The Life Science Marketer's Complete Guide To LinkedIn Ads

9 Hacks To Target Researchers In The Wild


Irene Lecker, Ph.D.

Manager - Paid Social



The Curious Case of Gregor Mendel:
How NOT to market your groundbreaking discoveries


Before diving into our LinkedIn hacks, we would like to begin by highlighting the famous story of Gregor Mendel, dubbed the 'father of modern genetics'. Mendel's story is a classic example of how even the most groundbreaking discoveries go unnoticed if you don't have the right marketing strategy.

Today, Mendel and his pea plants are part of the canon of modern science. Every high school biology student learns about the Austrian monk who crossbred pea plants in the monastery's garden and discovered the basic principles of genetic inheritance.

But the importance of Mendel's discovery was not properly appreciated at the time. In fact, it took 34 years (16 years after his death!) for the true implication of his findings to be recognized.

You might ask yourself, how could one of the most important discoveries in human history go unnoticed for decades?

The answer is simple: BAD marketing!

It is well known that Mendel did little to promote his work.

In 1865, Mendel delivered two lectures on his findings to the Natural Science Society in Brünn, who published the results of his studies the following year, under the title Experiments on Plant Hybrids. In 1866, Mendel sent reprints of all 48 pages of his paper to about 100 associations of natural scientists, prestigious libraries worldwide, and scholars outside of Brünn.

His work, however, was largely ignored.

The few references to his work from that time indicated that much of it had been gravely misunderstood and viewed as generally not applicable.

One of the recipients of the publication was Charles Darwin, who had published his work on natural selection in 1859. Darwin still wasn't sure how to explain the inheritance of traits which provided one of the most important mechanisms of natural selection, and it's possible that he might have recognized part of the answer in Mendel's pea plant data.

But Darwin never read it! Mendel's reprint was found, unopened and unread, in Darwin's library after his death. Clearly, marketing was not Mendel's strong suit. As is often the case, brilliant scientists might not be the best at properly explaining and promoting their discoveries.

This is where this guide comes in!

We might be over 150 years too late to help Mendel with his LinkedIn marketing campaign, but we are just in time to help your life science company get the word out about your groundbreaking discovery!

Continue reading on the next page to discover our proven strategies for finding scientists using LinkedIn Ads.


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Like this article? Download our Life Science Marketer's Complete Guide To LinkedIn Ads as a free PDF here.

LinkedIn 101: How To Find Scientists In The Wild

Let's begin by openly stating what you might be thinking:

Is marketing on LinkedIn REALLY the most effective way of reaching scientists?

The simple answer is yes.

But wait a second - common sense (and probably every scientist you know) tells you that to reach scientists you need to go through the proper scientific channels. Like, collaborating with labs, advertising in high impact journals, presenting at scientific conferences, and organizing product shows in academic institutions.

That's where scientists are, right? Shouldn't you go where your client base is?

Of course you should, and all of these approaches definitely work at getting your product 'in front' of scientists. But the drawback of traditional scientific channels is that they are often very expensive, labor intensive and time consuming. What's the going rate for running an ad in Nature, Cell or Science these days? Or a booth at a big scientific conference? Not to mention the labor of running product shows, which are mostly visited by grad students who are only there for the free coffee and donuts (We remember those days).

Plus, none of these approaches guarantee that the RIGHT scientist will see your product. Lots of scientists read Cell or go to specialized conferences. Not all of them are interested in your product.

Ok, so these methods are not perfect but they allow you to interact with scientists in their natural habitat, right? This may come as a bit of a surprise to some, but scientists are people (shocking, we know!), who exist outside of the lab or the purely scientific community. Therefore, you can also reach your client base by targeting platforms that are not only focused on servicing scientists.

And one of the best platforms for finding (and targeting) scientists in the wild is, you guessed it, LinkedIn!

Why Are Scientists On LinkedIn?


LinkedIn has become one of the primary communities where scientists share scientific research and proudly display their publications.

In the globalized social media driven world we live in today, there is increased pressure for scientists to not only perform research but also make their research known to the broader community.

As a result, LinkedIn is the professional social network where scientists can share their publications, discuss current events in the scientific community and add their skills and experience to their LinkedIn profile.

