ipad with lead magnet saying "please download my free thing"

8 Painfully Common Lead Magnet Mistakes That Are Killing Your Email List

I don’t want to be all doomsday here…

But your lead magnet has a LOT of influence on the success of your online business.

Lead magnets (also called ‘opt-in incentives’ or ‘reader magnets’) are powerful tools for list growth. If you haven’t heard, a lead magnet is a freebie you offer in exchange for someone’s email address.

But not all lead magnets are created equal. In fact, the wrong lead magnet can not only hurt your list growth efforts—it can actually cost you a ton of money. The last thing you want is to be paying your email provider every month for a huge list of subscribers who never actually buy your offerings.

So let’s fix this.

Here are the 9 most common lead magnet mistakes I see all the freakin’ time, and how to fix them. So you can finally build that engaged, excited email list that will take your business to the big leagues.

Mistake #1: The lead magnet’s too big

It happens like this: We want to deliver value to our readers. So when it comes to creating a lead magnet, many of us naturally start to compile a list of everything we think the reader should know. The result is a not-so-small PDF or e-book full of our best advice.

This is a beautiful tendency. Good on you for wanting to give your best stuff away for free!

But here’s the crux of the matter: You don’t want readers just to join your list. You also want them to use the freebie and take action, so they can get a quick win and see the tangible value of your work.

If your lead magnet is too big and complicated, you’re missing out on a big opportunity. Instead, keep it focused. One topic, one quick win. In this case, more value isn’t actually more valuable. It’s just more.

Mistake #2: Too many lead magnets

When I first started my blog, I saw other online business owners creating a freebie with every post. Little baby blogger Jessie thought that was standard. So I came up with a bunch of lead magnet ideas and attached a different lead magnet to each article.

No bueno.

Turns out, creating a separate checklist/guide/cheat sheet to go with every post was a huge drain on my time and resulted in fewer blog posts going out overall. And blog posts are the lifeblood of a strong content marketing system.

So listen up: As a solopreneur, you only need one lead magnet. Five, max—one to go with each core content category that you cover on your blog. You can share the same lead magnet on multiple blog posts. Or on every single blog post. If it’s a good lead magnet that relates to your business (more on that in a sec) and ties in with most of your articles in SOME way, it’s gonna work just fine.

Don’t write more lead magnets. Use that energy to write more blog posts!

Mistake #3: The lead magnet solves the wrong problem for the wrong audience

There’s nothing worse than getting 100+ new subscribers… Only to realize none of them are your ideal customers.

(Totally not speaking from experience here, I swearrrr 👀)

If your lead magnet isn’t carefully designed to attract the right people, you’re going to find yourself with high unsubscribe rates, low open rates, and big fat bill to your email provider for subscribers that don’t really want to hear from you.

Instead, start with some deep thinking on what kind of person you want on your list and what you want them to eventually buy from you. THEN, you can create a lead magnet that will start them on that journey.

The goal is to create a cohesive marketing system:

  • You create helpful content on a specific topic.
  • Then, people who want to know more about that topic download your lead magnet and join your email list.
  • Finally, you can use email to sell them something related to that topic.

And the cycle continues.

THE CIIIIIIRCLE OF LIFE

Mistake #4: The lead magnet’s missing a welcome message

What’s the first thing you do when you sign up for someone’s free download?

If you’re like most people, you skim through the delivery email and go straight to the freebie. It’s human nature.

I want the free thing, gimme the free thing.

But of course, it’s important for our new readers to get to know us. That’s a crucial part of building a strong email list.

So don’t leave your welcome just to your welcome email. Add a welcome message to your lead magnet, too. Before you jump into the content, write a little welcome letter that gives the reader a bit of context—what the download is, how to use it, and also who you are.

Mistake #5: The lead magnet’s missing a closing page

Just like how we want to give the reader an action to take when they reach the end of a blog post, we want to do the same when they reach the end of a lead magnet.

Add a closing page to your freebie with a few words on how the reader can continue their journey. This might mean:

  • Inviting them to join your Facebook group
  • Inviting them to an evergreen webinar
  • Asking them a question, and inviting them to email you their answer
  • Pitching them a low-priced product
  • Sharing some links to related blog posts so they can keep learning about the topic

Those people who reached the end of your lead magnet are invested. They just learned some great stuff from you, and they’re eager for more. Let’s keep the good vibes rolling by telling them how to move forward.

Mistake #6: No follow-up email sequence

I know, I know—just getting that lead magnet published is a huge effort in itself. And it’s incredibly valuable!

…But if you don’t have a follow-up sequence, you’re missing out on a chance to build some real trust with that new subscriber.

