Welcome to 2019. You don’t own your social media following—Facebook settled that by taking over your organic reach with ads. You also don’t control your search traffic—Google manipulates that with a twitch of RankBrain’s left pixelated eye. So, what do you own?
Your email list.
Of course at Twilio SendGrid, we’re a bit biased, but the numbers don’t lie. No marketing channel is more valuable than your email marketing program. Email returns an average of $42 for every dollar invested. Plus, by building a legit, homegrown email list, you’re nurturing your recipients in a safe place that Google and the social media cartels can never touch.
Growing an engaged email list is hard work. Your email list isn’t something you can just throw money at and watch grow—it takes finding, enticing, nurturing, converting. It’s a process, but, boy, is it worth it in the end.
How do you start building your valuable email list? There are lots of ways, but nothing quite competes with the tried-and-true lead magnet. This potent email-building asset can help spread your brand, educate your audience, and ultimately power your lead generation—all at the same time.
What are lead magnets?
A lead magnet is a compelling offer that you provide in exchange for a prospect’s contact information. It could be as simple as a discount or as complex as an eBook—as long as it’s trading value for an email address, it’s a lead magnet.
No doubt you’ve seen hundreds (if not thousands) of lead magnets on your travels around the internet, and there’s a good chance you’ve signed up for one or more. You can’t even go to your local fair without encountering them. That slip of paper the ladies at the rotary club made you fill out to enter the giveaway—yeah, that’s a lead magnet.
However, not all lead magnets are created equal. There are several ingredients yours need to nail to have a high conversion rate.
6 essential elements of a great lead magnet
Before we dive into all the best lead magnet ideas, let’s take a moment to break down what makes a super effective lead magnet.
- High-quality and irresistible content: Your lead magnet should be an excellent piece of content—one that you’re proud of. Follow a chain like this: great free content leads to a fantastic lead magnet which leads to an unbelievable paid product or service.
- Immediate value: People are busy. Offer them lead magnets that solve problems or add value—fast! The lead magnet “Golden Recipe to Achieving 400% ROI on Facebook Ads in 7 Days” is much more enticing than the “90-Day Full-Fledged Guide to Succeeding on Instagram Ads.”
- Undeniable CTA: Your lead magnet CTA needs to pack a powerful compulsion punch. Forget about the “Learn More” and “Get eBook” CTAs. Think outside the box and get creative. Maybe try “Join Millions of Others” or “Show Me How!”
- Mega-specific: Your lead magnet isn’t the place to learn everything about everything. Get ultra-specific with what you’re providing. A guide to dominating email automation will perform much better than a comprehensive course to learning all things WordPress.
- Outcome Focused: This element goes all the way back to the Sociology 100 class you were forced to take in college. What’s more enticing? “21 Amazing Email Subject Line Formulas” or “Secrets for Writing Irresistible Subject Lines That Always Get Opened.” Marketers don’t want amazing subject lines—they want opens, clicks, and purchases.
- Brand Relevant: Your lead magnet isn’t a standalone piece—it’s a part of your cohesive marketing strategy and brand. If your business sells accounting software, it doesn’t make sense to promote a lead magnet guide to improving your SEO. Keep your lead magnet ideas relevant to your product and brand.
Now that we’ve covered the vital components of the perfect lead magnet, let’s look at some real lead magnet examples you can use for inspiration.
13 effective (and simple) lead magnet ideas and examples
1. Simple checklist
Whether you’re teaching how to create killer email campaigns or perfecting a jump shot, checklists are an endorphin-releasing gem. Take a look at your existing content. Any lengthy instructional blog post is just dying to be turned into a downloadable checklist. You already have the content—now all you have to do is trim it down into a neat one-pager.
The easily-digestible checklist format isn’t just great at scoring leads. It’s also incredibly useful for getting your audience to take action on what they’re learning. If your lead magnets are true to your brand, these actions can create a valuable affinity with your audience.
Take a look at The Adventure Junkies’ hiking packing list. If you’re new to hiking, why create your own spreadsheet if they’ve already done it for you?
