How Startups Can Leverage the Power of LinkedIn for Growth

Justin Rowe, Founder of Impactable - a B2B Linkedin Ads Agency, shares his expert tips on how LinkedIn can open up endless growth opportunities for B2B startups.

Welcome to another episode of Startup Success, a podcast for founders and investors. Today we are joined by Justin Rowe, Founder and CMO of Impactable, a Linkedin Ads Agency that specializes in Linkedin Marketing for B2B companies. Join us as we discuss using LinkedIn effectively as a marketing platform. Justin shares his insights on:

  • What sets LinkedIn apart from other social platforms
  • Effective LinkedIn strategies
  • How startups and small companies can use LinkedIn for growth
  • Retargeting on LinkedIn to enhance the ROI of other paid channels
  • Marketing advice for early-stage founders and small businesses

Justin Rowe is an expert on using LinkedIn to build a robust network and open up endless growth opportunities for B2B companies. He is passionate about helping businesses and companies grow and scale through effective marketing and being a partner in their success.

This discussion with Justin Rowe comes from our show Startup Success. Browse all Burkland podcasts and subscribe to the show on Apple podcasts.

Find Justin on LinkedIn and visit Impactable.

Episode Transcript

Intro – 00:00:00:
Welcome to Startup Success, the podcast for startup founders and investors. Here you’ll find stories of success from others in the trenches as they work to scale some of the fastest growing startups in the world. Stories that will help you in your own journey. Startup success starts now.

Kate Adams – 00:00:20:
Welcome to startup success. Today we have Justin Rowe in studio, who is the founder and chief marketing officer at Impactable. Welcome, Justin. It’s great to have you here.

Justin Rowe – 00:00:32:
Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be on here.

Kate Adams – 00:00:35:
Yeah, I’m excited to get going here. I want to start. If you could tell the audience about Impactable, what you do and how it came to be, I think that would be a good place to begin.

Justin Rowe – 00:00:47:
So, yes, I am the founder and CMO of Impactable. We are a LinkedIn Ads agency and we are, I believe, one of the larger LinkedIn Ads agencies, especially in the United States, which might sound more impressive than it is. I don’t think there’s more than 15 noteworthy LinkedIn Ads agencies out there, so it’s probably not the most competitive market in the world yet, but it’s probably quickly going to get there. Initially, I actually come from the restaurant industry, of all things. I did not have a sales and marketing or startup background. I discovered LinkedIn back when I was a restaurant operator, looking for ways to kind of find more opportunity. I discovered that LinkedIn was this amazing resource where you could find decision makers. I connected myself to a lot of relevant people, kind of developed a little lead generation method and then started a LinkedIn lead generation agency, doing that for other entrepreneurs, other startups, and it became a LinkedIn lead generation agency with about 210 active clients. Before we went through an acquisition, we were purchased by a data heavy investor and then completely rebranded and pivoted into a LinkedIn Ads agency. And now we’re about a year and a half, two years on the other side of that. And now LinkedIn Ads is 95% of our revenue and we’ve really kind of made that pivot, I would say successfully, and have a nice position in that space.

Kate Adams – 00:02:10:
I love it. That’s such an impressive story, particularly how you used LinkedIn early on in your personal career in the restaurant industry and then it led into this whole business. I mean, I’m old enough to remember when LinkedIn was founded and everybody was like, we’re going to put our resume online. It didn’t make sense. And LinkedIn is here to stay. And just for Burkland, for our business alone, it’s a very important platform. So to set the stage, if you could walk us through LinkedIn today, why it’s important, why it differs from other social media platforms, that would be helpful.

