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27 Lead Magnet Ideas to Grow Your Email List

Andrew Buck May 7, 2019

The results are in – email marketing is gold.

If you’re marketing for a website, a blog, an online business of any kind, you need to be using email.

If the statistics on email marketing ROI ($44 average return for every $1 spent) don’t excite you, it might be time to check your pulse.

While the digital marketing industry has matured, many marketing channels have risen up. Some have a legitimate claim to be the “best”, or most effective.

But none are as low-investment, high-return as email, which has stood the test of time for marketers.

The first step to getting started with email marketing? You need a list.

Cold emailing has a very low success rate and is just going to get your emails flagged as spam. Buying email lists is even worse.

You need a way to grow an email list of people who want to hear from you and have an interest in what you’re trying to sell.

That’s where lead magnets come into play.

What is a Lead Magnet?

No, it’s not the thing that sticks to your fridge.

A lead magnet is something – anything – that entices someone to sign up and join your email list.

Twenty years ago, it was pretty easy to get peoples’ emails. They figured, if you’re going to email them, it must be something pretty important.

But today, email has gained a reputation for spam, and people are less willing to put their email address out there.

That’s why you need to offer something compelling to encourage someone to sign up to your list.

Lead magnets are also referred to as “optin bait”, since they bait your readers into signing up for your list.

Ideally, as soon as someone lands on your website, you should start pushing them towards entering your sales funnel. But be delicate about it – no one likes being sold to.

A popup, welcome mat, or something like a sidebar or post box optin with your lead magnet offer is most common.

lead magnet report
Example of a static lead magnet optin

But lead magnets don’t only have to be on your site. You can also promote them on social media.

As an example, you might run a Facebook ad, promoting a free ebook download. When the person clicks on the ad, they are sent to a landing page, with a prompt to enter their email to receive the magnet.

Oh, and by the way… lead magnets don’t actually have to be only for capturing emails.

Facebook Messenger is growing fast as a marketing channel. For that reason, a lot of marketers are offering lead magnets in return for a Messenger subscription.

This can often lead to even more conversions, because the reader doesn’t have to go through the steps of typing out and submitting their email.

All they do is click the link, and a Messenger conversation opens up with a link to the lead magnet. As soon as they interact with the conversation, they are added to your Messenger list.

Do I Really Need a Lead Magnet?

It’s up to you. You can sit back, be passive and hope for people to sign up to your list. But if you’re serious about growing an email list, you should start thinking of lead magnet ideas.

Brian Dean of Backlinko increased conversions from 0.54%. to 4.82% by adding a content upgrade lead magnet. That’s an increase of 785%!

Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income said that targeted lead magnets helped them see a 500% increase in email optins.

If done well, lead magnets can even lead people to share your content/optin pages to their friends or followers, giving an even larger audience of engaged leads.

This study of HubSpot’s lead magnets showed their lead magnets got over 53,000 social shares in 2017.

I guess you don’t “need” a lead magnet. That is, if you don’t “need” site traffic, conversions, and a successful online business.

How to Maximize the Effectiveness of Lead Magnets

There are steps you can take to make sure your lead magnet not only encourages someone to sign up to your list, but also that they have a high chance of going on and becoming a customer.

First, a lead magnet has to grab your reader’s attention.

There’s a good chance they’ve come to your site from Google search or clicked a link sent from someone else. If you don’t capture them right then and there, they’re gone.

Make them an offer they can’t refuse.

You should also take note of how your optin form/popup/etc looks. I’m talking about placement, design, colors, the whole nine yards.

This is the other part of grabbing someone’s attention. If you hide your optin away in the corner of the page, it’s not going to convert much.

The same thing goes if you have a popup that looks horrible or super spammy. People are going to x out straight away, or maybe close the page altogether.

A well-designed optin jumps out at the reader, but doesn’t take away from the content at all.

Finally, the lead magnet itself needs to make sense. It should be something your target market is likely to be interested in, and should also relate to the content on the page.

This makes it more likely for people to opt in, as well as qualifying the person as someone you should spend time marketing to.

For example, if your article is about Google Ads, it would make sense to offer an “Ultimate Guide to Google Ads” as a lead magnet.

On the other hand, a resource guide about real estate investment makes no sense on an article about weight loss and nutrition.

On the off-chance people sign up, you’ve done nothing to qualify them as a hot lead.

27 Powerful Lead Magnet Ideas

Let’s take a look at a comprehensive list of tried and proven lead magnet ideas.