Cheatsheets are the ultimate TLDR solution for any piece of complicated content. They don’t need to be quite as actionable as checklists, but they cover the entirety of a blog post in a single one-pager. Like Smart Blogger’s example above, it promises the blueprint for achieving the desired end result.
You could imagine how useful a code formatting cheatsheet would be to programmers or how crucial a cheatsheet to dealing with bears would be for hikers. Short, accessible, and to the point.
Prove you’re the authority on a subject with a well-thought-out blog post or guide. Then, provide a cheatsheet lead magnet so your audience can get a refresh on your content without scanning the entire 10,000-word article. Create a PDF version so your audience has the option to print it if they desire.
3. Complete guide
The element that sets free guides apart from blog posts is the level of comprehensiveness. A guide should provide your audience with everything they need to know to master a specific skill or to complete a task. Get specific with your guide. For an athlete interested in long-distance racing, the “Ultimate Guide to Completing Your First 50-Mile Race” is going to be more appealing than the “Ultimate Guide to Running.”
Guides don’t have to be lengthy to be effective—they just need to be thorough. And don’t gate all your long-form content. Offer plenty of fantastic guides on your website without associated lead magnets. Once your audience realizes how great this content is, they’ll trust your gated content is even better. Then, it’s your job to deliver a kick-butt experience that satisfies their curiosity.
4. Ol’ reliable eBook
An eBook takes your ultimate guides a step further. It’s an organized compilation of all your material on a particular subject: blog posts, guides, resource lists, case studies, etc. If you owned a running store and wanted to create an eBook from your existing content, it might include content like:
- Ultimate Guide to Completing Your First 50-Mile Race [guide]
- What You Need Before, After, During Your Race [resource list]
- How to Prevent Long-Distance Running Injuries [blog post]
- Tim Wilda: How One Athlete Took a Less-Is-More Approach to Training [case study]
Now, don’t go copy/pasting your blog posts and guides into a PDF and call it an eBook. Strategically re-organize the content to create a cohesive reading experience. The benefit of an eBook for your audience is that they can read all they want on a specific topic without crawling your website and opening 15 tabs.
5. Compact toolkit or reliable resource list
Depending on the topic and industry, sometimes your audience is just looking for where to find the right information. With a toolkit or resource list, you can creatively aggregate links or assets your audience could find useful.
“The Ultimate Student Resource List” from Lifehack is an excellent example of a quality resource list. It includes free software for students, valuable online tools, research websites, and more. Sure, all this information is already publicly available on the internet, but now students have a quick-and-easy list to reference. And it’s not just a page of links. It contains well-thought-out categories and short descriptions for each resource. Although this is an ungated piece of content, you could easily put it behind a lead magnet.
6. VIP access to killer tools
Has your business created any cool toolkits, calculators, tests, or generators? If so, consider offering these valuables tools to the public for free for a limited time. This will give your audience time to experiment and benefit from the tool before it becomes gated. Then, if they want to continue using the asset, all they need to do is exchange their contact information.
7. Content upgrade
The content upgrade is my favorite lead magnet, so it makes sense that I would put it at #7, right? Seriously though, this is super effective and easy to produce. Here’s how it works.
- Write an amazing, useful piece of content. It should be a standalone work—no additions necessary.
- Create a Content Upgrade that adds extra (or upgraded) content to your existing piece.
- Promote the Content Upgrade following your original high-quality content.
Brian Harris at VideoFruit executes the Content Upgrade perfectly with his Zero-Based Calendar. He introduces the topic, explains a revolutionary productivity idea, then offers a gated bonus video to show how he implements the concept in his own life. The video isn’t necessary, but if his audience is intrigued, they’ll subscribe to dig deeper.
8. Case study
Everyone loves a Cinderella story. People want to learn how others achieved success—whether that’s because they want to find inspiration or to follow a proven road map. Not only are case studies a powerful lower-funnel lead generator, but they also showcase and validate your product or service to potential customers. Win, win.