This is one of the biggest drivers for the the fact that LinkedIn has a community of over 5,000,000 scientists and researchers!

Targeting the RIGHT scientists: Why every life science company should advertise on LinkedIn

For starters, there are lots of scientists on LinkedIn! Searching by job title alone you'll be able to find over 5 million researchers. So you'll definitely be advertising to your client base.


More importantly, LinkedIn helps you find the RIGHT scientists that are uniquely interested in your product.

Imagine being able to place your ad in front of your ideal customer without the 'boots on the ground' approach that most life science companies employ. Think of the money and time you will save by avoiding the conferences, product shows, and door-to-door lab visits!

LinkedIn allows you to do that by using one of the best audience targeting of all other social networks. Here are the 3 biggest reasons why LinkedIn is one of the most powerful tools for life science marketers:

1. LinkedIn is a professional network

First of all, unlike other social platforms, LinkedIn allows people to showcase their resumes, work experience,
and professional skills.

That means that you can more easily find your 'dream customer' by selectively targeting individuals with the technical scientific skills and professional experience that matches your product.

For example, imagine you are selling culture media that is better than the competition. You can specifically target researchers who list cell culture as a skill in their profile (you can even get more specific and focus on scientists who work with mammalian or bacterial cell culture).

What if you are interested in clients who need products for PCR? No problem, there are 2.6 million LinkedIn users who list PCR as a skill on their profile.


2. Profile information is up-to-date

People update their LinkedIn profile often because they are proud of who they are professionally. So, you waste less of your budget as an advertiser and you can be sure that you are reaching the right people. This means very little ad spend is wasted on irrelevant clicks.

3. No gatekeepers

When advertising on LinkedIn, there are no gatekeepers. LinkedIn accounts are very personal, so if you are trying to reach C-level or VP level people, you can bet that they won't be sharing these log-ins with an executive assistant or graduate students.

LinkedIn is personal, so you deliver your message straight to your target audience. With LinkedIn, you can make sure the lab manager, principal investigator or senior researcher sees your ad, not their admin assistant or the grad students working in their lab. LinkedIn enables you to reach a higher net worth audience with the credentials you are interested in targeting.

The bottom line is that the biggest advantage of LinkedIn for a life science company is the ability to directly speak to researchers who will be interested in the company's products. No other approach can deliver such a hyper-targeted professional audience.

Common LinkedIn traps: Why so many life science companies fail at reaching their target audience

Most life science companies aren't even using Linkedin, and the ones that are using it typically make the following mistakes:

  • Not recognizing that there is a $15,000 deal size minimum to make LinkedIn advertising worth it. Make sure your deal size exceeds $15,000. Clicks on LinkedIn are expensive so you need to make sure your deal size or lifetime value of a customer is high enough to offset the cost of the clicks. For many life science companies, this is not an issue.
  • Using the wrong ad type. Not all ad types give you the best bang for your buck. For instance, sponsored InMail is quite pricey, and it doesn't give you the best results.
  • Not using conversion tracking. You need to make sure that you keep track of your leads properly! Poor conversion tracking will guarantee you waste your money on LinkedIn.
  • Not leveraging existing content via lead generation forms. All Life Science companies have some sort of a white paper, application note or brochure that can be used to generate leads.
  • Not creating the perfect audience. LinkedIn is a great tool for identifying your ideal customer base but if you don't know what you're doing you can end up with a broad and expensive audience.

The Take-Away? LinkedIn is an AMAZING tool but it is tricky! If you're not careful, you can lose a lot of money. But don't worry. We're here to help!

Keep reading to find out the 9 hacks that can help you navigate the common pitfalls of LinkedIn and successfully engage your audience and grow your life science business.


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1. Leverage Your Existing Assets!

If you want to generate leads on LinkedIn, then you'll need some collateral in order to prompt your target audience to provide you with their personal information.

Thankfully, almost every life science company has some promotional scientific material, such as a whitepaper, an application note, or webinar that can be used as collateral for lead generation campaigns.

