Why Great Lead Magnets Work (And Why Yours Aren’t Performing)

The other day, I was working with a client who had well over 30,000 email subscribers. I initially anticipated that any campaigns we sent would receive a decent amount of traffic, yet when I looked at his send history, I discovered his click-through rates were abysmally small. On average, barely half a percent of his subscribers were clicking on his emails, netting just 150 clicks per send and a sale every few emails.

A similar client, on the other hand, was getting 500+ clicks and 2-3 sales per email with only a 5,000 subscriber list.

What was the difference?

Why was the smaller list performing so much better?

There are, of course, many factors that go into email marketing, but today, I want to discuss the one that tends to be the most misunderstood.

The lead magnet.

Your lead magnet determines who subscribes to your list and sets the tone for their experience with your brand. When you get it right, you position yourself for purchases down the road. When you get it wrong, the leads might as well not even be there.

In this article, we’ll look at why great lead magnets work so well, and by extension, we’ll shed some light on why others (possibly including yours) fail to perform.

What Is A Lead Magnet?

A lead magnet is anything offered for free in exchange for the recipient’s email address.

The immediate goal of a lead magnet is to get email subscribers. There are only so many people who will like your content SO much that they’ll just subscribe to your list in order to receive emails from you. A lot of people will simply read a bit and then leave, and a lead magnet is designed to incentive some portion of those people to give you their contact information for later follow up.

Where many business make a mistake is in thinking that “some portion” means “as many as possible”, but we’ll get to that later.

Because you are giving away the lead magnet for free, it’s typically important that it costs you little to nothing to create and distribute. This is why ebooks are one of the most commonly used types of lead magnets. As a digital product, once the initial file is created, it costs nothing to copy and give away as many copies as you like.

Here are several different types of leads magnets that are commonly used:

  • Whitepaper
  • Coupon or Discount
  • Ebook
  • Video Series
  • Access to a Database
  • Checklist
  • Case Study
  • Downloadable Blog Post
  • Webinar
  • Email Series
  • Educational Course
  • Free Software Tool
  • Free Trial of Premium Software

The type of lead magnet you choose will depend on your business. What does your audience want? In what ways do they consume content? What is your team even capable of producing?

But ultimately, a great lead magnet comes down to two simple things:

The Two Primary Objectives of a Great Lead Magnet

A great lead magnet accomplishes two things above all else:

  1. It attracts the right people
  2. It positions those people to purchase

If your lead magnet fails at either of these, it fails period.

Objective #1: Attract The Right People

A common misconception with lead magnets is that more = better. If Lead Magnet #A gets double the subscribers of Lead Magnet #B, it must clearly be the superior choice.


A 30 second conversation with anyone in sales will tell you otherwise. If option #B is getting highly qualified leads while option #A is getting unqualified leads, it’s not even a contest.

If quantity was all the mattered, we could just do Macbook Pro giveaways all day and get “leads” by the thousands. And barely any of those people would be even remotely interested in purchasing our product.

Quality is even more important than quantity when it comes to evaluating a lead magnet. You want to attract as many of the right people as possible while not appealing to those outside your niche.

A great example of this in action comes from Ulyses Osuna of Influencer Press. Influencer Press is a PR agency that gets people published on popular business blogs like Forbes, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, etc. Accordingly, their sitewide lead magnet deals specifically with this goal.

A great lead magnet example from Influencer Press

A great lead magnet example from Influencer Press

For anyone interested in getting published on a site like Forbes (the target market), an inside look at Ulyses’ email correspondence is a very attractive offer. At the same time, it’s not going to be a must-download for virtually anyone outside the target market.

In other words, it hits the nail right on the head.

When pitching your lead magnet, try to hit on the following four points whenever possible:

  • Promise: promise something specific in exchange for the user’s email
  • Target: make it very clear who the lead magnet is intended for
  • Key Benefits: like with direct response copywriting, address all key benefits the lead will get from your lead magnet
  • Call to Action: call the reader to take action, enter their email, and receive the lead magnet

Attracting the right people is a big first step, but it’s still only half of the story. We still need to do one more thing…

Objective#2: Position Leads For Purchasing

Your lead magnet’s usefulness doesn’t end when the visitors clicks “subscribe”. In fact, it’s just getting started.

