ICR IOWA - Generating hundreds of leads
with paid social & video

lead generation

Here’s how we brought people back to the best place on earth (in our humble opinion).


0 to 70+ leads/mo

who is ICR Iowa?

ICR IOWA is a newly-formed, nonprofit organization and joint venture between the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance and the Iowa City Area Development Group. Its purpose is to ensure Iowa City-Cedar Rapids (ICR) prospers through regional business attraction and workforce development. In other words, ICR exists to get more people doing business <em>here</em>. We liked the sound of that.

There’s a gazillion great reasons to move your career or company here. And while there’s lots to brag about, our homegrown companies have serious talent shortages. In 2019, ICR Iowa launched the ‘Talent Hub’, an innovative program (built on HubSpot CRM) to pair candidates with local employers.

The Board set an ambitious goal of 500 new candidates in the pipeline, and after an RFP process, selected Sculpt to lead the charge. Game on.


Brand new brands can’t pull data from past performance or copy tactics from competitors. Since the Talent Hub was a brand new initiative, that meant starting from scratch, with an emphasis on A/B testing and optimizing for success.


In our kickoff, we reviewed the ICR IOWA target personas and defined their candidate decision journey. We mapped their key concerns, motivations, and a content strategy for overcoming their objections. We cemented the brand personality as genuine, witty, positive, ambitious, and a little bit self-deprecating.

audience focus

We made the decision to focus most of our attention on one primary persona. Given limited resources, time, and room for error, we determined the low-hanging fruit was attracting college alumni and people who grew up in this area but moved away back to the ICR area.

We also agreed to produce content for our secondary ‘advocate’ persona who already lives in the region.

We quickly launched a test & learn campaign to jumpstart lead generation, develop a Cost per Lead benchmark, and hone in on audience segments and messaging themes that worked.

comparison creative testing

For the launch we built geo-targeted ads for major markets with a high concentration of career-climbing Iowa ex-pats like D.C., Chicago, Kansas City, and Denver. With this approach we could personalize the still & video creatives to the environment and shine a light on housing prices and lifestyle factors with a direct comparison our audience would get.

what we learned

The top-performing ads taught us a few things:
  • Start broader: While market-specific messaging was compelling, the layered interest targeting limited our audience size and drove up CPM & frequency.
  • Landing page optimization: The recruitment offer page needed to be tweaked to make the funnel work. We added a ‘how it works’ animated video to provide more context.
  • Lean into the personality: The saves and reactions on the ads told us the bold voice works. This gave us comfort to launch our spokesperson video.

"recruit me" video series

Our team got to work drafting a script for a spokesperson-style video. Since candidates meet Tim Carty, ICR IOWA’s Director of Talent Attraction, after applying to the Talent Hub, we recruited him to be the face of the video.

concept development

Since our ads were designed for a) social channels and b) a lead generation funnel, we scoped out 4 videos to maxiimze the time investment of the production. In addition to the 2-minute hero video, we scripted 3 short-form versions that carried the same theme. These could be used as standalone ad variants or retargeting videos.

Take it away, Tim:

"Business meeting"

"Can I get some ranch?"

ongoing optimizations

Set it and forget it? Not a chance. Once the campaign goes live, the real work begins. We gained incremental growth through a number of tweaks. 👇

native lead forms

We found a healthy lift in conversions by breaking out the long intake form into a two-stage sequential form. From cold traffic we were seeing 10% conversion rates in June. For an additional lift, we skipped the click altogether and routed users to a Facebook native lead form, resulting in 24% click-to-conversion rates in August.

retargeting ads

We leave no stone unturned. We launched last-chance campaigns targeting website and landing page visitors who hadn’t converted, resulting in an additional 50+ leads over 3 months.

marketing automation tweaks

At the beginning of the campaign, we joked that our goal was to attract so many leads that (our client) Tim wouldn’t be able to keep up with emails. Be careful what you wish for. After the initial surge of leads, we redesigned multiple HubSpot email workflows to route essential updates to candidates (while poking fun at the robotic responses).

by the numbers

After re-launching our paid social video campaigns our volume of leads has grown and cost-per-lead (CPL) declined. We are trending at an avg. 70-80 leads per month with a YTD average CPL of $17 and many campaigns running as low as $13 a month. What about engagement? Our ads generated 120+ comments, 200+ saves, and 250+ shares — signaling a relationship between engaging ads and conversions.


More importantly, we were able to provide deeper insight into the candidates for who ICR Iowa could attract back. Before launch, the ICR team believed the majority of their leads would be Iowa residents who lived outside the eastern region. They were surprised to learn we were also attracting 53% of their leads from other states.

And don’t take it from us:

and on...and on...and on.

After a successful launch, Sculpt continued to feed the talent attraction machine. Each year brought new creative angles, workflow updates, and hundreds of qualified candidates.

Locals Answer Google Queries

POV UGC Concepts

Animation Variants

We’ve passed our six-month goal in three months and
show no signs of slowing down. Additionally, the leads that
we’re getting are more qualified than ever before.

Ready to grow? We’re ready to go.