Justin Rowe – 00:02:51:
So, yeah, one of the things I kind of learned early on is this was six years ago when I first came on LinkedIn I thought the same as everyone else. I was kind of updating my online resume. I thought of LinkedIn as like my online resume. So I was kind of dusting that thing off and seeing what I could do with that. And then I was also just kind of familiarizing myself with the market out there. And my LinkedIn feed, it did catch my attention. I noticed it was mostly HR people and recruiters that were really active back then. And so that’s what got my interest because like, well, they could have opportunity for me. So these days the feed on LinkedIn is much more broad. There’s a lot of startup founders, marketers. I find it highly educational. I specifically come to LinkedIn with a mindset of how can I improve my business? So I think that’s one of the biggest things that to me, drew me to it. Because people come to TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, they come to these platforms with different intentions. And sure, some of them are open to being marketed to, but there’s no other platform where people specifically come to essentially be influenced on B2B buying and purchasing decisions than LinkedIn. They want to see what other tech people are using, what strategies, what techniques, what lessons, failures we can learn from. And so they’re in a perfect environment to be influenced. And then I’m a very competitive person. I grew up gaming and sports and I played poker. And to me the other aspect is if there’s a social media platform out there that would pay dividends to be popular on, for people in business, it’s LinkedIn because popularity there kind of denotes trust and credibility. And that’s one of the biggest things, levers you could pull in the B2B world is how do I know if I can trust you? What kind of credentials do you have, what kind of positioning? And if you can position yourself as an expert in LinkedIn, that pays huge dividends for your space if you do it right. So those kind of elements, it’s different than the other social media. And so to me, it really attracted me to that. And then also how I leverage it for outreach or ads in order to kind of scale that mentality.

Kate Adams – 00:04:57:
I love it. You wrapped that up so perfectly because as marketing, people are always looking for different channels and right now everyone’s running down the TikTok tunnel. But what you said about LinkedIn is so true and it stood a real test of time. So I want to start on the individual level first because there’s a lot of founders listening. And I’ve personally seen when a founder ups their game with their LinkedIn and starts posting every day and sharing what their startup is working on, I’ve watched their momentum build on LinkedIn and it’s super impressive. So if we could start there, like on an individual level for everybody listening, what do you do on LinkedIn to be effective?

Justin Rowe – 00:05:44:
So that’s a good question. And the organic levers on LinkedIn are pretty powerful. And I learned that early on. And then I kind of got burnt out and I took a break and then I came back kind of with a vengeance at the beginning of last year. Because even as much as I love paid ads, the levers I can pull with LinkedIn organic are pretty nice. So my approach to LinkedIn, and this has kind of evolved over time, is to show up consistently. And basically my main strategy is I call it giving away the whole playbook. So especially if you’re in a service industry, specifically, or it can work for software and financial service. The thing that people pay you to do. If you simply could map out how to kind of bits and pieces, use your expertise to just give away the how to’s the whys, the thought process. Put that kind of content out there. It’s going to do a couple of things. First to me, that’s my favorite kind of content to read on LinkedIn is what can I learn? Like, I’m not an SEO expert, but I will read a fair amount of if it’s SEO, or if it’s email marketing, or if it’s even sending domain authority and email warm up. Like some of that stuff that’s outside of my normal area of expertise. I appreciate well thought out content that kind of educates me about how other marketers are thinking. So it’s the same with any space. If you show up and you give away that kind of expert level content and you can position yourself as an expert in your space, that pays big dividends. And one of the biggest things I learned early on is that you don’t show up to LinkedIn thinking that LinkedIn is this big ocean that you couldn’t possibly dominate because I’m one little marketer and my network is tiny, so why even bother? Because when I look on my feed, I see this guy with 80,000 connections, I can’t compete. One of the things I learned really early is that that’s the wrong mentality if you should rather think about LinkedIn as like ponds. So for example, if you have 1000 connections and you’ve intentionally built those connections, chances are most of the decision makers you’re connected to have less than 500 followers. Most of the people you’re connected to, their feeds are actually really slow and boring. They’re not connected to the same monsters that you are. So if you posted five days a week, you would actually be maybe the most notable marketer that they know of. So those relevant decision makers that you’re connected to, those are the small ponds you dominate versus trying to show up thinking you’re going to dominate LinkedIn as an ocean. You have these small pockets and then that causes the next strategy is you need to be intentional about your network. Don’t just accept all the connection requests that come seek to grow with actual intention. Send 10, 15 targeted connection requests out a day to people that fit your ICP or that you can provide value to, or that provide value to you. If you just accept connection requests, you’re getting baked into other people’s networks, but you should actually intentionally grow your own and then yeah, seek to dominate them. And just if you’re the main authority in your space with your connections, that’s all you need to worry about.

Kate Adams – 00:08:42:
So helpful. First of all, you’re right. Every time you go on, you think of it as an ocean because you see these people with this huge reach. But you’re right, if you think about it as ponds and work more on cultivating your audience instead of just looking at your inbound connection request, that makes perfect sense. So that’s on an individual level very helpful. Then we get into a startup or a small business. Where do you recommend that you go there because it feels just as overwhelming.

