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How To Give Your Agency A Good Design Brief

By Jennifer Esty  |  January 16, 2023

Do your marketing design tasks go over budget, or require a lot of revision cycles, or just fail to achieve the outcome you hoped for? There’s every chance a better design brief could help…

With this in mind, we’ve put together a few points on how to give your agency a good design brief in order to reduce confusion and increase the chances you’ll achieve your design objectives, from concept right through to delivery.

  • Provide Your Brand Guidelines

Providing your brand guidelines is a crucial part of providing a good design brief. Your guidelines should demonstrate how you use your branding across various media, print, ads & web (etc). If you’re using a custom font, or a font that is not available to download via typekit (or an equivalent), make sure to share your font files with your designer so they have everything they need to ensure they meet your brand guidelines.

  •  Keep Things Consistent:

If you’re briefing a piece of design work for a new advert/design, make sure you present any other ads that you have running, or the latest version of your ad that needs updating. This will help to avoid the design going in a different direction and ensure brand consistency.

  • Provide Design Inspiration

Make sure to include designs from other brands that you like and provide commentary on why you like them. Including a range of different design inspirations will help your designer start on the right track and will also help make it clear which elements of each design you do and don’t like. 

It’s also hugely helpful to provide examples of stock photography alongside the designs. What kind of style and feel do you like? Are the images with or without people? Corporate or more laid back? 

It’s often worth investing in an image library or creating bespoke illustrations so that you can avoid using time on searching for the right images and instead use that time refining other areas of the design. 

If you’re designing for web, it’s also a good idea to provide information around what sort of layout you might like and to even provide examples of any motion design, such as parallax scrolling or animated details, that might help bring your site to life. 

All of this information helps the designer form a full picture of what exactly you’re hoping to achieve with your design.

  • Say What You DON’T Like! 

Telling your designer what you don’t like is just as important as specifying what you do like. When putting together examples of good design, make sure to include examples of the sort of design you don’t want to see so that your designer can make sure they don’t take a direction you’re not happy with. 

  • Specify Where Your Designs Will Be Shared 

It’s important to tell the agency who will be using the design files as well where they will be used. For example, will they be used only by internal resources who just have access to platforms such as Canva, or will they be shared with other agencies who have in-house design teams? This will help your designer understand what file types to provide when packaging up your design and whether there are any dimensions, aspect ratios or resolutions to be mindful of.

To conclude, there really is no such thing as too much context and providing as much information as possible will give your designer the best chance at creating a design you feel truly happy with. 

Want to have these helpful tips at your fingertips? We’ve created a free checklist that you can download and keep on file for whenever you’ve got a design brief to deliver. We hope you find it useful! 
If you’d like to continue the conversation or find out more about the design services we offer at Sharp Ahead, please do get in touch – we’d love to hear from you! 

Three Clever Ways to Optimise Your LinkedIn Audiences

By Jennifer Esty  |  December 12, 2022

For those of you who spend time in LinkedIn’s advertising platform, Campaign Manager, you will have noticed a newish notification advising you that “For consistent optimal campaign delivery and engagement, we suggest a minimum target audience size of 50,000”.

Which is all very well if there are actually at least 50,000 individuals who might ever be involved in the consideration of purchasing your products or services.

But for many niche B2B organisations, their prospective customer base is likely to be much, much smaller than 50,000.

So, if you’re looking for ways to maximise your advertising spend on the most targeted group of prospects possible, here are three clever ways to optimise those LinkedIn audiences!

1. Exclusions

Who you exclude from your audiences can be just as important as who you include. There are a few limitations here, for example if your targeting includes job seniority or functionality you can’t exclude job titles, and vice versa.

But there are some very clever uses of them, including:

  • Exclusion lists (think existing customers, competitors, prospects you have sunsetted, etc)
  • Audience traits: people looking for jobs aren’t usually in the marketing for high value products or services in their current role, so go ahead and exclude Job Seekers from your campaigns. It can often reduce the size of the audience by 5% or more.
  • Pesky business development folks: LI is a great tool for prospecting and is used cleverly by business development teams everywhere. You can reduce wastage on folks who are more likely to click on your ads as a way to try to sell to you by excluding them or their related services (including recruitment agencies and <blush> marketing agencies). Unless, of course, they are your target audience!
  • Use Segment breakdowns. As your building your audience, LinkedIn provides Segment breakdowns, which include key demographic information about your audience, including Job function, Seniority, Company size and Interests. For example, you might find that you have a high percentage of Entry level folks in your Audience—individuals unlikely to have budget responsibility. You can then exclude any groups that you would have otherwise targeted unintentionally.

Pro Tip: If you are adding exclusions, in most cases you will want to “OR” rather than “AND” them. For example exclude someone if they are in a list of known competitors OR if they are entry-level employees.


