’s a lot of people who I’m not connected to who are still seeing my stuff. And to those who are involved in Facebook ads or sorry not Facebook ads Facebook right now on the organic level I mean they would kill for that level of engagement.

[00:02:18] What about targeting. Know give us some opportunity there and some excitement you know as we all would like to think Lincoln is possibly the best targeting platform. Is that getting more or less complex and how hard is it to really start fishing in there and come up with some good catch.

[00:02:33] Yeah. So Lincoln’s targeting has always been really good around B2B. They they’re really good about targeting you buy what you have in your profile and that’s a given. But here about three years ago and this is something that. we have between now and space and times. Right. They they started coming out with the concept around targeting people about their behavior on the network. And so you went from information that anyone could have to now the possibility of targeting people by information only LinkedIn knows like. Are you looking for a job right now. Are you Are you a veteran. What topics are you interested in. And we just saw the beginning of this release a few weeks ago when Lincoln released interest targeting and what interest targeting is is what are the topics that you engage around in the news feed that you connect around and have conversations around. And so we’re going to see Lincoln’s target and get a lot more. I won’t say specific it’s just they’re giving us more tools to reach our ideal audience.

[00:03:37] Got it.

[00:03:38] And what’s new and exciting with regards where they had to explain some of the newer releases that I know that you know and by the way you can go back to six months with yeah if you want to go well something like that actually just like last week released a big one where they talked about three different targeting facets. So one was. the partnership because Microsoft bought them. Now Bing has search data and LinkedIn has audience data. And so if you wanted the search and intent you would have to go to Beijing or Google if you wanted the audiences you’d have to bid on them through either LinkedIn or Facebook. But now because you have a search and a social network together their data sets are combined. Now you can bid on people because of who they are and what they’re looking for. Makes for an extremely powerful type of target. And Microsoft has not a huge chunk of market share with Bing. So it’s not like there’s a ton of volume out there but we’re actively using it and we’re getting people who are looking for LinkedIn ads or anything related to LinkedIn ads who happen to be a marketing director at a company with more than 200 people clicking for about two bucks a click which is way better than we would be paying just going straight to LinkedIn.

[00:04:53] Got it. You and I had a conversation about the complexity of managing and seeing performance and attribute. Fusion back to actual campaigns. You know you’ve toyed and noodle with Facebook and other platforms. How do you think LinkedIn stacks up in terms of difficulty of running campaigns targeting campaigns. There interfaces there you experience and what’s changed in the last you know even six months to a year is it getting easier and faster and is it is it not that difficult to get in there and mix make magic happen.

[00:05:24] Yeah I think early on with LinkedIn they were the only network that didn’t have conversion tracking and this was you know two three years ago. But so a lot of people who went to LinkedIn went well we’re just gonna use the tools that we have. And they would do things like optimizing campaigns by what got clicked on the most of the highest seaters and then LinkedIn came out with conversion tracking but that’s pretty much where they stopped because they don’t have the insight down into your CRM to see what leaders are doing after the initial Farmville. Right. Whereas Facebook is just now getting the data import where you can start to to pipe your data back into Facebook ads and they can see that. So that’s the direction I see Lincoln going. Right.

[00:06:06] How. How far away is that. Because that’s a really frustrating component of linked to not be able to see not just clicks and hits on your page but actual conversions.

[00:06:16] I know it’s a big priority for them. I’ve talked to three separate teams at LinkedIn who are all thinking about this problem. So I wouldn’t be surprised if we have it in the next I don’t know call it four to six quarters. What’s the work around for that. Oh I love it. The work around is what it has always been on every network which is just really good account planning because if you are sending all of your traffic to your landing pages with parameters and you are all that allow you to understand where that traffic came from who it was targeting when it hits your landing page they have this you are all. there on the page. And then when they fill out the form there’s an invisible field on that form that captures what there you are l was sends through to the CRM and now when the sales rep or whoever sees this record they can say oh they there was a touch where they came from a link to an ad and the ad was targeting them because they were a CMO and oh they you know they saw it ad version A that’s all information you can see within the CRM from the URL. Exactly. And so it’s not this isn’t dealing specifically with linked in ads you could do this with every platform out right.

[00:07:25] But it’s marrying your CRM data back into your spend data is sucking into Google analytics as well.