9. Aggregated guestbook
If you or your company have done any guest blogging, this is a terrific way to turn your hard work into a lead magnet. In most circumstances, when you write a guest post for another site, you agree not to publish that article on your own blog. This is to avoid getting punished by Google for duplicate content. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t repurpose those guest posts into a gated asset.
A guestbook is simply a compilation of all the great content you’ve written for different sites that your audience hasn’t seen yet. Take your guest posts, polish them up, put them nice and neat into a guestbook, and voilà—you now have a new lead magnet that Google can’t flag.
10. Trustworthy report
There are two approaches to creating a great lead magnet report. You can either do the research and collect the data yourself, or you can comb, analyze, and extract existing data. You’ll then compile your findings into a digestible format and promote it as your lead magnet.
Social Media Examiner produces an annual Social Media Marketing Industry Report that reveals how marketers are using social media. It’s a treasure trove of data that’s well worth an email address. When creating your own report, go the extra mile and add your expert commentary to the data. Not only does this enhance the report, but it also establishes your credibility as a thought leader.
11. Sweepers’ favorite: giveaways
This is a tried-and-true favorite: the giveaway. It’s simple. You put an item up for free in a lottery, and participants must enter their name and email address for a chance to win. That’s all there is to it.
The giveaway is a double-edged sword, though. Yes, it works and does generate leads—for cheap, too. I mean, thousands of leads in exchange for a Roomba or two is a really good deal. But these aren’t always the highest quality leads. Your new leads might not be interested in your product or service at all. I for one have entered (and won) giveaways for some pretty obscure items, and I remember promptly removing myself from the mailing list days or weeks later because I had no affinity for the brand.
12. The inspire-me-please swipe file
Remember when I said The Content Upgrade was my favorite lead magnet? It still is, but I’ve probably signed up for more swipe files than all the other lead magnets combined. Why? Because they make my life so simple.
Swipe files are a collection of tested and proven advertising and content marketing ideas. For example, one of my favorites is Digital Marketer’s Headline Swipe File. It contains a reliable stash of headline templates that allow you to plug-and-play to create fantastic titles for your content. Each year, I write hundreds of blog posts and inevitably hit a creative wall—this is my saving grace.
Consider what kind of swipe file you could provide your audience. Maybe it’s high-performing email subject lines or irresistible CTAs. Or perhaps it’s Facebook ad copy or box logo designs.
13. Exclusive content
Last but not least—the Exclusive Content lead magnet. The best part about this tactic is that you don’t need to create any new content. You simply require your website visitors to enter an email address to view an existing piece. You can either do this with a brand new article or with an article that’s performed historically well.
Brian Dean of Backlinko has this exclusive content scattered throughout his blog. If you’re looking through his content, you won’t be able to miss this.
How to market lead magnet
It doesn’t matter how good your lead magnet is if you don’t market it correctly. Superb marketing almost always beats exceptional products. If you don’t believe me, just think back to the good ol’ days of the Shake Weight.
The who, when, and where of your lead magnet is critical to its performance:
- Who: Who is your target audience for this lead magnet? What are their interests, likes, dislikes, desires, and needs?
- When: When will your audience be most primed to sign up for your lead magnet? When they first reach your site? After they’ve read a blog post?
- Where: Where is the best place to market your lead magnet? Should your lead magnet have its own landing page? Should it be a pop-up on your site? A casual hyperlink within a blog post? On your sidebar or footer?
To learn about more signup forms and approaches, take a look at our 12-Tried-and-True Email List Signup Forms article.
Don’t forget to A/B test
Make sure to check on the performance of your lead magnets periodically. You may find that your Content Upgrades are generating a large number of qualified leads while your eBooks are getting none. This information could inform you that your audience is more interested in short, extra content rather than larger reads— or it may simply mean you need to reevaluate the who, when, and where of your eBook lead magnet.
To learn how to test to perfection, check out our Guide to Email A/B Testing and Optimizing Your Call to Action.
There’s no limit to the different lead magnets you can produce. Experiment with a variety of the lead magnet examples we covered. See which ones resonate with your audience and which fall short. Not only will this bring in a constant stream of high-quality leads, but it’ll also reveal deep insights about your audience.