How to Craft Lead Magnets Your Customers Can’t Ignore

lead magnet

Getting traffic to your site is nice, but there’s not much of a point if those visitors don’t convert.

There’s one tactic I use above all others to generate new leads:

A lead magnet.

But, ‘lead magnets’ aren’t some newfangled tech trend. They’ve been an essential component in an advertiser’s arsenal for decades.

You give people something for free in exchange for an email and permission that you can continue sending them more stuff. So it’s like the catalyst for a new customer relationship in the end.

But not all lead magnets work the same. There are a few common mistakes that I see marketers make that completely sabotages their efforts.

Let’s see how to use lead magnets to transform complete strangers into loyal customers.

How ‘Lead Magnets’ Can Build Your Business

The lure of ‘free’ is incredibly powerful according to Predictably Irrational author, Dan Ariely.

He proved this with a simple experiment. He gave groups of people the option to select from different Amazon gift cards. Respondents could choose from receiving either:

  1. A $10 Amazon gift card for free, or
  2. A $20 Amazon gift card for only $7.

If you were to look at that objectively, based on cold hard math, you’d see that the second option was the better value ($13 vs. $10).

But check out the third column on the far right to see which one won:

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It wasn’t even close! Everyone sampled chose the free $10 option instead.

Ariely calls this the Zero-Price Effect because humans don’t see the downside to something that’s free.

Ariely then proved this with a related experiment. They staged a promotion for free tattoos and had people line up outside the store.

These people were waiting in line with full knowledge of what they were doing.

And yet when Ariely asked them if they’d be waiting to get the same tattoo if it wasn’t free, 68% of respondents said no!

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In other words, these people taking time out of their busy schedule to commit permanent ink to their skin simply because it was free.

Good lead magnets, when done correctly, have the same effect (albeit without the same long-lasting effects).

They pass along a useful ebook, webinar, or email course, asking for very little (if anything) in return from visitors.

You leverage this intoxicating power of free to kickstart the first step in your customer value optimization process.

But here’s the thing:

Lead magnets are nothing new.

They get a lot of attention today because of how persuasive and powerful they can be.

Yet, this strategy of using free information to get what you want has been around for a long, long time.

Tell me if this ad looks familiar:

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That’s one of the most iconic ad headlines of all time.

The backstory is that it’s actually from 1927!

It’s advertising a free pamphlet that people could send away for (you know, in the actual physical mail).

Lead magnets have evolved a little since then, of course. The best ones are so laser-targeted that they can single-handedly be the difference between a 20% opt-in rate and a measly ~3% one.

One of the best ways to incorporate them today is with a content upgrade. People are already on your site, seeking something out.

Think about it:

They went to Google and typed in something specific to end up on your blog post.

A lead magnet could just sweeten the pot at this point for them, providing additional insight on the same exact topic they were just reading about.

Brian Dean used the content upgrade strategy to boost his conversions by 785% in one day.

Brian Harris of Video Fruit is seeing a 20-30% opt-in rate from blog posts where he links not one, not two, but three times to his lead magnet.

For example, the first comes right in the introduction:

Then he follows up that up with another two more for good measure down at the bottom:


The blog post goes through an in-depth analysis about how content upgrades can get you more leads. And then it distils those insights and actionable tips down so that you can easily start implementing the same tactics on your site (after downloading the lead magnet, of course).

But if you want to see these same Video Fruit-level results, your lead magnet has to abide by a few rules. There are a few prerequisites it needs to hit to make sure it doesn’t fall flat on launch day.  

The form or medium doesn’t matter necessarily. Instead, success typically comes down to a few key ingredients:

  1. Does your audience care about it?
  2. Is there value to it?
  3. Does it solve a problem and/or give the audience something they need?

So how do you figure those things out?

Let’s dive into what the best lead magnets have in common to find out.

How to Get Inside the Minds of Your Customers

Saying you need to “know your audience” at this point sounds obvious and trite. But, it’s one of those things that everyone talks about, without actually living up to it.

The big clue is in the reception. If your digital copies aren’t flying off the shelf when it goes live, your issue typically comes back to a mismatch with your audience.