The key is to be mindful of the offer you choose. PDF downloads of whitepapers, application notes, case studies, or even brochures, hit the sweet spot with many cold audiences on LinkedIn. The friction of the offers is not so high as to be off-putting to the prospect. But the friction of the offers is also not too low so as to be overly expensive while offering little value.

Webinars also work quite well, but be careful about promoting a webinar to a broad, cold audience. This type of offer works better with audiences you have already cultivated and who are familiar with your products.


This all sounds good, but you probably want to see some hard data to back up this claim!

Let's compare two campaigns we ran for the same company on the same audience.


As you can see from the results above, campaign A performed rather poorly with a $518.34 cost per conversion. It's important to note that the ad itself was performing quite well, generating 81 clicks and an average CTR of 0.6% (the average LinkedIn CTR is 0.40%). The problem here was not the effectiveness of the ad, or the wrong audience, but the super high-friction offer.

On the other hand, campaign B had a $96.64 cost per lead. That's a 5-times cheaper cost per conversion than campaign A! This is especially interesting since campaign B had a 0.49% CTR, which was lower than campaign A, yet the audience was still way more likely to convert in campaign B.

These two campaigns highlight the importance of the offer to the overall success of your LinkedIn campaign. The right offer that hits the "sweet spot" can generate a lot more leads at a fraction of the cost.


Download the Printable PDF

Like this article? Download our Life Science Marketer's Complete Guide To LinkedIn Ads as a free PDF here.

2. Use Member Skills When Building An Audience

One of the biggest advantages of using LinkedIn is the fantastic business targeting that the platform offers. You can build your audience by selecting from a number of audience attributes, including location, industry, company size, job experience, job function, member skills, audience interests, and many more!

While this ability to customize a professional audience is great when you know what you're doing, it can quickly become overwhelming. With so many attributes to choose from, how do you know you are actually targeting the right people?

Life science companies also have an additional level of difficulty as they are trying to reach scientists in big and diverse academic institutions that do not fit neatly within LinkedIn's company and audience attributes. For instance, if you are interested in targeting small to medium size laboratories in research hospitals, you can't simply select the company size option. If you do, you'll quickly find out that this option refers to the number of employees in the entire hospital and not within individual labs.

This is why many inexperienced marketers choose to build an audience based on job title. It feels like the safest choice, and you are guaranteed to get a very precise audience. But while the audience may be more precise, it is also quite small. And it will be very expensive to reach.

We have found that targeting based on job function, seniority, company industry, and member skills result in better defined audiences that are much, much cheaper.


Audience targeting using member skills is especially useful for life science companies. Why? Because, unlike other companies, your ideal customer has a large number of very specific scientific skills and areas of research that they are proud to highlight on their profile.

For instance, if you are a company that is interested in targeting project managers, then using member skills will not be especially advantageous.

Your target audience has a broad and overlapping set of skills shared by many people. If you use member skills on LinkedIn, then you may run the risk of targeting the wrong people.

However, if you are a life science company interested in advertising a gene editing product that will be especially useful to scientists doing research in immuno-oncology, then using member skills will create a hyper-focused audience that will be extremely interested in your offer.

Let's use a fictitious life science company as our example and compare the size of their audience when using job titles versus member skills.

The company is looking to generate an audience of individuals who:

  1. Are researchers or scientists
  2. Are located in Canada and the United States
  3. Understand and use gene editing technologies
  4. Conduct research in immuno-oncology

As you can see from the examples below, the member skill audience is 10 times larger than the job title audience. Yet the far larger audience created by using member skills is still highly focused and would be uniquely interested in gene editing products!

Audience targeting using job title


Targeting using member skills


3. Use Member Groups As Target Audiences

Another great audience-targeting hack is to look for member groups that will be interested in your product. Why member groups? Because joining a specific group means you are super interested in the topic and likely active on LinkedIn.

CRISPR Forum, shown below, is one example of a LinkedIn CRISPR group that currently has 13,127 professionals. Individuals that joined the CRISPR Forum Group are not only conducting gene editing research, but also have a specific interest in connecting with other professionals who focus on CRISPR. Essentially, researchers that belong to the CRISPR Forum are highly engaged and will be very interested in products or services related to CRISPR. This is exactly the sort of audience you want to target!


