How To Create A Successful Lead Magnet (Plus Examples Of High-Converting Lead Magnets)

Do you understand the true purpose of a lead magnet?

You might think the purpose is simply to collect email addresses, but that would be a very short-sighted perspective.

After all, what’s the value of an email address?

Based on expense, a typical email subscriber costs no more than $1-2 to acquire.

But we both know that cost isn’t the best metric for value.

Rather, the real value of a subscriber is in their ability to become a customer and ultimately, in the lifetime value of that customer to the business.

And what does this tell us about lead magnets?

If you remember nothing else from this article, remember this.

Lead magnets fail because businesses are seeking subscribers when they should be seeking lifelong customers.

You’ve read case studies from popular bloggers making hundreds of thousands of dollars from their 20,000+ email subscribers, and while volume can certainly make a difference, what many businesses fail to realize is that the highest earning lists were derived from hyper targeted lead magnets.

There are thousands of other people with massive lists making virtually no money.

In other words, the best performing lead magnets don’t get the maximum number of subscribers, they get the maximum number of paying customers.

What Is A Lead Magnet?

A lead magnet is a free offer or bribe made in exchange for getting your site visitors to enter their email addresses.

By getting their email address, you enter into a transaction.

You want to capture peoples’ email addresses, so you need to offer something they want in return. Your goal to sell people on wanting to subscribe to your email list.

If what you offer is something people desire and it seems worthwhile to assume the risk of your sending them spam or giving access to their personal email address, you will acquire their email.

The rate at which you build your email list relies on the perceived value of your lead magnet offer.

Attractive lead magnets = many sign ups

Unattractive lead magnets = few sign ups

How to create your lead magnet

Select a lead magnet idea and create an outline for it.

Layout the step-by-step process for how your lead magnet solves a particular issue or problem.

In it’s basic form, the outline for your lead magnet may look something like this:

Step #1 – Put Key In Door

Step #2 – Turn Knob To The Right

Step #3 – Push Door Open

Then for each step, you may add images and descriptions that explain more.

  1. Your lead magnet should add as much value as possible
  2. Surprise your visitors with so much value that they’re shocked you’re giving it away for free
  3. Work your tail off to make an outstanding piece of useful content
  4. Avoid setting unrealistic expectations
  5. Figure out whether what you’re offering is really the best possible lead magnet

How to structure your lead magnet offer

Start off with your hook and explain why your lead magnet is valuable to them. Create a benefit-driven headline.

  • Promise: explain what you’re offering in exchange for their email address
  • Reach: make it clear why you created the lead magnet and who it’s designed for
  • Key points: offer bullets or a summarization of what your lead magnet is about
  • Call to action: offer a clear and concise call to action to get your reader to take action

Ideas for your lead magnet

Your lead magnet needs to be relevant to your target audience and should be specific to each blog post.

It shouldn’t consist of a 100 page document, since longer won’t necessarily boost your email opt-in rates. Make your lead magnet relevant and simple.

To increase the perceived value of your lead magnet, hire a professional designer through Dribble or Upwork to turn your document into a well packaged opt-in offer. That said, be realistic about the quality of your lead magnet, if you’re giving away a spreadsheet or database, then design will matter less than if you’re giving away a checklist.

You do not need to create new content to create a compelling lead magnet.

You can often repurpose your existing blog posts to design bonuses people desire.

If you’re going to create new content for your lead magnet, make sure to outline it before you create it.

Outline example:

  1. BuzzSumo video tutorial showing how to find influencers to email
  2. Amazon Mechanical Turk video tutorial showing how to obtain email addresses for influencers found with BuzzSumo
  3. BuzzStream video tutorial showing setup of email outreach templates
  4. Gmail video tutorial showing how to set up canned responses for follow up reply emails

You should test different lead magnet types and offers.

