If you sell digital products, you need an effective way to increase brand awareness, grow your email list, and supercharge your marketing and sales.
For that, nothing beats lead magnets.
In this article we’ll dive deep into lead magnets, what they are, and how to use them. Best of all, we’ll review lead magnet examples, to help you come up with lead magnet ideas for your own business.
What is a lead magnet?
Let’s start by nailing down the lead magnet definition:
A lead magnet is a valuable resource or service that’s offered in exchange for an opt-in email address.
They’re used most often to build marketing email lists and generate sales leads. They’re also used in funnels to quickly turn cold traffic into customers.
Why lead magnets work
Robert Cialdini, author of Influence, talks about two consumer behaviors that compel people to engage with your brand and respond to your offers.
The first is consistency.
When people make even a small commitment to you by downloading your lead magnet, they want to continue supporting you.
Having said yes once, they want to continue saying yes. That’s good, because now it’s going to be easier to get them to say yes when you make a paid offer.
The other consumer behavior behind lead magnets is the rule of reciprocation.
This rule states that people feel obligated to repay what another person has given them.
So when you give away valuable information in a free lead magnet, prospects are more inclined to buy when you make an offer. It’s the only way they can settle their “debt” with you.
Consumer behaviors aside, if you offer low quality lead magnets, you likely won’t get good results.
The best lead magnets give your prospects a taste of your products or services. So you want them to impress.
You’ll know you’re hitting the mark when prospects reach out in email or social media with messages like this:
“This is amazing! If you give away this much for free, I can’t wait to see what you give in your paid products.”
To achieve this, though, your lead magnets must be at least as valuable as your paid products or services. Just smaller in scope.
Selling in advance
Think of your lead magnet as the first transaction a customer takes with your brand.
No money is exchanged, but it’s still a transaction. Your visitor must “pay” with their email address if they want to download your lead magnet.
And as we discussed above, this transaction is likely to lead to more, higher value transactions in the future.
Your lead magnet, then, must be relevant to whatever future offers you’re going to make. It must solve a piece of the problem they’re struggling with.
Hopefully, after consuming your lead magnet, they’ll want more. They’ll be ready to pay money for bigger, more complete solutions.
In a minute, we’ll look at some examples of lead magnets that do this well. But here are a few lead magnet ideas that can prime your prospects for paid offers:
- Provide information about a specific problem your prospect struggles with.
- Present different ways to solve the problem, including a “best” option that lines up with your proprietary methods.
- Share a step-by-step process.
- Give a list of tools or resources.
- Diagnose a problem.
As you can see, your lead magnet helps prospects see you as a go-to resource, someone who can answer their questions and give them workable solutions.
That being the case, you want to get your lead magnet into the hands of every potential customer. The best way to do that is to create an email marketing campaign.
Email marketing with lead magnets
You won’t get the full value of lead magnets if you let people download them without an email opt-in. That’s why lead magnets are usually part of an email marketing campaign.
So let’s take a quick look at how email marketing works.
Email marketing allows you to build a community of people who are likely to buy your products and services. Through regular emails, you:
- Keep them updated on what’s going on in the industry and your business
- Share useful information
- Make offers.
Because they likely got on your list by opting in for a lead magnet, they know you and trust you. That makes them warm prospects who are open to your offers.
Nurturing your leads
Once your lead magnet has been downloaded, don’t hit up your new prospect with an instant ask for your big ticket item. They’re likely to unsubscribe.
Develop an email marketing campaign that nurtures your audience so you can make warm offers.
One of the biggest advantages of using email to nurture your list is that you can personalize your messages. You have their name, and you know what interests them based on the lead magnet they downloaded.
Using an email marketing service like Kajabi’s email marketing software lets you personalize emails and automate email sequences based on their behavior.
Types of lead magnets
There are lots of different offers you can use as a lead magnet, but basically lead magnets fall into five categories. We’ll look at each of these categories in more detail, and then we’ll analyze a few examples in each category to understand why they work.
- Resource sharing lead magnets
- New content as lead magnets
- Events as lead magnets
- Content upgrade lead magnets
- Splinter content lead magnets
1. Resource sharing lead magnets
One of the easiest ways to create a high-value lead magnet is to create a unique tool or resource. Ideally, something that saves time, increases productivity, or helps the prospect do their job getter.
