LinkedIn Sponsored InMail Cost: What You Need to Know 2023

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Have you checked your InMail lately? 

Yes, it’s probably filled with Connection requests and ‘quick questions’ from professionals already in your network. But there’s something else: a sprinkling of sponsored messages, designed as organic messages now called “Message Ads”.  

That said, we decided to explain what LinkedIn Sponsored InMail is, how it works, pros and cons of using it, but as well offer some alternatives to InMail ads you can use.

Brands use Sponsored InMail — now Message Ads — to deliver targeted ads as organic messages. 

How to Message Prospects on LinkedIn?

Every LinkedIn user can use InMail to message their existing network. But you can only reach prospects outside of your network using one of three options:

  1. InMail Credits: With LinkedIn memberships (including Premium and Sales Navigator), you get 10-30 InMail credits every month. 
  2. Sponsored InMail: Use Message Ads to advertise to your target audience directly in their InMail inbox. 
  3. Exported Emails: Scale your outreach efforts by exporting lead emails from LinkedIn Sales Navigator.

As of a couple years ago, LinkedIn Sponsored InMail messages were around $0.80 per send (this translates into over $5 per click). It’s much more affordable than $10 per InMail message — but much more expensive than cold email or typical CPC strategies.

What else do you need to know about InMail ads?

Sponsored InMail is Now ‘Message Ads’

LinkedIn has rebranded sponsored InMail to ‘Message Ads’. This is seemingly to incorporate the offering into the rest of its advertising.

But let’s be real: everyone is still searching for Sponsored InMail. 

You did, didn’t you? 

Here’s how LinkedIn describes Message Ads:

“Send direct messages to your prospects to spark immediate action. Deliver a targeted message with a single CTA. Communicate to your prospects without having to worry about character limits.”

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Sounds a lot like sponsored InMail, eh?

Branding aside, much has remained the same. Moving on. 

What is LinkedIn Sponsored InMail?

Sponsored InMail messages – or Message Ads — are an advertising format unique to LinkedIn. In short, they are paid versions of everyday LinkedIn messages.

“Send direct messages to your prospects to spark immediate action.”

Like other LinkedIn advertising formats, Message Ads are almost purely for a B2B audience. If you have a specific target audience, Message Ads are a good channel to explore. But, like other LinkedIn advertising, the costs can add up. 

Sponsored InMail vs Normal InMail

Here are a few ways sponsored InMail is different than normal InMail messages:

  • Leads can’t respond to a Sponsored InMail message. You can include a CTA — as a link to a form or optimized landing page — but the people you send a Message Ad won’t be able to respond directly. Since these are meant to be sent at scale, this automates much of the follow up work. 
  • Sponsored InMail is only delivered when people are active. This effective (sneaky?) tactic from LinkedIn boosts open rate of Message Ads, supposedly. 
  • Sponsored InMail is less expensive than organic InMail. Since buying additional InMail credits runs $10 per message, sponsored InMail messages have a much lower cost at scale. In general, brands will spend less than a dollar per sponsored InMail message sent. 
  • Message Ads are marked as ‘sponsored’. While you can send completely organic InMail messages (or email) with a premium LinkedIn, Sponsored InMail messages are delivered with a ‘Sponsored’ tag before the subject line. 
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Is it better to InMail or connect on Linkedin?

Connecting and InMailing are two different ways of making contact with an individual – both of which have their own advantages and drawbacks. While connecting on LinkedIn can be a great way to expand your network and increase visibility within the platform, doing so requires you to wait for the other person to accept your request. This can lead to long waits that may not suit your timeline or goals.

InMail offers a more direct approach – allowing you to send messages directly into your target’s Inbox. However, this method may be considered less “organic” than connecting and also costs money in most cases. Plus, if you don’t have a strong idea of who’s in your target audience, using InMail may become expensive very quickly if you’re targeting too broadly.

Ultimately, the choice comes down to what fits best for you and your business objectives: If you want quick action from someone or need more control over who receives your message then InMail might be a better solution; if organic growth is important then connecting should be given priority.

How Do You Get Sponsored InMail on LinkedIn?

You’ll get this kind of message when an individual decides to use LinkedIn Sponsored InMail to reach out to you.

Keep in mind that they are paying to send you an InMail.