Some ideas for lead magnets include:

  • 3 or 4-part video mini-series (tutorial walk-through style or teaching a concept in front of a white board)
  • Contact list or database that makes outreach easier
  • Checklist
  • Key takeaways from a blog post
  • Printable blog post
  • Small eBook

Once you’ve created a compelling lead magnet, use a tool like LeadPages, ConvertKit or ClickFunnels to upload the lead magnet connected to a relevant landing page or email opt-in form on your website.

So what makes a successful lead magnet?

You might be surprised by how easy it is to create one if you focus on the correct goals.

The 3 Reasons Lead Magnets Succeed

In order to exceed, a lead magnet must accomplish 3 different things at once:

  1. Appeal to the target audience (and ONLY the target audience)
  2. Elicit an immediate response from the viewer
  3. Set up a healthy, long-term customer relationship

If your lead magnet is geared towards creating lifetime customers, it will naturally check off each box on this list.

1. Appeal to the target audience (and ONLY the target audience)

Most everyone understands the first part of this statement. Of course a lead magnet needs to be appealing.

But very few really grasp the second part: if your lead magnet appeals to people outside your target audience, it is failing you.

To use an extreme example, let’s talk about the big businesses that do a giveaway with something generically expensive that has nothing to do with their actual products or services – like an iPod or a cash prize.

These businesses can end up with 50,000 email subscribers over the course of a week, but as soon as they giveaway is over, they are looking at 30,000 immediate unsubscribes, a 5% open rate, and potentially even a negative ROI.

Examples of Lead Magnets

When we apply this concept to a typical ecommerce site’s lead magnet, we get generic titles like “Grow Your Business” or “Increase Your Traffic”.

Literally every website owner online wants to do both of those things, and most of them probably aren’t your target audience.

The more targeted the lead magnet, the hotter the leads.

If I’m a Bay Area accountant and I see a lead magnet for “Accountants”, I’m probably not that intrigued.

There’s 1.2 million others this could be talking to.

If I see a lead magnet for “California Accountants”, I’m a bit more intrigued, because the added exclusivity – the people this magnet is NOT targeting – suggests that it will be more relevant to me.

If I see a lead magnet for “Bay Area Accountants”, I’m VERY intrigued, because in order to get that exclusive, it HAS to be relevant to me.

It is very likely to include content that will be valuable to me, because I’m one of only a few thousand people the magnet is targeting.

It’s important to keep this concept of exclusive appeal in mind when creating your lead magnets.

While you will have to balance this principle with cost and reach, the more exclusive you can make your lead magnets, the more powerful and effective they will be.

Great Lead Magnet Examples

Here’s a few examples of great lead magnets that do an incredible job of exclusively appealing to the right audience.

Example #1: Onboardly Is Looking For Pre-Launch Startups

One of the biggest challenges for new startups and their founders is exposure.

You’ve just built this incredible new product or service, or more likely, you’ve just built a more optimal version of an existing product, and now you need to get the word out and convince everyone that your version is better.

But how do you do that?

While there are number of strategies for early growth hacking, media exposure is one of the most popular.

It can usually be done for relatively low investment and with a bit of luck, the ROI can be enormous.

But there’s one big problem. Very few startup founders know how to prepare for or launch a successful media campaign.

Enter Onboardly.

Onboardly will tell you exactly where you stand and where to go next.

Lead Magnet

Do you have a startup?

  1. “Yes” – Well then Onboardly is talking to you.
  2. “No” – Well then Onboardly is not talking to you.

Is your startup in the pre-media stage?

  1. “Yes” – Well then Onboardly is talking to you.
  2. “No” – Well, unless you want to start over from scratch, this isn’t for you.

Instead of trying to be all things to tall people, this lead magnet is incredibly specific.

It is exclusively for startups that need a diagnostic on their media preparedness, which gives viewers confidence that if they hit that target audience, the content they receive in exchange for their email will be uniquely valuable.

Furthermore, since Onboardly is a PR and demand marketing agency, this lead magnet is serving to capture their target audience from the beginning of that audience’s journey, thus facilitating a long-term customer relationship.

Example #2: UnDelay Will Improve Your Mobile Conversions

Successful lead magnets can be fairly complicated. Some of the best ones even required a tremendous investment.