[00:07:31] Yeah. Google analytics can track down to the initial to any site conversion and so it’s really helpful to blend that data in. But. if you have an online site let’s say you’re a SAS platform where you have multiple types of conversions and it’s all online. Google analytics can track all of those and you wouldn’t even need a CRM to tell you when they bought the next package because Google Analytics could track that.

[00:07:57] Shout out to your buddy that is the CEO and founder of ad stage. Oh yes. Exactly. So who I hopeful me by be my buddy as well someday. Your technology is really cool and it’s really next year we’ll have to get them here does their their technology I believe we’ll track that conversions can bring it in. And if so how is that bringing being brought in.

[00:08:16] Yes. They have an integration into Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics right now. So what you can do is you have your LinkedIn add data being piped into add stage and they’re also pulling in Salesforce or dynamics. They’re also pulling in Google Analytics they could pull in analytics. Yeah.

[00:08:32] And so every morning or whenever you choose there will be a new process where they they take all of the data and they crunch it together and give you a report so you can tie together I paid X and I got you know nine MQ ls out of it is an agency you’re managing multiple customers are you using as stage and do you highly recommend that and is and you know what what are your thoughts on ad stage and is that even better than noodling in and going into a Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter and you know trying to noodle within their platform how are you guys doing it at your at your agency at your shop.

[00:09:06] Well the cool part about ad stage was very early on. They got access to Google Bing Facebook Instagram Twitter and LinkedIn API. So they were the one network that you could log into to see all of your native campaigns there and even build in all of those networks. So for us as an agency all we focused on was linked in ads. But at the same time they were the only third party platform out there that was innovating and helping you build for LinkedIn. So it became our power tool that we would use.

[00:09:35] Got it. And do you use that for ad management as well they have to me I built into their technology as well.

[00:09:41] Yeah. So you can manage pretty easily it’s nice to see everything on a dashboard especially across multiple clients because in in Lincoln’s own interface we have to click between and like click down to a client level. But what I really appreciate it about ad stage is their bulk tools so you can do bulk actions. You can sell. Shirts that say once this campaign spent X then either alert me or do y. Pretty cool tools to help you manage when you have 28 clients under your portfolio.

[00:10:10] Yeah. And perhaps the exact opposite interests that I have from a client perspective. And by the way I’m your client as well. We’ll talk about that a second is the actual difficulty of seeing the visual ad that you’re running right and the results that that performance you’re getting from that ad. So what I’m brainstorming with my team about what you actually run I do not want to take the time to go into each of the platforms refresh our memory about what’s running look at the data I look at the stats it is ridiculous and the fact frankly that there isn’t another platform that I have heard about that would compete with an ad stage is fascinating to me. Maybe that’s just because they rolled up this aggregation so early. Yeah it makes it really much better and much easier and much more fluid to to to create content. All right so back to you. Tell us a little bit about your agency and the type of clients that you’re looking for. I think there was some stat that at one point you were like one of the most prolific managers of high budget season. Dan like one hundred million dollars or something some some like Denis you sort of no.

[00:11:13] Yeah I’ve been tracking seven billion dollars of conversion and you know that is so great and we’re both fans of him by now.

[00:11:21] But but but what did what is your agency doing now. What kind of clients you’re looking for. What’s the right spend to think about outsourcing it to an expert like you.

[00:11:29] Yeah. Well when I started the company about four and a half years ago my goal was if linked in ads is a priority for you if it’s something that you as a company want to do better. We want to help you in any way that you need. So that means for 90 percent of our clients we are managing their ad spend and then for 10 percent we are training teams on how to manage it internally.

[00:11:49] We’re auditing we’re doing small projects. We because in ads is all we do. We have the blessing to work with many of Lincoln’s largest accounts. Their big spending customers and that’s cool we’ve built this competency that we’re really good about managing large accounts and at scale. But we also. work with many very small accounts. What we we don’t necessarily concentrate on the size of the company. We more care about how likely they are to have success and we know if you have a large customer lifetime value we’ll call it like over 15 k then you’re going to be able to recoup the high costs of Linked In. And we also know that if you have a budget somewhere between about 3 and 5 K to start then that’s a good budget to at least get in dip your toe in the water and see if it’s if it’s going to work. Yeah.

