What is a lead magnet and how does it grow my email list?

How to create lead magnets to build your list

What is a lead magnet?

If you are looking to convert your website visitors into paying customers, it all starts with irresistible lead magnets and an email list.

A lead magnet can also be called a freebie, freemium, bonus download, opt-in, irresistible offer, signup incentive, compelling bribe, content upgrade, and so on. 

Regardless of what you call it, a lead magnet is simply something that you give away for free in exchange for someone's name and email address.

You may have heard one or more of these terms thrown around on a blog post that you read or on a recent webinar.

But - let's face it - it isn't immediately clear how to create lead magnets and why they are crucial to building your list.

So, I wrote this article to break it all down for you. I'll answer the following questions:

  • Why do you need lead magnets? 
  • How can you use lead magnets as powerful email list builders?
  • What's the best way to set up opt-in forms? 
  • What criteria will make my lead magnet convert well?
  • How can I test my lead magnets?

Why you need lead magnets

When people visit your website to read something on your blog or watch a video you've uploaded, the majority of your visitors won't be ready to buy anything from you.

With the incredible amount of information people are bombarded with, we all have the attention span of a gnat on meth.

This ADHD, gnat-like lack of focus means that - on a whim - we will click on another tab that is open on our browser and chase down some fascinating social media post that quickly takes us down the Internet rabbit hole (cats riding on Roomba, anyone?).

And, of course, we completely forget about what we were just doing.  

In fact, statistics show more than 70% of the people who visit your website will never come back. You can take a look at your own analytics and figure out how many visitors you are getting each day vs. how many buy from you - it's a little staggering (and depressing) once you calculate the numbers of potential leads lost.

This is why - when people visit your site - that you must make it your top priority to capture their name and emails using a lead magnet (or you may never see them again because they are off watching videos of little goats screaming MaaaaaMaaaaaa!)

Note to self: Do not click on goat videos. They waste time.

Note to self: Do not click on goat videos. They waste time.

Benefits of lead magnets

Lead magnets - done right - convert your website visitors into warm leads on your list. And they have a much higher conversion rate than the standard "subscribe to our newsletter" or "sign up to get updates." 

What's more, lead magnets also set you up as an influencer in your niche because you are showing your audience that you have a lot of knowledge and can provide them with information they need to solve their problem.

As a result of providing a helpful lead magnet that solves a problem, you build people's respect, trust, and loyalty. You start to become the person they turn to when they are looking for an expert in your niche.

So, your goal is to make your lead magnets that are so compelling and irresistible, that your website and blog visitors simply must download it.  


Bonus: Grab my popular "Lead Magnet Checklist"
to make sure your lead magnets are irresistible!

Enter your information below to download your free checklist

lead magnet checklist

The people who are visiting your website have basically just raised their hand and said to you "Hey, you're interesting. I dig you and what you have to offer." 

And by getting these interested people to subscribe to your list, you can send them emails with new content and updates about your offerings. Over time, you build a relationship with your email subscribers so they begin to know, like, and trust you.

Then, when these people who LIKE you are ready to buy, they'll buy from YOU!

Once they are on your list, you can continue to email individuals even after they've become customers. When you continue to nurture the relationship, your list of people will will buy from you – not just once – but again and again and again.

This is why your email list is an asset in your business with a HUGE return on investment. The more people you have on your list, the more money you can make in your business.

And it all starts with those irresistible lead magnets. 

Step 1: Define your ideal customer

To get the most out of your lead magnet, make sure you start by defining your ideal client. I know, I know, everyone talks about this. 

But that's because it's so damn important. 

When you are clear on the type of person you want to attract, all of your marketing becomes easier. And, you can create lead magnets that are tailored exactly to them.

To define your ideal customer, get as much clarity as you possibly can about who they are and what their life is like right now.

Questions that you can answer include:

  • What is their age, gender, education, location, income, family size, and so on?
  • What is their situation in life? 
  • What is making them suffer right now?
  • How do I solve their suffering?

Create a persona and then give her or him a name. Ideally, everything you write and create should speak to a single person.

