Is Your Lead Magnet Working Hard or Just Phoning it in?

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Lead Magnet. A lot of folks around the Internet will tell you that a lead magnet is an incentive to convince website visitors to part with their email address.

You’ll also hear other names for lead magnets – opt-in freebie, ethical bribe, content upgrade, opt-in incentive. I’ve written about what I think about these names if you’d like to take a read.

This tiny product is much more than an email-address collector. Or, it could be if you put it to work.

Where Many Go Wrong

Not treating the lead magnet as a product

Because it’s often called a freebie or free incentive or free download, we don’t really think of a lead magnet as a product. That’s just not the case. The free things you give out are your blog posts, videos, podcasts, and all your social media content. The very first paid product in your product suite is your lead magnet. It costs one email address (and usually name too). 

If you don’t treat a lead magnet as a product, you’re not likely to put much thought into it, right? Once you start treating lead magnets as products, you start to value them more, and that mindset will help you pour value into your lead magnets.

Focusing on the visuals

Good design is invaluable. No question. However, good design encompasses so many things including readability, usability, logical layout. “Prettying it up” should be one of the last items on your list of tasks (unless stunning visual design is what you do!) I see a lot of fussy, graphics-heavy worksheets out there that sacrifice usefulness for pretty.

A plain text document that is easy to read, easy to understand, and helps your users is so much more valuable that a useless but gorgeous worksheet. I downloaded a set of lead magnet worksheets not long ago from a prominent blogger and was so disappointed. They were truly beautiful, but not helpful at all.

Once you have something good, then, if you have the time, make it look great. But first focus on making something helpful. You’re busy, and your users are busy, and we all just want a little help getting things done.

Outrageous promise/offer just to get the email address

If your focus is on getting that email address, you might be tempted to promise more than a lead magnet can (or should) deliver. Instead, focus on the exchange of value – this is a product, remember. An email address is valuable to you, and you should give as much or slightly more value in your lead magnet.

Not giving out the good stuff

On a consulting call just last week, I talked with a very successful, intelligent woman who was concerned about giving out too many of her “secrets.” Unfortunately, as we were building out her lead magnet, her resistance made it tough to actually build something helpful. You need to be willing to give users at least one step toward whatever the end goal is. If you’re not giving out your good insights, you won’t really be able to help. Or, you’ll be offering the exact same bits everyone else is.

Forget to build a relationship with leads they collect

Okay, so this last one’s not really a lead magnet’s fault, but I feel compelled to include it. Once you collect these leads, you can’t just let them sit in your list for weeks until you have something to email them. They’ll forget about you and unsubscribe! That means that you never got your value from the lead magnet you worked so hard to put out. You have to nurture your leads by communicating frequently and regularly.

is your lead magnet working hard?
how hard is your opt-in freebie working?

What Must a Lead Magnet Have?

Enticing offer

I used to believe that a lead magnet had to be pretty awesome and give tons of value to get someone to sign up. Completely not true at all!

I’ve been signing up for a lot of lead magnets lately. I have to give my email address before I see the lead magnet. I don’t end up “paying” more for the better ones and less for the completely useless ones. 

Instead, it’s the offers – the wording and promises about the tiny product that are what convince me to type in my email address. So, you offer is what sells the lead magnet, not the lead magnet itself. I like clear offers that tell me what I’ll be getting, and how it will help me. Then, of course, I hope that the lead magnet delivers. But, it’s the offer that makes me part with my email address!

Value to the user

You do need to provide actual value. Teach something that you user needs to know, provide a handy checklist or cheat sheet, or give some insight into a problem. If you don’t, then either no one will sign up for your offer, or those that do will be disappointed when the lead magnet doesn’t deliver and won’t trust you.

Easily and quickly used

Offer a lead magnet that your users can consume quickly and use right away. Large ebooks sound good, but they sit around and don’t get read – they’ll too long. And if they aren’t read and used, your leads don’t get the benefits and they can’t build trust for you. If you can offer something that people will use right away and often, then you will stay top of mind.

What can a lead magnet do for you?

Get the email address

Yes, the lead magnet gets an email address on your list. Too many people stop here. If you’re like me and trying to be done with work by 3:00 each day, you have to think about how your products can do double or triple duty and work hard for you.

Qualify leads

Did you know your lead magnet can help you qualify your leads? It can do this in a few ways. First of all, if you have some very specific lead magnets, you know that anyone signing up for them is interested in that specific subject. For example, if one of your services is leading meditation groups online and someone signs up for a free (or really, cost of one email address) early-morning group meditation session, you know 100% that this person has a high interest in online meditation. 

You will also filter out those that aren’t right for your products. Center your lead magnet offers around the same topics as your products so that the email addresses on your list will be from people who could conceivably buy your products.

Another qualification method is to use a quiz as a lead magnet. People love to take quizzes and receive some insight into themselves or their business. You can ask questions to see if they would be the right fit for you. 

Build trust

A helpful lead magnet that delivers on the promises made in the opt-in offer will teach your leads that they can trust you to do what you say you will. If you over-deliver in value, not only will they trust you, but they’ll love you. If your tiny products are kickass, your leads will naturally assume your core products are fabulous too.

Help leads with pre-requisites for your products/core offer 

A lead magnet can help leads with the prerequisites for your core product. In effect, you can use your lead magnet to build good leads for your product. A good example for a social media marketer would be: if the marketer requires social media accounts to be set up and active before she’ll take them on, a good lead magnet would be “How to set up your Instagram account and add your first posts.”

Create demand for your core offer

And finally, the biggest think your lead magnet could be doing for you is creating a desire for your core product. If you can give just a taste of how good life would be if they just bought your core product, you can have people lining up to purchase.

I don’t mean a big tease – don’t promise something in a lead magnet, then say, “but to get this, you’ll have to buy our $$$ product…” Meet them where they are and help them with the step they’re on in your lead magnet. Then, tell them what the next step should be, and how you can help them with that.

Building out your lead magnets

Throughout this month, I’m going to be writing more about lead magnets and how to build them. I’m going to be working on this too – building out some of my own lead magnets and helping people with the same steps I’m on. But get started thinking about how you can help your users as well as make lead magnets that do some work for you. 


  1. Emilie on November 5, 2019 at 12:30 pm

    Great article, thanks Kate

    • Kate Smith on November 5, 2019 at 1:26 pm

      Thanks Emilie!

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