Some of the most common resource lead magnets are:
Even something as simple as a spreadsheet can make a great lead magnet. Here are some examples of the kinds of resources that make great lead magnets.
A scorecard helps users “grade” their work using the same criteria a professional would use. This is valuable to your audience, but even more importantly, it sets you up as an expert.
Here’s a scorecard Kathryn Aragon Media created for potential copywriting clients. It offers a systematic way to assess the effectiveness of a Video Sales Letter (VSL).
While it helps her audience diagnose their own VSLs, it also lets them know she understands what it takes to make VSLs perform.
The first page of the tool identifies the four most important components of a VSL. It also instructs you on how to rate your VSL’s effectiveness in each of those areas.
The next several pages of this resource teach you how to fix a VSL that doesn’t measure up on the scorecard. It offers some very detailed solutions for beefing up each of those four components in your VSL.
The second section of this resource could also qualify as a “checklist.” It breaks down the “fixes” into a list of things needed to make a VSL as effective as possible.
The purpose of this lead magnet is to attract copywriting clients who are marketing their products with VSLs. If you want to make sure your VSLs are firing on all cylinders, this lead magnet would likely interest you.
However, while this tool tells you how to fix your VSL, it won’t actually fix it for you. You’ll still have to apply the fixes yourself. You may decide it’s easier to hire the expert who came up with the tool.
Notice, on the bottom left corner of every page, there is a reminder of how to get in touch with Kathryn.
Quizzes can be an effective lead magnet for a couple of reasons.
First, they’re fun.
Second, depending on the questions you ask, you’ll gain insight into your prospect and can determine which email nurturing sequence is right for them.
Third, quizzes build on a basic principle of human psychology. The more comfortable someone gets with saying yes, the more likely they are to keep saying yes.
With each quiz question they answer, they are becoming more comfortable with saying yes to the offer they’ll see at the end of the quiz.
For example, Live Your Message promises to help entrepreneurs build their brand by building on their uniqueness. On the home page, you’re invited to take a quiz to discover your “entrepreneurial superpower.”
Sounds intriguing, right? Who wouldn’t want to know what their superpower is?
You’re then taken through 13 questions designed to reveal your “entrepreneurial type.” These questions resemble a personality profile. The deeper you get into the quiz, the more curious you are about your results.
There’s no request for your email or any other information to start the quiz. That doesn’t come until the end of the quiz, after you’ve essentially said yes 13 times.
Notice too, on the last screen, the “ask” is formatted like a “give.” Rather than trying to bribe you to share your email address, they simply say your results are waiting.
All you need to do is let them know where you’d like your results sent.
If you’re curious enough to have answered all 13 questions, chances are you want to know how you measure up.
The results show up in your inbox as a customized report with your entrepreneurial type. It explains the pros and cons of your type and offers some suggestions for how that can help you in business.
At the end of the report, you’re invited to a webinar where you can learn more about the training program they’re selling.
This lead magnet doesn’t actually solve a problem. Instead it reveals something interesting about yourself that gives you insight into how you should build your brand.
But as with the scorecard, prospects likely need help putting all the pieces together, which means they may be willing to pay for more information.
AppSumo’s blog post, “51 Headline Formulas To Skyrocket Conversions (And Where To Use Them),” ranks number one for the keyword “headline formulas.”
It also ranks well for other high-volume keywords, making it the perfect place to promote a lead magnet. In this case, AppSumo’s headline generator tool.
This is a great example of how you can use a blog post to promote your lead magnet. It’s also an example of a tool being used as a lead magnet.
But what I want to point out is the relevance of this offer.
AppSumo sells tools to entrepreneurs. Anyone who downloads this headline generator is a good prospect for the hundreds of apps, programs and resources they offer.
The best lead magnet for your business will be in the same category or format as your paid offers. If you sell software, try to develop a software lead magnet. If you sell training, consider a training video lead magnet.
The idea is to attract people who are hungry for the type of products or services you sell.
TIP: Go to Google Analytics and find your highest performing blog post for one of your best keywords. Then create a lead magnet that’s relevant to the post and will attract your best customers.
