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A Non-Spammy Approach to Generating Leads with LinkedIn's Sponsored InMail How are you leveraging the largest professional network in the world?

By Sujan Patel Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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With more than 347 million users -- a population that's growing "at a rate of more than two new members per second" -- LinkedIn is easily recognized as the web's largest professional network.

Related: 5 Ways to Generate Business Through LinkedIn

However, what many marketers fail to see is its advertising potential. While Facebook and Instagram ads get plenty of press, consider that:

LinkedIn's paid advertising platform offers plenty of different options for reaching prospects, but one that more marketers should be paying attention to is Sponsored InMail. Sponsored InMail lets you use LinkedIn InMail to deliver highly relevant messages to targeted audience segments.

Here's how to use it effectively without coming across like a spammy advertiser.

Choose your sender carefully.

With Sponsored InMail, you can set yourself as the sender or assign your campaigns to come from any of your first-degree connections (with their approval). There are pros and cons to how you handle this.

Let's say that your company's CEO is well known in your industry. Sending messages from that person is going to capture more attention than if the InMails come from a lesser-known employee, but there's a catch. Because LinkedIn message recipients are able to reply back to the InMails they receive, the person you send from needs to be someone who's actively using LinkedIn.

If all those replies bounce back to your CEO -- who never checks his or her account and never sends responses -- your campaign and your company are going to come across as spammy.

Laser-target your messages.

Few platforms offer as many targeting options as LinkedIn, especially if your prospects are business professionals. As you're setting up your campaign, you'll be able to sort InMail recipients by any of the following:

  • Company name
  • Company industry
  • Company size
  • Job title
  • Job function
  • Job seniority
  • Member schools
  • Fields of study
  • Degrees
  • Member skills
  • Member groups
  • Member gender
  • Member age
  • Years of experience

Related: 9 Ways to Advertise on LinkedIn

Get as specific as you can, but pay attention to how different selections impact your audience size. Being too broad and too narrow both have disadvantages. LinkedIn's Irina Skripnik recommends . . . "that your audience size be between 100,000 and 300,000 members. This also depends on the region you're in and the objective of your campaign. Sometimes, it does make sense to go more granular. If you're scaling beyond 350,000 members, I really would recommend breaking up your campaign."

Getting your audience-targeting right isn't just important from a campaign cost perspective. It's also one of the best ways to make your campaign appear legit. If the people you're targeting don't care about your message, they're going to treat it as spam -- regardless of the value you offer.

Provide genuine value.

As you're crafting your Sponsored InMail message, think value. This alone is probably the one factor that will protect your campaign from being seen as spammy. Shauna Ward, writing for Pardot, suggests using InMail for the following purposes:

"InMail is great for promoting webinars, ebooks and other gated assets, allowing marketers to generate qualified B2B leads while educating their target audience."

Think carefully about what the people you're targeting need most from you and provide it in the form of valuable content.

Optimize your CTA button.

One of the coolest features of Sponsored InMail, in my opinion, is the fact that you get to customize the text of the CTA (call to action) button that goes out with your message. LinkedIn gives you a few suggestions with the following "Top InMail CTA keywords":

  • Try
  • Register
  • Reserve
  • Join
  • Confirm
  • Download

Start with variations on these six and split-test your button copy. Keep your button CTA benefits-focused to avoid being perceived as too spammy.

Plan visual assets carefully.

When you send a Sponsored InMail, you get to include a 300-by-250 pixel image banner that will appear near the text of your message. This, along with your CTA button, will direct engaged users to the landing page you define on your website.

A couple of notes here:

  • Make sure your image banner isn't so busy that it distracts from your message. It should complement your text, not overpower it.
  • Think mobile. Many of your recipients will open your InMail on their smartphones or tablets. If your landing page isn't optimized for their screen sizes, you're basically paying for clicks that will never convert.
  • Avoid spammy-looking landing pages. Since most marketers send Sponsored InMail to promote gated content, getting LinkedIn users to your landing page is only half the battle. They still have to opt-in -- and you can bet they won't do that if the page they arrive on reads as spam.

It's only been since November 2016 that Sponsored InMail has been available on LinkedIn's self-service Campaign Manager platform. Up until that point, InMail advertisers weren't able to do things like set daily budgets or test audience targeting options.

Related: 9 Ways to Advertise on LinkedIn

Now they can; you can. Use these features to your advantage as you leverage Sponsored InMail to drive leads for your company.

Sujan Patel

Co-Founder of &

In his more than 10 years as a marketer and entrepreneur, Sujan Patel has helped hundreds of companies boost online traffic, sales and strengthen brand reputation online. Sujan is the VP of marketing at When I Work -- an employee scheduling software solution for small businesses.

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