 2. Member Skills and Member Interests

LinkedIn leverages users’ self-reported skills from their profile to provide a reasonably robust dataset for us to choose from. Think about which skills your target audience is likely to have, including specific technologies they might be using, to help focus in on the most qualified prospects. A note that not every skill you might want will be available for targeting so use the search functionality.

Interests are based on content that the LinkedIn member has viewed and therefore are a reasonable indication of whether that individual might be actively in the market for your products or services. The list of Interests isn’t sometimes as exhaustive as you might want it to be so use the search functionality and spend time exploring the options.

Pro Tip: leverage any persona, keyword, or market research you have to hand which might spark some ideas about related skills or interests.

3. Avoid Audience Expansion

Audience Expansion is a tricky little button that is ticked by default when you set up a new campaign. Essentially it allows LinkedIn to show people outside of your target audience your ads, on the basis they have similar attributes (e.g., job titles, companies, or skills).

Given all the trouble you have probably just gone through to create a super targeted campaign, we do not advise letting LinkedIn decide to show them to anyone it fancies. Instead, experience with Lookalike audiences to see how good LinkedIn really is at interpreting your audience criteria. You can then make a thoughtful choice about whether to also show your ads to an expanded group of prospects.

And of course if you need any help with your LinkedIn strategy, or other B2B digital marketing challenges, please get in touch with us, we would love to help!
Should you be using LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms Thumbnail?

Lead Gen Forms: A B2B marketer's guide on when to use them

By Jennifer Esty  |  March 17, 2022

LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms have been around for years now. They are great way to capture leads from within the LinkedIn platform. They negate the need for a landing page, and they de-risk user drop off when switching from LinkedIn to another tab.

But we get asked all the time, when should you use a Lead Gen Form vs Sponsored Content (or another ad format)?

To help with that decision, we’ve developed a handy decision tree. It’s deceptively simple and, although a little tongue-in-cheek, the principles are genuine.

Sharp Ahead LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms Decision Tree

Ready to start your campaign?

A couple of more things to keep in mind:

Lead Gen Forms are prepopulated with the users details (yay!)

But many LinkedIn users have their personal email addresses as their primary email address and don’t always have up to date information (boo!).

And if you don’t spend time on creating properly targeted audiences and useful content, there isn’t a decision tree in the world that will make those campaigns successful.

Need help from an expert? Get in touch for a free 30-minute consultation.

Sharp Ahead LinkedIn Ads

Are LinkedIn text ads the best kept secret in B2B brand advertising?

By Emma Grimshaw  |  May 20, 2020

The LinkedIn advertising platform has evolved quickly in recent years. What started out as a clunky interface with limited audience options and just a single advert format (the humble Text Ad), has matured into a more refined user experience with sophisticated targeting options that are a treasure-trove for B2B marketers. 

Their newer Sponsored Content ad format is – on paper – better than it’s predecessor in almost every way. Benefiting from a large image or graphic, a generous character limit, a clear call-to-action button, and prominent news feed placement, you can expect a well-performing ad to generate a click-through-rate of 0.35-0.45%, according to LinkedIn.

Side-by-side the original Text Ad format looks somewhat meagre, tucked away to the right of the screen with just 50×50 pixel thumbnail image, 25-character headline, and 75-character description. And with a CTR of 0.12% being considered by LinkedIn as a ‘good’, it might leave you wondering: why even bother with Text Ads at all?

1 – LinkedIn Text Ads are excellent value

On the face of it a Text Ad with 10,000 impressions and 1 click might not feel like value added. But if your campaign is set to bid for clicks rather than impressions, then this should be considered a success. Where else would you be able to get your brand in front of a well targeted audience of B2B decision-makers 10,000 times for less than the price of a cup of coffee?

2 – LinkedIn Text Ads are highly targeted

If you have already created a sleek Sponsored Content campaign, then you’re only a few clicks away from setting up some complementary Text Ads. Your audience has already been defined and refined, so why not utilise this and reinforce your sales-focused messages with brand-building creative? 

3 – LinkedIn Text ads are perfect for brand building

With specialist B2B products and services, there is a good chance that your audience isn’t big enough to run remarketing ads on LinkedIn. Text Ads are a great alternative, enabling you to keep your brand front-of-mind with the same prospects that have likely seen your Sponsored Content ads.

So whilst they might not boast impressive enough CTRs to hinge an entire lead generation campaign on, their power to generate brand awareness for pennies is the reason we think LinkedIn Text Ads are one of the best kept secrets in B2B brand advertising.

Dart hitting a bullseye

New Advertising Features for LinkedIn – Matched Audiences

By John Woods  |  May 3, 2017

LinkedIn has just announced general availability of “Matched Audiences”, a set of new features for the LinkedIn Ads platform. This is a game-changer for LinkedIn ads.