People hate making bad decisions. But to make an informed decision, they need to research all their options. Multiply this by the number of choices people have to make on a daily basis, and you understand why lists are such a popular lead magnet.
If someone has done the research and curated a list of good options, it takes a lot of the pain out of decision making.
The AppSumo article we just looked at is a good example. “51 Headline Formulas” is essentially a list.
They’ve gone through countless headlines and curated a list of 51 formulas that convert.
TIP: Creating lists establishes you as an expert. Your audience learns to rely on you to make their life easier and will trust you when it’s time to make a purchase.
Spreadsheets work well as lead magnets because they're interactive and functional. They usually create a framework for organizing and sorting lots of information.
Consider this lead magnet, which was created by a content strategist to build her potential client list. It offers 600+ power words to level up your writing.
Six hundred words would be a lot to include in a simple list. But with a spreadsheet, the words can be categorized. That makes this list work like an instant thesaurus, customized for content writers.
The value here is obvious: a one-page resource you can refer to at a glance when you can’t find that perfect word.
It’s also a credibility-booster for the content strategist who put this resource together. After seeing this spreadsheet, her audience knows she works hard to find the right words for their messages.
2. New content as lead magnets
The next category of lead magnet is new content.
New content is anything you’ve created that may not have been offered before. It can include white papers, ebooks, physical books, reports, advanced guides or even a mini course.
This type of content goes more in-depth than most branded content. It’s higher value because of how much information it includes. And it demonstrates that you know enough about the topic or your market to be a trusted resource.
Let’s look at a few of these lead magnet examples and evaluate why they work.
What exactly is a white paper, you ask? Well you’re not alone. Ask ten people and you’ll likely get twelve answers.
According to Gordan Graham, The White Paper Guy, “A white paper is a persuasive essay that uses facts and logic ... to provide useful information for business people seeking to understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision.”
In short, it’s an opinion piece based on research that turns prospects into informed consumers.
In 2020, Linqia offered a white paper called, “The 2020 Influencer Marketing Playbook.”
Linqia partners with influencers and builds custom programs to help them succeed. Their main product is their AI, which promises to predict which influencers and content will deliver the best results. This is the program they want you to buy.
So their white paper needs to pique your interest in AI and influencer marketing.
No problem. This 24-page white paper cites research on the effectiveness and future of influencer marketing. It’s designed to give you a broad overview of influencer marketing while convincing you that you can become an influencer yourself.
Why does this lead magnet work?
The information it provides on the influencer marketing industry is not easily accessible. If you’re interested in pursuing this as a business, they’ve got your attention.
It’s easy to enter your email for this kind of “secret handshake” information.
However, as in-depth as this white paper is, it’s also designed to slightly overwhelm you. You’ll learn how important it is to have the right tools, resources, software, and coaching.
The call to action at the end of the white paper is an offer to learn more about using Linqia to achieve your influencer marketing goals. And by now, you’re likely convinced of the value of partnering with them.
Ebooks are another lead magnet example that works because of the in-depth content they can offer. Ebooks rarely need as much research as a white paper, but they are often longer and have a broader scope.
Don't worry if you don’t have time to write an ebook.
If you already have a published book, you can use the PDF version as a lead magnet. You can also partner with other brands. For instance, they write the ebook and you promote it. Then you both enjoy the benefits.
If you go this route, partner with a brand that’s relevant to your business but won’t duplicate your follow-up offer.
The goal with an ebook lead magnet is to establish yourself as a leader in your industry and a key source for information.
Let’s look at Ed Gandia’s book offer, Earn More in Less Time: The Proven Mindset, Strategies and Action to Prosper as a Freelance Writer.
Ed Gandia’s main offer is coaching for freelance copywriters. He bills himself as a business-building coach and strategist for ambitious business writers and copywriters.
His book demonstrates his knowledge of what freelance writers need to build a successful business and how to maximize their time and effort.
It won’t be as valuable as working with him as your coach, but it will give you a taste of what he teaches. If you like what you read, you might decide you’re ready to hire him.
Free + shipping offers
What if you have a physical book or product that’s ready to ship? A simple lead magnet is the Free + Shipping offer.
Here, you offer to give away the book for free, if your prospect will pay for shipping.
This strategy has been used successfully by industry leaders and best-selling authors. It even works when the book is available digitally.
