(Almost) everything you need to know about lead magnets to build your email list and turn strangers into subscribers
Growing businesses that are hungry for more customers all face the same challenge: transforming web traffic into leads (and eventually customers). Sure, it’s great to see that people are landing on your site, but unless you can actively market to those individuals, well, you’re pretty much stuck on the sidelines and leaving a good chunk of change on the table. Enter lead magnets— the #1 way to generate leads, build a healthy email list, and grow your business online.
Generating traffic to your website is important (and a whole other thing in its own right)—but it’s not the end goal. What do you do when that traffic arrives? How do you keep that relationship warm? In order to build your business (and actively market your product/ services), you need to transform that traffic into leads by making sure you have a way to contact them—by collecting their names and email addresses.
But when’s the last time you gave your contact information to companies for free? Probably never.
And your incoming web traffic isn’t going to start doing that now just because. You need to offer some sort of incentive; the what’s-in-it-for-them part of the transaction. And that’s what a lead magnet is all about.
What are lead magnets?
A quick definition is in order. When we refer to leads, we’re referring to names + email addresses of people that are most likely to become paying customers in the future. They represent that customer, and more importantly, your means of contacting them.
Lead magnets go by several different names: content upgrades, freebie offers, lead bait, gated content, opt-in bribe ,and others. But they all accomplish the same critical job: getting that name and email address.
Getting someone’s contact information is what converts anonymous web traffic into prospects or leads, because (1) you can be reasonably sure they’re interested in your content and your company, and (2) you have an (active) way of staying in touch with them. It’s a pretty simple give-and-take arrangement.
Typically, lead magnets take the form of downloadable content (ebooks, PDF guides, worksheets, etc.), instructional videos, free consultations, webinars, etc. But we’ll get into the details of this later.
For now, the important thing to remember is that a lead magnet is the “freebie” offer or content you give away for the low, low price of an email address (and sometimes a name).
How do lead magnets work?
The mechanics of how a lead magnet works is really quite simple: you have to give something away to get something in return. In this case, high-quality free content in exchange for an email address.
A lead magnet most often works like this:
Your lead magnet could be offered in a banner ad, pop-up form, or landing page—depending on where you want to host your offer, and how much space you need to explain what it is and why they need it.
Most small businesses use landing pages to introduce their lead magnet. In that case, people who visit your landing page enter their email address in order to access the lead magnet. When they submit their email address and click the CTA, they’ll automatically be sent an email containing the lead magnet. And then you now can contact them with (appropriate, non-overwhelming) future offers and information.
Why use lead magnets?
Your email list/ database of leads is your number one resource for marketing your product or service. You need high-quality, relevant leads and subscribers that you can reach out to with relevant, timely content and offers whenever you want to. Lead magnets are how you grow your email list and fill your marketing/ sales funnel with people who want to receive whatever content or offers you’re sending.
Lead magnets are also brand builders. By providing your traffic with interesting, helpful, and valuable content, you’re creating a name for yourself. And when that lead is in a position to consider a purchase, the free piece of content pays for itself because your company is more likely to be top of mind.
What are common types of lead magnets?
From free video courses to a downloadable checklist or eBook, there are a near-infinite number of lead magnets formats that you could create for your lead generation campaign.
Here are a few common types of lead magnets to keep in mind:
- Ebooks (Digital books that cover a topic in your area of expertise extensively)
- Checklists/ cheat sheets/ resource guides/ tip sheets/ FAQ sheets (Short, easily digestible pieces of content that can help leads solve a small problem quickly)
- Email courses (Quick but effective lessons on small topics related to a particular field or subject)
- Swipe files/ templates (Proven examples and formats to create content)
- Live or on-demand webinars (Hugely valuable educational content that can also help you promote your brand or product)
- Calendars/ action plans (Templates that can help leads stay organized, adhere to a schedule, and be more goal-oriented).
- Industry reports (Reports that cover events or trends in your vertical or industry)
- White papers/ case studies (In-depth research on specific topics in your industry, or profiles of successful customers and how they’ve used your product)
- Live demos/ tutorials (Easy to follow videos on how to use your product and the benefits it offers)
- On-demand video training/ courses (Similar to webinars, but more actionable in nature)
- Contests (Also great for boosting your follower count on social channels)
- Quizzes (Many are powerless against the allure of a well-written and designed quiz)
- Product samples/ free trials (Give away a small amount of what you make or build for free)
- Consultations/ 1:1 calls (A very effective lead generation tactic for coaches and consultants)
Which lead magnet is right for your audience?