In the next section, will look at a lead magnet that gives an advanced SEO audit in a couple minutes.

But great lead magnets can also be incredibly simple.

UnDelay is a landing page builder that allows businesses to adaptively deliver unique content to desktop, tablet, and smartphone users.

This one-of-a-kind capability in the space means that for the first time, users can optimize their conversion rate across multiple devices instead of having to sacrifice desktop traffic to appeal to mobile traffic or vice versa.

This is their overall value proposition, but it’s not very exclusive in its appeal.

Every website owner would love to have cross-platform optimization, and as counterintuitive as it may sound, people don’t respond nearly as well to non-exclusive pitches.

Accordingly, UnDelay decided to focus its lead magnet on the specific pain point that is most prevalent in the industry.

Low mobile conversion rates.

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Most landing page builders will let you optimize for desktop.

But hardly any can help you when it comes to mobile.

By focusing on this specific segment, UnDelay is positioning themselves to connect with individuals who are looking for a solution to low mobile conversion rates – aka – people who are most likely to want a new landing page solution.

This lead magnet is incredibly simple.

It’s a classic ebook – a several thousand word guide to accomplishing a specific goal.

But it works, because it’s exclusive, and exclusive appeal is always more compelling to those who are selected.

2. Elicit an immediate response from the viewer

Once we have our target audience lined up squarely within our marketing crosshairs, we need to elicit a direct, immediate response.

Extensive, in-depth resources can work here, as people like to “save for later” when it looks too valuable to miss, but lead magnets designed to immediately solve an urgent problem can also be VERY effective.

As Mary Jaksch talks about here, different topics fall at different points on the scale of urgency, and the goal with your lead magnet should be to address a problem that is immediately urgent.

For the owner of a misbehaving puppy, a guide to house-training or to inhibiting biting is urgent.

It needs to be solved NOW, and that means that owner is happy to exchange their email address for your “Guaranteed Guide to Housetraining Your Puppy In The Next 72 Hours”.

Again, not every lead magnet has to solve an urgent problem, but urgent problems tend to demand an immediate response, which is what your lead magnet needs to accomplish.

If you are dealing with a niche where urgency is off the table, the best strategy is typically to make something so valuable it’s impossible to ignore – something so incredible, people who don’t need it immediately will download it simply to prevent the possibility of forgetting about it down the road.

The downside here is that the user won’t immediately engage with your product or brand, but since you now have their email, this can be made up for with a solid autoresponder and valuable blog posts.

Great Lead Magnet Examples

Here’s a few examples of lead magnets that hit a fantastic combination of urgency and too-valuable-to-ignore content.

Example #1: SEMrush Gives You A 100-Page Audit In 5 Minutes

For someone who has decided to improve their website’s SEO, a diagnostic of existing problems is the first step.

It’s the gateway to making actual improvements, which is why an SEO diagnostic tool is such a good match on our urgency chart.

When people are ready to evaluate their SEO status, they are ready to move NOW.

But let’s be honest, “SEO test” is hardly a unique tool anymore.

Google that phrase and it will be page 3 before you get to an entry that isn’t a dedicated SEO diagnostic tool.

And when a resource is so readily available from so many different sources, it can tend to reduce urgency.

This is why I love the SEMrush optin page.

The site is already offering a compelling lead magnet in the form of an SEO testing tool, but they don’t stop there.

They take it to the next level by focusing on the size and speed of their report.

22556023-8c4a-4b49-b283-28b0cf338eeb_pasted20image200

We’ve all had the dreaded experience of handing over our email address only to be jerked around and ultimately given something of crap quality.

When Google’s first three pages are occupied by SEO tools, that means there is money to be made, and there are bound to be a few shady players with nothing valuable to offer.

By stating that this is a 100-page audit, it gives visitors the confidence to believe that they will ultimately benefit from signing up.

Furthermore, by promising to deliver in 5 minutes, SEMrush is tapping into that original urgency.

