Lead Magnet: THE Secret Ingredient to Email List Building

What’s the secret to building a massive email list?

You offer what’s known as a “lead magnet.”

A lead magnet is a small report that a person downloads in exchange for entering their email address.

In this post, I’ll list my proven formula for creating a lead magnet.  Pay close attention because this is the exact system I’ve successfully used since I started my affiliate business back in 2006…

My affiliate marketing business is built off a simple formula: Get people on an email list, provide good content, and send offers to subscribers that make money.

The question is “How do get people to subscribe to an email list?”  The answer is simple – Offer them a lead magnet.    Basically this is a free (but valuable) piece of content that ethically bribes a person to opt-in to your list.  This is the Internet version of the lead generation tactic salespeople have been using for years.

[title color=”green-vibrant” align=”scmgccenter” font=”verdana” style=”normal” size=”scmgc-2em”]Why a Lead Magnet is the Key to Email List Building[/title]

It’s been said that some prospects need up to seven exposures to a marketing message before purchasing a product.  If you’re not capturing people’s contact information, you’re leaving lots of money on the table.

How to Create a Kick-Butt Lead Magnet and Increase Opt-In RatesInternet users are becoming increasingly savvy.  Most are sick and tired of the scammy gurus out to make a quick buck.  People aren’t going to buy something just because you say so.  They’ll only listen if you can prove you’re a credible source of information.  The best way to do this is by building a relationship via email.  Therefore building an email list becomes an essential part of your credibility when you use it properly.

People live busy lives.  They don’t have the time to research everything.  That’s why many will look to a trusted authority as an “information filter” on how to solve a particular problem.  It’s easy to become this information filter – Offer lots of value up front and make product recommendations based on careful research.

Besides the value given to the subscriber, a lead magnet also offers a number of benefits to you as a blogger/Internet marketer:

  • You’ll build a long-term asset
  • You’ll have direct control over web traffic
  • You’ll develop relationships with subscribers
  • You’ll make money
  • You’ll connect with potential social media partners

Seriously, I could devote an entire blog post to the many benefits of creating a strong lead magnet.  Bottom line – EVERY Internet marketing business needs one.  This is especially true for bloggers.  If you don’t offer a valuable free piece of content as a lead magnet to help build your list then you’d might as well pack up and go home!  I feel that strongly about it.

[title color=”green-vibrant” align=”scmgccenter” font=”arial” style=”normal” size=”scmgc-2em”]What Makes a Good Lead Magnet?[/title]

I’m going to be very frank here.  Many Internet marketers do a crappy job with their lead magnets.  Usually they offer bland, unexciting freebies that nobody wants.

It’s insanely important to offer a lead magnet that stands out from the crowd.  The success of your online business depends on it.  That’s why you need to provide a lead magnet that people will notice, and more importantly, will WANT to download.

So as you create a lead magnet ask yourself these SIX simple questions:

#1- Does it solve a major problem?

Take a hard look at your audience.  Ask yourself what’s their biggest problem.  What keeps them up at night?  What are the obstacles they regularly encounter?  What solution would make their life easier?  What type of secret knowledge do they want to obtain?

Repeat after me – “Every niche has problems.”

All you have to do is find the biggest problem and then offer a step-by-step guide that fixes it.

For instance, let’s talk about the “lifestyle design” niche.

This is a market full of Tim Ferriss clones who don’t provide a lot of valuable content.  They’ll talk a big game about living life on your terms.  But most can’t solve the most basic of problems – How to earn an income to support a new lifestyle.

So a great way to build a massive list is to offer a lead magnet that details a proven strategy for making money from ANY location.  That’s a major solution that many people would want.

#2- Is it valuable?

A lead magnet should offer genuine value to the reader.  The days of offering ‘free junk’ are long gone.  You’ll be dead in the water if all you’re doing is offering junk that nobody wants.

My rule of thumb is simple.  Create a lead magnet that could easily be sold.  Then give it away for free!  This will make you stand out.  People will wonder why you’re crazy enough to give away this information.  As a result, you’ll develop instant credibility with the subscriber.  I cannot think of a better way to build a list than tto become known for incredible value in your free offers.  When you finally do release -for pay- offers, people will also know the value will be quite high indeed.

