One of the most powerful assets a business can create is a well-qualified email list. In many ways, a good list is like your own oasis in the desert. With an email list, everything is easier – launches are stronger, collaborating with influencers is smoother, and there’s always an opportunity to bring in new revenue. A good list can take years to build, so how do we get started building a list as quickly as possible? The key to building a good list as a content marketer is by creating a compelling lead magnet.
What is a lead magnet? It’s a premium piece of content you offer in exchange for contact information from your audience. In many ways, a lead magnet is your first sale. Even though no money is being exchanged, you are asking visitors to trust you with their information and attention.
In this article, we’ll explore different types of lead magnets, how to make a winning lead magnet, and what you need to position and promote your lead magnets successfully. Equipped with this knowledge, you’ll have a tool to build your own email list oasis to nourish your business.
6 Types of Lead Magnets (with examples)
1 – Checklists and Cheat Sheets
A checklist can make for a great lead magnet because it guides people through a process. A checklist breaks down a complicated task into easy steps. Checklists are most useful when outlining a process that always follows a sequential set of steps. They can be used for something done once (setting up a profile on social media), or something that is done repeatedly (promoting a post on social media, or preparing for tax season).
A cheat sheet also helps your audience through a process, but the main difference is that a cheat sheet does not always have to be used in a sequence. Cheat sheets distill complex ideas into a simple and actionable format.
A great example of a checklist that’s well designed, very useful and very simple is Kim Doyal’s One Page WordPress Marketing Plan. The “one-page” element makes it approachable for someone who’s just getting started with WordPress, and it makes for a very appealing image in the opt-in box to see the full checklist you’re about to get.
2 – Templates
Templates provide structure and frameworks that people can easily adapt to their own work. They’re designed to save your reader’s time and to remove a lot of the critical thinking required to solve a certain problem. Templates save your visitor from having to “reinvent the wheel.”
If you’ve read The Story Engine, you’ll know this is a strategy I used the book itself. In many of the chapters in the book, I created a template to make it easy to take action on the concepts I outline in the book. This makes it easier for people to take action and get a win with my content, and it has transformed Amazon into a source of traffic and lead generation for my business.
It’s just as powerful and simple to include a template at the end of an article, webinar, or talk.
A great example of some templates is Charles Byrd’s Top 6 Evernote Workflows. These workflows are easy to follow and tackle some of the most valuable aspects of the tool. This means people can be successful quickly with Evernote and not waste time trying to figure their own system out.
3 – Interactive Quizzes
Quizzes are a powerhouse when it comes to lead magnets. To your audience, they’re entertaining and insightful – they get to learn something about themselves and get personalized results.
To you, they’re not just a great list building tool, but an opportunity to learn more about your audience. Along with providing value, the questions that you ask in your quiz should set you up to get some insights into your audience. Use what you learn from your quiz to create better content, come up with new products, and get a clearer picture of your audience.
In fact, this very post is based on an insight I got from my quiz, “What Content Strategy Is Best For You”. After running the quiz on my site for about a month, I discovered that my audience was in need of some help with lead magnets based on the answers I was getting.
I use a tool called Interact to build my quiz. I’ve been experimenting a lot with this tool recently, and I love the results I’m getting and how easy it is to use. Keep an eye out for a full article on building online quizzes soon.
4 – Courses
A short online course with a series of educational emails, videos, downloads, and interactive elements is a good way to start training and educating people about your process.
A course could be as simple as a series of emails that discusses a certain topic and takes someone through a process, or it can be more robust, with a series of videos and interactive content.
The beauty of a course is that you can drip out the content over a few days, giving participants little bites to work on each day. This keeps you at the front of readers’ minds longer and sends periodic reminders to them to take action each time a new module for your course is available.
A great example of this is Melissa Griffin’s post “10 Clever Ways to Use Social Media to Grow Your Email List,“ where she creates a detailed post filled with tactics and case studies, then offers a related 6-day email course called “The Blog Audience Blueprint” as a perfect follow-up to this post. She mentions the free course in her featured image on her post, which adds value to the post itself and gets people anticipating (and desiring) the lead magnet early on.
Another great example of a powerful course is Thinkific’s How to scale your business by creating online courses. Their business is literally based around helping people build courses, so the course content they create is top-of-the-line. The course makes a simple promise and provides a focused solution.
This short course mixes face-to-camera video and screen-share video to help people build scalable courses as well as paint a picture of how successful a business can be with a good course. The video content is easy to consume, and the course is not so long as to be overwhelming.
5 – Swipe Files
Swipe files work similarly to templates. Instead of encouraging readers to work from a single script and plug in their own information, swipe files give many examples that people can pick and choose from to build their own results.
Swipe files are a great fit for lead magnets that help with copywriting, design, paid traffic, social media, email marketing, programming, and more. People with these skills often have vast collections of swipe files and are always looking to expand their collection.
A great example of this is the AdEspresso Ads Library. It’s over 130,000 examples of ads across many different industries, strategies, and styles. This is incredibly useful to their audience.