You need a SEO diagnostic and you need it now, so they are giving you the assurance that you WILL get what you need in the next few minutes.

A good takeaway from this example is to always think one step further than your competition.

As lead magnets get even more common than they already are, you need to go that next step in order to offer something that demands immediate action.

Example #2: BuildFire Will Let You Build An App For Free

Have you built a mobile app?

If you answered “yes” then you know how involved of a process it can be.

If you answered “no” then you probably at least imagine that it will be a fairly complicated process.

Put simply, no one thinks “quick and convenient” when the mobile app-building process is brought up.

And that is exactly what BuildFire’s lead magnet is so effective.

buildfire

BuildFire allows new visitors to accomplish something they previously thought was complicated in just a few minutes.

By flipping the table on people’s expectations, they are creating a curiosity gap that demands satisfaction.

“I can build an app in under 5 minutes? I’ve always wanted to have an app. Okay, but this can’t be a very great app if it’s free, right? Might as well try it out and see, since it’s free.”

What I really like about BuildFire’s conversion funnel is that when users click “Create My App For Free!”, they are taken immediately to a page that affirms that decision.

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A lot of businesses would go straight for the contact info as soon as the user made that first click.

Instead, BuildFire jumps straight into the building process with a page that visually demonstrates the value being provided and highlights some of what the platform is able to do.

As users browse through and then select a template, they are visualizing what their app would look like, creating a psychological expectation that needs to be satisfied.

And as soon as they select their template, THEN BuildFire asks them for their contact info at the optimal conversion point.

You won’t be able to apply this to every lead magnet, but think about how you can help users visualize the value they will receive within the lead magnet signup process itself.

3. Set up a healthy, long-term customer relationship

As I said at the beginning, you aren’t looking for subscribers.

You are looking for lifelong customers.

In other words, your lead magnets should have customer retention in mind.

Retention can broken down into three goals.

  1. Satisfaction
  2. Extension
  3. Advocacy

Your lead magnet should be primarily concerned with the first two.

If your goal is simply to collect new email subscribers, all you need is a good headline.

If your goal is to create customers, you must provide an incredibly satisfying experience for lead magnet recipients.

They should feel that the value provided exceeds what was promised.

This initial satisfaction builds trust and opens the door for extension – where the look to you to solve additional problems related to the first.

This is the direct function of the lead magnet – to convert a browser into a subscriber and then prime them to say “Yes” to the next stage of your funnel.

Content Marketing Sales Funnel

Furthermore, while retention is a long-term relationship, it can be broken down into 3 time-based sections.

  1. Short-term
  2. Mid-term
  3. Long-term

Your lead magnet is functionally focused on the short-term but needs to facilitate the long-term.

As I mention in this guide to digital marketing:

Short-term retention is focused on connecting users with the value your business provides as quickly as possible.

You have a limited amount of time to help them use your product or service to meet their goals.

If a customer doesn’t have that “YES!” moment within a relatively short time of using your product, they are susceptible to discounting your product/service and never giving it another try.

In addition to a great product/service, intuitive onboarding experience, and fantastic customer support, one of the best ways to impact short-term retention is to create an engaging tutorial or “how to” series that walks new users through the process of learning and actually using your product/service to solve their problems.

If you can create an engaging, entertaining tutorial instead of the typical tedious affair, this technique will have a much greater impact on short-term retention.

While this description is aimed primarily at SaaS companies, the underlying principles apply to any product or service.

In the short period after a new subscriber receives your lead magnet, your goal is to get them to engage with your brand in a way that provides them with an “aha” moment – a moment where a problem or obstacle they faced has been overcome thanks to your expertise.

While this won’t exclusively come from your lead magnet (think email autoresponders, blog posts, tripwire, etc.), the lead magnet will play a massive role in this crucial period.

In other words, don’t skimp on the value your lead magnet provides.

Make it something that you’d want to receive, and make it something your new subscribers will be thrilled with.

Content Upgrades

Use a content upgrade to make it easy for your audience to opt-in to receive your lead magnet (or bribe) in their inbox.