Using member groups to build your audience on LinkedIn means you will be showing your ads to all the members of that specific group, which is a great way to get a really engaged and super-precise audience.

The only drawback is that these audiences tend to be smaller and, therefore, have much less scale than other audiences.

4. Make Your Audience Size Between 20k-80k

Choosing the right audience size is also important for a successful campaign. We recommend an audience size between 20,000 and 80,000. That might seem arbitrary, but we have hard data to back this up!

First of all, our data shows that an audience smaller than 20,000 people extinguishes too quickly. A decent-sized audience typically requires a $5,000 budget before we see a significant CTR drop. However, a narrow audience with less than 20,000 people sees a drastic drop in CTR within a $1,500 budget.

Take a look at the example below of a campaign that was launched in May with an audience size of 10,000 and a budget of $500 per month. The initial performance of the campaign was quite strong with a CTR of 0.66% in May and 0.69% in June. However, by July the CTR had dropped to 0.52%, and by August the campaign had an abysmal CTR of 0.25% (well below the average LinkedIn CTR of 0.35%).

Audience size: 10,000


Audience size: 110,000


For comparison, let's take a look at a campaign with an identical offer and budget, but with an audience size of 110,000. This campaign was also launched in May, but due to its larger audience size it continued to have a solid performance well into October. While there was an initial drop in CTR from 0.58% in May to 0.38% in June, CTR settled in at an average of 0.4% for the remainder of the summer and early fall.

Looks good. But are there any problems with having a larger audience?

There is not a problem per se, but there is a lost opportunity! An audience size larger than 80,000 gives you the opportunity to split test and segment your audience so you can understand it better.

For instance, let's say you are interested in targeting scientists in North America who routinely use PCR in their experiments. Selecting specific audience attributes gives you an audience size of 420,000 people. That's a very large audience that is ripe for some segmentation!

Original Audience


To get more information about this audience, you can try segmenting it based on the following attributes:

  • Location: United States (380K), Canada (40K)
  • Seniority: Entry level (150K), Senior and higher (270K)
  • Company industry: Higher education (140K), Biotechnology (110K), Pharmaceuticals (57K)

Another great way to segment your audience is by member skills!
The example below shows two identical campaigns that started out as one campaign with a really large audience. We segmented the large audience based on member skills, thereby creating two campaigns that we could A/B test against one another.

As you can see, both campaigns are performing rather well. Campaign B performs with a $30.17 cost per conversion. It is outperforming Campaign A with a $39.48 cost per conversion. Clearly, audiences with the member skills selected in campaign B are more interested in the promoted product and, therefore, they are more likely to convert. However, the average CTR is much higher for campaign A (0.99%) compared to campaign B (0.58%). This could mean that the ads may be more appealing to the audience with member skills selected for campaign A.


All of this audience information helps you understand your audience better and is extremely useful for future campaigns!

5. Set Up Conversion Tracking

From our experience, most life science marketers come from a scientific background, so they love to see data-driven success!

Why is data so important? Because as the old saying goes, "If you can't measure it, you can't improve it." We all understand this intuitively! For example, it's nearly impossible to lose weight without stepping on a scale once in a while to measure your results. If you don't step on a scale to measure your progress, you have no idea if you are succeeding or not.

It should therefore come as no surprise that to run a successful LinkedIn campaign you need data! More specifically, you need to keep track of how many leads, website visits and overall conversions were generated by your LinkedIn campaign. This information will allow you to determine your cost per conversion, a key parameter when evaluating campaign performance.

Conversion tracking allows you to gather data on some of the following questions:

  1. Is your offer gaining traction with your audience?
  2. Is the audience exhausted, and it is time to introduce a new offer?
  3. Should you expand or narrow your audience?
  4. Are your ads effective in generating a high click-through rate?
  5. Do your landing pages encourage conversions?
  6. Is the cost/conversion reasonable for your product?

Answering these questions will give you important insight into what your audience wants, and it will help you get the most out of your budget!

It is therefore crucial to set up conversion tracking on your LinkedIn campaigns. This step is not trivial. You will need a great development team to help you set this up properly. Inaccurate conversion tracking can skew your results, causing you to potentially waste your budget on underperforming or failing campaigns.

