Oh, lead magnets. Those feisty little things.
Some people call them reader magnets, opt-in incentives, or free downloads, but they all function the same way with the same goal: to entice your web visitors to become subscribers.
As someone who has created way too many lead magnets, I’m here to share some ideas on what kind of lead magnet you might want to create, and how it can serve your business.
But before we get into the nitty-gritty…
What is a lead magnet?
If you haven’t heard this term before, a lead magnet is a free training or helpful resource you give away in exchange for someone’s email address.
You’ve likely opted in to one before. Any time you type in your email to get someone’s free guide, free email training, or free consultation, you’re using their lead magnet.
Lead magnets are fantastic tools for growing your list and delivering instant value, which can set off your email relationship with that subscriber on the right foot.
How many lead magnets do you need?
Of course, as wonderful as they are for your business, lead magnets can be a pain to create.
But don’t worry. After making too many lead magnets myself, I can confidently say that you don’t actually need all that many. In fact, you can likely get away with just one—for a while, at least.
A few years ago, the common advice was to create a free lead magnet with every article you published on your blog. The lead magnet was often a checklist or cheat sheet that helped the reader with the exact topic of the article.
But while a targeted lead magnet is usually more effective than a generic lead magnet, it’s not the best use of your time. Instead, that time you spend creating each new lead magnet could be much better spent elsewhere in your business—like writing another blog post, for example. (And then using the same lead magnet for both articles!)
My recommendation? Create one lead magnet for each category of post.
So let’s say you’re a dog trainer who’s mainly writing articles about puppy training, behavior problems, and dog enrichment. That’s three core categories. If you created one lead magnet for each category, then you could use the same lead magnets over and over again for each article in that category—because they’d still be entirely relevant.
How to choose a lead magnet idea
In a minute here, I’m going to throw a bunch of lead magnet ideas at you. It’s gonna be awesome. Maybe a little overwhelming.
But before you dig in, you MUST pay attention to what I’m about to say here.
So many people spend hours or days creating a dang lead magnet, only to realize that it doesn’t work. No one wants it. And that sucks.
Or your readers DO opt in… but then, nothing really comes of it. (Psst—You know it’s a good lead magnet when you occasionally get a thank you email from a new subscriber!)
So here’s how to choose a great lead magnet topic for your coaching or freelance business:
First, keep it closely related to your offer and target audience. For example, if you were a wedding planner, your lead magnet would be something a bride would find useful during the wedding planning process. If you were an equine veterinarian, it would be something that helps horse owners.
A great way to think about this is to ask yourself two questions:
- What would be helpful for someone know before they hire me?
- How can I teach the reader how to do one piece of the work themselves?
Second, deliver a quick win. A common problem I see with lead magnets is trying to teach ALL the stuff in one little download. That might seem valuable, and it might even get a lot of subscribers.
But if it’s too much content, they’re not going to read it. They’re not going to use it. And that means you’ve just lost out on a big opportunity.
Because imagine if you could help them solve one problem in a little free lead magnet. Suddenly they’re thinking, “That was amazing! If this free thing was that good, I’ll bet paying to work with them would be even better!”
Finally, make it easy on yourself. There are lots of lead magnet ideas below. Stick with what makes you excited, and what seems doable. Every idea here can work for you, and they don’t need to be complicated. So follow what lights you up.
Lead magnet ideas for coaches & service providers
Let’s get started!
1. Checklists & worksheets
This is one of the easiest lead magnets to create—but that doesn’t mean it’s lame. In fact, a checklist or worksheet is a highly valuable tool because it allows you to teach your process and mindset behind a topic.
For example, a “Design Audit Checklist” would be great for a designer to show what they pay attention to during a redesign, and would let the reader understand what’s missing from their visual branding.
A “Meal Plan Worksheet” would be great for a dietician to teach the reader how to plan a meal for themselves. When the reader realizes how much thought goes into planning a healthy meal, they’ll value the dietician’s work higher (and maybe even want to hire the dietician to do the meal planning for them in the future).
2. Cheat sheets
A cheat sheet is a great accompaniment to a blog post series or video series. You’re giving the reader a printable resource that they can have on hand to remember the key points of what you shared.
Cheat sheets can be a little tough to use as a core category lead magnet though, simply because they’re usually short and specific. They don’t teach much, they just summarize.
I’ve used cheat sheets during a launch. My launch involved a video series, and each day the video was released, viewers got a cheat sheet to go along with that video. It was a great way to encourage engagement, and ensure my video viewers were becoming subscribers.
3. Guide or mini e-book
This one is one of my favorites.
A guide is just what it sounds like: A multi-page PDF that teaches the reader something. Unlike a cheat sheet, a guide works well as a main lead magnet because it’s self-contained and covers the topic in a lot more depth.
Now, the guide is easy to get wrong. Specifically, a lot of people make these way too long. This is NOT about writing the entire handbook on a given topic. You just want to help the reader with one key how-to.
A typical guide has a cover page with the the title, a welcome page with a personal note, 2-5 pages of content, and a closing page that invites them to take the next step with you (for example, emailing you a question, or joining your Facebook group).