Sprinkle content upgrade boxes throughout your blog posts to provide multiple entry points to download your bribe.

To setup your content upgrade, try LeadBoxes™ by LeadPages™, Thrive Leads optin forms or the Bonus Shortcode feature in GrowTheme by Jascha Brinkmann.

Here’s a quick step-by-step tutorial on how to add your lead magnet offers to your blog using LeadBoxes™:

Great Lead Magnet Examples

Here are a few examples of lead magnets that thrill readers with substantial value.

Example #1: Henneke Is Giving You Bite-Sized Marketing Tips

The reality in 2016 is that most long-term online relationships take place via email. There are, of course, other ways to drive engagement, but email has consistently proven to be the best medium for bringing people back to your site, content, and business.

Accordingly, one of the best ways to initiate a long-term relationship is to make a lead magnet that utilizes the same format in which you will carry out your future conversations.

Aka an email series.

And of the best examples online of a targeted email series that sets up that long-term relationship comes from Henneke Duistermaat of Enchanting Marketing.

Henneke Duistermaat Free Writing Course

The optin page entices users with instant access, but where it really shines is in the email series itself.

The very first email subscribers receive lets them know they’ll be receiving about 4x the value they originally signed up for, in the form of three additional in-depth guides.

This is a huge shift in attitude from the typical overhype and underdeliver shtick we so often see with lead magnets.

Email Course Lead Magnet Example

With each additional email, Henneke builds trust by delivering exactly what was promised – intriguing, snack-sized pieces of marketing advice, complete with actionable tips for direct application.

By the end, she has built a 3 week relationship with her readers, provided incredible value, and completely overdelivered on all her promises.

She concludes the final email by reviewing what her readers like most about her style and then inviting them to continue the relationship by purchasing a tripwire product.

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I think the most important takeaway from Henneke’s series is not to rush relationship and not to over-complicate it.

The entire process takes about 3 weeks and consists of nothing more than brief, meaningful emails, but when it’s over, an email-based relationship has been established, providing an open door for future offers.

Example #2: Carol Tice Gives Prospective Members A Taste Of VIP

Free trials tend to be very successful lead magnets for a reason – people want the ability to verify quality before they put down cash.

But you don’t need to be an SaaS company to benefit from this concept.

There are many others ways to give people a taste before they buy, and one of my favorite comes from Carol Tice’s freelance writing club, Freelance Writer’s Den.

This club is a monthly paid membership site targeting freelance writers, and it’s how Carol generates the majority of her income as a writing coach.

While Carol has an endless number of reviews and testimonials to entice her blog readers and email subscribers, every so often, she will run an “Open House”, where anyone interested can join the club for a limited time at no charge.

This allows potential buyers to get a hands-on feel for the quality of the service and has become one of the site’s most successful lead magnets.

But this “free trial” isn’t offered in a vacuum.

There are a number of important things being done to prime readers for the open house.

First, the entire site is literally plastered with testimonials.

Freelancer Testimonials

But providing ample social proof, Carol quickly builds trust with new readers.

But that’s not all.

Similar to many successful membership sites and online classes, Freelance Writer’s Den is only opened for new members at select times.

Free Email Course

This strategy helps create exclusivity and, when the site opens for new members, urgency!

When you combine trust and urgency with the open-house free trial, it creates the perfect lead magnet for new customers.

While most “free trial” type offers have to do with service-based businesses, think about how you can utilize this concept to attract the RIGHT audience to your own business.

Conclusion

Your lead magnet is far more powerful as a tool to facilitate lifelong customers than as a gimmick to catch email subscribers.

And in order to attract these customers, your lead magnet must accomplish the 3 key goals we discussed:

  1. Appeal exclusively to the target audience
  2. Elicit an immediate response from the viewer
  3. Facilitate a long-term customer relationship

If you can check off all 3 of these attributes for your lead magnet, you can virtually guarantee it will be successful for your business.

I’d love to hear about some of your trials, errors, and successes in lead magnet creation.