One advantage of this offer is that it capitalizes on a unique aspect of consumer behavior.
The book is free, sure, but the prospect still has to pay for shipping. That means they must enter their payment information.
Now, you’ve convinced them to give you two major types of information: contact information and payment information.
Once they become comfortable with making payments for your “free” content, it’s even easier to convince them to do it again for your premium content.
Reports are typically more academic than white papers. They can be written by your organization or even by a third-party research firm.
Most often, reports share the results of an industry-wide study or a survey related to a topic your audience cares about.
A good example is PayFort’s “State of Payments” report. The report is over 100 pages and looks at the evolution of digital payments and ecommerce across the MENA region. And it’s backed up with solid evidence.
Knowing your audience is key to using reports as lead magnets. You must pick a topic they care about. And they need to care enough that they’re willing to read analytical information, charts, and graphs.
Reports work especially well for industries like science and finance. But they can work for any type of business. Creating a “state of” report or overview of your industry can establish you as the industry leader.
An advanced guide may be more subjective than a report, but it can be just as comprehensive.
It can promise to tell you everything you need to know about a particular topic. Or it can serve as a how-to guide for solving a problem your audience struggles with.
Several years ago Neil Patel produced The Advanced Guide to Content Marketing. This 40,000-word guide offers detailed content marketing techniques and actionable ideas for using content to increase traffic and sales.
This guide was a huge success. Because it was so comprehensive and actionable, content marketers used it as a guide book for years to launch or improve their content marketing program.
It was valuable for Neil as well.
It earned him a lot of fans. It also attracted prospects who wanted to improve their traffic and conversions. And many of them were good prospects for Neil’s agency.
So, what makes an advanced guide rank among the best lead magnets?
An advanced guide is so in depth, it won’t likely attract someone who’s a novice or just curious about the topic. So everyone who enters their email to download your guide is likely someone who would benefit from your offers.
As a result, you end up with a high-quality email list of potential clients.
TIP: An advanced guide doesn’t need to be book-length to work. It can be as simple as an epic blog post that deals with a narrow topic. After your introduction, offer a PDF version of the article, and include your opt-in form.
3. Events as lead magnets
Our third category of lead magnets is events.
Events aren’t typically seen as lead magnets, which is why they’re so effective at generating leads for your high-dollar products and services. Let’s look at some examples.
As a lead magnet, events work. Live, virtual events work well because of the low cost involved in producing them, and the urgency they create. An event is essentially a limited-time offer and requires an immediate action or prospects will miss out.
The live event can be formatted much like a live conference.
It can be a one-day event or be spread out over several days. It can also feature one main presenter or have a full slate of presenters who are experts on your topic.
The key is for the event to offer enough value for people to enter their email and register.
Let’s look at two virtual events that used two different approaches but were equally successful.
In 2019, Sales Hacker hosted the Sales Hacker Success Summit, offering training that would level up your sales strategy for 2020.
Forty speakers over five days of training attracted over 5,000 registrants. That’s 5,000 people who spent five days with the Sales Hacker team, clicking through to their site, and chatting with them in social media.
We know that lead magnets set up future behavior. With a virtual event, attendees become super engaged right away. Which means they’re likely to stay engaged down the road.
Let’s consider another event that featured only one speaker and served as both a lead magnet and a product launch.
In October of 2020, Jay Abraham offered his 5-Day “Preeminence Challenge,” which promised to teach you how to become the “go-to source in your market.”
This event was formatted like a webinar and promised high-level training with one of the preeminent marketers of our day.
The real purpose of the event was to launch a new coaching program Jay was launching. But the event itself generated of huge list of potential takers for that new offer.
Over 4,000 people registered for the event. Those who attended all five days had essentially qualified themselves as good prospects for the new offer.
As with the Sales Hacker event, Jay not only added new emails to his list, he had one-on-one engagement with attendees. Their questions and comments also gave him valuable feedback for what to include in the new training.
Live events can be formatted and delivered in any number of ways:
- Meeting room
- Facebook Live
- YouTube Live
Another advantage to hosting a virtual event is that it doesn’t limit your audience to geographical distance or travel limitations.
And because it’s more interactive, you’ll do more than just add emails to your list. You’ll improve engagement and build relationships that will result in greater customer loyalty.
