Most people used to be thrilled to receive anything via email. Two decades ago.

Today everybody’s inbox is so flooded with messages – both wanted and unwanted – that even being able to send your newsletter has become a privilege.

So, if you are a business willing to build a list for email marketing, how do you earn this privilege? How do you encourage more of your website visitors to become loyal subscribers?

Two words. Lead magnets.

What are lead magnets, anyway?

Lead magnet is a real buzzword these days, and you probably hear it a lot. That’s because using a lead magnet is known to be an excellent email opt-in conversion booster.

A lead magnet is a specifically targeted item that you promise in exchange for a sign-up. Something that can be delivered within a few minutes. Something irresistible. An ethical bribe if you will.

Crate & Barrel lead magnet

Crate&Barrel offers a 10% discount for a subscription

Adam Connell, the author of Blogging Wizard, states lead magnets can increase conversions by a factor of 7 and even more. Tim Soulo, the Head of Marketing at Ahrefs, shares a 300%-growth case study on his blog. If you’re still skeptical, read this post where Hubspot provides an impressive example of a 42% conversion rate achieved with the right lead magnet.

Can you imagine that? Almost half of all page visitors chose to subscribe.

Shane Barker lead magnet

Shane Barker, a digital marketer, offers a free 30-min consultation in exchange for a name and an email

When you think of options, almost anything can be a lead magnet: a tool, a guide, a cheat sheet, a discount, a demo version of your app, a webinar, a video course. And yes, even your time can become a lead magnet, should you be willing to provide consultations in exchange for an email.

Chances are, along the way you will have various incentives for your audience to subscribe, so when choosing the very first lead magnet, you should probably pick something you’re able to produce relatively fast – ideally, between a few hours and a couple of days.

How do you deliver a lead magnet?

Remember, I said lead magnets must be delivered instantly because that’s one of their key values? So, technically, there are two ways to do it.

#1. Use Benchmark Email autoresponder feature

This one is quite obvious. If you use marketing automation to send welcome emails, simply place a link to your promised lead magnet in the email body and schedule it to be sent instantly.

#2. Use a Success Page feature in your email list building tool

If you collect subscribers using email, contact, or survey forms by GetSiteControl (or any other lead generation app), you can redirect them to any URL after they share their address. It can be a hidden post on your blog, a page to download a lead magnet from, or even a link to a closed Facebook community you invite your fans to.

This is how you set up a success page to redirect your subscribers to in GetSiteControl

This is how you set up a success page to redirect your subscribers to in GetSiteControl

Tips for choosing a lead magnet

So… since there are so many lead magnet ideas to choose from, does it mean you can just pick any of them to create an incentive to subscribe?

Of course, not.

The key to creating a good lead magnet is precise targeting. You want to make sure you’re offering something your audience wants. Something to solve their “pain” quickly and efficiently.

And just like you take a serious approach to choose the right call to action, you should understand that not all the lead magnets might be equally effective.

If you have an e-commerce store, the first lead magnet idea you probably have is a discount. Or free shipping. But should it end there? And is it the best lead magnet for just anyone landing on your website? Let’s talk about this in the next few paragraphs.

Want to Build Your Email List Faster? 
Here is How to Choose the Right Lead Magnets

Tip #1. Identify your audience pain points

Regardless of what business you’re in, there must be few requests you repeatedly receive from your audience. Something that, if addressed, could make their life instantly easier, and something you are willing to give away.

Jeff Goins lead magnet

Jeff Goins, a best-selling author of 5 books, offers a free web masterclass for writers

If it’s not obvious to you, there are plenty of sources for inspiration: emails from customers, support tickets, comments on your posts, live chat conversations, discussions in the niche communities, or on even competitors’ websites.

Write down 3-5 problems your target audience mentions most frequently and pick one you could easily provide a solution for. That’s your lead magnet.

Tip #2. Avoid providing generic solutions to generic problems

As banal as this may sound, using a wrong format for a lead magnet is one of the biggest traps beginners fall into.

Remember, I asked you to find 3-5 “pain points” you could help your audience with? One mistake marketers make is combining solutions to several problems into one piece of content.

That’s how a potentially perfect lead magnet loses its specificity and becomes inefficient.

Compare the following incentives:

  • “Get a list of free tools for beginning online entrepreneurs”
  • “Get a list of 37 email templates for e-commerce I personally tested and recommend”

The first one might sound exciting at first, but unlike the second one, it doesn’t look like a specific “here and now” solution to a specific “here and now” problem. There are dozens of pain points a beginning entrepreneur has – how do we know this list addresses exactly what they are struggling with at the moment?