This is because, again, we are targeting scientific researchers who are at the bottom of the funnel and are ready to purchase or partner with a life science company. When researchers are at this stage, they are most likely on their desktop computer at work. This is unlike targeting audiences to advertise for general consumer products, for which the majority of searches and conversions occur on mobile devices.

Although the life science audience is more likely to engage with your business via desktop computer, you still need to ensure that your website and landing pages are mobile friendly. Mobile speed scores are part of your quality score, even if you're not running ads on mobile devices.

There can definitely be value in showing your ads on mobile devices, especially if your goals are more awareness- and visibility-focused. We recommend considering your goals and analyzing a couple months of data to determine whether mobile and tablet traffic are the best uses of your digital advertising dollars.

For instance, if your goal is lead generation and you are at your maximum monthly ad spend budget but don't have full impression share on desktop computers, we'd recommend turning off or dialing down mobile and tablet traffic to free up more budget to show ads on desktop computers.

If you have more advertising dollars to spend, another approach to get your ads in front of more people on desktop computers is to make an increased bid adjustment on computers (i.e. under Devices, tick the checkbox for the device(s) you want to adjust, select Increase, input the percentage by which you'd like to increase your bids, then click Save).


Download the Printable PDF

Like this article? Download our Life Science Marketer's Complete Guide To LinkedIn Ads as a free PDF here.

6. Use LinkedIn Lead Generation Forms

What if you don't have a web development team or the budget to keep generating new landing pages? No worries! LinkedIn has got you covered!

LinkedIn Lead Generation Forms are a great option for collecting leads without the fuss and cost associated with creating a product-specific landing page.

These forms are customizable and enable you to select from a wide variety of field options. There are also options for additional questions or check boxes with a personalized "thank you" message when the form is submitted.

An added advantage is that the form fields are automatically populated with the prospect's information, further reducing friction and increasing the conversion rate. It's a wonderful option if you are just starting out with LinkedIn. We have seen some great results using these forms!

Check out the example below to get a sense of what LinkedIn's Lead Gen Form looks like.


7. Use PDF Images In Your Ads

This hack seems obvious in retrospect, and yet so few LinkedIn ads use it because it seems to break EVERY marketing rule!

Our A/B ad testing consistently shows that scientific audiences prefer ads that prominently feature an image of the PDF being promoted. In countless head-to-head comparisons, the ad featuring the PDF image wins!

Take a look at the two ads below. One features a PDF image of the white paper being promoted while the other features an eye catching image of a CAR-T cell (the topic of the white paper). In every other respect the ads are identical.

PDF Image Ad


Cell Image Ad


PDF Image Results


Cell Image Results


Every marketing principle suggests that the slicker Cell Image ad should outperform the PDF image ad. However, the PDF image ad is the clear winner with 62 leads and a $23.40 cost/lead compared with 39 leads and a $35.25 cost/lead of the cell image ad.

8. Use Account-Based Remarketing

Another great functionality of LinkedIn is account-based remarketing. This function enables you to remarket to people who either previously interacted with your website or who gave you their contact email. This is a great option to strategically position your ads in front of audiences and remind them to make a purchase!

LinkedIn allows you to use the following two options in your remarketing campaigns:

  • Website visitor remarketing
  • Email remarketing

The website visitor remarketing option does exactly what you'd think, it allows you to track visitors on your website and remarket back to them when they are active on LinkedIn. All you'll need to do is install a LinkedIn Insight Tag on the website. After you've installed the Insight Tag and defined audience segments, your audience will grow as more LinkedIn members visit your site.

The only drawback is that it takes some time to build a sufficient audience, as LinkedIn requires at least 300 people before the ads can be delivered to the retargeted audience. In addition, you need sufficient website traffic for this to be a viable option. We recommend a minimum of 5,000 web visitors per month for this option to yield good results.

The email remarketing option on LinkedIn allows you to upload an email list of leads and/or customers directly onto the platform. LinkedIn then matches the emails to profiles on their platform and remarkets back to them when they are active on LinkedIn. However, as with website remarketing, you will need a list of at least 4,000 emails for good campaign performance.