Thankfully, this can be an easy fix if you know where to look.

Start by looking for what people are already paying for.

That might sound counterintuitive because lead magnets are free.

However, if someone is willing to part with their hard earned cash for something, it’s a sure sign that they’re committed.

For example, one of my favorite places to start is the Kindle Marketplace.

Let’s say I’m about to create a lead magnet in an industry I know nothing about: Cooking. (Seriously, nothing.)

I could guess or make a few assumptions about which cooking lead magnet would work best. Or I could simply head on over to the Kindle Marketplace and see what’s already working well.

It’s not just the topic you’re looking for at this point, but also the ‘format’ that resonates with an audience.

Here’s what I mean.

Go to the Amazon Kindle Marketplace and start by looking at the sidebar on the left-hand side. There, you’ll find all the book categories, and then subcategories upon subcategories upon subcategories. (In other words, drilling down to find your niche and your audience.)

Here’s what the bestsellers look like in the European cooking and food:
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Ok, now we’re getting somewhere.

Most are unsurprisingly recipe books. However, that first one is especially interesting.

It’s an “Instant Pot Cookbook,” which means the people buying it are looking for instant gratification: a no-mess, no-fuss meal that basically cooks itself.


That tells you a lot about the audience and what their preferences are. The “Air Fryer” one on the far right is another variation on the same style of cookbook.

So these people might be looking for a new recipe cookbook, but that doesn’t mean they want some haute cuisine one that requires working like crazy in for hours in the kitchen every single night.

Instead, these (presumably) busy workaholics or parents (which are basically the same thing) just want something relatively delicious and quick.

Next, the trick is to put something together that’s like these examples but somehow different, better, or unique.

For example, let’s dive a little deeper into books reviews to see what they say.

Here’s a positive review to kick things off:

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Awesome! Two of our assumptions are already being proved correct.

People like this example because it provides recipes that are “quick to prepare,” which means it’s perfect for “busy moms.”

Busy moms might be foodies. However, foodies probably aren’t going to be buying this book.

So that completely changes how you might create, package, design, and even promote this ebook already.

Positive reviews are helpful to start with, but many times you can learn more from negative reviews. Check this out:

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First, the organization and table of contents for this book aren’t up to snuff for this reviewer. They’re even giving you the answer here, too: “… organizing the dishes into categories or even providing an index.”

Good ideas! And typically these are the little details that you or I wouldn’t have thought of because we might not be experts on cooking already.

However, a little bit of research has already revealed a few nuggets of wisdom.

Then, this reviewer goes on to complain about some of the editing and attention to detail towards the bottom.

Easy — let’s also have a subject-matter expert help edit this work to make sure accuracy (which is critical in cooking) is on point.

How to Use Audience Feedback and Behavior to Further Refine Your Idea

Now let’s take this one step further by simply asking the audience which versions of our idea they’d prefer.

For example, write up a simple blog post that explains what you’re thinking about creating and ask for ideas or improvements.

This does two things at the same time:

  1. It helps you get feedback to incorporate into the creation of your lead magnet.
  2. And it helps you ‘seed’ the market so that people are already primed to download it when you push the lead magnet live.

Soliciting feedback from people who aren’t yet on your email list can help you better understand how to get them on the list eventually. Here’s what I mean.

Take this post on how an Instagram user generated more than $300,000.

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If you take a close look at the comments section of the post, you’ll find a couple of readers asking about how the Instagram user made her lists.

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Multiple people are now requesting the same information in the comments, which means there must be built-in demand for this information.

Lead magnets are ‘free,’ but users still have to part with their precious contact info. They won’t do that for just anything.

So you need to create content that interests the audience.

Let’s check out Google Analytics to see which pages (and topics) are performing best:

Start by segmenting all your posts into categories.

Sometimes your site already has this done if you included categories in your URL string. For example, Unbounce uses the category “PPC” in this blog post:

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So you can search for URLs in your most popular content that feature “/PPC/.”

You’ve now painstakingly compiled all kinds of insight into what your customers want. Your next job should be insanely easy at this point: Simply give them what they’re asking for!