Most commonly, you can receive this type of message on LinkedIn from people who are outside of your network.

How to Set Goals for Your Sponsored InMail Campaign?

Like with any other campaign, the first step towards creating your own LinkedIn InMail campaign is to set goals and purpose.

You’ll have to define what you want to achieve with the campaign and how much you want to spend on it.

While doing this, you need to set a conversion goal to determine if this tactic does pay off. Furthermore, you need to define your target audience more specifically. You can target by job title, skill, specific industries, or segmented customer lists.

How Much Do LinkedIn Sponsored InMails Cost?

With Sponsored InMails, businesses can reach potential customers with personalized messages on LinkedIn. On average, it costs upward of $0.80 per successful send (your region may vary). However costly, these messages may be well worth the investment if you’re hoping to nurture higher-quality leads and drive conversions.

Then lead into a greater breakdown of costs..

There’s no way around it: Sponsored InMail is one of the most expensive forms of advertising on LinkedIn. And LinkedIn already has one of the highest CPC rates of any digital platform.

That’s because Message Ads are priced by the number of messages sent, not the number of clicks.

These are rough estimates, based on lower end of bidding and an estimated CTR:

  • Cost per send: this depends on your audience and targeting, but messages can cost around $0.80 per send.
  • Spend: You must spend a minimum of $25 per campaign.
  • CPC: With an open rate below 50% and an optimistic CTR of 4%, you can expect at least $5 per click.
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Why Use Sponsored InMail? Pros & Cons

Sales leaders use Message Ads for a host of reasons, from lead generation to account-based sales

Here are a handful of the pros and cons of using Sponsored InMail. 

The Pros

  • Specific targeting: You can home in on high value leads, using InMail messages as one touchpoint in a multi touch campaign. Sponsored InMail allows you to target users you believe are most likely to be interested in your product or service, based on criteria such as job titles, interests, and location. That way, you can tailor your message to their relevant needs and interests and you won’t have to worry about wasting money blasting out messages that are far less likely to convert.
  • High visibility: Get delivered to your prospects’ LinkedIn inbox without risking the spam folder. 
  • Bulk messages: Instead of manually sending InMail messages (and spending a fortune to do so), you can scale your Message Ads easily (but be wary of the cost that can add up). 
  • Ease of use: Many users report that Message Ad campaigns are easy to set up — though you may end up spending more time on landing pages and fitting the campaign into your funnel. 
  • High open rates. LinkedIn claims an open rate close to 70%, while some users report their open rates to be closer to 50%. Either number is higher than the average cold email open rate (though there are plenty of ways to boost your cold email campaigns). 

The Cons 

  • Cost. Message Ads can add up quickly if you’re sending thousands of sponsored InMail messages every month. It’s definitely a better option for highly targeted campaigns. 
  • Sponsored tag. Remember that your leads will know it’s not a truly organic message right off the bat. Message Ads have a high open rate (who wants to leave unread messages in their LinkedIn inbox?), but actual conversion is not as clear. 
  • More time investment. To get the most out of Message Ads, you’ll need a dedicated landing page or conversion form. 
  • Unclear metrics. Spend is not tied to clicks or conversions. You pay for how many messages you deliver, period. It could easily be higher cost than other forms of advertising (and definitely higher than cold email campaigns). 

Alternatives to Sponsored InMail

  • Cold email: Cold email sometimes gets a bad rap in terms of organic engagement. But cold email can be easier to scale, much more personalized and much cheaper than InMail messages. And you can still use LinkedIn Sales Navigator to prospect, then extract emails. 
  • Direct InMail messages: These can feel more authentic and they’re almost free (since you get 30 InMail messages with Sales Navigator). Save these for your high value targets, particularly in account-based campaigns. 
  • Other forms of LinkedIn advertising: The B2B social media platform offers a host of advertising options, from banners across the homepage to in-feed display ads. It’s worth testing out each of these options with conversions. Since you get a wider reach but can still target, the ROI may be higher. You can at least test the results before diving into paid InMail ads blindly. 

Create prospect lists from Linkedin.

Convert any Linkedin search to an email list ready for outreach.

Create prospect lists from Linkedin.

Convert any Linkedin search to an email list ready for outreach.

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