The key advantage to both of these approaches is that the audiences you create will be further down the funnel and more likely to convert. We have seen some great results using both these approaches!

What if you don't have sufficiently high traffic on your website and your email list falls a bit short? Can you still target scientists who work in institutions like Caltech or the Mayo clinic?

Yes you can! LinkedIn has an option that allows you to target researchers in specific companies or institutions. As the example below illustrates, all you'll have to do is add the names of the companies or institutions you would like to target and LinkedIn will generate a specific audience of individuals that are employed there. LinkedIn also allows you to upload a spreadsheet with a list of companies you would like to target so you don't have to add hundreds of institutions manually.

The Pro Tip here is to remember to narrow down your audience further with Job Function, Job Title, Member Skills, or a combination.when you are building your audience. This way you ensure that your audience is composed of scientists and not administrators or other professionals employed by these institutions.


9. Implement A Full Funnel Strategy

LinkedIn Ads has always been a perfect platform for advertising to B2B prospects in the awareness and consideration phases of the marketing funnel.


Video and engagement campaigns are ideal for gaining awareness, and using LinkedIn lead gen forms to generate downloads and on-demand webinar sign-ups would fall into the consideration phase.

However, in recent years, the LinkedIn Ad platform has considerably improved its remarketing tools.

In addition to remarketing to website visitors, we now have the possibility to remarket to users who have watched videos on LinkedIn, viewed the LinkedIn company page, or engaged with any ad.

These tools give us the capability to lead prospects down the marketing funnel within the LinkedIn platform.

The ideal way to do this is to use different types of content at different stages of the funnel as shown below.


Use videos and articles to generate clicks and video views.

A significant consideration in this stage is to use the content to qualify the prospect for the next stage of the funnel. Anyone who watches the videos (or a certain % of the videos) and anyone who clicks on the articles will fall into remarketing audiences that will be used for the next stage of the funnel. Ensure you are using content that qualifies prospects so that we remarket to the appropriate audience.

Use every type of content: videos, articles, whitepapers, webinars, application notes, etc.

The audience at this stage of the funnel will include website visitors, video viewers, LinkedIn company page visitors, and anybody who has engaged with your ads.

In this stage, we want to nurture and educate the audience that has been prequalified in the awareness stage. As a rule of thumb, it takes at least 7 touchpoints before customers take action online. So we want to get as many touchpoints as possible here with different types of content.

The content can be product-focused, but also consider including content on your company culture, such as behind-the-scenes videos, company mission videos, and spotlight interviews. These videos will gain trust with the prospect.

At this point, the audience has been pre-qualified at the top of the funnel, and we have educated them and increased brand trust with many touchpoints in the middle of the funnel.

Now that the audience is more familiar with your company and products, we can launch campaigns that go for the conversion. This can be in the form of lead gen campaigns with relevant content, or website visit campaigns to sales pages for the prospect to request a quote or ask for a demo.

We have found that using a funnel approach has generated better quality leads for life science companies on LinkedIn at a lower cost. However, a funnel needs a lot of content to work, and the different stages require a lot of maintenance.

Conclusion: Experimentation Is The Final Key To Success On Linkedin

We started this guide with the story of Gregor Mendel to illustrate that scientists don't always make for the best marketers. But there is one aspect of science that is key to success on LinkedIn - experimentation.

Thankfully, this is the part that comes most naturally to Life Science companies! Relying on data to direct decision making is second nature to you, and LinkedIn is built to allow you to collect data and optimize your campaigns.

This is actually where the real fun begins!

There are so many different variables you can test, like A/B testing different ads, audiences and offers. You can test catchy headlines versus scientifically accurate ones or bold images versus data images. You can try segmenting your audience based on their member skills and develop unique campaigns for each of these audiences. The possibilities are endless!

Armed with our best hacks and tips you'll be able to maximize your chances for success by mixing and matching until you find the sweet spot for each of your campaigns.

So get creative and experiment! We know this is the part you'll enjoy the most!

Meet The Authors

Irene Lecker, Ph.D.

Manager - Paid Social

Ben Duffield

Director - Paid Social

Eric Southwell

Chief Marketing Officer

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