For example, a fitness trainer might write the following about her ideal customer:

Maria is a 44-year-old married mother of two teenagers. In the last 15 years, being a mom and working has given her little time to work out and she doesn't eat very well. She tends to grab a lot of fast food because it's quick and easy. And she eats lots of sweets in the evening. Maria is very sendentary and has tried multiple diets without success. She is currently 75 pounds overweight. Maria is ready to make huge changes in her diet and exercising habits. She is tired of feeling unattractive and not having much energy.  

If I were working with this fitness trainer on developing a marketing strategy, I would probably tell her to keep going and get as much clarity as possible about who Maria is and what she needs to get rid of her pain.

Once you have this clarity, you will be able to create lead magnets that are hyper relevant to your core audience and get them on your list. 

Step 2: Build an email list

I mention this step in case some of you reading this post are just starting your business or are just beginning to build a list.

As I mentioned above, I believe an email list is one of the biggest assets you can build in your business. And, while social media platforms are important tools for promoting your content and offerings, you don't own them. All those followers you've built on Instagram or Facebook or LinkedIn could go away tomorrow (for instance, what's a following on Friendster or MySpace doing for you these days?)

You have no control over what happens to social media sites. But, your email list is all yours, baby. So, if Pinterest decides to change all of their algorithms so that only 10 people see your pins unless you pay them a lot of money (Facebook did the same thing recently), you have people on your list filled with your loving fans who will open your emails and read your important updates. 

In order to build an email list, you have to have an email service provider.

There are many different options, but I’ll recommend my favorites:

If you are on a tight budget, you can use MailChimp (it’s free for up to 2,000 subscribers).

Or you can use what I use: ConvertKit. I like ConvertKit better than MailChimp because you can easily:

  • deliver lead magnets to your audience and tag the lead as interested (over time, this will help you know what your customers are most interested in)
  • create many different types of forms for your website and blog
  • get great form stats to see which convert best
  • segment your subscribers based on which lead magnets they download
  • build multiple automated email sequences (super important as your funnels get more sophisticated)

In addition, ConvertKit has a dedicated deliverability team to make sure that emails get into inboxes (instead of junk folders). This means that the people who opted into your list are more likely to see all of that important content you send them!

Step 3: Set up opt-in forms

Of course, to collect your website visitors' names and email addresses, you'll also need a forms on your website where people can sign up to receive your lead magnets. 

I recommend you integrate opt-in forms in at least five places on your website. That may sound like a lot, but it's that important. 

In particular, you'll want to have a very prominent opt-in box with a main call to action that is located at the very top of your home page.

Here is an example of my Home page. 

You want the copy in your opt-in form to be fun and engaging. It should immediately explain the benefits to your audience right in the copy. Words such as "Sign up for my free download" aren't going to work very well to convert. Instead hook them in with words that are unique to your brand, personality, and style. 

And make sure your button's call to action (CTA) compels your visitors to click it. Instead of "Click here to subscribe," other examples that I've pulled from a variety of websites include:

  • Get started
  • Find out more
  • Heck Yes!
  • Yes please
  • I want it
  • Give me my checklist
  • Yasssss
  • Join the free workshop
  • Grab the template

That should give you the idea. Use a CTA on your button that gets attention from your visitors.

Your next question will probably be, "What color should my button be?"

Wellll, the verdict is kind of out on that one. Lots of people have lots of opinions on the best color

So, the best advice I can give you on this one - because there is no one right color - is to use a color that stands out on your background color so it gets noticed. And, then you can always test. For instance, I used orange on my CTA button in the example above, but red might also work well. 

You can have opt-in forms for your lead magnets anywhere on your website (and should have them in as many places as possible). Areas you can include opt-in forms include:

  • Above your header as a floating bar (also called a hello bar).
  • In your main navigation
  • In your footer
  • As a slide-in form on one or more pages.
  • As a scroll box on your blog and/or website.
  • In the sidebar of your website and/or blog
  • At the bottom or middle of blog posts
  • Pages on your website
  • On dedicated landing pages 

You may want to consider pop-up opt-in forms or sliding opt-in forms. You can use Opt-in Monster for $9/month.

