Lead Magnets: Email List Building on Steroids

Lead Magnets: Email List Building on Steroids

More than 95% of your visitors won’t buy anything on their first visit. They’re either just browsing, still in the research phase or not entirely sure yet your offer is what they need.  It takes time to build trust, instill confidence and build a relationship.

So if we _know_ that the overwhelming majority won’t buy anything on their first visit, why push it? You’re just going to turn them away faster.

Instead, you should try to capture their email address and start forming a relationship. Money is in the list, as they say – and they’re right.

Having an attractive lead magnet will accelerate your email list building like it’s on steroids.

If you’re currently getting 5 subscribers a day, and you’re able merely increase it to 8 per day – the difference in 30 days would be almost a hundred new subscribers (150 vs 250). If even small improvements like that can make a difference, imagine what a killer magnet can do for your list building.

What are lead magnets?

A lead magnet is the (free) offer you make to get visitors’ email addresses.

Getting their email is a transaction. You want their email, so you have to offer something they want in return. Your job is to sell the idea of subscribing to your list, and you need an attractive offer to do it.

If what you offer is something people want and it seems to be worth going through the hassle (typing the email address, worrying about spam etc), you will get their email.

The speed of your list building depends mostly on the lead magnet. Lousy, unattractive lead magnet = very few sign-ups. Attractive lead magnet = tons of sign-ups.

Yes, the design, location and usability of the email capture form all matter – but the lead magnet is what makes the biggest difference.

This is NOT a lead magnet:

Nothing magnetic about it. No reason whatsoever given for joining. Probably a good indicator that they don’t take email marketing seriously.

This is a lead magnet:

There’s a clear offer in place and its communicating the value subscriber will receive. It has a somewhat spammy feel to it (a bit much hype), but all in all it’s pretty good.

Naturally you need to deliver on your promise of value. Under delivering will result in useless emails – money is not just in the list, but in the relationship with your list. You want to have an impressive start.

How to build an attractive lead magnet

Your goal is to come up with a magnet that makes them super excited.

Ask yourself: what’s the one thing that would be insanely useful to your audience, and that you could even charge money for (but won’t)?

The truth is that a lot of websites try to capture leads. Many have a lead magnet in place, and out of those most offer “free reports” or whitepapers. “Me-too” is a terrible strategy and you don’t want to sound like everyone else (“Get 7 tips to …”).

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Be a rebel and a contrarian. See what your competitors are doing, and do something different.

5 steps to an attractive magnet

Understanding what your ideal customer wants is essential and goes without saying. You want people to go through the lead magnet, and learn something – gain something useful, experience “aha” moments.

The bigger the positive impact of your lead magnet, the better push you have given the prospect down your sales funnel.

Take your current lead magnet or the new idea that you have for one and check it against this list, and improve it.

  1. It has to add as much value as possible. The better the offer, the more people will take it. A free car to every subscriber? That’d be a guaranteed 90+ percent conversion (there are always skeptics that won’t believe a good offer when they see one). As this one is not that targeted and might get a bit expensive, try something less extravagant – but start with the best possible idea and downgrade from there, rather than thinking what’s one notch above “join to get free updates”.
  2. For free, really!? I want that! That’s the reaction you want them to have when they see it. Emotional reaction is very important.
  3. Be ready to work hard. There are no shortcuts. The more effort you put in, the better the outcome. If you want to create a killer magnet, be ready to sweat.
  4. Do not lie or set false expectations. Nothing worse than broken promises. Fool me once, shame on me. And I won’t risk being shamed twice.
  5. Is this really the best possible idea? Look at the lead magnet idea you’ve got and ask yourself whether it’s possible to come up with a better one? If yes, go back to 1.

Building the best possible magnet takes time. It’s okay to start with something NOT as good as it ideally could be – so you can capture at least some emails while you’re working on the killer magnet. That one will take time, and you’d  just be losing the visitors that are coming now if you have nothing while you are working.

Temporary solutions have the annoying ability to become permanent ones. Don’t settle for a mediocre magnet.

How to structure the offer

Start with the hook: why this should be important to them. Craft a benefit-oriented headline.

  • Promise: what they’ll get when they subscribe
  • Connect: why you created this and for whom
  • Key points: issues & solutions, could be in bullets
  • Call to action: what they should do next

Don’t ask them to fill in too many fields. In most cases just email is enough. Read this post about the design of the form.

Your magnet as a sieve

You don’t want the magnet to be attractive to everyone, just your ideal clients.

Sure, you could give free movie tickets for anyone who joins your list, but how many of them will want to buy your product? Lead quality is very important and you only want to focus on your target group. Offer something that clearly leads to your product.