Jump down to the comments and let me know what’s worked for you, what’s blown up in your face, and what you’ve learned in the process.

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Jacob McMillen is a website copywriter and content strategist. In addition to helping online businesses make bank, he writes marketing & career advice that doesn't suck via his blog Digital Careerist. Download his free list building guide: 20 Field-Tested Techniques To Triple Your Email List In Under A Year.

24 Comments

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  2. DPH

    This is really good stuff, and this post itself is a good example of your subject.

    I’m joining your list because I *want* to hear more from you. That’s really the point.

    1. Thanks! And yes, ultimately, none of this matters if you can’t establish a relationship where people want to hear from you.

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  4. Matthew Greenspan

    Hey Jacob,
    Great article, really loved the ideas on proper lead generation. The only thing I felt missing is a follow up article on how to nurture the lead properly until the sale. I find that lead generation is actually quite easy and even better with lead magnets. The tough part is knowing how to convert those leads with the proper content and approach into a customer. Do you have any articles that follow this one up?

    1. Hey Matthew,

      We may have a follow-up article to this about how to nurture leads through to a sale.

      I am also hosting Josh Earl (email copywriter that works with top online marketers) on an upcoming workshop at the end of June where he will talk about lead nurturing with email courses (sequences).

      Sign up for the MarketDoc email list and you’ll get the latest and greatest straight to your inbox about new articles as well as an announcement about Josh’s workshop.

      Thanks for your feedback. Look forward to hearing more of your thoughts on our future posts.

      -Cody

  5. Excellent post Jacob (though I have a sneaking suspicion Cody is going to respond to me, ha)! I think it’s so easy to say, “We need to collect leads!” without considering how good of a fit those leads actually are.

    One thing I wondered about as I read your post was this: how do you let people know about your lead magnets in the first place? I’d love to hear your thoughts about marketing the lead magnets themselves — it doesn’t do me much good to create an awesome ebook or webinar series if I have no idea how to get that info to people in the first place. My first thought is some SEO work for the page where you’re offering the magnet, but I’d love to hear your thoughts about this.

    1. Hey Adam,

      Not a bad guess, although Cody will probably have a better response than me. That’s basically a traffic question, and Lead magnets aren’t necessarily effective as a central traffic target. One idea, however, would be to link to the lead magnet in guest posts. That is going to be a quality over quantity strategy.

    2. That makes sense! Definitely a good idea and something I’m going to look into for our own link magnets. Thanks for the response — very helpful!

  6. Great article on what makes lead magnets work, Jacob. I especially like your point about seeking lifelong customers rather than just subscribers. Like many people, I’ve also felt exceedingly underwhelmed by many lead magnets (and often unsubscribed straightaway).

    Thank you for featuring my snackable writing course!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Henneke.

      Lead magnets can often be deceiving or overwhelming. I’ve unsubscribed from a number of lists because of a lead magnet that didn’t meet my expectations or provided too much content to parse through.

      Happy that Jacob featured your outstanding work.

  7. Hey Cody,

    Thanks for reaching out to ping me about this post.

    Loved every word of it!

    I dont see many people emphasizing this point enough. Your lead magnet needs to contribute directly to your sales cycle. Its the first step.

    This is a topic that Ive written a lot about myself. Jacob has done a stellar job at explaining the right list building strategy.

    Cheers

    1. Cody Lister

      Couldn’t agree with you more. Lead magnets must directly relate to your sales cycle, otherwise why bother creating them!

      Thanks for stopping by. Have a good one. -Cody

  8. Fascinating. Thank you for the detailed analysis! I’m re-learning the ropes of affiliate marketing these days and mailing lists are definitely something I need to look into in more depth.

    1. Thanks Anne! Really pleased to hear you enjoyed it. Affiliate marketing is a fun mountain to climb. We have a post coming out soon about that in a month or so. Stay tuned! -Cody

  9. Mark

    This deep dive is excellence personified! Valuable fer reals

    1. Thanks Mark, really appreciate your feedback! Let me know how else I can help.

      -Cody

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