You can also try a Scroll Box or Welcome Mat, which many people consider more polite. SumoMe has a great Scroll Box and Welcome Mat that you can try for free.  

And look, before you respond “But, I don’t want to annoy people.”

I get it.

Many people are worried about adding pop-in type forms to their website.

But listen – test after test show they convert well. Higher conversion means you get more people on your list. More people on your list means a higher ROI (i.e. more money in your bank account).

So, I recommend you seriously consider these types of forms as an option to grow your list faster.

Install them, test them, and if your conversion rates go up (i.e. you get more subscribers than you did when you weren’t using them), then keep them!

Examples of opt-in forms

Here's an example from JJ Virgin, a health and fitness coach.  

Lead magnet example

I think this works really well in calling our her ideal client - a person who is feeling sick, tired, and fat. She has an entire online program that focuses on controlling sugar to help people lose belly fat and have more energy, so this seems like a perfect lead magnet to get an audience on her list who would ultimately be likely to buy from her.

Here is another example from Brian Tracy, a sales trainer and personal success consultant.

Lead magnet example

In this example, you can see that it is targeted at people who want to get known as a speaker (but currently define themselves as a novice). Brian offers workshops on learning to be a public speaker, so the people who subscribe to his lead magnet are a good fit for his offering. 

Hopefully, that will provide you with some great information to get you moving on your opt-in forms.

Step 4: Create your lead magnet

This is the step you've been waiting for! 

Since you've completed your ideal client profile and understand their pain points, it should be fairly easy to create something that will help them out. 

The main thing to remember is that your lead magnets are NOT about you. They are about your potential customers. (That's why Step 1: Define your ideal customer is so important!)

You are the expert in your niche, so show, teach, give them the information that they need to reach a little more success in the area that is causing them problems. 

That said, here are some specific questions that can help you create lead magnets that are irresistible to your ideal customers: 

  1. What information is insanely valuable to my specific audience? 
  2. What is my customer's big challenge and how can I help them overcome it?
  3. How can I make it easy to implement and immediately actionable?
  4. Can I break down the solution to their problem into easy-to-implement bits?
  5. What can I do to motivate my visitors to take action?
  6. What does my ideal customer need to move them toward their goals?

Point number one above is very important. Always follow the value so that you are sure to develop the best lead magnets for your site visitors. This is what will bring you the highest conversions.

When you are creating your lead magnet, you want to be as specific as possible. Instead of a "Guide to Organizing Your House," offer a "Organizing the Kids: Free Printable Chore Charts." See how much more helpful the second choice is in helping people take a small step toward success? 

Also, when you create your lead magnets, think about how you will warm your lead up for something you want to sell them down the road. Your lead magnets should be related to an eventual offer that you will be making them at some point.

In general, your lead magnet should take 10 minutes or less for your subscriber to consume (exceptions might include a Webinar or audio interview). And it should be fairly simple for you to create.

Step 5: Test your lead magnet

The surest way to know if your lead magnet will convert well is to get it out in the world. However, I know that if you are just starting out, that can be a little scary.

So, if you want to try it on a smaller level, you can send it out to a small group of existing customers to get their feedback. Or, if you have business friends, you can give it to them (even if they are in a different industry) for their overall thoughts.

Another way to get feedback is to post it in a Facebook group and get the members' opinions on it. (You are warmly invited to my group, Profitable Online Entrepreneurs. I'm happy to give you feedback and so are the many kind members!)

At some point, you'll have to make it live. As with all marketing materials, testing and improving is your path to success. Over time, you will learn which of your lead magnets get downloaded the most and what engages your audience the most. 

Get started creating your lead magnets as soon as you can to build your list and grow your impact and revenue. And, just think about all of the leads you'll be able to generate if you have lead magnets on multiple places on your website, as well as all of the blog posts you've written in the past!

Any questions? Post in the comment below!


Bonus: Grab my popular "Lead Magnet Checklist"
to make sure your lead magnets are irresistible!

Enter your information below to download your free checklist

Lead magnet checklist