Justin Rowe – 00:09:15:
Yeah, I would say take the similar mentality and I guess probably the easiest illustration might be my personal experience. So when I first showed up to LinkedIn, I was a restaurant operator, I was a market training manager. I was just posting about what I thought was relevant and I tried to, on an individual level, post about things that went beyond my current position. So I posted more about how to be a good boss or be a good leader, how to inspire others, how to create a fair workplace, that kind of stuff that transcended my current position and hopefully would cross over to things that I hope to do. So that worked really well. And as a company and as a founder led marketing, I focus probably 80% of my posts on my core offering. People that see me on LinkedIn a lot of them probably don’t know, unless they’re reading some of these posts, that it was an outreach agency. Like I am very specific that’s the LinkedIn guy, the LinkedIn ads guy, that’s Impactable. They do B2B LinkedIn ads. Like we’re known for one very specific thing. So I would say make it your effort to post very specific niche kind of insights and don’t pander to what is going to create more followings. A lot of times you have the option of hey, this post got more likes, comments and views. This post didn’t. But this post was actually more my expertise. So one of the things I realized is hit less people, but kind of hit them harder. So my deep Insights expertise posts, they are not my most popular posts, but they started attracting the right kind of attention. And for me one of the biggest things was I used to post a lot more kind of sarcastic, entertaining kind of stuff and I used to actually get a lot more views than I do now, I would have posts that had over a million views. But I saw one time I had a post in the same week. One of the posts had a million views and not a single inbound lead. It pretty much wasn’t beneficial to my business other than it was kind of nice. And maybe hopefully that made me look more trustworthy because I had really popular on LinkedIn. But then later in the week, I had another post where I just shared how to get started with LinkedIn Ads. If my budget is like 1000 and it didn’t get that much engagement, but four different people reached out and said, hey, do you guys actually execute this? And what do your pricing look like? And so I started doing more of those. My likes and comments and views kind of dropped. But we started getting almost predictable inbound leads from a certain type of content. And then I started chasing. Once I started getting those, then that’s my strategy. Like, okay, this is what the people like. It’s case studies, real life examples, what’s Impactable’s actual ad account look like? How do I actually do this? And it was a lot of educational content that seemed to drive those inbound leads the most. So that became kind of my positioning and strategy for content from the company level.

Kate Adams – 00:12:07:
It’s back to marketing where you tailor your message, you reach your specific audience. I mean, you did that on LinkedIn and you saw the results firsthand. So that being said, walk us through your area of expertise, LinkedIn Ads, because I think a lot of people listening probably don’t understand exactly what LinkedIn offers around the advertising. It’s been very confusing over the years. The inbox the carousels, if you could kind of give us the 101.