Muscle & Fitness lead magnet

After a sign-up, Muscle&Fitness blog instantly shows a set of exercises for the muscle groups you choose

Bottom line: don’t try to squeeze in too much information just for the sake of it. Boil down your expertise into one piece of content that provides a clear way to solve one particular problem.

Tip #3. Choose shorter formats over lengthy lead magnets

Less is more.

Yes, e-books used to be the most popular type of lead magnet. But are they still as efficient?

Let’s see.

Most e-books take forever to create, what’s more – they take forever to consume. At the same time, most people today anticipate immediate value and hate waiting. That’s why more often than not, bite-size pieces of information are more enticing than lengthy content or month-long courses.

Ready for the most important piece of advice? Trade size for relevancy. Because the more precisely targeted your lead magnet is, the better it will convert.

Here is how the lengthy “entrepreneur’s toolset” could be revised:

  • “Accounting checklist for a beginning entrepreneur” – offered on a page where you talk about bookkeeping, taxes, and financial advice for entrepreneurs.
  • “100 business blog ideas for the times you are out of ideas” – offered on a page where you talk about content marketing, blogging, and self-branding.
  • “My 10 favorite sources for getting free traffic that converts” – offered on any page related to traffic, conversion optimization, and marketing in general.

And if you doubt that creating a post-specific lead magnet is worth the effort, read how Brian Dean increased email opt-in conversion rate by 785% using exactly this method.

A quick note here. Lead magnets do not always have to be content in the form of ebooks or PDFs. The magnets you create can also be tightly knit to the product or service you are offering.

A free trial of the product (that captures the user’s contact info in exchange for access to your tool) is perhaps the most popular form of lead magnet. If you run an online product or SaaS company, you can create bite-sized reports or documents from your tool and provide it as exclusive content for your leads. You can perhaps create a microsite on WordPress or other platforms and hide the content behind an email capture form. This way, interested users sign up with their email in order to access this exclusive piece of content.

Tip #4. Ask your website visitors what they want

Have you ever thought of that? Because there are quite a few tools and plugins available today for surveying your audience, asking them what they want, and validating your ideas.

If you have a decent traffic volume on your website, that might be the easiest and the fastest way to choose a lead magnet.

An example of a GetSiteControl survey form

An example of a GetSiteControl survey form

You can use the Benchmark survey feature or one of the apps it integrates with, such as:

  • GetSiteControl
  • Survey Monkey
  • Wufoo
  • JotForms

Tip #5. Vary lead magnets for different funnel stages

Wait, aren’t lead magnets already part of the funnel converting website visitors into leads?

Well, it depends on how you attract the audience and what your sales funnel looks like. But if you think about it, offering various lead magnets to people on different stages of their customer journey might be quite reasonable.

Here is an example, explaining why a discount is not the ultimate lead magnet even for eCommerce stores.

Imagine, you sell organic detox juices online. To get traffic to your website, you actively employ content marketing techniques, so there are many educational articles about detoxification, eating clean, and DIY recipes on your blog.

Now, if you get this traffic organically, most people landing on these pages are probably on the awareness stage, right? Most probably, they don’t even know your brand yet, let alone thinking about making a purchase.

So, will a discount for your product or free shipping be the best incentive for them to subscribe? Probably. But chances are, at this stage, they might be even more incentivized to sign up in exchange for a detox grocery shopping checklist or a printable detox calendar.

Of course, you might want to test this assumption – and that brings us to the next chapter of this post. The key takeaway here is that thinking from a customer’s perspective might lead you to the conclusion, what they want is not always exactly what you initially wanted to offer.

Tip #6. A/B test your lead magnets

There is no way around it. At the end of the day, your lead magnet will either bring you new subscribers or it won’t.

And when starting your email list building journey, you may want to fully rely on some expert’s opinion. You may be bold and copy your competitor’s strategy. Or you may trust your intuition and try to guess.

The only legit way to find out what works and what doesn’t is to test it. Often, you’ll be surprised by the results as a lead magnet that took weeks to create might not perform as well as the one you created overnight.

Besides, remember, it’s not just the lead magnet itself you can test, it’s the call to action, the creative, and – yeah – the button color too. After all, you’ve already invested time and energy into creating a compelling incentive. It would be neglectful not to try and optimize it properly.

Do you use lead magnets to collect email subscribers? If not, what stops you? If yes, share your insights in the comments below.