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Make the magnet highly specific to your target clients. Try to come up with  ways that it would turn off the rest. Being ultra-specific is the best way to capture a specific audience (e.g. “If you’re a left-handed single woman in Minnesota, you owe it to yourself to watch this”).

Turning leads into customers

Most sites on the internet convert at less than 5%. This means that 95% (and more) are not buying your stuff on their first visit.

Selling is often about trust and relationship building.  The process of relationship building is essential to getting the customer to trust you, to try out your product without the pressure of a tough sell, and to form a marketing relationship that will allow you to later sell to your customers.

In order for this to work you need to send them something that adds value and helps subscribers make a positive purchasing decision. And eventually you will ask for the sale.

When should you ask for the sale?

There is no one right answer.

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The internet is filled with claims that it takes 7 touchpoints (e.g. emails) before they’re ready to buy. This originates from the late internet marketer Corey Rudl (he passed away 2005) who said that he had to connect with a customer at least 7 times via email before they were willing to purchase his online marketing courses.

That worked for him in his business, which doesn’t mean it will work for you. Above all make sure you’ve added value, proven your expertise and influenced the purchasing decision in a positive way.

Consider product complexity and price

The more complex and/or expensive the product, the more time and information prospects need before they’re ready to commit. It’s all about risk.

If the product is a box of matches, it’s very easy to understand and very cheap. Low risk. People can make a decision immediately.

There is no simple formula to figure out the optimal sales cycle (you can hire a bunch of McKinsey consultants, if you like), you have to base it on observations and testing.

How to test the length of the sales cycle

An easy way to go about it is by split testing. Use the exact same offer to get them to opt-in, but add them to different lists (or use a different reference code, some identifier).

Have a different drip email campaign (autoresponder sequence) in place for each, varying the messages and the time before you ask for the sale.

You should measure sales conversions within a time period to determine which one works better.

Ideas for a lead magnets

People often ask me for ideas – what should someone use as a magnet? You can usually create pretty awesome stuff with the essentials and proven angles: root causes for clients’ problems along with solutions, useful findings and research data, personal stories and client case studies.

If you want more, here is a short list of suggestions for different categories, so you can get the idea and get the ball rolling. All of the listed items are what you’d give  in exchange for an email address.


These are coaches, trainers, consultants and everybody else who sells intellectual capital.

  • E-books and whitepapers
  • Minicourses via email
  • Video or video series
  • Audo recording, podcast
  • (Free education in any format)
  • Free course / webinar
  • Assessment or test


Getting the very first purchase is the biggest challenge. This is especially true for smaller stores that the buyer has never heard of. If their first buying experience is positive, they’re much more likely to repeat it.

  • Free coupon
  • Free shipping
  • Free gift with the first order
  • Educational content on how to achieve / build stuff with what you sell
  • Guide to saving money when shopping for X
  • Membership (make prospects feel special, invite them into your VIP group that provides bonuses, advice etc)
  • Educational material related to the need they will solve with your product.

Service business

Hair salons, vets, plumbers, mechanics and others who trade parts and labor for money.

  • Free coupons
  • Educational content for DIY projects
  • How to be a smart buyer of X
  • Things you need to know before buying Y
  • Free online tools (home decor planner, pet optimal nutrition calculator, car online custom tuning etc)


  • Free trial
  • Freemium account
  • Demo
  • Get the user in and doing stuff, ask for the email to save (check out how Codecadamy is doing it)

How test a lead magnet ideas (before creating them)

I’ve covered this before in another post, but it’s very important to outline again.

Way before you come up with a couple of magnet ideas to test on your site, you can do a lot of pre-work. The risk of immediately running with the first ideas is that you might end up putting in a lot of effort to develop the content for the magnets, and in the end nobody wants it. To avoid this possible waste, use this process.

The process of coming up with attractive lead magnets

Before you start, you need to think hard about your customers, their end goals and how you can help them.

  1. Start brainstorming ideas on your own. There’s strong some evidence that group brainstorming results in  fewer (and lower quality) ideas.
  2. Write the better ideas down, and format them as headlines or value propositions (e.g. “21 ways to lose 10 pounds in 2 weeks”, “8 things that better leaders do differently”).
  3. Scrap the crappy ones, select the best 6 to 10 ideas. Write them down on a single sheet of paper.
  4. Next up: survey your ideal customers (the more the better, statistical significance matters). Use face-to-face meetings or Google Docs Forms. The best way to find them is to turn to your existing / former customers. Ask them which option are they most interested in (which article they’d most like to read, which video they’d want to watch etc) from the list.
  5. Now you get some winners, and you can actually create those lead magnets (the actual content, tool or whatever it is). Put them up on your site, and split test them against each other. If no idea gets an overwhelmingly warm reception, go back to the drawing board.