Justin Rowe – 00:12:39:
For sure. One of the things I kind of pride myself on is so I actually fell in love with marketing. So I do all of our marketing still to this day. I run the channels and I really enjoy kind of being a more broad spectrum marketer versus just specifically LinkedIn. So I will say, for a lot of people, LinkedIn Ads is not the first place you should start. If you’re just starting your paid ad journeys, usually Google Ads, these paid listing sites like Clutch or G Two or Influencer marketing, those are really good. Investing earlier in SEO is something that’s really nice. So I don’t pitch LinkedIn Ads as some miracle advertising bullet that is right for everyone. Typically, it works better for people that have kind of a healthy marketing ecosystem already. They have a mature website that converts quality traffic. They have a couple of other quality traffic sources. And then LinkedIn Ads kind of participates in that ecosystem. So the first thing I would say is my best advice for LinkedIn Ads, or the reason that people choose it initially, is the targeting. So, yes, you can get very granular on targeting. I can say I want to target director level and above seniority or specific job titles in these five industries that I serve best. I want to then pick the company sizes because then I can say they likely have the need and they likely have budget. Pick the geography. So, yeah, the main appeal is targeting, unlike other platforms like Facebook, where you’re targeting people based on interest and geographies, and then the philosophy is you kind of start broadening it. Or the frustration with Google Ads or SEO is that you can attract, you try to curate the keywords that are going to attract people, but then you can’t know that’s quality traffic like qualified decision makers at relevant industries. So the biggest appeal to LinkedIn is that targeting I can target specific job titles, specific industries, specific company sizes. So for us, we target typically our sweet spot is maybe 50 to 200 staff size funded startups. They have marketing, they have other ad channels already in play, like Google and paid listing and SEO and whatnot. But to me, that can also be expensive. Those clicks are usually more expensive than Facebook. So I would say to me, the superpower of LinkedIn Ads, yes, that is nice that you can drop that quality cold traffic and drive that, but that is expensive. The ability for LinkedIn to qualify your website traffic, retarget it and convert it, to me, that’s going to be the easiest starting point for most companies. And what I mean by that is LinkedIn Insights tag can pick up on the website traffic regardless of the source. So if you already are running Google Ads, paid listing sites, SEO, you’re doing some organic stuff, you’re driving traffic to your website. LinkedIn can then say, okay, so again, the problem with all that is that it’s not qualified. We don’t know if it’s relevant decision makers at companies we actually want to work with. So LinkedIn can take all of its targeting filters. Mostly people just think of those for the cold side, but they’re actually better suited for the retargeting. We can say all of that warm traffic, let’s qualify it first. They must be from these industries we serve, these decision makers who have authority and these company sizes, who have budget. Let’s just retarget that traffic and let’s show them why they can trust us and convert it. When you start with LinkedIn like that, you’re actually creating additional ROI from your other paid channels. So the Google Ads you’re already investing in, now you’re shaking more conversions out of that. Because the big problem with Google Ads is that, yes, it’s unqualified, but it’s also very competitive. They’re viewing you and three other competitors and it’s actually whoever probably does a better job retargeting them and converting them in the next 90 days is going to win, not who had the best landing page like on that first visit. So when you think of LinkedIn as kind of part of an ecosystem that actually can enhance the ROI of your other channels, then you’re starting with a healthier approach, and you don’t require LinkedIn to do as much heavy lifting right up the bat. And I think that’s probably the best way to view it.

Kate Adams – 00:16:30:
Interesting. I don’t think most people listening would realize how much you can target now on LinkedIn to that level. Very impressive. And then the points you made about retargeting and improving your other channels, very helpful, especially since we’re all struggling with Google right now, so that’s a big benefit right there. Can you share an example? You don’t have to name a name, but a recent client example of where you really saw this pay off.

Justin Rowe – 00:17:03:
Yeah, probably one of the best examples was we had a startup. They were a funded startup, I think Series B, and they were pouring, I don’t know, $30, $40,000 a month through Google Ads. And then they wanted, they had this initiative, and they had some money to also try to get LinkedIn ads. And what happens in these companies is they hear about LinkedIn Ads, they’ve heard good things, and so they want to try it, but they approach it as if it’s another transactional category, that they’re going to give a budget, and if they don’t get X amount of leads, they kind of turn it off. And we see that a lot. So one of the things that we kind of talk to them about is, hey, let’s not view it as, let’s not even start with cold ads. Let’s just start with retargeting. You’re spending all this money on Google Ads, you’re getting a great ROI. If we could just start with retargeting your current website traffic and kind of searching for that. And we even sold them, like, we could retarget specific campaign from the Google Ads because all the Google Ads are sending traffic to the website with UTMs that tell you even what campaign they’re from. So you could set up retargeting audiences that say, UTM contains AdWords campaign whatever. So you could literally create a retargeting audience from a specific Google campaign that you knew was like your most profitable for them. 80% of the results were coming from this one Google campaign, and most of the others were like, exploratory or still trying to break even. But there was one that was really on fire. So we said, even more specifically, let’s retarget that traffic. So they went from taking two or three months before working with us, trying to carve out LinkedIn as a channel, and they were essentially spending all their money on cold ads, and they weren’t getting ROI. And we basically came in and said, let’s shut off the cold. Let’s just focus on retargeting. And it was a profitable ROI within 30 days, because in their example, they literally had a gold mine of traffic just waiting to be retargeted that they just weren’t doing. Because everyone, it seems like, has that same approach. Like let’s roll out a new channel, and it’s treated as it’s like and they isolate it on purpose. Let’s get a HubSpot landing page. Don’t dare connect it to the website or make them think like it’s part of this bigger company. Let’s put a HubSpot landing page there, give it its own budget. Don’t dare let any of that traffic even touch our website. It doesn’t make any sense.

Kate Adams – 00:19:16:
That’s such a good example, because, one, it really shows the benefit of retargeting. But what you described there at the end is exactly what so many startups do. You just walked us through that. They set up the channel. They don’t drive to their reps. They keep it so separate because they’re trying to find that ROI, but they’re actually hurting themselves. Right?