#3- Does it relate to my site?

As I mentioned before, people like having an information filter.  In fact they desperately need one.  We live in an age of too much information.  Folks will seek you out if you can demonstrate expert knowledge in a particular market.

Build authority with your audience.  You can do this by offering a lead magnet that directly ties into your overall marketing message.  Once you help someone solve a major problem, it’s only natural they’ll pay attention to what you have to say.

Take the lifestyle design example from before.  The concept of my site is about living the Internet lifestyle.  Offering a free report about earning an online income is directly tied to the overall theme of the Steve Scott Site.  My feeling is after reading this report; people will look at me as a trusted source of information in the lifestyle design market.

#4- Is it sexy?

There’s a bit of salesmanship involved with a lead magnet.  In fact, it needs to be a little sexy.  When I mean sexy I’m saying it should have a catchy title with an eCover image that stands out.

For instance, which report would you rather read: Make Money with Affiliate Marketing or 111 Affiliate Marketing Strategies for a Six-Figure Income.

Hopefully you answered the latter instead of the former.

I’m not saying the second title is perfect. In fact, I’m still working on it.  My point is it’s WAY better than the first title.

On the other hand, the Make Money with Affiliate Marketing title is downright boring.  Actually, I just fell asleep thinking about it.

It’s important to focus on the sexy factor when creating a lead magnet.  Figure out a way to make the title and eCover graphic stand out.

#5- Do you offer something unique?

Don’t get caught in the trap of offering a lead magnet that’s similar to hundreds of others.  Make it unique to your situation.  For instance, if you figured out a way to increase your RSS subscribers, don’t call your lead magnet How to Increase your RSS Subscribers, instead name it something like How I Added 5,678 RSS Subscribers in 1 Month.

See how the latter is completely unique?   Both guides talk about increasing RSS subscribers.  But the second gives an exact result that can be learned within the lead magnet.

#6- Does it deliver?

This should go without saying.   Your lead magnet has to deliver on what it promises.  If you make the claim that it can help a person get 10,000 Twitter followers in a month then it BETTER live up to this promise.  You’ll piss off a lot of people if it doesn’t.

I say take it one step further.  Give more value than what’s promised. Make this free report stand out apart from the crowd because it provides massive value that can’t be found elsewhere.

[title color=”green-vibrant” align=”scmgccenter” font=”verdana” style=”normal” size=”scmgc-2em”]Types of Lead Magnets[/title]

A lead magnet doesn’t have to be a free report.  In fact, here are different types of content you can offer:

  • A preview version of a full-length information product
  • A short video demonstrating a concept
  • An audio or interview with a knowledgeable expert
  • A blueprint or mind map that illustrates a visual solution
  • A membership to a program full of tools and information
  • A software program or Word Press plugin

A lead magnet can come in all shapes and sizes.  Just put on your thinking cap and figure out what best benefits your audience.

[title color=”green-vibrant” align=”scmgccenter” font=”verdana” style=”normal” size=”scmgc-2em”]Researching Ideas for a Lead Magnet[/title]

There are lots of ways to research ideas for a lead magnet.  I suggest using the same methods you would do when exploring a niche or creating an information product.  So you’ll definitely want to check out my free PDF on how to find the perfect niche.  Here I give over 8,000 words of pure content you can use to laser target a specific problem people have in your market.

In addition, I also suggest doing additional research if you get stuck.  Grab a notebook and list ideas from the following:

  • Most view/commented posts on forums
  • Questions you commonly get
  • Paid products marketed in your niche
  • Popular posts on your blog
  • Articles commonly written on Ezine Articles

Once this list is completed, do a brainstorming session and see if you can come up with that perfect lead magnet topic that’s guaranteed to be noticed.

Don’t worry if you can’t come up with anything at first.  The perfect lead magnet takes time.  In fact, the forthcoming “Income Trilogy” report is the THIRD lead magnet I’ve offered on this site.  I keep changing things around because I want to provide the most appealing offer on my blog.  You should do the same!