Most email marketing providers (like ConvertKit and MailChimp) allow you to create automated follow-up sequences. These are emails that are auto-magically sent to each new subscriber after they get your lead magnet. The goal is to follow up on the conversation that the lead magnet started, ensure they utilize the lead magnet, and give them additional resources to bring them deeper into your marketing ecosystem.

For example, if your lead magnet was about “How to teach your puppy to sit,” you might have a follow-up sequence that includes:

  • An email that shares links to other basic obedience training articles on your blog
  • A one-week check-in to see if they have any questions
  • Or even an invitation to your puppy training 101 webinar (which could lead to a paid program… and baby, you’ve got yourself a marketing funnel)

If you’re getting started, this follow-up sequence doesn’t need to be fancy. But have at least one email saying howdy-hey and reminding them of what they just learned.

Mistake #7: The form isn’t GDPR compliant

We’re gonna get a little technical, so stay with me.

If you haven’t heard yet, GDPR is a set of laws set up by the EU that govern how EU citizens’ data can be collected, stored, and shared. And for anyone who has a subscribe form that’s visible to EU citizens (that’s you), there are specific guidelines around how you must collect proper consent.

Before GDPR, you could set up a lead magnet, get someone on your list, and then start emailing them your weekly email. Now, however, opting into a freebie only means they’re consenting to receive the freebie—not the rest of your emails.

So, we have to take special measures to ensure we’re obtaining clear consent.

Now, I’m no lawyer and you shouldn’t take this as legal advice. In fact, GDPR is still new enough that there’s a lot of disagreement around how to implement the guidelines in real life. But here’s the best advice I’ve heard around how to ensure your lead magnet is GDPR compliant:

The best recommendation is to add an optional checkbox to each lead magnet form that allows readers to also sign up for your weekly emails. Anyone who doesn’t check the box simply gets the lead magnet and moves on with their life.

That’s the easiest and seemingly safest method of ensuring you’re obtaining clear consent. Most email service providers offer these checkboxes now as a built-in feature you can enable.

Alternatively, you have a few other options for obtaining GDPR consent that are generally considered safe bets:

  • Having a second subscribe form on a thank-you page. After they opt-in to the lead magnet, they’re instantly asked to opt in (separately) to your weekly emails as well.
  • In the email that delivers the lead magnet, ask the reader to subscribe to your weekly emails as well.
  • In the lead magnet itself, have a call-to-action directing to a subscribe form for your weekly emails.

Of course, this can lead to fewer subscribers overall. Fewer people want to fill out of a form twice.

So, for information’s sake, there are also a few options that exist in the gray area. To my non-laywer brain, it’s not yet clear if these are considered appropriate implementations of GDPR, so use at your own risk:

  • Using language in the form that makes it clear they’re signing up for your weekly emails first and foremost, and that the lead magnet is just one little part of all the good content they’ll get.
  • Having a lead magnet form that delivers the lead magnet as well as a relevant follow-up sequence. In that sequence, ask them to subscribe to your weekly emails.

Regardless of the method you choose, your form should make it clear what they’ll receive, include a link to your privacy policy, and explain that they can unsubscribe later.

Mistake #8: Your lead magnet has a snooze-worthy title

Okay. We’ve gone through 7 of the worst lead magnet mistakes out there.

But the nail in the coffin?

If your lead magnet has a boring title, it’s not gonna get clicked.

Let me be clear here. This isn’t about making your lead magnet all flashy and exciting. Instead, a good title is specific and outcomes-focused.

For example, if I’m a designer creating a guide on choosing brand colors, I want to highlight the end result: The reader will have a clear color palette for their brand.

Less than ideal titles might be:

  • Crystal Clear Color
  • Brand Coloring
  • The Brand Color Guide
  • Brand Palette 101

While something more effective might be:

  • How to Choose Your Brand Colors
  • The Simple Guide to Brand Colors
  • The Brand Palette: How to Choose Brand Colors that Reflect Your Personality

Even better, give it a title that shows the freebie is your own framework or system (while being clear on the outcome):

  • The Color Palette Promise: How to Choose a Brand Color Palette that Resonates with Your Ideal Clients
  • Your Forever Colors: The 5-Step System to Choosing Your Brand Color Palette

You’ll notice that good titles tend to be a bit longer. This isn’t always the case, but longer titles allow you to be more specific about what the freebie is and why the reader should care about it.

(Psst—I have a free guide on how to create memorable names for your packages, products, and lead magnets. Get it here.)

Have you made any of these lead magnet mistakes?

I mean, no shame. I’ve made these mistakes myself—that’s why I’m here talking about it.

So if you’re game, spill the beans! Let me know which mistake you’ve made in the comments. Then tell me what you’re going to do about it 😉

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