The lead magnet will set the tone for your relationship with the lead, so even if you attract the perfect leads, it won’t mean much if engaging with your lead magnet leaves a bad taste in their mouth.

This is where a lot of businesses and marketers mess up. It’s somewhat easy to think of a lead magnet pitch that will excite your audience and get them to enter their email. It’s a lot harder to deliver the goods with quality that is worthy of the hype.

“Download the 10-step process I used to make $100,000 in 3 months with no prior experience.”

That sounds great. I want to make $100k in 3 months. If you don’t seem like a hack, I’ll probably give you my email on the off chance you can deliver on such an insanely big promise.

And when you inevitably don’t, you will never hear from me again.

That’s an extreme example, but it illustrates how simply getting the email address doesn’t mean you have a legitimate lead. If you don’t deliver the goods, you can kiss that lead goodbye.

But fulfilling your promise is the easy part.

The trickier part of this second objective is actually positioning the lead for purchasing. The goal here isn’t to simply not annoy the lead. They’ve just requested a custom piece of content from you. They have literally asked you to send them a pitch.

Obviously, you can’t give them a pitch disquised as a lead magnet. That fails everything we just talked about. Deliver on the promise first and foremost. But take every opportunity to establish your expertise, demonstrate your past results, highlight your value, and position yourself as a great purchase in their minds.

A great example of this comes from Dave Rogenmoser of Entrepreneur Alliance. Dave’s lead magnet promises to help users create a $10k per month cashflow business, and instead of providing a simple PDF, he directs leads to a lengthy, well-designed HTML page, complete with multiple chapters, real data, and step-by-step instructions. Throughout the guide, he references products he sells, pitches his membership site, and positions the reader to respond to the follow up emails in his autoresponder.

A great lead magnet example from Entrepreneur Alliance

A great lead magnet example from Entrepreneur Alliance


You can’t skimp on quality, and you can’t forget to position the lead for purchasing.

Both are essential to your lead magnet’s success.

10 Reasons Lead Magnets Don’t Perform

Now that you know what to aim for, let’s go through some of the reasons that lead magnets don’t perform well. Most of the problems come down to failing our two objectives, but even if you knock those out of the park, there are other factors that can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

  1. Generic promise that doesn’t appeal to a specific audience
  2. Intriguing promise that appeals to the wrong audience
  3. Weak content that doesn’t deliver on promise
  4. Solves a problem, but not an urgent one
  5. Lack of trust signals or social proof on landing page
  6. Poorly designed graphics on landing page
  7. Weak headline or CTA on landing page
  8. Solid content that fails to position lead for purchasing
  9. Autoresponder content doesn’t synergize with lead magnet
  10. Lead magnet doesn’t synergize with tripwire product

While we don’t have time to dive into each one of these mistakes, any one of them can derail your lead magnet’s performance.

Conclusion: Optimize Your Lead Magnet

Creating a great lead magnet that performs well for your business is really not that hard. It’s simply a matter of attracting the right audience and positioning leads for purchasing.

Unfortunately, many businesses create their lead magnets as a sort of afterthought, failing to invest the time and energy required to make something special.

Don’t fall into that trap. If you sort of just threw up your own lead magnet, take this opportunity to re-evaluate and make sure you’re hitting the right objectives.

6 replies
  1. Snarky says:

    Mailer-Daemon is provided for undelivered mail. Confirmation emails are a insult and proof of company greed. We want a response not an upsale. Confirmations are never opened here by rule.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] as content strategist Jacob McMillen said, a great opt-in offer attracts the right people…and positions those people to […]

  2. […] as content strategist Jacob McMillen said, a great opt-in offer attracts the right people…and positions those people to […]

  3. […] a lead magnet is a small piece of free content that you give away in exchange for an email address. They can be highly effective, but how do you get started creating your very first lead magnet? And, once you’ve put one […]

  4. […] When you give someone something, it encourages them to return the favor and give something to you as well. In the marketing world, the most common example of this in action is the lead magnet: […]

  5. […] When you give someone something, it encourages them to return the favor and give something to you as well. In the marketing world, the most common example of this in action is the lead magnet: […]

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