[title color=”green-vibrant” align=”scmgccenter” font=”verdana” style=”normal” size=”scmgc-2em”]4 Steps for Writing a Free Offer that WORKS[/title]

How to Write/Create a Lead MagnetIt doesn’t take much to create a lead magnet.  I think 10,000 words is a pretty good size for a free report.  You could include more content – Or less if you want.  The only requirement is to make sure it provides the step-by-step solution people are seeking.   Something that people are dying to know.

When writing a lead magnet, I suggest a simple four step process:

Step #1: Leverage Existing Content

It’s important to have what’s called a leverage mindset.  Whenever I write anything, I make sure to find ways it can be repacked and reused.  In the long run, this saves a lot of time that can be spent towards developing ideas and content that will be useful to subscribers.

A lead magnet is not about reinventing the wheel.  If there’s great content on your site, feel free to use it in a free report.  Odds are; most readers won’t take the time to scroll through the archives and read every post you’ve written.  You can repurpose these hidden gems as a way to provide value without working too hard.

Step #2: Implement Project Management Principles

It’s important to create a blueprint (or mind map) of what you’ll write.  This means writing down all the topics covered in this report.  Nothing is written in stone, but it’s important to know what you’ll be covering.

After creating the outline, set individual timelines for each milestone.  Again, it’s not important to be exact here.  The benefit of this process is it shows how much work is required in order to complete the lead magnet.

Follow the principles of project management.  This means setting a major goal and using mini-steps to accomplish it.  In addition, you’ll want to account for any outside work that’s being done.  You might be the one writing eBook, but you’ll probably hire a graphic designer to create the eCover image.

Project management is a great way to chunk down a major goal.  Basically you’re taking the daunting task of lead magnet creation and turning it into actionable tasks completed on a daily basis.  Each day you’ll chip away at this project.  Then one day you’ll discover you’re done!

#3: Set Daily Goals for Writing

As they say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Unfortunately a lot of people forget this and give up when writing a free report.

The best way to complete a lengthy writing project is to stick to a daily writing goal.  It might be a set amount of time or a minimum word length.  The important thing is to dedicate time each day for writing.

I recommend assigning a “time block” to work on your lead magnet.  This could be early in the morning, at night, or during a lunch-break at your ‘real job.’  This time should be sacred.  In other words, make sure it’s a period where you work without interruption.

Furthermore, challenge yourself during this daily routine.  Instead of setting a time or word goal, I recommend combining the two.  So if you can write 1,000 words in an hour, try to increase this to 1,500 words.  This helps turn the writing process into a fun, challenging game.

#4- Know When “Good Enough” is Good Enough

When creating a lead magnet there’s a major obstacle that many people encounter- The perfection mindset.

This seems to happen to a lot of budding Internet entrepreneurs.  They get really excited about building a list.  So they’ll work to the 95% completion mark.  Suddenly there’s a feeling like it must be perfect before anyone should see it.  This mindset kills a lot of projects before they’ve even seen the light of day.

In my opinion, the perfection mindset is a dangerous trap.  Sure, it’s important to do your best with everything you create.  But eventually you have to say ‘good enough is good enough.’

I’ll be honest when I say my lead magnets aren’t perfect.  But I do my best to make sure they provide awesome content.  In my opinion, that’s all you can really do.

[title color=”green-vibrant” align=”scmgccenter” font=”verdana” style=”normal” size=”scmgc-2em”]Marketing Your Lead Magnet[/title]

When it comes to the Internet, people have become extremely savvy.  They know submitting a name and email address means they’ll end up on a marketing list.  That’s why it’s becoming harder and harder to even sell the “free” stuff.

Your lead magnet needs to be promoted with the same amount of effort that happens with a paid product.  In this section, I’ll review a few techniques for marketing your lead magnet:

Create a Squeeze Page

First off, create a separate website that’s separate from the rest of your web properties.  This goes for you bloggers reading this!

As an example, I have a dedicated web page for my free report: 111 Affiliate Marketing Strategies for a Six-Figure Income.

This quickly builds an email list because it uses what’s known as a “squeeze page.”  All I did was install the Optimize Press theme on a sub-directory of my blog and I now have a page that easily captures email addresss.