As you can see, there are so many different types of lead magnets you can create and offer. But which type of lead magnet is right for your audience and for your specific lead generation campaign? That depends on a few different things.
The most successful lead magnets are those that are thoughtfully tailored to attract a very specific audience and meet a very specific need at a particular point in that audience’s experience with your business. In short, it has to be relevant and useful to the person you’re trying to attract.
There are a handful of variables you’ll want to consider:
10 quick tips to get started with your first lead magnet (plus lead magnet examples)
New to lead magnets and not sure how to get your lead generation off the ground? Not to worry. You’ve likely seen opt-in offers all over the internet and now that you’re tuned into this marketing technique, you’ll spot even more!
Keep your eyes open to learn from other businesses and to inspire what’s possible for your business. But in the meantime, here’s how we recommend you get started:
#1 – Hone in on a single problem
Don’t try to ‘boil the ocean’ or solve every problem your prospect might have with a single, downloadable worksheet—you’ll drive yourself nuts and probably won’t do much to help your reader! Focus on solving or helping with one single problem. Keep it specific and actionable.
#2 – Connect the dots
Ideally, your lead magnet ties back to your primary service or offer. Think of this as the first step in your product pyramid. For example, our Landing Page Lookbook directly relates to what we do. You can (subtly) mention your products or services as a way to complement your offering, but definitely do not start using your lead magnets as advertisements.
At Leadpages, we build this strategy into everything we do. Here’s one example:
#3 – Say it Straight
In most cases, you won’t have a lot of space to wax poetic about what your lead magnet is and why people should download it. You’ll need to be quick and concise; get straight to the point and answer 3 key questions in as few words as possible:
- What are you offering?
- Why should your audience care?
- What action should they take next?
#4 – Don’t get greedy: only ask for the minimum
The more information you ask for in exchange for your lead magnet (and the more fields they need to fill out), the less likely your target audience is to take action. Keep your form fields down to a minimum. If possible, stick with just first name and email address unless more information is absolutely crucial to making the lead a good one.
#5 – Make it bite-sized
If you’re in the market to generate new leads from total strangers, you’ll need to make it super easy to say ‘yes’ to your offer. Cold traffic (those unfamiliar with your business) won’t be willing to work all that hard to get to know you. That means you should keep your offer short, sweet, and simple.
#6 – Tie it with a bow
If you’re like most people, you’ve probably made a purchase based solely on the packaging. Product packaging really matters, and that’s just as true in lead magnet design. Make an attractive mock-up of your product or create an eye-catching header image that will carry through your ads, landing pages, and email delivery. This is an area that you want to focus on. So if you only have a bit of budget to work with, a good designer is probably a smart way to spend it.
#7 – Remember: A newsletter is not magnetic. (And ‘updates’ aren’t sexy)
Some businesses think their ‘regular newsletter’ qualifies as a lead magnet—sorry, it doesn’t. Unless you’ve done the legwork to sell your email newsletter as a valuable information product in its own right (which is rare), when you add opt-in points like these to your site, your visitors are likely to look at them and see: free sales pitches. The fact is that, as much as you might think your brand and product are amazing (and they are!), people aren’t generally going to pay for the privilege of receiving your marketing emails. So try to add value to them with additional content. Or provide users with a darn good reason why they want your newsletter.
#8 – Use thought leadership to capture leads
A lead magnet strategy can often help establish you as an authority in your industry (or even a just a place to turn for cool stuff). Be generous with your expertise, don’t hold back! It helps build your credibility as a person in your community and industry, as well as someone who really knows their stuff. Once your audience trusts you and that credibility is established, they’ll be far more likely to pay for a greater value and increased access.
#9 – Deliver on your promise
Double, triple, and quadruple check that your lead generation tool is integrated with your email service provider (ESP) so that you can instantly deliver your free content. When they click that CTA, you want to make sure they get what they asked for right away. Don’t leave a single lead hanging!
#10 – Back it up with some love: don’t neglect your nurture sequence
Think of your newly captured lead as a new acquaintance that you want to become better friends with. Don’t kick off this fresh friendship by neglecting to follow-up for months. Take immediate action by, first, delivering what you promised and, second, offering the next steps. You might suggest that they check out a blog post related to the topic, send over another free offer that takes the topic one-step further, or invites them to share their feedback with you.