Killer lead magnet examples

Here are some great lead magnet examples to get your creative juices flowing:



  • Clear value proposition
  • Emphasis on exclusivity, making the free offer seem limited and valuable
  • Confidence boost via logos
  • Overlays / popups can be highly effective

Hubspot Marketing Grader


  • People just  love tests and assesments. This one grades your website marketing efforts, compares it to the competition and gives you suggestions for improvement. Pretty irresistible.
  • Social proof via social media numbers

The One Question


  • Highly specific, catering to a particular need
  • Again, people love tests

Disclaimer: the site is mine. Which is how I know it converts very well (~30%)

Independent Practice Growth UK


  • While this magnet has several problems (design, readability, length, number of fields), I like it because it’s specific: a marketing book for opticians. Nobody but opticians would be interested in it.
  • It’s a physical book. Definitely more attractive than a pdf.
  • Clear value proposition.

Timothy Sykes


  • Clear value proposition, great layout
  • Strong proof and trust elements

General Linguistics


  • Simple, clear value proposition
  • Specific to the target audience

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Join the Conversation Add Your Comment

  1. Thanks for sharing this! Greadt advice and well explained – I find it very helpful and will use it! :)
    I wish you all the best!

  2. Howdy Peep

    Great post and I’ve been toying with the idea of “join our mailing list get X discount” etc and this post will spur me on to do some testing :-)

  3. Just thought you might want to know that the Jonah Lehrer article you referenced is incorrect and has been proven so by many in the industry of creative problem solving. The research Lehrer cited did not prove that group brainstorming does not work. In actuality, its construct validity has been questioned. Of fact, other scholars have pointed out that Lehrer “cherry-picked” his data from Nemeth, et al’s study “The liberating role of conflict in group creativity: A study in two countries”.
    Enjoyed the post very much, but wanted to correct you on that particular point since I am a scholar in creativity and creative problem solving methodology. Group Brainstorming does work, effectively if one follows Osborn’s formula.

    Be well,
    Lane Watson

  4. Just signed up for your newsletter – the pop-up box in the lower right is what got me. Is that a plugin?

    1. Peep Laja

      Yup. Qoate Scroll Triggered Box

  5. Amazingly helpful article – this is what ‘epic content’ looks like

  6. Hi Peep! Awesome blog! Do you know any free plugins that would enable me to implement a scroll triggered box?

    1. Thanks a lot for this Peep, I’ve set up this plugin now on my site http://www.evaneverman.com

      Do you know of anything similar for a non-WordPress site? I want to have a similar scroll-triggered box on a standard long-form sales letter landing page.


    2. Peep Laja

      Any coder with some jQuery knowledge will be able to create it. Go to elance.

  7. Your timing is perfect. We’re about to rebuild our site so this will be a great reference for me!

  8. This is THE best article I’ve read on lead magnet creation. This is some good stuff. I love your blog dude!

  9. Loved this article, I will put many of your points into use. Thank you!

  10. Super helpful article. It wouldn’t have been nearly as good without the last examples and screenshots of each site. I know that takes a lot of time to do, it was worth it.

    It’s still hard to think of good lead magnets…I guess I’ll get better as I test them out.

  11. I have 4 main topics for my website

    Should I create 4 different lead magnets for each topic group

    Or just 1 lead magnet for the whole site ?

    1. Hey Charles, why not test both strategies and see which works better for you?

      My instinct says go with the more 1:1 approach that will help match user intent (going to a specific category) with a targeted offer (specific lead magnet) while they may take a little more time to produce, specific lead magnets will give you a MUCH clearer understanding of who your visitors are & what they want.

    2. So if your creating all these specific lead magnets for each topic,

      on the back end in Infusion Soft are they being added to a specific list with its own email series or just the main list

  12. Peep, You Rock! I’m so gald I found you cause I see your way of thinking about lead magnets very similar to mine.

  13. Peep – I’ve been following your work for the past 1.5 years. Not sure if this is my first time commenting or not, but once again, great work. There are only a handful of sources with reliably good content for me. You are one of them.



  14. Peep! I keep going back to this article for inspiration man so thank you! We just launched Marketing Market, think Themeforest for lead magnets. Check it out, we think it would make a great addition to this article!


    Thanks for all the kickass content man!

  15. certainly like your web-site however you need to check the spelling on several of your
    posts. Many of them are rife with spelling problems and
    I in finding it very bothersome to inform the reality nevertheless I’ll surely come back again.

  16. Thank you for a great post Peep! I’m currently writing an ultimate guide to affiliate marketing for my blog. I’ll be linking to this post.

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