Direct Traffic to the Squeeze Page

This is another shout-out to all the bloggers reading this…

One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is to direct web traffic only to their blogs.  An Internet marketing business is about maximizing your results.   In my opinion, you get the best results by capturing a prospect’s contact information.

For instance, the following traffic methods should be sent to a squeeze page;

  • Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Traffic
  • Article/Ezine Marketing
  • Video Marketing
  • Web 2.0 Properties like HubPages and Squidoo

Now, I do agree that this traffic technique doesn’t work for all types of traffic – Like Facebook and Twitter.  With these sites, it’s better to send people directly to your blog. That way they get to know you before you ask them to join an email list.

[title color=”green-vibrant” align=”scmgccenter” font=”verdana” style=”normal” size=”scmgc-2em”]Maximize your Blog Space[/title]

A blog is one of the best places to promote a lead magnet.  Unfortunately most bloggers don’t take advantage of the space on their site.  I recommend having images/links to this free report in a number of places:

  • In your header
  • In your footer
  • In your sidebar
  • In your blog posts

To learn more, I recommend you check out my post on my “minimalist” blog design and how I collect email addresses.

[title color=”green-vibrant” align=”scmgccenter” font=”verdana” style=”normal” size=”scmgc-2em”]Make the Lead Magnet Part of Your “Brand”[/title]

A lead magnet should be a congruent part of an overall brand.  For instance, my blog is all about the Authority Affiliate Marketing.  So in the future when I talk about this topic, I’ll be sure to mention and/or link to my lead magnet.  I do this because downloading my report would be a logical next step if people want to learn more about affiliate marketing.

Your free report should be part of the communication process with your audience.  When promoting your site on a different platform (like a Podcast or YouTube) make sure to let people know what you’re offering.  Even better – Give them a direct link to where they can get their hands on this freebie!

Remember you’re not promoting a site.  You’re telling people about a free piece of information that can help improve their lives.  Hopefully you see the difference between the two! By giving this quality content you will build your list without effort.  People will come to associate your brand with quality and a quality brand has little effort building an email list.

[title color=”green-vibrant” align=”scmgccenter” font=”verdana” style=”normal” size=”scmgc-2em”]Final Thoughts on Lead Magnets and Email List Building[/title]

Well, this is my manifesto on lead magnets.  Hopefully you learned a little bit about why it’s important to offer one and how to get started.

Like I said before, this is one of those core concepts that I’ve used to earn a full-time income from the Internet.  A quality lead magnet is essential to building an email list and building a interactive and responsive list is essential to email marketing and online success.

This stuff actually works!  So if you don’t have a lead magnet, I HIGHLY recommend you start working on it…TODAY!

Take Action. Get Results.

36 thoughts on “Lead Magnet: THE Secret Ingredient to Email List Building”

  1. Hi steve

    I can honestly say this is the first post I have read on this topic that I can fully understand…yay. Maybe it’s because with all the blogs I’m visiting, some of it is finally sinking in.

    I prefer to thing it’s because this is a great MVP 🙂 Will bookmark and read again as there is heaps to take in. Thanks Steve for your generosity in sharing so freely all that works for you. Much appreciated.

    Can I ask a question? Is offering a monthly report covering different aspects of my niche an okay lead magnet?

    Patricia Perth Australia

    • Soon YOU are going to be the techie expert Patricia! I see it coming! 🙂

      I would say lacking anything else a monthly report would be fine. It is something and should drive a few people. The people who “know” you would all likely sign up, so it is a great place to start.

      But “LONG” term a good lead magnet is something “concrete” that people can walk away with. It could even be something like a few older related posts and the first few months of your newletter repackaged into some sort of free report.

      It doesn’t need to be HUGE, just something to give someone who is a COMPLETE stranger that they may find interesting and helpful and would want them to RECEIVE those monthly newsletters.

  2. Hey man,

    Love this MVP. It covers all bases.

    I’ve been wanting to create a lead magnet for some time now and have a few thoughts written down, but ots a rather daunting undertaking. Reading this post has giving me the extra shove and highlighted the importance of having a kick ass report.


    • Lead magnets are not easy. You wanty the material to be really kick ass. But you also do not want to wait “forever” to do it. Somewhere there is a balance.

