Business owners often ask me “do lead magnets work?“, as a way to grow their newsletter lists. If you’re considering using them, or you’re wondering why they’re not working for you, you should find the following useful.
For those who don’t already know, the term lead magnets was made popular by internet marketing gurus / social media gurus (and pretty much every get-rich-quick guru). However, the concept has been around for decades.
It refers to a freebie, which is used to entice people to give you their contact details. The most common freebies include ‘special reports’, white papers, ‘exclusive’ audio / video content or some kind of information that’s only available via email. In return for the freebie, people are asked to provide their contact details.
Because of the extreme negativity attached to lead magnets, many internet marketing gurus refer to them as ethical bribes. I’m not sure why they think a bribe sounds better!
Building your list
Probably the most common use of lead magnets, is list building for newsletters. On the surface, they seem like a no-brainer. You certainly can attract lots of contact details with them.
However, there’s a major downside.
Lead magnets are notorious for attracting the lowest possible quality contact details. That’s because the use of free stuff as bait, is most attractive to so-called freebie hunters; who are attracted to freebies like moths to a flame.
Why does this result in such amazingly low quality?
Many / most freebie hunters use dedicated email addresses, just for getting their free offers. They check the email address only when they’re waiting for the freebie to arrive. As such, lists built from lead magnets can be really poor quality. Yes, you’ll probably attract some genuine contacts, too. But the overall quality will be massively lower than a normal list.
That said, there are some instances where lead magnets are worth considering.
Lead magnets can work
One example where lead magnets can work, is if you’re building a newsletter readership, where your business model is advertising. Offering a freebie, to people who pay you with their attention, and never need to pay you financially, can be a pretty good fit. So, if you’re offering a newsletter, and your advertisers pay based on the size of your list or reach (which they shouldn’t, but that’s another post), lead magnets will work.
I’ve also seen lead magnets used successfully for the sale of low-cost, downloadable content.
Interestingly, this is exactly what internet marketing gurus sold for years. Before they all switched to selling online training courses, they used to offer ‘information products’. Remember them? Those ebooks that claimed to blow the lid off your potential, or show you how to make a fortune while you sleep… and all for just $29.99.
Where lead magnets work least well
Without doubt, the area where lead magnets work least well, is with service providers; lawyers, accountants, coaches, consultants, mentors and designers, etc., etc.
I regularly hear from service providers, who have built lists using lead magnets and seen terrible results. In fact, I was prompted to write about this after an email I received from a reader in Sydney, Australia. She’s a copywriter and has built a list of over 45,000 lead magnet contacts, which she’d mailed for 12-months. It didn’t generate one paying client. She showed me some of the emails she’d sent, and as you’d expect from a professional writer, they were superb. But the list itself just wasn’t worth mailing.
There are a couple of key reasons why lead magnets are so ineffective for service providers:
- The level of trust and commitment required to download a freebie, is close to zero. The trust and commitment required to buy a low-cost information product is moderate. BUT the trust and commitment required to hire the services of an expert is absolutely HUGE.
- The service provider needs to somehow reposition themselves as a professional, who offers a high quality service. This, after showing they were fine offering ethical bribes / freebies, in an effort to get clients. At best, it looks needy. At worst it looks shoddy. Either way, that’s a heck of a barrier to overcome!
Before you think about using lead magnets, consider why you need them. Unless you sell advertising based on list size, it’s a pretty poor strategy.
The most valuable lists, by far, are those that grow organically. Organic lists grow because people are genuinely interested in knowing more about what you do. These interested people are of enormous value to your business, as an excellent source of prospective clients.