1. Gated Content

Gated content is when you lock off part of your content until the reader signs up with their email. This is effective because you give them a taste of the content, just enough to leave them wanting more.

gated content lead magnet

In this example from Datanyze, they give you a list of email marketing services sorted by market share. The first three are visible, but for the rest of the list, you need to sign up.

gated content lead magnet backlinko

Content can also be fully gated. In the above example from Backlinko, a whole blog post is available only by signing up. Cleverly, it shows a faded out version of the intro, to pique the reader’s curiosity, and encourage them to read further.

2. Cheat Sheet

One of the most popular lead magnets, cheat sheets are useful in a wide range of fields. A cheat sheet comes in the form of a short document the reader can refer to whenever they do a certain task.

The actionable and useful nature is what makes cheat sheets so effective. In most cases, it will be a simplified version of the blog post you’re reading. As is the case with this example:

Pinterest cheat sheet lead magnet

3. Checklist

We all love lists. They’re easy to read without losing focus. Things like checklists and to-do lists are awesome for improving productivity, and making sure all areas of a task are addressed.

Like a cheat sheet, checklists are easy to use and easy to create. That makes them a perfect bait for your audience.

See this example from Hubspot:

checklist example

This post from Single Grain on writing content for SEO includes a free on-page SEO checklist download:

4. Template

Starting a project or task from scratch is really hard. So a free template, or set of templates, is often really enticing and works great as a lead magnet.

In this example, a downloadable email template is offered as soon as someone lands on the site:

Then there’s this example from Hubspot:

Note the social proof at the top of the page, giving their template pack greater implied credibility.

5. Toolkit

Much like a template or set of templates, a toolkit is a great offer for people who may not know how to get started, and which tools they need to use.

Toolkits are especially useful for technical fields, such as design, or website building. It could well be a bunch of lead magnets put together.

This can also be a sneaky way to recommend tools you’re affiliated with, or cross-sell your own products.

6. Resource Guide

Very similar to a toolkit, but with a wider scope. This will be a list of useful sites, tools, and more related to the topic covered.

7. Tutorial

Tutorials or walkthroughs are extremely helpful for beginners in all kinds of fields. Usually, this will come in an “X Steps to Doing Y” format, to make it easy for the reader to understand what they’re going to get.

A tutorial, in a PDF or video, is great at explaining in more detail the topic your blog post or landing page is covering.

8. Case Study

You can talk theory as much as you want, but it’s never as effective as cold, hard, real stats. That’s why case studies are so awesome.

Here’s another example from Backlinko:

It gets the reader hooked with a desirable outcome (boosting traffic by 110%), which is just enough to get them to part with their email.

9. Ebook

An ebook is generally a lot more work to produce, and may not have as large a conversion rate as other magnets, since it’s harder to consume. But depending on your audience, and how in-depth your topic is, ebooks can work well at producing super-qualified leads.

For some people, a lengthy ebook will be a much better optin incentive than more condensed magnets, since you’re getting more in return for giving up your email.

Check out this example from socialtriggers.com:

10. Audiobook

A lot of people find it easier to consume content by listening to it, rather than reading it. So for these people, an audiobook or audio file may be more inviting.

If you already created an ebook, it might pay to record an audio version as well. Then you can split test both offers, and see which brings more optins, and better leads.

11. PDF version of content

Some would prefer to have a downloadable version of your content (particularly for longer-form articles and guides). This way, they can read it offline, at their leisure and with fewer distractions.

It usually requires very little effort to produce, since you’ve already written the content. Just export your file from Word, Google Docs, etc as a PDF. Or you could go the extra mile, and get a designer to create a professional-looking file.

This is especially useful for content that contains a lot of actionable information, that your reader may want to refer back to often, without having to open the web page every time.

It could also be a great idea for long-form articles that your reader may have stumbled upon, and doesn’t have time to read straight away. As in this example:

12. Infographic

Infographics work well for many, who find it easier to consume content visually than in writing.

A great idea could be to offer an infographic version of your written content. The written version is better for SEO, and the infographic is a nice add-on for those visual-centric people.

Check out this article for a thorough breakdown of how to make your own infographics (you don’t have to be a design major!).

13. “Ultimate Guide”

The “Ultimate Guide” is having a moment right now. For every topic, there are at least 10 “ultimate guides” on that topic.

If you Google just about any topic, there’s a good chance a lot of the results on the first page are an “ultimate” or “definitive” guide. And that’s because people want the whole info, not just a part.

It makes a lot of sense as a content upgrade. If you’re reading a blog post about email marketing, or visiting a site related to email, it’s quite likely that an “Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing” could contain relevant info.

Ultimate Guides are especially popular to use in social media posts/ads too:

14. Discount/deal

If you’re in e-commerce, discounts are the perfect optin bait.