But make sure that you have a steady stream of email content to keep them that relationship warm. You can share other lead magnets, industry reports, and eventually, an offer.
What’s the best (and easiest) way to create a lead magnet?
There’s no single easy lead magnet format that works best for everyone, but many entrepreneurs find success offering a lead magnet PDF download of highly useful content, such as an e-book or a single-sheet resource guide. These are typically pretty easy to create with minimal copywriting, design, or technical skills. You can also start with a lead magnet template and quickly plug in your own copy and content.
There are tons of other ways to make a great lead magnet if ebooks aren’t up your alley, though—and you don’t need any special skills to do it.
Another option is to buy lead magnets from freelance websites. If you go this route, just make sure that you do a little quality control before you put anything out into the world! This is definitely an area where you get what you pay for.
How should I deliver my lead magnet?
You want to be able to promise instant gratification when you offer a lead magnet, so you need to make sure it’s delivered automatically when someone opts in to your offer.
If you use Leadpages, this is incredibly easy. You can use our built-in Lead Magnet Delivery system to upload the lead magnet files and link them to your lead box opt-in forms. Then, when someone opts in and hits the CTA button, they’ll get the content sent right to their inbox right away.
If you don’t use Leadpages, you’ll need to set up an autoresponder email in your email service provider. When someone submits the proper form, have the first email that gets sent contain a link to or attachment of your lead magnet file.
Either way, of course, you’ll also want to make sure the opt-in form is connected to an email follow-up sequence of your choosing. It just makes the whole process smooth and fast.
Does a lead magnet have to be a digital product?
No, not necessarily! Digital products are used as lead magnets because often, they’re one of the few actual products a company can give away for free. If you’re a coach or consultant, you can consider offer quick free consultations or one on one sessions. Or, if you’re a retailer or a brick-and-mortar business, you still have options for discounts. Try giving away a coupon, free pass, or discount code in exchange for someone’s email address. They work exceptionally well.
Here’s a great example:
What’s a content upgrade and how can I make one?
A content upgrade is a specific kind of lead magnet that’s designed specifically as an offer on one particular blog post or piece of content. You can think of it as the milk to your blog post’s cookie, or the wine flight designed to pair with a good meal. It enhances the information you’ve learned in the post and perhaps makes it easier for you to implement in your life.
Leadpages helped popularize this strategy back in 2014 when the first savvy bloggers who’d happened upon it were seeing massively improved lead generation results. In this post, we broke down the essentials of the content upgrade for the first time and collected 21 excellent examples from around the web:
There’s still plenty of inspiration to be found in that batch of successful content upgrades, though some of the visuals may be a little dated. To explore what bloggers had come up within the year since we first developed this strategy, we more recently published an update. Check it out here:
How do I know if my lead magnet or content upgrade is good enough?
Of course, the surest way to know what kind of lead magnet will get downloaded is to put it out there and watch what happens.
If you’re wondering what a strong lead magnet conversion rate looks like, the best place to look is at your historical performance and what’s worked in the past for your particular audience. It’s important to note that while industry benchmarks aren’t a decent thing to know, they may not be useful to you at this stage—especially if you’re new. You still have so much room to grow.
Then again, if you’ve got a certain number of leads or sales you need to make this month or this quarter, your risk tolerance might be a little low for that.
So you might want to test-drive your lead magnet idea first. You could:
- Send it out to a small group of trusted customers and ask them for their thoughts
- Broadcast your opt-in page to a very limited audience with a low-budget Facebook ads campaign and see how well it performs
- Ask a few friends in (or outside) your industry to give you their thoughts
- Post in industry forums asking whether users would find value in the resource you’re considering creating
- If you’re a Leadpages customer, post it in the Leadpages Facebook community group and ask for feedback!
Getting leads with lead magnets in a nutshell
When you break it down to its most basic parts, winning leads with lead magnets is a pretty simple concept; you offer a visitor something (whether it’s content, a discount, or a consultation) in return for their name and email address—and in turn permission to contact them.
Armed with the knowledge of what a lead magnet is, how it works, and where to use it, you can start building a list of truly qualified leads that can help you grow your business.
Now it’s your turn!
If you have any more questions on lead magnets, feel free to ask them in the comments section below.