LinkedIn ads – love them or hate them

As a B2B digital marketer I have a classic love-hate relationship with the LinkedIn Ads platform. We use it as part of the marketing mix for most of our B2B clients and the ads can give good results, but there are some real frustrations that constrain our use of the platform.

Why I love LinkedIn ads

LinkedIn is one of the most natural places to reach business people in their professional lives, so B2B campaigns on LinkedIn are brand-appropriate for most advertisers and can be very effective. The ability to target ads to custom-designed segments based on seniority, company size, job title, and so on is very powerful in cases where this aligns well with the target audience for a particular campaign. We’ve had great success with well-designed LinkedIn campaigns.

Why I hate LinkedIn ads

LinkedIn ads can only be targeted using combinations of certain fixed segments that LinkedIn provides. When you first see these segmentation options they seem very powerful, but as you start to work with them in anger they can be really frustrating.

For example the industry categories are very coarse-grained and may not align well with campaign goals – a niche category like “Fishery” or “Forestry” might be workable, but a category like “Information Technology and Services” is too broad to be much help. And geographic options are limited – for instance in the UK I can target Reading or Swindon, but not a broad region like the Thames Valley.

A further limitation is that these targeting options don’t align at all with buyer intent or with a person’s degree of engagement with my brand: I can’t target a tailored message based on a prospect’s funnel stage.

Add to this that LinkedIn ads are quite expensive – CPCs can easily be double those of an equivalent paid search campaign – and you have a difficult choice: either “spray and pray” by targeting your LinkedIn campaign very coarsely to a broad audience that may not align well with your campaign goals (and risk wasting a large part of your budget), or target very narrowly (and risk missing a large fraction of your potential audience and have your campaign achieve little or nothing).

It’s possible to work around these limitations with skill and creativity, but they still form a barrier to effective use of LinkedIn Ads.

Why Matched Audiences makes all the difference

LinkedIn’s new Matched Audiences features provide three new ways to improve targeting of LinkedIn ads:

  1. Account Targeting: upload a list of company names to define a new audience
  2. Contact Targeting: upload a list of individual email addresses, or link to a CRM system with an equivalent list of contacts, to define a new audience
  3. Website Remarketing: create an audience from some or all of your previous website visitors.

By themselves these options are already pretty useful, but the best news is that they COMBINE with the old-style segmentation choices.

So I can now run a LinkedIn campaign that targets, for example:

People in the “Information Technology and Services” industry…

  • …of at least “director” level seniority…
  • …who work for companies with at least 5,000 employees…
  • …and who have visited my product’s main landing page within the past 14 days.

Now THAT’S an interesting target audience!

This makes it feasible to use LinkedIn campaigns which use the old-style segmentation options to define a broad audience and the new Matched Audiences to focus on people who are already engaged with my brand in some way.

What to do next

If you already use LinkedIn Ads, you should definitely look into Matched Audiences right away. They will almost certainly provide ways to make your campaigns more effective.

If you have previously used LinkedIn Ads and given up because of poor results or poor ROI, Matched Audiences might allow you to revisit LinkedIn as a viable part of your marketing mix.

In either case there are some steps you should take as soon as you can:

  1. Read the details about the new options.
  2. Evaluate the new options in the context of your marketing goals. For instance, if you have a large database of leads that would benefit from a lead nurturing campaign, Contact Targeting could be ideal. If you are building an Account Based Marketing strategy you should look at Account Targeting.
  3. If you find a fit between the new options and your marketing goals, adjust your plans accordingly. In particular, to make best use of the new options you are likely to need to develop new creative for different funnel stages.
  4. If you plan to use Website Remarketing in the future, make sure you have the LinkedIn conversion tag deployed on your website and set up some remarketing lists in LinkedIn. As with most remarketing technologies, the lists take a while to build up and are not retrospective, so set them up early so they are in place when you are ready to launch a campaign. (LinkedIn uses its own tagging technology for its remarketing features, so you need a new tag. You are using Google Tag Manager aren’t you?)
  5. If you are planning to use any of the new options, make sure you are aware of the privacy and data protection implications.

It’s gonna cost you

I’m very excited about these new options and I’m sure we will be increasing our clients’ use of LinkedIn Ads as a result. I expect the same to happen across the industry. But there’s no new inventory available as a result of these changes – they purely allow existing inventory to be bought more effectively.

So I expect CPCs and CPMs to rise across the LinkedIn network. LinkedIn ads are already relatively expensive compared to other forms of display advertising, so this will make it even more important to have efficiently designed and well-managed campaigns.

Want help making the best of LinkedIn Ads for your business?

Talk to us.

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