What are lead magnets and why do they matter?

Your email subscriber list is an important lifeline for building relationships with potential and existing customers. According to Smart Insights, one out of three digital marketers name email marketing as their top performer. 

But, before you reap the benefits of email, you need to attract the email addresses. 

You could lean on buying lists with the hopes of ”cold emailing”n a prospect into converting. But, purchased lists come with a whole new set of concerns around data quality, higher unsubscribe rates, and being labeled as spam. 

As we all know, consumers are leery about giving up their email address for fear that you’ll flood their inbox with sales pleas. It’s not as easy as simply asking for an email address, or the “privilege to contact”, without offering something of real value in return. Lead magnets bridge this gap allowing consumers to access desired content and marketers a new way to gather contact information.  

What are lead magnets? 

Much like you would put a juicy lure on your hook when fishing, marketers use lead magnets to offer something of value to a prospect. The goal is to entice your audience into voluntarily giving you their personal information, including the coveted email address and other valuable demographic information. 

Imagine you have a hot dog brand targeted at busy families. You could put a box on your homepage to elicit email addresses and hope for the best. A more effective approach would be lead magnet promoted that compiles fast meal ideas and recipes that feature your hot dogs. 

What lead magnets do:

  • Demonstrate your expertise or thought leadership
  • Educate on a skill or process
  • Offer advice or insights around a particular topic
  • Build trust and awareness in the market 

Lead magnets encompass a wide variety of executions, from the informational to the purely entertaining. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to matching email marketing lead magnets.

There are many formats, but the content that you fill these formats with is what will stimulate action. Be sure that you’re offering solid, authoritative, relevant, and unique information. Sharing basic or widely distributed information, will not only not get you the email address but you also risk looking out of touch and uninformed.  

What are the best lead magnets for your audience? Align topics with your customer, where they are in the customer journey, your value proposition, and of course, it needs to be engaging, well-laid out, and well-written. Leverage A/B testing, for the content, the copy (headlines, body copy, and calls to action), and any on-page design elements to see what is working best–and then optimize for higher conversions. 

16 proven ideas for attracting customers and leads

The following high-value ideas will help stimulate ideas for your next lead generation campaign. What are lead magnets that can help you grow your subscriber list? Read through this list and think about your customers’ tastes and habits to match the content that best suits your business. 

1. White papers 

Compile authoritative information and data to educate potential leads about a very specific topic, explain a complex technology, or promote a particular methodology. 

Because of the detailed and in-depth nature of white papers, they can be expensive to create with long lead times and they are usually used for narrowly targeted B2B audiences

2. eBooks

A companion to the white paper, but more focused on B2C audiences, eBooks take a deeper dive into more general topics. 

Because their function is to appeal to a wider audience, they tend to be more image heavy and conversational like this ebook for photography beginners. 

See how FlyWheel offers eBooks on various topics that are relevant to their audience:

Image: Really Good Emails

3. Infographic

Pull together stats, research results, or other complex data sets and turn it into an easy-to-consume image. Follow UX guidelines or pre-made templates to arrange data and design elements for maximum comprehension. 

The more you’re able to explain a complex topic in an enjoyable way, the more your infographic will be shared. 

4. Checklists

By looking at the pitfalls of a particular activity or process, you can compile a list of “dos and don’ts” or a list of “must-dos” to ensure success. 

This can be presented in graphic form, like Wishpond’s landing page checklist or listicle format via a blog post. You can even go full interactive with checkable boxes and customizable files.

Image: Wishpond

5. Case study

The best way to communicate the value of a product or service is to show it in action. Case studies are an ideal lead magnet for leads in the education and purchase stage. 

Be very particular about the case studies that you’re offering and try to tailor them as closely as possible to the industry, company size, and location of your target lead.

6. Quick Reference Guides

For technical operations like keyboard shortcuts or common coding strings, an image-based compilation makes for a compelling piece of content that will get a lot of use. 

7. Webinars

Webinars yield attention for both the live event itself, and it generates content gold via the recorded version and the accompanying presentation deck. 

Use webinars to showcase thought leadership and authority in your industry, and for live events, offer a chance for attendees to directly engage during a Q & A. For added impact, include your internal experts and invite industry experts to co-moderate discussions.

Sprout Social offers a webinar to their customers that includes relevant and valuable industry knowledge:

Image: Really Good Emails

8. Free trials and discounts 

Offering potential buyers a chance to test drive your technology without spending a dime or offering a deep first-order discount encourages conversions. For the best customer experience, avoid trials that don’t include the full-service stack and always fully disclose the terms of the trial at the time of enrollment. 

To improve conversion on the free trial, plan scheduled activities combining email and outreach to foster satisfaction and increase the odds of snagging a paid subscriber. 

