Lead magnets are one of the easiest, fastest and WARMEST ways to get qualified leads in your pipeline... from a downloadable content offer to usable templates and workbooks... lead magnets can make or break your lead gen.

Over the last 15 years, I've studied and tested a lot of lead magnets... and the #1 thing that they all have in common is that they solve an immediate pain point for their potential buyer. A karate school checklist helped a martial arts school grow so much that they were able to sell off their other locations and hit 6 figure months with one building. A digital lung health quiz helped a medical imaging center save more lives of former smokers with early prevention. My favorite content offer EVER was a guide to what to wear to a wake which still gets half a million hits a year and helped a funeral home grow to 30% market share and added a new location.

Lead magnets are POWERFUL. They can attract, qualify and capture the right leads for your business model - whatever that is.

But what makes a lead magnet work? How do you build one so that it positions your business in a way to make a sale? Let's take a look at the anatomy of a lead magnet, the criteria of a winning offer, and the follow-up methods to make it work. We've also got a build-an-offer worksheet to help you produce your first lead magnet and a free, editable Canva template that you can start using right away.

What is a lead magnet?

We all know what happens when we want the one-use 10% coupon of our favorite online store... they want your email, phone number and name... but we agree to it anyway. In exchange, we get more stuff from their store. Win-win!


Lead magnets work exactly the same way. Also called content offers and opt-ins... whatever you call it, its job is to offer something valuable to your target market in exchange for their contact information. In other words, "Hey, friend, if you jump on my email list I'll give you this tool you've been needing..."

Leads magnets are always win-win, a mutually beneficial agreement... your potential customer gets something they need and want, and you get the opportunity to prove your authority and help them in other ways down the road. Win-win!

What NOT to do

...the worst lead magnet ever made...

The worst lead magnet I've ever seen started with a fortune cookie at an automotive shop. Although I adore this shop and keep taking our vehicles there, they are seriously missing the mark on what a lead magnet is and what it's used for.

Every service ends with a cute Chinese rice box filled with fortune cookies placed on your dash.  Unfortunately, what happens when biting into that crunchy sweet cookie is a pure disappointment... instead of a fortune, you get a little piece of paper that says, "Congratulations! You've won a free gift. Go to the front desk to claim it."

Let's just think about the logic here... 1) the customer has already done business with you, 2) You don't get the fortune you were so looking forward to bragging on with your kids on the way home, 3) You have to get back out of your car and awkwardly ask the front desk for a "Free Gift" from your fortune cookie, which, you thought was the actual gift, 4) The "Free Gift" is a head-to-toe how-to guide about how to take care of your vehicle, written by the franchise owner, 5) The guide is given to you after you've already paid them a bunch of money because you didn't want to do it yourself in the first place...

The auto shop is doing one thing right: delighting their existing customers with fortune cookies after they've had to spend a bunch of money they didn't want to spend. Now if we could just convince them to re-think their content offer and offer it as a digital lead magnet, maybe they would get some new business!

Lead Magnet Rule #1: Nothing is really free

If it doesn't cost money, then it will either cost time or information. This is the first rule of thumb when it comes to lead magnets. If you are offering your intellectual property... whether you've earned, learned, or created it... then it's a service to others. So don't feel bad about asking for something in return. How much, or what you ask for in return, is directly related to the value of your free offer.

For example, a downloadable checklist or ebook is generally worth an email address... but an on-demand masterclass is probably equal to 2-3 more pieces of information, or sometimes, it's fair to ask for 15-20 minutes of someone's time. Many professionals will give away a few minutes of their time in exchange for a testimonial - this is absolutely the same concept. I give you something you need... you give me something I need in return.

Not everyone will understand the win-win environment of the lead magnet, many times they will ask you to "paste the link publically" or accuse you of manipulating them to get their email... if you are afraid of being shamed for it, then just follow these two basic rules and you will never have to feel bad about offering people something in exchange for their email address ever again.

1) Whatever you are giving away should be your Intellectual Property. If it belongs to someone else, then it isn't your place to try to earn leads from it. But when you are offering something that you earned, learned or created, you can feel confident that it is your place to do so.

2) Don't trick people into an exchange... make sure it is clear what you are offering and what you are offering it for.

Remember, it's a win-win... the user knows and agrees to the exchange of information, money, or time.

"CTAs" are not "Lead Magnets"

You may hear Lead Magnets referred to as "CTAs" but that's not entirely accurate. A CTA stands for "Call to Action"... and technically that is the actual request. "Click Here" is also a CTA. "Download Now" is a CTA. Every lead magnet has a CTA, but CTAs are not lead magnets. Confused yet?

