How do you turn first time web visitors into paying customers? By leveraging a lead magnet to build your email list. Here's how.

So you have awesome content on your website, and because of that, you can bring in hundreds or thousands of visitors every single week.

But wait, where are they going? I mean pulling traffic to your website is excellent, but are you able to convert those visitors into paying customers? Visitors won’t just go straight to your product page and pay you. Instead, it’s up to you to grab that first visit opportunity by collecting their information.

So how do you do that? By leveraging a lead magnet to build your email list.

Why use a lead magnet?

A lead magnet is a valuable offer or incentive you provide your customers in exchange for their contact information. 

Lead magnets are one of the most powerful tools for acquiring sales leads. The content or resources you provide can be very specific to the needs of a potential customer. They can also be placed on your website to address user needs at specific stages of the buyer’s journey. Meaning that anything you create has a greater chance of reaching the right people and actually leading to conversions. 

Once they actually convert, you now have a direct line of communication to close the lead. And you’ve done this without spending a dime on advertising. You’ve only spent the time to create content that can be reused, revised, and updated over time. Potentially allowing for one asset to provide a massive return on investment.

How to create a lead magnet

The benefits of using lead magnets are fairly clear, but the act of creating them likely sounds a bit more complicated. Thankfully it isn’t as difficult as it may seem as long as you approach it strategically.

Identify your target audience

The key to actually create a lead magnet that converts is to narrow down your customer base as much as possible. You want the material to be truly valuable enough that they are willing to provide you with communication details. This is impossible if you try and serve everyone. 

So your approach shouldn’t be to focus on your total available market but to hone in on a specific niche. This will help you create relevant and specific material that serves the needs of these customers. You likely already have customers in mind, but it doesn’t hurt to conduct an additional market analysis to work through your available market. 

Create your value proposition

Now that you know who to target, you need to position your lead magnet as something that is valuable to them. And just like your products or services, any content you create that’s locked behind a submission form needs to solve a problem. Specifically, a problem that your audience needs to be solved.

Identify what their needs are and how you can provide the best solution. If you can, look to find ways to mention how your product or service helps solve that problem even better. That way you give them an introductory solution for free that hints that you provide something that can make it even easier.

Create the content

Once you know what the topic or resource will be it’s time to actually create it. You should have a good idea of what needs to be included at this point, but the structure, format, and design all still need to be decided. If you don’t know where to start it may help to look at a few examples of proven lead magnet options. 

Top 10 lead magnet options

1. Resource list

People love a list of tools and resources to help them do something more conveniently. You can simply create a list of items or other resources to help them out. 

Let’s say for example you run a blog for photographers as part of your photography business. You know exactly what tools and software are necessary to achieve a professional visual style, and even sell presets for specific software. 

With amateur photographers always asking you about your process, you know there’s an audience that would find value in your presets, but how do you get them in the door? Maybe start by creating a resource list that covers everything photographers should be using to edit their files. Then you can follow-up with a message directly promoting your software presets.

2. Quick start guide

Just like you probably want a way to accelerate the growth of your business, your customers want a way to quickstart their own projects, training, etc. If you can provide a resource that helps do that, not only will you build trust in your expertise, but have an opportunity to once again showcase how your business can help them do it even faster. 

Suppose you are a social media marketing blogger that helps small businesses develop their social media presence. You know the ins and outs of building social media profiles, designing posts, and setting up posting schedules through tools like Buffer. 

To show off your expertise, you can offer a free quick start guide on how to use the specific tools that you use on a daily basis. While you are giving away some of your tools of the trade, you’re plugging your services at the same time. You can easily reference the quick start guide in your first follow-up and explain how your services will accelerate growth and simplify the process even further. 

3. Cheatsheet

Think of a cheat sheet like a guide, a series of tips, or cliff notes for your audience. But rather than it being an exhaustive list it’s just the best of the best condensed down to a one or two-page document covering a specific process. The best thing about this option is that you can easily take any previously written content or internal best practices to put it together.

For example, let’s say your business sells productivity software and has been working with semi-remote teams for the last few years. As more and more people have transitioned to working, socializing, and learning from home, they’re looking for tips on how to run remote meetings. That’s where you’re expertise can come into play. And all you’d need to do is vet your own processes, ask for staff recommendations, and build out your cheat sheet.

4. Checklist

A checklist probably sounds a lot like a resource list or quickstart guide. While they do share much of the same structure, the difference is that you are providing an outline for a process, rather than the means to get there. Which is still valuable, often what people want when they’re searching for information is guidelines to help keep them on track.

And here’s the thing, you can even reference some of the resources, guides, templates, and cheat sheets you’ve already created. You are giving them a process after all, and if some of the steps can be done easier with content that you have then you should include it. You can simultaneously promote the value of your resources and help customers move further into your sales funnel.

5. Templates

Templates can be a great test case or free trial option that directly reflects the products or services that you provide. In most cases, it’s a fill-in-the-blank document that includes everything a user will need to do the work manually. 

It may seem like you’re giving away free resources that eliminate the need for a customer to by your product. But in reality, you’re providing the opportunity to show why your paid solution is better than a traditional method, even if it’s free.

For example, there’s a library of hundreds of sample business plans right here on Bplans. They’re totally accessible, cover multiple industries, and can be downloaded as documents to rework. Now, these same plans are also available as reference material or starting points within the planning software LivePlan. The main difference being that LivePlan also provides expert planning guidance, financial forecasting tools, and a number of easy-to-use planning functions that make these planning templates even more useful.