4. Webinars and live casts
A webinar or live cast is a training that you give via video call to a group. The training is typically 45 minutes long followed by a Q&A session, but they can vary from 30 to 90 minutes. The terms “webinar” and “live cast” are used almost interchangeably, but some people consider a webinar to be pre-recorded, while a live cast is a video training that’s delivered live.
These can be fantastic list growth tools if used correctly. The challenge here, though, is that if the training is delivered live, it means you have a time limit to promote it. While other lead magnets are evergreen (meaning they can sit on your website forever, collecting new subscribers), a live video means you are only collecting subscribers up until the day you do the actual training.
One of the best implementations of live trainings I’ve seen is creating a weekly webinar series. Readers can opt-in at any time, at which point they’ll get invited to the next live webinar. Each week is a different training, and then the webinar recording is posted on the blog. If you enjoy video, this is a fantastic way to get regular face time with your followers and build trust with them.
5. Video training
This is similar to #4, but stay with me.
A video training is a pre-recorded video that your website visitors can get access to using your opt-in form. The video could either be something you recorded specifically as a lead magnet, or it could be something you’re repurposing—such as a special webinar recording that’s not available on your website.
Video trainings can be intensely valuable. However, unless it’s a topic that the subscriber’s dying to know about, it can be tough to get the subscriber to actually watch the whole thing. I recommend keeping the video short if possible (under 30 minutes), and focusing the video on one big, juicy question or problem your reader is trying to solve.
6. Email challenge or email course
Unlike a free download, there’s no PDF or external links tied to this lead magnet. It’s just a series of emails dripped out over a few days.
These can be time-intensive to create, since you need to create the content for multiple emails. However, readers love them because they get so much value! Plus, showing up in their inbox every day with fresh information is a great way to get the reader used to opening your emails. It can ultimately serve as a kind of welcome sequence, introducing yourself while delivering highly valuable content.
Now, the key to making the email course or challenge work is to keep it tight. The goal isn’t to teach them everything there is to know. Instead, each email should be relatively short, and give them one take-away or action step.
Length-wise, email courses are typically 4-5 days long. A challenge, though, could go as long as 10 or even 30 days—but I highly suspect those bigger ones get a lot of drop-off. Remember, it’s not about delivering endless content. It’s about delivering quick wins.
Quizzes are becoming a popular choice for lead magnets because they work so darn well. Since Buzzfeed Quizzes became a thing, everyone’s realizing how clickable they are. Who doesn’t want to be told something fun about themselves?
Of course, quizzes are among the most time-intensive lead magnet options. Because these aren’t just the quizzes you read in a magazine and add up your points—you want it to be interactive, so it’s easy to use. That means using a quiz creator like Interact, LeadQuizzes, or Typeform.
To take your quiz to the next level of marketing nerd-dom, you can use your questions to learn about your subscribers. For example, if you were a relationship coach, you could ask if they’re looking for a partner or looking to make an existing relationship stronger. That question would lead them to the right quiz answer, but it could also be set up to tag that subscriber with “single” or “in a relationship” in your email provider—which would give you valuable information on what kind of content they’d be interested in in the future.
8. Case study
There are different kinds of case studies. And to make this work as a lead magnet, you need to use the right one.
Some case studies are used purely as sales tools. These are the ones you might feature on your website to prove your chops: “How so-and-so found joy and increased her sales by X%.” They focus on the results your client got while working with you.
You COULD use this type as a lead magnet. However, what someone would be much more interested in is not just the results, but the how. What was the process that got them the results?
If you can write a case study that details not only the results someone got, but also the exact process you used to get those results, you’ll have an extremely enticing lead magnet on your hands.
And this is where there’s a little leap of faith involved. Because you might think, “I don’t want to share my secret process! They might just take the strategy and go do it themselves!”
And sure, that’s technically a possibility.
But much more likely, a case study that details the how will help your readers see how you think, and they’ll realize that a strategy isn’t one-size-fits-all. And that’s when they’ll be knocking down your door to work with you directly.
9. Free consultation
Okay, a free consultation isn’t ideal for growing a massive list. However, it CAN be a great opt-in if your goal isn’t to build an email list, but rather to get clients as quickly as possible. Fewer people will opt in, but they’ll be people who are much closer to being ready to buy.
Of course, a free consultation can attract a lot of randos. Some folks might see the word “free” and want to pick your brain. That’s perfectly okay if you’re just starting out (you’ll grow your network, if nothing else!), but if you’re more established, this can become a huge drain on your time.
In that case, it’s best to put up a few barriers to make sure that the people reaching out are actually qualified. The easiest way to do this is a detailed questionnaire that they have to fill out before they get sent a link to your scheduling tool. This sets the expectation that you’re only open to serious inquiries.
But the trick is to get started
Go ahead—Create a lead magnet. Get it live on your website.
If it’s your first one, it’ll probably be less than perfect. Maybe waaaay less than perfect. But that’s perfectly okay! Because the key here is to take action and trust that you’ll get better over time.
But you can’t grow if you don’t publish.
Wishing you all the best, and let me know if you have any questions I can help with ✌️
And to wrap things up, here’s a lead magnet of my own…