A CTA is a button or link that you click to redeem the offer. The actual offer, or Lead Magnet, is what's being promoted by the CTA.

When using lead magnets in social media, you will use what's called a "CTA" post to all people into requesting your free offer.

So a "Download my free ebook" button is not a lead magnet... but "How to Train your Dog in 30 Days or Less" is the lead magnet being promoted by that CTA.

Make sense? If not, just think of it this way... the CTA is what you are clicking to get the offer (lead magnet) and the actual offer is what you are getting when you click the button.

The Anatomy of a Lead Magnet

When we talk about "lead magnets" we are talking about digital content offers - these can be PDFs, eBooks, courses, worksheets, checklists, templates... anything that is valuable enough to offer in exchange for an email address (or other info). Honestly, coupons and physical offers are completely different animals - they serve different purposes altogether.

Essentially, lead magnets are tools or information that helps get your buyer from Point A to Point B and then shows them the way to Point C...


AHA! The first step in the buyer's journey

Remember, your buyer is on a journey. Something happened to them, an AHA moment of realization that something needed to change... and this realization is going to lead them to make a purchase in the future. Your job is to be their guide on the way to figuring out what they need when they need it, and who they are going to buy it from.

Hook, Help, Heat
(the anatomy a Lead Magnet)

It's simple... you want to give them a quick win, help them understand they don't have to experience the pain forever, and show them why your solution is what they've been looking for all along. Hook, help, heat!

HOOK: Getting their attention by solving an immediate pain for them during their journey

  • Sexy Headline
  • Descriptive Sub-headline
  • Example of how it will meet their needs

HELP: Giving them real solutions and offering value as an expert in your field

  • Consumable but meaty content
  • Teaches or gives them something they didn't know or have
  • Applicable tools or information

HEAT: Warming up their understanding of how you can help them in the future

  • Branded skin
  • Call to Action
  • Social proof

Lead Magnet Rule #2: Test First, Launch Second

I've seen companies spend thousands of dollars producing a digital download that got a handful of leads, and I've seen blog articles tested as lead magnets that produced millions in revenue. That's why the second rule of lead magnets is to "bait" your market first, but don't put a ton of time into it until you get bites. It may take several tests before finding a lead magnet really worth investing in.

The truth is... lead magnets alone don't produce revenue. It takes a system of follow-up and nurturing with both marketing and sales to turn leads into sales... that's why digital marketers always say to start at the top and bottom of the funnel first. Without the leads at the top of the funnel, there would be nobody to nurture or sell... but without the bottom of the funnel built out... there would be nothing to sell them.

8 criteria for a winning content offer

A great lead magnet has 8 essential ingredients: it meets a need, it's desirable, offers real value, it's easily accessible, it's well designed, it's specific to your niche, it's bite-sized, and last but not least... its evergreen.

  1. It meets a real need: What keeps your potential buyers up at night? What is causing them the most amount of frustration? Find the thing, and help them take the guesswork out of something they were already needing to do without struggling through it... give them a step-by-step, checklist or a guide to the results they are looking for.
  2. It's sexy and desirable: We are all programmed to judge a book by its cover. Seriously, it's called the Affect Heuristic... its how we make decisions, and it's all emotion, baby. The subject line is the most important thing that will make your audience DESIRE your offer. Remember, spend 80% of your time crafting the title, and the remaining 20% writing the rest of the offer.
  3. Offers real value: Don't put parsley on their plate. Give them the real substance, the meat, the protein, the good stuff. Teach them something new, and give them an actionable checklist or resource that will help them get results. Make them excited that they got it. You want them to be able to implement the thing, remember it, and then talk about it with others.
  4. It's easily accessible: Have you ever received a content offer that you couldn't open because you didn't have a specific computer program? #uuuuugghhhhh #amiright?? So, make it accessible for all. A downloadable PDF or copy-ready Google doc are some of the most popular ways to share content offers... I've also used on-page content available behind a form, which works beautifully. Remember your audience, and serve their needs, period.
  5. It's well designed: Brand, brand, brand!! How do you want it to feel and look once your audience has it in hand? Does it match your message? Is it easy on the eyes, and simple to read and digest?
  6. Niche-specific: Your offer should be hyper-relevant to your audience. The more specific you can get without excluding anyone, the better. I'll give you an example. If you are a health coach who specializes in helping women over 40 with hormone imbalances, your offer may be "The Top Ten Foods That Trigger Inflammation and How To Avoid Them." See how that's specific to your audience without being too broad or excluding anyone?
  7. It's bite-sized: The same reason that our eyes need a lot of white space to be able to absorb copy and images, our brain needs it too. When we feel overwhelmed, our brain goes into "survival mode" and we can't think straight. No Bueno for making decisions about your business. So, keep the offer short and sweet, my friend... and if you have a lot to share with them, consider breaking it up into multiple content offers over time... or one-up your offer by making a long-form blog post and piecing part of it out into a content offer!
  8. It's evergreen: Pretty self-explanatory, but the most effective content offers are the ones that can be used time and time again. They don't rely on current trends, or only be relevant for a short period of time. To sum it up...When you take the time to create an offer that is truly valuable and speaks to the needs of your audience, you will be able to use it over and over to attract your ideal client.
Lead Magnet Rule #3: It's not a newsletter!!!!!!!