How to Avoid These Common Mistakes When Crafting the Perfect Lead Magnet

Your lead magnet is just the first step in a long journey. That gives you a Catch-22 because it means your lead magnet needs to:

  1. Grab attention and interest to get people to opt-in, but also
  2. Link back to your primary product or service offerings to eventually convert them.

Creating something that accomplishes both of those goals isn’t easy. And there are a few ways to trip up during this process.

The first pitfall to avoid is being too vague.

Picture someone on your site reading your perfectly-crafted blog post about the latest trends in European cooking when a pop-up appears offering a printable “Be a Better Cook” guide.

Huh? That generic printed piece of paper is going to make them a better cook? How?

No thank you.

But what if it was a printable checklist on the “Ten Top-Rated Dinner Recipes from France and Italy?”

Now imagine you visit the landing page for Digital Agency Day because you want to see when the upcoming date is to make sure you don’t miss any of the great information.

DigitalAgencyDay microsite cropped

You’re hemming and hawing about signing up for the live event because you’re not sure if you’ll be able to make it.

But then an exit overlay catches you before leaving, suggesting you sign up to receive the recordings when ready:

DAD overlay

Ok, that’s something you can get behind.

It’s specific and relevant, so it immediately makes sense.

So you’ll probably hand over your email.

It’s no surprise that this example resulted in a 19.03% conversion rate increase.

DAD Rooster results
The second pitfall is amateurish, low-quality production.

Remember the complaint on the first cookbook a few minutes ago? The poor organization and presentation detracted from the content and overall experience for that reviewer.Now imagine what happens if you gave your email just to get a downloaded guide filled with poor image quality and lots of typos. Same thing, right?

Now imagine what happens if you gave your email just to get a downloadable guide filled with poor image quality and lots of typos. Same thing, right?


The goal here is to get these users to move on from the freebie and eventually make a purchase. You can’t do that without a little attention to detail on what you are selling them.

Check out this checklist from Bryan Harris of Video Fruit.

Looks pretty snazzy, right? Not just another boring rundown filled with typos.

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Don’t have the design skills or manpower to get this done? Hire a professional from Dribbble or Behance.

If you just need a little extra help to enhance your own work, check out Beacon.

You can even hire a pro on Fiverr to do this for you, or you can do something similar by using a simple Google Doc. Check out my breakdown here on how to create a piece using effective headers, color, and layout.

The third and final deal breaker is if your lead magnet is worthless.In other words, there’s little-to-no value that makes it something people would actually pay for.

In other words, there’s little-to-no value that makes it something people would actually pay for.

How can you check this? Come up with a lead magnet that does one of two things:

  • It gives some sort of immediate value
  • It gives some sort of long-term value

For example, check out this 9-part lesson from Brennan Dunn:

Charge what youre worth course 1

It targets a massive pain point for freelancers (“charging what you’re worth”).

It’s incredibly detailed and in-depth (“9-lesson course”).

And there’s social proof that proves its value (“20,000 other freelancers”).

Brennan could easily charge for something like this and people would still buy it.

It’s that good.

Checklists or cheat sheets can provide immediate value by giving people something they could put to use, right now.

A longer multi-part course (like this example) or in-depth ebook can provide that long-term value people will reference for weeks (and months) to come.

Side-step these three issues and you won’t just churn out another ‘me-too’ lead magnet.

Instead, you’ll create a marketing asset that kicks off a long, profitable relationship with a new customer.


Lead magnets are one of the best ways to gather audience insight, generate leads, and even start the nurturing process to make the ultimate conversion (to revenue) easier.

Once they’ve signed up for the useful, relevant, and high-quality freebie, you establish yourself as a thought-leader on that topic and create a new customer relationship.

This means they’ll think of you when they need more information. They’ll come back for more. And they’ll come back to buy.

The good news is that these aren’t difficult to create, either. You just need to take the time to dive deep into what your customers want and what they don’t want.

Then all you have to do is give them exactly what they’re already asking for.

What is your favorite lead magnet example?