You don’t have to go overboard and create a giant interactive library to make a good swipe file. A simple folder containing ad examples or a document with hundreds of examples for email subject lines or cooking recipes is enough to be compelling if it addresses the right problem.
6 – eBooks / Books
Books hold more psychological weight than blog posts typically do. Often, people see a book as something longer that takes more attention and care to create than a blog post does, so they value the book more.
eBooks are typically made from a collection of a few past articles from your site. Take a few common articles that share a theme, and make each article a chapter in your eBook. If the content is high-quality, your readers will appreciate the effort and will view this eBook as added value.
A good example of an eBook that is concise and focused is Tom Morkes’ 9 Launch Strategies for Driving Traffic, Leads and Sales Quickly. The book is closely related to the services that Tom provides as a business, and it embeds case studies from his past clients right into the book. The book is not too long, and since Tom mentions in the title that there are 9 strategies, people know exactly what they’re getting in the book.
What Makes A Winning Lead Magnet?
Makes A Clear Promise
You should see your lead magnet as a product, which means you need to make a clear promise and address a desire your audience is feeling.
Your lead magnet’s design and messaging should be able to deliver a clear promise to solve a specific problem in the lives of your audience.
The clear promise also removes a lot of the critical thought your audience needs to decide if they want to download it. If it’s immediately obvious how they can use your lead magnet to get the result they’re wanting, they don’t need to figure that out themselves. Many lead magnets never convert because they’re simply too broad or vague.
It gives your audience a quick win
At any given time a person (especially a business owner) has dozens, if not hundreds, of fires she needs to put out in her life. She’ll choose one or two to focus on, and then ignore the rest to conserve mental energy. She’ll likely choose one of the following problems to work on:
- The most painful – If your hair is literally on fire, you won’t be worried about “living with purpose” or contemplating your legacy. There’s a painful problem that needs solving now.
- The best opportunity – People will focus on where they perceive the most opportunity for growth, profit or impact would be.
- The problem they feel best prepared to solve – People usually procrastinate on tasks they don’t fully understand or know how they will handle. If they have a clear path to how they can solve the problem and feel empowered to do so, they’ll take action.
A good lead magnet will address all three of these. It addresses a problem that’s painful and potentially profitable and transforms it from opaque and confusing to simple and straightforward.
Giving your audience a quick win with a good lead magnet will create the satisfaction of easing that pain and convince your visitor that the problem is both solvable and worth solving.
Best of all, a quick win sets your audience up to take more action with you. Someone who has just upgraded the problem you solve from “I’ll get to it someday” to “let’s get this done” is much more likely to become a customer down the road.
Keep it short
We’ve already established that people have hundreds of problems gnawing at their minds every day, which means their time and focus is as valuable as their money.
This means that the more time your lead magnet requires to be consumed, the more costly it is to your audience.
Most people won’t have the time or patience to sift through a 50-page eBook, a 2-hour webinar, or a 50-question quiz – especially if they’re at an early stage of the buyer’s journey with you.
Balance utility and design
A lead magnet needs to be helpful and easy to use, but it also needs to look good. There’s a careful balance to keep here, and often people lean heavily on one side or the other of this issue.
In the long run, an ugly spreadsheet that’s very actionable and useful will outperform the most beautiful designs that offer little utility.
So, how do you keep the balance? Instead of designing just for aesthetic appeal, design for usefulness. Every aspect of your design should be dedicated to making the information easier to consume and understand.
Keep in mind that the right balance of design and utility will also vary depending on what lead magnet you choose and the audience you target. A set of text templates may not need much design to be useful, but your interactive quiz should be well-designed if you want your audience to finish it.
Here’s a good example of a lead magnet that is light on design but heavy on utility: The Signature Talk Outline from Advance Your Reach. The outline is short and simple and allows it to be displayed in full on the landing page. It is also optimized to be printable. Writing a talk can be a messy process – it’s good to do it on physical paper, where you can scribble notes and ideas more freely than you can with a PDF on your computer.
Include Social Proof
A good lead magnet will use social proof to help encourage people to download it. But you can also bake social proof for your business into your lead magnet by adding case studies, testimonials, and facts about your business that will entice the audience to become customers.
Use stories from how you helped previous customers to support your key points and subtly demonstrate to your audience that you’re a master at solving this problem and have helped many people solve it in the past.
Don’t try to point at yourself with your social proof. Frame the customers you talk about in your stories as the heroes, keeping the focus on them and their results. The audience will make the connection on their own through your stories.
Include Next Steps
If you’ve followed the other advice in this section and built a lead magnet with “quick wins” and social proof, you’re going to have people that are ready to go deeper with you. Though your lead magnet should provide a small “quick win,” it probably won’t completely solve their problem.
This is why you should share some next steps near the end of your lead magnet. You’ve shown them what’s possible and what it’s like to work with you, so show them what the next level would be if they want to get serious.
This is often best paired with your social proof. Mention stories of customers who used your other programs and got great results. This allows you to talk about your services without being too salesy or pushy.
A good example of next steps in an article is Click Minded’s SEO Checklist. First, inside the content they include next steps if someone finds a point interesting and wants to read more, they include a resource / deeper dive at the end of each item on the checklist.