I know I know... how RUDE. But seriously, lead magnets are laser-focused, evergreen resources that aren't vague and jumbled like most newsletters. Although... I have seen some pretty successful lead gen campaigns by people like Cole Shafer, a brilliant copywriter whose content is like pure honey for your mind. But I digress.

The point is, that your content offer should be something that can stand alone and be successful without any additional support or offers from you. It should also be something that helps further the relationship you have with your audience, not hinder it. You should add it to your newsletters if you have one, but don't use your newsletter as the offer itself.

The 3 marketing jobs of a lead magnet

A content offer needs to do three things in order to be a successful marketing tool for your business. It should: 1) Position you as the subject authority, 2) Guide them into a buying position, and 3) Be your first early win with your potential buyer.

1) Lead Magnets Create Authority

What's the first step all business owners take when establishing their business? Anyone, anyone? Establish credibility, of course! They gather knowledge, learn skills... and then they go out into the world and start practicing. And as they practice and implement what they know, this amazing thing happens... they start to build credibility in their marketplace, and they build a reputation and authority on their subject matter.

Lead magnets should show specific subject-matter knowledge and experience in your trade. Without getting too "clinical" or "confusing" it should guide the potential buyer into a deeper understanding of things that you know more about

2) Lead Magnets Guide them into another Step

The most successful lead magnet I've ever used with my clients have been those that guide them into scheduling an appointment. Gaining their trust and showing them the first step is not good enough - you also need to ask them if they want to take the next step into getting what they need and want.

3) Lead Magnets are Early Wins

Imagine you go to a chiropractor... don't you want to feel some relief after the first visit? When you go to a fancy restaurant, do you order an appetizer?

The second marketing job of a lead magnet is to give your potential buyer an "early win." We all like to feel good about our decisions, and one way we do that is by seeing results quickly. When we're trying something new for the first time, it's human nature to want to see some sort of result or ROI...

Lead Magnet Rule #4: Always have a follow up method

Once you've captured a qualified member of your audience, it's time to start nurturing them. By sending them additional offers, or providing valuable content that helps them on their journey you can continue to build trust and credibility.

The best way to do this is by having a follow-up method in place so that you can keep the conversation going even after they've taken your offer. The most common methods are email marketing or social media.

You already have a Lead Magnet, You Just Didn't Know it

A lot of times when I talk with clients, I can help them turn around a lead magnet project in 24 hours or less. That's because we always look to see what's available before creating something brand new. Most of the time we have multiple options and can even turn out more than one content offer from existing content.

Here are some examples of places to look for existing lead magnets:

  • Most read pages or blog content on your website
  • Video training in your arsenal
  • Ebooks or white papers you've written
  • Documents you've shared with clients
  • Recordings of guest webinars or podcasts you've done in the past

Get the Ultimate Lead Magnet Template!

Free Canva Template

Design your first lead magnet in 30 minutes or less with This Irresistible Lead Magnet! Here's what's included:

  • A variety of editable layout pages for your lead magnet
  • Clear instructions on how to build your offer
  • 10 Irresistible lead magnet ideas
  • A training video on how to use it for yourself


The Relationship Solution to Marketing

Hi! I'm Jennifer Bailey and I partner with entrepreneurs who have massive ideas that could change the world.

Most marketing is meaningless. Filled with empty promises, its only job is to bring in new traffic, new leads and new customers.

But I've drawn a line in the sand, and I've learned that marketing can do so much more than reach business goals and build profit. My methods give businesses the fire and soul they need to reach the right people, set the groundwork for sustainable relationships, and offer true value to the people on both the giving and receiving ends of marketing.

If you want to learn to own up, take control of your future, and reclaim your marketing, schedule a 15-minute clarity session with me. I'll show you how to get there.