[00:12:39] What’s the definition of working in your mind. Is it always you know just making sure you can cover your user acquisition cause you break even. Or is does it get more interesting when you can add in not just user acquisition costs but lifetime value to the customer and have some incremental value so you can get multiples on it. Is there some sort of conversion ruler if you will that you use to define success.

[00:13:05] Well because we work with B2B This is something I don’t see people talking about a lot but it’s a truth of the industry. When you’re in B2B you have these long sales cycles and it’s hard to track. You’re either tracking on a on a trending basis or a cohort basis and they’re both going to tell you very different things. So what we find is you know I’ve managed over 300 accounts and there are only two of those accounts that I can talk about ROIC with them. success. Really the definition of success changes over time. For every account when you very first launch ads you’re looking for a match between your message and your audience. And so if you are targeting a certain audience with a certain message do you have click through rates that showed that this audience is reacting to it or they’re ignoring it. And that’s your first clue. Then after you’ve had quite a few clicks You’re going to move down to the conversion level and say oh they are converting at this rate. Is that good or bad. What do we need to test there. And then you get enough conversions at that level. Now you get to move further down the funnel and look at marketing qualified leads and then you gather enough of those and you get out of sales qualified leads. So it really is it’s a it’s a longer process because it’s B2B.

[00:14:16] Have you seen any interesting visualizations from from an ad measurement perspective any sort of cohort analysis already technology that could help you with that.

[00:14:24] We built our own proprietary database because no one else was doing that. So it’s funny when we talk to we’ll talk to like the V.P. of Marketing for whatever company we’re working with. And one of the things I tell him is. if you’re looking for someone who’s going to give you a pretty pie chart at the end of every month you’re talking to the wrong team like we’re going to give you a pivot table and it’s going to be you’re going to see data from us and you’re going to see us obviously innumerate like what that data is telling us what the story is. But that’s what we do is we share data because that’s what’s guiding our decisions and we’re not going to. Sugarcoat anything.

[00:15:00] Got it. And how important. Does does A B testing continue to be. And do you still firmly believe in test test test and try experiment. Or do you feel like maybe branding is becoming more of a play.

[00:15:12] I mean ironically you were helping with me with CMC as it was more of this gorgeous brand and trying to get it out there and trying to reach new people through the Lincoln Community and obviously turned out to be very successful. Yeah we endured the perfect storm A.J. of you know the Boston Marathon Tax Day school vacation Good Friday. You know yeah we’ve got like six other people in the room you know so crazy Passover I forgot as well. So there’s actually one more I forgot to add I forgot.

[00:15:40] But anyway you know it is branding becoming interesting on LinkedIn. I mean just you know pounding people you know and not just continually perpetually looking at the conversion you know and they are away from that perspective. Yeah I think. especially with those companies who have a very specific target audience.

[00:16:00] Branding is very powerful. If you talk about saying we have nine million people we can market to that I look at the cost of LinkedIn clicks are going to be between six and nine dollars. And that’s really expensive to brand yourself. But I was just meeting with one of the attendees at CMC who said you know we have an audience size of 30000 people globally. And I go Yeah you don’t have to ask them for a conversion you just show ads to them to stay top of mind because you know if your entire audience is only 30 thousand people you want to be in front of them at every juncture and it’s OK to pay that kind of money. Right. Right.

[00:16:38] Cool. Well what’s next do you think with linked in do you think they have anything up their sleeve and do you have any hints on that you’d have to kill me and turn the light off to tell me.

[00:16:46] Well because I’m a linked partner I do get to see the road map early and so and I’ve signed about 30 NDA company so I can’t necessarily share about things that are coming out but I can share. I think the direction I know partnerships and integrations are making a lot more sense for them. So I think we’re gonna see a deeper integration with Bing. We’re going to see deeper integration into CRM like Salesforce dynamics. We just heard about Marketo Adobe Microsoft and LinkedIn having a partnership so pretty soon we’re gonna be able to hook in marketing automation workflows into linked in ads. I think that’s gonna get really exciting. So yeah we’ll see more targeting coming out more capabilities of the platform. I think it’s about to get really exciting. Oh and I’ll add this. Facebook has been just so hot for so long and I love it I love Facebook ads but. the costs are rising so significantly on Facebook. We’re getting to this point where B2B clicks are oftentimes between one and two dollars per click. So my prediction is if you’re going to pay six to nine dollars a click on LinkedIn for a lead you know exactly what to expect or you’re going to pay one to two dollars a click on Facebook and the quality is not going to be as great. It’s not going to take very long. Those costs rising before we see a mass exodus of people saying Facebook doesn’t deserve my dollars anymore and I think we’re RC at the 3 dollar per click range on on Facebook a lot of people are going to come in and start playing and Lincoln’s ball field.