4. Content upgrade lead magnets
Brian Dean of Backlinko invented the “content upgrade” as a strategy for list building. This type of lead magnet offers additional, related content to people who read a blog post.
It is only offered on the blog post it was created for. To access it, visitors must opt-in with their email address.
Adding value to your readers
Let’s say you have an epic blog post on your site that’s too long to read in one sitting. Offer a PDF version for readers who opt in.
Digital Marketer’s “Ultimate Guide to Digital Marketing” is a good example of this. It’s a 10-chapter article available for free on their website.
Notice, in the left sidebar, the “download PDF” button. Click it, and the opt-in form opens.
Recently, Backlinko modified their content upgrade strategy. Instead of offering bonus information on individual blog posts, they now ask you to opt in to read entire blog posts.
With this strategy, blog posts become lead magnets.
Here’s a normal blog post, which anyone can read.
And here’s one of Brian’s “content upgrade” articles, “How to Rank on Page 1 of Google.”
This content is newer and much higher quality. But to access it, you must click the “unlock now” button and register your email.
The unlocked articles on their blog allow you to sample Backlinko’s content. Once you’ve experienced the quality of their free content, you can’t help but wonder how much better the gated content must be.
So giving up your email is easy in light of the anticipated value.
5. Splinter content lead magnets
Digital Marketer popularized the concept of “splinter content” to create lead magnets. The idea is to create your lead magnet by splintering off a piece of a paid product.
For example, when Digital Marketer promoted their email marketing program, The Machine, they offered one of the program’s 3-part email campaigns as the lead magnet.
This campaign is actually part of the course. But as a lead magnet, it lets you experience the value of the program without investing a penny.
Here are a few examples of splinter content that can be used as lead magnets:
- Training video
- book chapter
How to create a lead magnet
Leads magnets are usually part of an email marketing campaign or a promotional campaign. So start there.
- What is the goal of this campaign?
- What action do I want to drive?
- What type of lead magnet is most likely to get results?
Then assess your resources.
Do you have enough time to create new content?
- Create a guide or report.
- Write a blog post that can serve as your lead magnet.
- Create a quiz with a follow-up report
Do you need to save time by recycling existing content?
- Look for an existing blog post that you can use in your campaign.
- Create a content upgrade.
- Share a book chapter or PDF.
- Splinter a portion of your main offer.
Do you have the resources to put on an event?
- Host a webinar or masterclass.
- Consider a one-day virtual event.
There’s no right way to create a lead magnet. You simply need to focus on creating value for your audience and building interest in your paid products or services.
How can a lead magnet improve your business?
Leads magnets are key to driving growth for businesses today. That’s why they’re one of the first pieces of content I recommend to new businesses.
Build know, like, and trust
Seth Grodin’s book, Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers into Friends and Friends into Customers, was a groundbreaking concept in 1999.
Since that time, it’s become the guiding principle for effective email marketing. Yet, even today our inboxes get flooded with unsolicited emails.
Offering a lead magnet in return for someone’s contact information demonstrates your commitment to serve them by providing value.
It also says a lot about your willingness to prioritize your client’s needs above your own business goals.
Build brand awareness
One of the more obvious benefits of a lead magnet is that it builds brand awareness.
Only when you put your message in front of your ideal prospects do they fully understand what you can do for them and how you can help them achieve their goals.
Do it well, and they’ll tell their friends about you, giving you word-of-mouth advertising and the potential to go viral.
Not only that, when you let potential clients sample your products and services, they can see for themselves that working with you offers unique benefits.
That being the case, you can’t be too generous when you create a lead magnet. The very act of giving something away makes others feel more connected and engaged.
And when you send them your next email announcing a new product or service, they’re much more likely to click through and buy.
Final tips for lead magnets
What is a lead magnet?
At first glance, it’s a download offered in return for an opt-in email. But as you can see, it’s actually a smart strategy for growing your business.
In this article, we’ve reviewed five types of lead magnets and 15 examples. Not all of them will be right for your business.
To know works for you, try one or all of them. Test different topics and offers.
Keep in mind, though, the goal is qualified leads. People who will become super fans. To achieve that, use your lead magnets to create an unforgettable brand experience.