9. Planning templates 

Large-scale projects, like a website redesign, require the coordination of many moving parts. Not being able to keep track of it all can send the project off of the rails. Well-designed templates help manage those moving parts without having to produce everything from scratch. 

Planning templates for big projects that include multiple elements, like the website redesign mentioned above and others with many parallel steps. They typically include pre-formatted and easy-to-edit spreadsheets and presentation frameworks that guide a process—while generating goodwill. Think through resources like scorecards, checklists, and other tools that will help users your target customers with things like strategic planning. 

11. Design templates 

From web pages to emails and infographics to contracts, non-designers will welcome the opportunity to access high-quality design work without having to pay a designer or learn the craft.

12. Original research data

Because data is so important to decision making, your audience will welcome any solid data and analysis you can provide. You can compile a roundup of research stats around a particular topic or invest the funds to produce an original research study, or a survey and report. 

Verizon publishes the Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR), an annual breakdown of the security landscape. For those in IT security, the report helps with performance benchmarking and planning against future threats. In addition to offering a valuable lead magnet and capture mechanism, below, their landing page also offers different variations of the content and other supporting content to keep users engaged. 

13. Interactive tools

Interactive tools are proven to extend engagement with content. Quizzes, configurators, and anything that requires user action counts. From a gamification perspective, these apps engage multiple senses and come with options as endless as your imagination. 

SXSW uses an interactive quiz to attract potential concert. The quiz provides value by helping users plan the best SXSW experience using their quiz responses.

Image: SXSW

 14. Promotional products

Think t-shirts, cozies, coffee mugs, etc.— the list is endless! For example, around the holidays you could offer potential high-value leads a free cup of hot chocolate to take a break from all the holiday hustle and bustle in exchange for registration. Then, follow up with a packet of cocoa and a branded mug with a special offer for your services or a new customer discount. 

 15. Videos

Repurpose content in recorded webinars, from live conference presentations, demos, or simple whiteboard sessions by editing them into educational blocks of data. 

Be sure to keep them under a few minutes to maintain audience attention.

16. Podcasts

Podcasts are a perfect way to get the undivided attention of your potential leads. You can either send invites to the live podcast or package up multiple podcasts as a series to generate awareness and capture leads.

Tips for building successful lead magnet content

The short answer to the question, “What are lead magnets?” Is killer content. The kind of content you just can’t resist. 

For example, if you’re trying to learn graphic design and see an eBook titled, “The Beginner’s Guide to Graphic Design”, your email address is a small price to pay for the value of the information you’re receiving. The goal of a lead magnet is exactly that: to present an experience so compelling that even busy professionals will allow you access to their personal information. 

Content that makes a great lead magnet should have the following 5 qualities: 

1. Problem-solving 

Your lead magnet needs to help visitors solve a problem. Let your analytics and customer research guide you in figuring out your customers’ pain points.

Solving those pain points via content is how you’ll convince visitors to trust you with their email address. The art is tying their pain points to your value proposition without it sounding like a sales push.

2. Value-rich

Pack it with value: real data, actionable advice, and deep insights. The market is saturated with content across all industries, your challenge will be to produce authoritative pieces that stand out from the crowd. This not only helps you convert customers but also builds a strong foundation of trust.  

3. Highly targeted 

Avoid the status quo by doing a thorough audit of the content floating around in your target market. Then, look for where you can add true value. You don’t want to be the fifth eBook on evaluating human resources software - you want to be the first research report surveying human resource professionals on their software preferences. 

The more specific you are, the more likely you are to attract highly motivated leads that are more likely to convert into sales.

4. Easy to consume 

It’s important to deliver your content it in a format that can be easily consumed on any device. 

The content should either download instantly or be emailed immediately via your automation software—otherwise, you risk losing their attention, and even worse, their confidence. Also, for any content production project, responsive formats should be a part of the final delivery requirement.

5. Evergreen

While current topics will get eyeballs on your content right away, evergreen content invites repeated use. Its content should be solid and consistent, and it should be periodically updated to remain relevant as the times, and tech, change. 

Wrap up

Once they’ve handed this valuable information over to you, your job is to keep serving more juicy content to avoid the dreaded unsubscribe button or winding up in their junk folder. 

Additionally, as you plan your magnet pieces, be sure to plan in parallel for what happens after you’ve hooked them. Build a defined nurture track to continue cultivating the relationship from awareness through post-purchase. 

Follow these lead magnet tips and tricks and you’ll be sure to see your email and customer lists grow. 

About the Author

Lane Harbin is a senior content marketing manager at Emma. When she’s not geeking out over email marketing, she enjoys binge-listening to podcasts, catching up on the latest tech news, and constantly rearranging her living room.

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