How To Create A Lead Magnet People Actually Want To Download When you finally align your lead magnet with the psychology of your readers, your audience will grow like wildfire.

By Nick Wolny

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

"Make a lead magnet," they said. Well, you've written an ebook, or designed a checklist, or put together a quiz or video series or email mini-course or whatever… and people still aren't signing up for your email list. What gives?

Lead magnets, also known as freebies or ethical bribes, are a tried-and-true way to grow an email list. The reality is that no one wants more emails — according to a whitepaper from the Radicati Group, the average American worker receives more than 120 emails a day — but we *do* want our problems solved. Email marketing is unpopular, yet it consistently outperforms social media when it comes to buyer intent and engagement; if you haven't set up an email list yet, the time to get started is now. Lead magnets solve this problem, and we'll define them in more detail in just a moment.

What's changed over the years is that the online business audience has gotten far more sophisticated. Readers know that downloading a freebie via email usually means subscribing to another email newsletter. Superficial cheat sheets and checklists will only go so far; to truly persuade casual followers into becoming engaged email subscribers, your lead magnet simply has to be better.

Related: 6 Super Simple Content Marketing Hacks to Double Your Lead Generation

Here's the good news: When your lead magnet slaps, you'll grow both your influence and income faster than ever before. Take it from me, someone whose lead magnets have been organically discovered and downloaded tens of thousands of times: You don't need a huge lead magnet to get results. You simply need the right lead magnet that solves the right problem at the right time.

In this article, we'll cover three strategies for making your lead magnets more persuasive and compelling. Before we do that, though, let's all get on the same page about why you need a lead magnet in the first place.

What exactly is a lead magnet?

A lead magnet helps your reader go deeper on the content they've already consumed and take action with less effort. Readers have to raise their hand and proactively download your lead magnet; this helps you determine your list is relevant and that the subscribers on your list actually want to be there.

The law of reciprocity states that when you give something valuable to someone for free, this act of goodwill is more likely to be reciprocated in the future. The law of reciprocity is the secret sauce behind many things in entrepreneurship, including growing your network, measuring interest in an offer, and inspiring your audience to act.

Related: How to Use 'the Law of Reciprocity' to Build Better Business Relationships

A lead magnet is a free gift for your readers, and having one will make your call to action far more effective. "Download this free gift" is a call to action that is about your subscribers. In contrast, "Sign up for my free newsletter" is about you. Copywriting 101 states that you should always make your messaging more about your reader and their experience than yourself.

Don't be one of these fake influencers who has 100,000 followers and no actual influence; aspire to have a small, focused audience instead. Lead magnets and email marketing ensure you develop an audience that actually wants to hear from you and engage with you.

The common theme amongst all successful lead magnets

The throughline of all successful lead magnets is that they add value quickly. Your reader's time is valuable; when you show new subscribers that you mean business and add value to their day immediately, you set the tone for how your brand shows up. Remember: Branding isn't a fancy logo or a cursive font. It's the perception readers have of who you are, what you do, and why you're credible; user experience and reputation are more powerful than visuals.

My controversial opinion is that the best lead magnets can be consumed in 15 minutes or less. Rather than crush your new readers with content and leave them feeling like they can't get through it all, add value immediately and leave them wanting more.

Can you use a large, involved lead magnet? You can, but remain alert: If you're pushing a free copy of your book, and someone else comes along who can give readers the same results with a calculator or a spreadsheet instead, readers will always choose your competitor because their freebie solves the problem more quickly and with less effort. Create a lead magnet experience that leaves your readers wanting more.

Excited about lead magnets? I am! So here are three tips for taking your lead magnet to the next level.

Give subscribers the right information in the right order

A common mistake in lead magnet design is that entrepreneurs try to give their prospective subscribers what they need, rather than what prospective subscribers themselves think they need.

Read that sentence again. Your current and future subscribers have certain beliefs about what they want or need right now. These beliefs may or may not be accurate. For now, accuracy is irrelevant, because these beliefs are what guide your readers' current decisions, behaviors and self-talk.

Related: 5 Insights Into Human Behavior That Will Boost Your Sales and Marketing

Give your readers what they want first before giving them what they need. Often, the content, education and inspiration you deliver via email in the weeks and months to come will help your subscribers realize what they actually need to do to move the needle. To do that, however, prospects need a way to tune in to what you're up to in the first place, and social media algorithms are unpredictable these days.

Appeal to the beliefs your audience has today, even if your end goal is to shift or uplevel those beliefs in the future. Once your followers become your fans, you can then guide them toward what they actually need to do to move the needle.

Do the job for them

If you can develop a template, calculator, checklist or other plug-and-play solution that will help your leads get the job done in less time, they will love you from day one.

"Done-for-you" lead magnets are surging in popularity. What is something your prospects or clients are burdened with setting up that wastes their time or energy? Think crunching of numbers or setting up certain software workflows; software tools like Zapier, ActiveCampaign, and Canva let you export "share" links that your clients can import into their own accounts. Google Drive also enables this in the form of copy links; this allows users to swipe a copy of your spreadsheet or document without ever seeing your original master copy.

Incentivize commitment with a first-purchase discount

This tried-and-true ecommerce lead magnet is probably the lead magnet you've encountered the most. When you land on a retailer's website, you're often met with a pop-up or coupon code that offers you a discount on your first purchase in exchange for your email address and/or phone number.

This is strategic. Retailers know they have to get in front of you again and again to warm you up; achieving this via email marketing is free and more cost-effective than retargeting ads (Which might be on the chopping block in the not-too-distant future as data privacy initiatives continue to arise). Email marketing generates $42 for every $1 spent, an ROI that absolutely clobbers the competition.

Lead magnets and email marketing definitely aren't broken. But the way you need to leverage them has changed. Focus on quality and specificity and your tiny, mighty lead magnet will have what it takes to cut through the online noise.

Wavy Line
Nick Wolny

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Writer

Editor, Journalist, Consultant

A self-described “editorial mutt,” Nick Wolny is an editor, journalist and marketing consultant of seven years. He writes and edits about money, business, technology, LGBTQ life and how they intertwine. Learn more at

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