Secret – Your Lead Magnet Could be Terrible and Still Get Leads

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

The whole purpose of lead magnets is to sell site visitors a tiny product in exchange for their email addresses so that you can build your email list of leads. But it’s not the lead magnet that actually does the job. It’s the offer you put out there that will collect those leads.

A few years ago, as I drove back and forth from school to scouts to martial arts and back, I was listening to Mike Killen and James Bray on the Sell Your Brand Show podcast. I first heard the concept of the difference between the product and the offer. They maintained that the lead magnet itself doesn’t really matter, it could be terrible. 

It’s the offer that matters. It’s the offer that compels people to sign up, not the actual lead magnet. At time of sign up, they haven’t seen the lead magnet yet. Online digital products aren’t like books on a shelf you can flip through as you sip your latte. You’re taking a bit of a gamble, and you have to base your decision on the offer presented.

I don’t advocate producing terrible lead magnets! What I’m meaning to say is that you need to focus on your offer as much as your actual lead magnet product.

How does an offer differ from a product?

Bushra Azhar, in her wild and brilliant webinars, talks about never making the same offer twice. She may have a core product, but every time she offers it, she offers it in a different way. She will bundle different extras with it, she’ll change up the format, she’ll change the pricing structure. This testing helps her know which offers appeal most to her audience.

The actual product, in this case a lead magnet, is just one of the components that make up an offer. Everything the customer experiences is part of the offer, including product, price, bonuses, extras, the promotion, the marketing language, the positioning, the packaging, the format.

A great example is a company who has a prepared meal delivery service. With the very same prepared meal product, they could have two very different offers.

Offer A: Target busy moms, focus on ease of prep-to-table, time saving convenience of delivery, options for picky children

Offer B: Target fitness minded singles, setup a pickup station at area gyms, complete nutrition to support workouts, options based on eating philosophy (keto/paleo/low fat)

Both offers could have the very same meals in the package, but the offers would appeal to very different people.

This idea of the offer, rather than the product, making the sale isn’t new. Infomercials TV shopping networks focus on the impossible-to-resist offer. The actual product may or may not live up to the offer, but we keep on buying because those offers are so tempting. Anyone of a certain age should remember the giant Styrofoam airplanes — SO awesome, never worked. We bought them anyway.

And really, this counts as a success.

What Makes a Good Offer?

A good offer promises the customer a benefit. Something better. Something to solve a problem or move them to the next step.

Appeal to a particular customer

The offer can’t appeal to everyone. A good offer calls out the specific group of people to help so that those people recognize themselves. That spark of recognition draws people to the offer. It’s also a bit of qualification. You really don’t want everyone to sign up for your mailing list. You only want the ones that can benefit from what you deliver.


You timing matters in two ways. You have to meet your audience where they are in their process or journey. If someone is going to the gym for the first time, she’s probably not going to look twice at an offer for muscle building supplements. But if you put a “Best 5 Exercises for Beginners” guide in front of her, she’d likely be interested.

You also have to put the offer in front of someone when they’re ready to have more information from you. This means that a popup before she’s read your blog post will probably be ignored. But an opt-in form at the end of an informative blog post would be effective because at that point, she’s looking for more information from you.


Your offer needs to focus on how your lead magnet can benefit your audience, rather than how many pages your ebook has. No one is going to care if you have 432 pages (in fact, it’s probably a deterrent) of data. Really, they just want to know what’s in it for them. How will the lead magnet make their life/day/business better?

Price that supports the intended positioning of the product

In this case, for the lead magnet, the price is typically one email address, and maybe a first name. If you start asking for more information like phone number, address, demographics, the lead magnet better be positioned as higher end and more valuable than most.

Easy to consume format

If your offer can show that your lead magnet is easy to consume, include that information. Here’s where you can mention some of the features, because those features lead to the benefit of ease. “In just 1 5-minute video, you will learn…” or “3 small changes to make for better…”


A top performing offer will create a sense of urgency. Sometimes, that’s easy, like with a limited availability product like physical product or products that take your time, “10 interview spots left..” But you can also create urgency by talking about why the user needs this benefit now. Or, what will happen if the user doesn’t take this offer right away.

Social Proof

When an offer shows how happy other people are that they worked with you or accepted that very offer, it’s hard to resist. Since the user can’t see the actual lead magnet product, a testimonial from a theoretical third party can push them to accept.

Why “Sign Up for my Newsletter” isn’t a good offer

Too many businesses think way too highly of their newsletter. They think just announcing that they have one is enough to get sign ups. But it isn’t and here’s why.

Usually, it’s not clear who it’s for, so it doesn’t call out to anyone. 

There are no clear benefits for the user listed. It could be the best newsletter the world has ever seen, but if the offer doesn’t make the benefits obvious, no one will want it.

In fact the features (industry information, more email in your inbox) seem unappealing.

Next Steps

I’ve updated a couple of my offers with these points. While I seem to write great offers for others, I still have a challenge writing them for myself. I have some work to do!

Already, the folks reaching out to me have different goals and different problems than I first suspected. Though nearly everyone I work with wants more family time. As I get to know my audience even better, I can make better offers and better products for them.

I used to believe that building my business was a build it and I’d better get it exactly right kind of process. And so, that would paralyze me. Now, I understand that building my business is an iterative process. I’m focusing on some lead magnet offers right now. Working out what benefits I can provide. As time goes on, those might change, or my audience might change. I’ll have to circle back and improve these offers as I learn more.

Take a look at your own lead magnet offers. What are they missing? Can you fill them in?

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