They also show the next step to take an SEO course at the end of their lead magnet. This is a logical next step for someone who has gone through the checklist but still feels overwhelmed by the many aspects of SEO.
Where To Place And Promote Your Lead Magnets
Every lead magnet needs a landing page to promote it. Often these pages are very short, and they make a specific promise or outline some benefits.
A landing page for a lead magnet does not need to be a huge, long form page with all kinds of bells and whistles. Just give a concise message on how the lead magnet will help people and make it clear how they can get it.
Take a look at the simplicity of the Minimum Viable Blog cheatsheet. One core message and a clear path to action.
Thank You Pages
Thank you pages are where people are redirected once they opt to receive your lead magnet. These pages serve a few very important purposes:
- Confirm success – Let visitors know they have successfully done what is necessary to get the lead magnet.
- Set expectations – Is the lead magnet going to be delivered to their inbox? How long will it take? What email should they expect to see it coming from? What should they do if they don’t get it.
- Make suggestions – Suggest other content for readers to check out while they’re waiting for their lead magnet to arrive in their inboxes. Suggest content that’s closely related to the problem that your lead magnet addresses.
- Track customer behavior – Having a unique thank you page for each lead magnet will allow you to track what lead magnets are performing best, how your visitors found the lead magnets, and what they do before and after converting. We’ll talk more about this in a later chapter.
Here’s an example of a thank you page for someone who downloads a content strategy template from The Story Engine Resources Page. It gives them a button to download their template right away and offers a video tutorial to downloaders to help get them started with the document.
Scrolling down lower on this page gives the reader information on how to make their own copy of the template (something that’s not always obvious to people that are new to Google Docs).
Another good strategy is to provide some next steps for someone to engage further right on the “Thank you” page. For example, Harry Duran from Fullcast has a video that plays automatically on the “Thank you page” for his lead magnet The Podcast Launch Gameplan™. He opens by thanking them and adding value by explaining his process and how the lead magnet can help them follow it. He gives a personal invitation for viewer to reach out, then offers another way they could get more value. He suggests a next step they could take is to join his Facebook community, also free, and also focused on adding value.
One of the simplest and most effective ways to get people to notice your lead magnets is to put a small ad for them in the sidebar of your blog content. Making use of the sidebar is less disruptive than pop-ups or so-called “welcome gates.” Some people show ads for several lead magnets across their whole blog. I recommend only showing one ad for the most relevant lead magnet for each post.
You can use Q2W3 Fixed Widget to make sure your opt-in box stays visible and scrolls with the viewer as they go down your post.
One great thing about sidebar graphics is that you can use WordPress plugins like Widget Context to have particular sidebar ads appear on specific pages, or for specific categories on your blog. This makes it easy to have the most relevant ad appear on each of your blog posts.
Many people include links to their website and social media in their email signatures, but this is not a very compelling next step for someone to take. Instead, offer your lead magnet in your signature. You’re most likely communicating often with potential customers through email, and by offering your lead magnet right in your signature, you give your audience an opportunity to go deeper with you.
Social Media Profiles
Many social media platforms only allow you one link to use in your profile. Usually, most people just point to their homepage, while others choose to promote their newest content this way.
A far better strategy is to point straight to a lead magnet. In your description, mention your lead magnet and its clear promise of a result your audience wants. This gives them a clear path to action and helps you capture more of your social media following your email list.
Many people choose to promote their lead magnets via pop-ups on their sites. While this is a good way to build awareness of the lead magnet, I don’t think it’s a good tactic overall.
Consider how your readers experience pop-ups. People arrive on your site to consume your content. They’ve come to you with a problem they hope you can solve. They start reading your content and then get interrupted by a pop-up. Now they need to assess the offer, figure out how to close the pop-up box (which is designed to be difficult), and then get back into the groove of reading your post.
Lead magnets are powerful tools when paired with speaking, be it podcasts, online summits, webinars, or live takes from the stage. Offer a lead magnet that’s closely tied to the problem you discuss in your talk or interview.
This can be much more powerful than “connect with me at my website” or “check out my book” which are vague and uninspiring.Offering a highly relevant tool with a clear promise can add perceived value to your talk, and ensure that your listeners engage with you while you’ve got their attention.
This also gives you the opportunity to be more personalized in your messaging. For example, Trivinia Barber was recently featured on the Mompreneur Summit. She offered a gift for those who decided to take action at the end of the webinar. Her free gift is offered on a page that has a personalized message for the viewers of the summit, which makes it feel like they’re really getting something special.
Another great move on this lead magnet opt-in is the segmentation Trivinia uses. She asks whether the downloader is an entrepreneur looking for a VA or someone who is a VA. This enables her to send more relevant content and information to them down the line.
A good lead magnet is crucial for getting value from your content marketing. Lead magnets enable you to build your email list and position you to place your offers in front of your customers.
Start with one good lead magnet that you can advertise on your entire blog, then expand to develop lead magnets that solve each of your core problems. Once you have all your core problems covered, you can consider making specific lead magnets tailored to your most popular blog posts.