Justin Rowe – 00:19:41:
Yes. Someone made a post about it. I thought it was really clever. They said it might have been one of the refined guys. I don’t like to give them too much credit, but I think it was one of them. And they said that what they see happening is that these companies are figuring out first how they can track Attribution and then creating entire marketing strategies around what they can track versus, like, stepping back and saying, what is the best buyer journey? What’s our strategy? And then let’s figure out how to track it. They literally make whole strategies around what they can track and what not track. If they can’t track it, they can’t even be a conversation about using that marketing technique, which is crazy.

Kate Adams – 00:20:16:
It is. But as somebody on the marketing side, I get where they’re coming from because you have so much pressure right now. Well, you can prove your results, so show us. Right. Show us that money you’re spending. But I like how you framed it, and your case study is a perfect example of how pursuing the other approach makes more sense and will be more successful. As we wrap up. I want to switch tracks a little bit. I mean, you launched a company that had a successful acquisition and now is doing incredible. For the founders listening, we always close with just some general advice for those who are on that path because it’s a difficult journey.

Justin Rowe – 00:21:02:
Yeah, some basic advice is something that’s been comforting to me, is that no one has it figured out. So one of the good things about being an agency owner is that I’ve gotten to talk to hundreds and hundreds of founders and owners as part of kind of this process. And it really comforts me to know that almost none of these people, none of those I’ve met so far, have it all figured out. In fact, the best ones, in my opinion, have this kind of open understanding that they’re just learning, they’re just figuring it out. They’re hardly ever getting any closer, and they shy away from even calling themselves experts because they just see this as, like, an ocean of so much that we’re never going to not be students. So I would say keep that mentality the moment that you get comfortable and cocky and think that you really, really have it figured out oftentimes might be when you’re most vulnerable to being passed by competition or getting stagnant. And I would say one of the other ones is build systems and teams. I learned this in the restaurants, which I really think helped me when I crossed over into the B2B world and marketing and building agencies. None of us are that amazing that we can accomplish great things on our own. It’s who we hire and who we work with that internal ecosystem is going to be one of the most – usually in my experience for agencies in these companies, how far you and how fast you can scale comes down to who you’re working with. So first, just like any decent relationship, you need to look inwards. You need to be the kind of leader that someone would want to follow, want to work with. And one of the easiest things is creating a fair work environment, fighting for your team, protecting what is important to them. Because it’s only if they’re taken care of that they can help accomplish great things for you or for the company, or even care about the company. So I would say invest in your people, really invest in yourself. The most limiting factor for most companies is either the actual leadership itself or from that, weaker hiring decisions. Because if you have people with poor priorities and leadership hiring based on their biases and whatnot, that company, as great of an idea as it was, is just going to get corrupted and crumble. And I’ve seen a ton of agencies go under because they just couldn’t keep a decent group of people together long enough working toward the goal. So that team building and who you hire and with that culture you create, that would be some of my best advice for startups.

Kate Adams – 00:23:22:
Excellent advice. I mean, I think we all see it over and over again, those founders that pay attention to teams. And it makes such a difference. It really does. So you shared a ton with us today. This was really fun. For those listening that want to learn more about Impactable and what you all do around LinkedIn, where do they go?

Justin Rowe – 00:23:44:
You can look me up on LinkedIn. So if you search for Justin Rowe, R-O-W-E I’m, usually the top result that comes out. You can also go to, our main website. And then also, if you aren’t aware of it yet, we do have a killer YouTube channel. So I’ve personally probably created 200 plus videos. It’s essentially one of the biggest LinkedIn ads and marketing resources on YouTube. And it’s a free resource. There’s a beginner’s playlist that’s essentially just like you could pay a couple of $100 for that kind of e-course somewhere else. And it’s just a free beginner’s guide of everything you need to get started in LinkedIn ads. I would explore that it’s a free resource, but it’s probably one we’re more proud of.

Kate Adams – 00:24:28:
Sounds like a terrific resource. Thanks for sharing that. And thanks for being here again today. It was a really fun and helpful conversation.

Justin Rowe – 00:24:36:
I had a blast. It sounds like we got some really good gems of knowledge out there, so I think this will make for some good viewing and clips.

Kate Adams – 00:24:42:
I agree. Thank you.

Outro – 00:24:45:
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