      Likely the best way to do it is to start as early as possible and knock it out a little piece at a time, which since you pretty much just started would be what you are doing 🙂

  3. Great post Steve. Maybe you should create another lead magnet out of your How to undertake Internet Market Research. You’ve got a great article already written!

    Couple of points you can have multiple lead magnets for your lists and secondly I think your comment of making something of value which you could easily charge for is absolutely the way to go.

    Cheers, Matthew

    • Thanks Matthew.

      Glad you liked it! 🙂

      You certainly can have multiple lead magnets. I actually am working on My THIRD for SSS now. Though once I am done with that, I plan on being done with lead magnets for a while, the next few will be a little more in depth and my first “pay” products.

  4. Hi Steve,

    This is great! There are two things that REALLY stand out in this post for me.

    First is the idea that everything you do should relate in some way to your chosen direction, goals, site, niche, or whatever you want to call it. This really seems to be vital to me.

    The second, your idea of leveraging existing content is also very important. The choice is leverage existing assets or you will end up with a bunch of wasted time and missed opportunities.

    Also, I like the idea of setting daily goals for writing. Having said that, I have come across many ebooks that were filled with spelling and grammatical errors. Proofreading should be one of those goals IMO.


    Have a good day!

    • You are absolutely right about proofreading. One typo missed is not the end of the world, but I have seen a few that were absolutely atrocious.

      An eBook should be professional. Writing a lot and writing fast is a great goal, but everything that goes into an eBook should have at least two edits IMO. ONE big one where you carefully go through and try to catch all the mistakes, and at least one re-read (with a fresh mind) to try and pick up what was missed.

      It does annoy me when people let go things that a simple “spell check” button would have caught.

      Thanks for adding a very important point.

    • Thanks Ralph,

      I am glad you liked it. I am fan of DR, so those were some nice words! It is definitely time for you to go out and get a solid lead magnet to get the audience you deserve!

  5. Hi Steve:

    A very well written and informative post you have today as usual Monday post. Great guidance for anyone who wants to do that. From daily goals to lead magnets to creating
    your own squeeze page and finally using the blog space are very good points to get going.

    I have to read them after the first.

    All the best for you

    fran A

  6. Hi Steve,

    this one was really deep. I think anyone could utilize the information from here and make a major increase in own opt-in rates.

    I think eBook is still the most effective magnet although with increasing number of eBooks (well, almost everyone got at least one own ebook these days) thier values are decreasing, to be able to distinguish and offer different valuable product (I liked a lot wordpress plugin) might be a way to stand out and attract people.

    Of course proper placement is crucial as well.

    Once again great post, thanks a lot!

    • Ebooks are what I think of, and what I use, but you are correct. The sheer number of eBooks, free reports, etc. can devcrease the value a bit. Making an indepth video, nifty piece of software, plug-in or even a eBook WITH a video tutorial could be a good way to separate your lead magnet from the “pack”.

      Thanks for the important distinction and additional idea on how to make a lead magnet even better!

  7. Great post, Steve! And I totally agree. I can’t tell you how many Make Money Blogging ebooks are out there, and they’re all the same. You need to make your opt-in incentive something AWESOME.

    I also like how you said that it’s important to know when good enough is good enough. That’s something a lot of bloggers don’t do, and it’s a major reason they never get anything done! People don’t care if you have minor missspellings or a slightly boring design… They’ll forgive all of that as long as the content is great.

    Nicely done, buddy.

    • Thanks Tristan!

      There is definitely a glut of free eBooks certainly on certain topics. The most important thing is to have content that “WOWS” but when there is a glut, you need even more, because people are used to too much of the half assed crap.

      To really separate your lead magnet in a glutted market there has to be some sort of “zing” to it, a nifty title or a fresh idea to make it stand out from the dull crowd

  8. Hi Steve,

    Nice post my friend. Creating a lead magnet can be very beneficial especially in terms of subscribing. I like what you said about, “Leverage Existing Content” I learned this from you 😉 and I must say it is an excellent way to creating reports or lead magnets. Thanks for sharing my friend

  9. Hey Steve,

    It is great that you explained the whole tidbits to kick start creating a kick ass ebook. The information here is real handy for any action taker to create their own lead magnet.