They’re free for those that are on the fence about business planning and meant to help those that can’t dive right into paying for planning software. But the benefit is, that by incorporating those same lead magnet templates into the tool, users will have an easier time justifying joining the platform.

Easily keep your business plan as up to date as your website. Get the insights you need to grow your eCommerce business. Get LivePlan

6. Online course

With lead magnets, the ultimate goal is to get people to come back to your site. Sure, you also want their email to kick off a connection, but typically even in those communications, you’re pushing them back toward your site. This is why an online course can be a major driving factor for return visits.

The team at SEMrush does this incredibly well. Providing a library of training courses, certifications, and quizzes that cover questions in their industry as well as their products. On top of that, as new courses are released they drip them out, providing the next class on a week-to-week basis. With that, not only are people coming back for the content, they’re coming back because they need to wait to get the rest.

Online courses are a great resource, but keep in mind that this may take the greatest financial and planning investment to get up and running. To play it safe, run a simplified validation test or poll to determine if customers are actually interested before you build the full course platform.

7. Email course

A great way to validate the creation of larger onsite coursework is by starting with an email course instead. This follows the same steps as a traditional online course but trims it down by directly sending the next “class” right to a user’s inbox. These are less interactive and act more like refined quick start guides with additional next steps or “Homework” mixed in.

The benefit for you is that this can be fairly light material that’s stretched out over a number of days. You can even incorporate other content on your site as “additional reading” or promote additional downloads as next steps. It can be framed around the material you already have to offer, just with more thorough guidelines that help the audience navigate it.

Just be sure your inbox is organized so that you and your team can quickly respond to any questions. The last thing you want is to promote a course via email and then not follow-up on the same channel.

8. Quizzes

Who doesn’t love quizzes? The reason they work so well as lead magnets is that by the end, you’re giving customers a personalized result. And as an added benefit to you, the responses are automatically segmented, further narrowing down your audience. Meaning that you can quickly follow-up with messaging, offers, or resources that perfectly fit the needs of that individual.

You also have the opportunity to promote social sharing, if your quiz is valuable or fun enough. And a great way to give this type of material a test run is by creating lighter versions on social media. If you see a high level of engagement, adapt it into a more robust lead magnet on your site.

9. Giveaways

Giving away something for free is a tried and true method for building out your mailing list. The tricky part is, making sure what you’re giving away attracts enough people as well as the right people. 

Sure, running a contest for a free iPhone will net you thousands of leads. But how many of them are actually interested in your products or services? How specific can your follow-up communications be?

It’s tempting to simply go big and call it a day, but like the rest of the lead magnets on this list, you need to be specific. Focus on the needs of your audience and choose a prize that fits their needs and wants. In fact, you can even start with free versions or early access to your product just to be sure you are getting the warmest leads possible.

10. Live Training

What makes a webinar or live training so effective? It’s a live event where your customers get far more than a download, they get an experience. You get to show off your expertise first-hand and get the chance to understand the questions, concerns, and needs of your customers first hand.

However, actually running a successful webinar is likely the most complicated piece of content on this list. It may take some time to find the right platform and equipment to suit your needs, not to mention refining your presentation and visuals. Start small, adapt other content you already have, and stick to what you know. And to sweeten the deal, maybe even include some of your other lead magnets as sign-up bonuses if they work with the webinar topic.

Preparing to collect leads

We’ve spent a lot of time going over the types of lead magnets you can create. An equally vital component is preparing to collect and sort through all of your leads. We won’t get too specific today, but here are a few things you should consider before launching your lead magnet.

Landing page

You need somewhere to host your lead magnet and embed a sign-up form. While you’ll want to eventually make these downloads a permanent part of your website, it’s much easier to start with a tool that specializes in quickly creating landing pages. Unbounce and a number of other platforms are inexpensive tools that can help you get the job done.

Then it’s up to you to create just the right layout, call to action, and content on the page. You can check out our guide on developing a coming soon landing page for more insights.

Gather and sort leads

We’ve mentioned it before, but one of the worst things you can do is get someone to submit a form and not have a way to follow-up immediately. Or even if you do follow-up, if you can’t sort through and organize these contacts, you’ll quickly find yourself losing conversations and drowning in emails. Prepare for this ahead of time with a system that can organize and automatically send out emails from the start.

Mailchimp, Hubspot, and even Outpost are all great services that can help keep your communications organized and running. If you can, try and choose a tool that can help you develop landing pages and collect your leads. It will save you the hassle of navigating two separate platforms.

Promoting your content

The way you promote your new lead magnets is totally up to you, your business strategy, and your overall marketing budget. If you decide to put any money behind paid ads or social promotion, start small and prioritize channels where your audience already interacts with you. From there, find ways to optimize your spending, message, and even your landing page to reinforce why someone should fill out a form to get this specific piece of content. 

Lead magnets are a powerful tool that takes time to develop

Lead magnets can be an inexpensive and long-term method for generating sales if you provide something valuable and prioritize your audience. You can’t just put something out there and expect results, it takes time and refinement to create something that truly resonates. But once you establish a system and find content that successfully converts, you’ll be able to use it potentially for years to come.

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AvatarSneha Jagtap

Content Marketer at Freshproposals — A Proposal Software. You will find my blogs mostly on SEO, Digital Marketing, Email Marketing, etc. I love meeting new people, they bring new joy, colors, and beauty to my life. Besides that, I have good vocals. Singing Can Make Me Forget My Problems.