[00:18:18] Is there a reason that Lincoln would not consider lowering their price per click and try to really do you think they’d be a good idea.

[00:18:29] And why were you sighing. I know. Why wouldn’t they. I mean they they’re trying to capture market share. They’re now really up against Google. If you think about it especially when you lump in Beijing I mean yeah they’ve got a great opportunity I think that might happen.

[00:18:41] I don’t think it will happen and I’m sighing because I’ve had this conversation with so many people internally at LinkedIn where I say if you just cut your prices in half everyone would come over and Adlington would become the de facto platform that everyone plays in. But every time I bring that up they go oh that’s that wouldn’t fly for us. And I wish they would consider because every other platform started with a really low costs and then competition naturally rose and so everyone who was a first mover came in had success and shared with their friends and that never happened with Lincoln.

[00:19:14] Lincoln started at two dollars per click and so immediately things like you know 20 30 dollars a month software still couldn’t make that work and neither could app downloads. So immediately they priced themselves out of so many markets and so they never had evangelists go in and test it out until their friends.

[00:19:33] Could you ever get excited about trying to sell your clients on being in this this this this Cinderella story. You know. Microsoft on you know search engine trying to compete with Google. I mean really do you think so. Can he can he get by that.

[00:19:50] I get really excited about Bing Bing as my default search engine on my laptop. I might be the only one in every community. But what makes me so excited about Microsoft is I started out in digital marketing with M.S. and Ad Center. And and Google AdWords and Amazon was never a big deal but it was always kind of there on the fringes. And I watched them shut that down. and then waited about one or two years until all the sudden Bing Ads rose and in the course of about three years they built their product to compete with directly Google which is by far the most advanced ad platform on the planet.

[00:20:30] And they built it in three years. So we’re talking about the Bing Ads Tim who really understands ad platforms and and ads in general and they try harder than everyone else.

[00:20:41] Yeah. And you have to cheer for the underdog. So I know not everyone uses Bing as a search engine and you know sometimes I don’t either but it’s from an ad perspective. I tell everyone if you’re on a low budget go straight to Bing because your cost per click is going to be less than half of what it would be on Google. It’s a it’s a great place to start. Terrific.

[00:21:01] What would you like to speak about next year and what I am now guarantee you.

[00:21:07] Yes I got the gig concluded.

[00:21:11] Sure sure thing. The. We definitely want to have you back for a half a Lincoln workshop. So get excited about that and we’ll we’ll use this as a promotional video for that. But what what topics. I’m just just. We won’t. Of course you won’t. You and I won’t discuss the Perfect topic to talk about with LinkedIn. It’ll be the old stand by what’s new and what’s next but fast forward a year from now. You know what. We’ll come back to this video and and see if it was any truth. What do you think is going to happen differently between now and one year which of course is a very long period of time. What what would you love to see a session on that you could run here at CMC maybe even now. But what would you expect that to be next year where the pain points you’re seeing.

[00:21:51] Well I spoke the very first year of CMC and I remember asking the question Who in here is actively managing linked and ad campaigns. And there were probably three hands. I was a room of probably 30 people. There are three hands that went up and so I taught the basics. And then you know three years ago when I spoke I spoke on the basics and it was you know 30 percent of hands this year when I had everyone raise their hands it was literally like ninety five percent of the room were actively advertising. So I think we’re past the point where I need to tell people this is what the network is and how it works. I think we’re to the point where I can start teaching the advanced stuff. And so I think right now I mean we’ll obviously talk about this. But right now I’m looking at it going. These are people who are already experienced and they want to meet. And so I want to give them the advanced content let’s bring it on.

[00:22:38] Sounds exciting. I know you’ll get people excited about it. Well listen it’s always a pleasure my friend. Absolutely. Thanks Byron. Thanks very much. Thanks everybody. Read on.

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