    Talking about lead magnet, this is definitely something that I need to work on. I was working on it there for a while but had to postpone it due to the lack of time. Like you said, I am going to try to allot certain time everyday for this from today onwards.

    Later man.

    • Yeah, Lead Magnets can be really helpful. Certainly it is worth your time to pursue.

      YOu do not need to lock yourselef in a cave til it is done. Even allotting a 50 minute block every other or every third day, will get it done in no time at all. The important thing is to keep at it and not quit when 1/2-2/3 of the way there.

  10. Hey Steve,

    If only all the newbies could read this post before proceeding with a “guru” product that you alluded to. You have laid it all out perfectly here. The truth is, the gurus are going to be making money for a long time because there is always a fresh pool of newbies entering the IM world who are easy to influence.

    I have made the mistake of making my lead magnet too vague and it did not really coincide with the theme of my website. The result was a large, but very unresponsive list.

    Now that my opt in offers are closely aligned with my products/services/blog content, the lists are more responsive and the opt in percentages are higher. Overall seems to be a winning combination.

  11. Hey Steve,

    Wow, thanks for this MVP! I had a free ebook teaching beginner runners how to build motivation on my blog for a while and got a few subscriptions from it. I took it down though because I felt it wasn’t good enough. After I got positive feedback from a track and field coach who is an expert runner, I realised that it was the marketing of the report and the crappy title that was poor and not the report itself. I thought about putting it back out there again and now that I’ve read your post I’m going to create a squeeze page and start marketing it.

    Thanks for the good advice, your posts are always relevant and helpful!

  12. Hi Steve,

    This is another timely post for me. I’m currently working on creating some lead magnets so your advice comes at a great time for me. I love your point about giving away something for free that you could easily charge money for.

    I totally agree. I often subscribe to things that I want to learn more about. Sometimes people do themselves a disservice by giving away things that are rubbish.

    So, I’m working really hard on creating things that are valuable. Thanks again for the awesome tips.

  13. It took me all morning to read this post 😉 but I loved it. I will have to get this pdf version so I can reread it and follow it step by step. All this info is overwhelming.
    But a great way to help us in need, thanks, Steve!

  14. Steve
    the biggest problem I have with information products is deciding on their scope. Like you I use a mind map to map out the content and the flow from section to section, but my problem is deciding how much to include and where to stop.

    What’s your view on that? Some people I know draw the line at providing ‘how’ information when the item is free. Do you have a guideline for this?

  15. Hi Steve,
    a great no BS type of post. I like your style.
    You gave a ton of great content and highly stressed the
    importance of a lead magnet.
    If I could add on thing, it would be if you don’t feel
    you have value to offer, then learn to have value

    Creating and sharing value is a skill that is

    Everyone has something of priceless value to offer,
    the only thing getting in the way, is them

    Thanks for your contribution,

    PS I will be passing this on to my followers

    • Thanks Jeff,

      Glad you like it! I agree of course. Value is essential. If someone is a blogger and has “nothing of value to say” for an ebook. Then why are they blogging? At a minimum you could rework a series of old posts under a topic and therefore create a decent ebook.

      I agree value is essential. YOu do not want to slap together a piece of crap, because that content will represent YOU to people. But I do think many bloggers SHOULD have that value inside of them if they are knowledgable enough on their topic to be blogging.

  16. Great article on using lead magnets to grow you list of followers.

    I especially enjoyed the part about making it part of your brand, which you’ve done well. I’ve used one lead magnet now for over 7 years that has built my list to over 50,000 active subscribers.

    The lead magnet should as good as one of your best paid products. Especially if you want it to produce for you over the long term.

    Great article!

  17. Steve, I love your articles and ebooks. As one who’s been writing for years, it’s easy to see your advice is solid. As one who needs help with marketing, I find your approach to be direct, honest while still being effective. I hate b.s. and marketing manipulation. I think you’ve struck a tasteful, yet effective balance and that probably has something to do with the fact that you focus on helping people. Kudos to you. Glad I found you.

  18. Lists work very well!
    I had an ebook that converted okay. Maybe 1-2% of visitors. But I created two lists, that are focused on giving my audience a quick win. They convert any at 6-12%

Comments are closed.