Discounts appeal to just about any shopper. It’s almost always worth it for someone to give up their email for a promo code or coupon.

Offering a discount increases the chance of making a sale, and even if they don’t end up buying, you can still market to them since you’ve captured their email.

15. Contest/Giveaway

A contest can be a fun way to encourage signups. Get your site visitors to enter their email for a chance to win something (can be a free product, or something related to your business).

16. Quiz

Quizzes are a fun and interactive way of engaging people on your website.

They can be a steady source of email signups too.

Create a quiz on your site, and once the person is finished, they need to enter their email address to get their results.

Having already invested their time and attention in going through the quiz, there’s a very high chance they’ll opt in to get their quiz results.

Plus, a fun and quirky quiz can encourage social shares, potentially bringing a lot of viral traffic to your site.

17. Calculator

A calculator, designed for a specific function, can make for a great lead magnet.

The tool helps the user quickly figure out an equation… but to get the results the user needs to opt in.

VWO has an “A/B Test Significance Calculator” on their site.

Then there’s this example of a ROI calculator from Hubspot:

Both tools are currently offered free, with no optin necessary, but for a business trying to generate leads, these could easily be used as lead magnets.

18. Software download / Free trial

A software download, or a free trial of a software product can be a great way to bring in leads.

You give away the tool for free (or for just a short period of time), but in return you get the chance to connect with your customer through email.

19. Free software tool

Same as before – you offer a free software tool that’s inviting and useful to your customer. Then, once they’ve signed up with their email, they’ve effectively entered the sales funnel for your paid tool/services.

A great example of this might be a browser extension, or add-on.

20. Webinar

Webinars are hugely popular in the marketing world these days. They’re jam-packed with information, in a way that’s easy for people to digest.

Since they are free, they convert very well. However, once you get the attendee’s email, you can work at pushing them to buy your product/service.

21. Free consultation

Consultations have been used in marketing since the beginning of time.

Few people will turn down the chance for a free consultation. There’s pretty much no risk to them.

You start by offering a taste of your services for free. Not only does that encourage someone to hand over their email, it also gives them an idea of what you can provide for them.

Once the lead sees you can offer real value from your services, they’ll be a lot more willing to sign up and pay you.

22. Training session

A training session works very much like webinars and consultations. All three involve your prospect investing a lot of their time with you, which increases the chance of them buying in.

Also, training your customer helps get them to a stage where they might be able to better use your product – another common barrier to people signing up and paying for your services.

Here’s a free training offered by AuthorityHacker (via Facebook ads):

…and even better, a 10-part training series offered on NichePursuits.

23. Newsletter / blog

Sometimes, a newsletter by itself can be enough of an optin bait, if you sell it enough.

The best way to sell a newsletter or plain email opt-in is with great content. If people love what they’re reading, there’s a good chance they want to read all your content.

Delicious brains has a great way of doing it, with a quirky headline implying their blog’s quality (DEVELOPERS REALLY LIKE OUR BLOG).

24. Email Course

An email course is another way to engage your readers, capture their email and provide value. They’re easy to put together, requiring very little in the way of design or technical know-how.

The best thing about an email course is it warms your reader up to communication via email – you’re probably going to get more opens and engagements from this type of lead magnet, compared to others.

25. Group Access (Facebook, Telegram, Slack)

Social media communities are super popular in 2019. They’re a great way to get up-to-date information and connect with people with similar interests.

Groups are great marketing channels by themselves, but offering access to your group can also be a powerful lead magnet.

Facebook groups are extremely popular, and the company has plans to make that even more of a focal point in the near future.

Otherwise, Slack Groups are an option for more professional topics, while Telegram groups are popular in other markets (such as cryptocurrency).

26. Early Access

Everyone wants to be first, right?

If you’re launching a new product, service or feature, you can dangle preferential access as an incentive for email signups.

This can work for a wide range of industries. An e-commerce business might offer “early bird” specials each time they launch a new product, while a SaaS business could give beta access whenever a new feature comes out.

27. App/site membership

Memberships are so common, you might not think of them as lead magnets. But they may be one of the strongest magnets, which is why so many sites use this method.

It could be a “members only” section of your site, or a membership that’s required to use your app. Either way is a great option to convince someone to hand over their email.

Lead Magnet Ideas to Grow Your Email List – In Summary

Building an email list doesn’t need to be hard.

As you can see above, there’s a ton of incentives you can give people as a lead magnet, to encourage them to sign up to your list.

If you’re getting any kind of traffic to your website or blog, you ought to think about implementing a lead magnet to capture some of that traffic.

Doing so will let you grow an engaged audience of loyal customers, via email marketing.

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