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14 examples of strong lead magnets for small businesses

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It’s rare to land on a website and not immediately be offered something.

There always seems to be an opportunity to sign up for a newsletter, get a discount code, spin a wheel, or download something.

So as you’re growing your business’s online presence, should you offer something too?

Yes, you should. 

Lead magnets like the examples I gave you encourage potential customers to engage with your brand at the most basic level.

You should ask for nothing more than their name and email address, and give them a freebie for doing so. 

Creating a lead magnet (or several) is a positive, proactive way to start communicating with new clients.

These will be people who want to hear from you.

And once they’ve received their freebie, hopefully they’ll want to keep hearing from you.

And if they do, it’s an opportunity to build a good rapport with them and convert them into a paying customer. 

If you’re new to lead magnets as a content marketing concept then this guide is a great place to learn how to make them work for your small business.

You’ll learn:

  • what a lead magnet is
  • why they’re useful to business owners
  • why they’re useful to your ideal audience 
  • how many lead magnets you need (because one is rarely enough)
  • how long it really takes to create a lead magnet worthy of your audience’s attention
  • 14 great lead magnet examples for small businesses that you can start working on today. 

Let’s start by defining a lead magnet, looking at the different types of lead magnets, and evaluating their effectiveness as part of a modern digital marketing plan. 

What is a lead magnet?

A lead magnet is a piece of free content, a deal, or an offer.

Lead magnets should encourage your ideal customer to engage with your business. 

Businesses tend to use lead magnets to grow their email lists.

To get what’s being offered, the person must provide their name and email address. (Some businesses may also ask for other contact or personal details depending on their marketing goals.)

The business then uses the customer information they get to encourage the person to become a paying customer.

Lead magnets are often thought of as a digital marketing strategy.

But brands and businesses have been using coupons, fliers, and doordrops to collect customer information for decades.

If you’re old enough to remember life before the internet then you may remember cutting out coupons from the backs of cereal packs or magazines, filling in the requested details, and posting them in exchange for a small toy or beauty product sample. 

So it’s not really a new idea.

They’re just easier to manage and more affordable in the digital age.

And so every business and its office dog now has a lead magnet. 

But is this such a bad thing?

Lead magnets aren’t a new idea. They’re just easier to manage and more affordable in the digital age. And so every business and their office dog now has a lead magnet.

How effective are lead magnets?

As a business owner, giving something away for nothing feels like a huge act of generosity on your part.

How could anyone possibly refuse something for free? you may think.

This means getting the contact details and leads you want should be super easy, right? 

(For total transparency, I also believe this. And that’s why I have a whole page of freebie lead magnets.)

The thing is, most businesses believe it and have free stuff up for grabs.

And that means competitor businesses are desperately trying to get the same customer details as you. 

A rumbling argument among marketers is that consumers are so inundated with online opt-ins and offers that they’ve become blind to them.

And so they’re no longer willing to give away their personal details every time they’re asked for them. 

According to a small(ish) lead magnet study by Infobranz.com, this could be the case.

Almost 800 of the businesses surveyed said their monetary value lead magnets (i.e. discount codes) had a 10.5% conversion rate.

That’s far less than their video and written lead magnets (24% and 23% respectively).

And so marketers now believe the lead magnet needs to be reinvented.

Rather than a single lead magnet, there’s now:

  • the content upgrade – highly specific and very targeted opt-in offers that appeal to whoever came to your site to read a blog post (Source: Wendy Maynard)
  • the evergreen lead magnet – a piece of content that encourages repeat use, and is periodically updated to encourage people to keep coming back for the latest version.

There’s little argument from me that a good lead magnet must have these things.

But I don’t agree the more ‘traditional’ lead magnet (i.e. a simple form with a code or offer) is dead.

Especially if it delivers what your ideal customer needs at that exact point in time. 

Tip: Use tools to test what works

You can always test to see how well traditional lead magnets work for your business by using tools such as OptinMonster.

This service is easy to set up and use, and makes creating lead generation very simple.

You can even test different versions. Give it a try. 

The qualities of a great lead magnet

A lead magnet is only useful if it brings in leads that become conversions.

If this sounds like a lot of work, it’s because it is.

A good lead magnet is the result of hard work. (More on this later.)

And to maximize the chances of bringing in people highly likely to become customers, it needs to have the following qualities.

1. It needs to understand your audience and quickly fix a problem they’re experiencing 

As with all marketing, what you create needs to speak to the audience it’s addressing.

It needs to identify the problem they’re facing, and understand how this piece of content marketing will help them fix it.

So it’s paramount that you understand your ideal audience (or customer), and write to their pain points and needs.

Doing this makes it easier for you to create a lead magnet that provides value.

And when it comes to what people value the most, it’s nearly always their time.

As an introduction to your company, show your ideal customer what you can do for them in a jiffy (or less). 

2. It needs to deliver what it says it will 

Clickbaity lead magnets are a pain in the ass.

You know the ones?

Ones that are touted as one thing, so you download them only to discover they’re not at all what you expected. 

Not delivering on your promise is a super effective way to turn someone off your brand and stop them engaging with your business. 

3. It needs to give them something they can’t get anywhere else

It doesn’t matter if it’s a recipe to make your own unicorn poop, or the top 10 foods to avoid when you’re on a diet.

If someone can find what you’re offering without needing to give away their personal details, they’ll probably take the other option.

So find ways to make your lead magnet a must-have. 

Whether it’s sourcing original quotes from an expert in your industry, or offering something highly personalized (e.g. a free consult), you need to deliver perceived value they can’t refuse because they can’t get it anywhere else. 

4. It should arrive in an instant

People hate to be kept waiting. If they decide to accept your offer, they’ll want it the moment they hand over their details. 

Speed works in your favor, too.

In that moment their thoughts are on you, your business, and your lead magnet.

If you wait hours or days to send the thing, chances are they’ll have moved on to something else by the time it arrives. 

5. It needs to be sexy AF

Design isn’t everything. But it does count for a lot.

What you create needs to look good on desktop and mobile.

And if it’s an audio or visual lead magnet, the recording needs to be high quality.  

6. It should leave them wanting more

Accepting your lead magnet offer should be the first step in a new customer’s journey with you.

By the time they’ve finished reading it, watching it, or listening to it, they should like you enough to want more of what you’ve got.

Drive this home by putting a logical ‘next step’ call to action at the end of your lead magnet.

Don’t leave them wondering, ‘What now?’ 

Now you know what qualities a successful lead magnet needs.

Let’s dig into the different styles of lead magnets, the reality of what it takes to pull a high-converting lead magnet together, and the importance of having more than one. 

14 great lead magnet ideas for small business

The style of lead magnet that works best will be driven by your industry, your brand, and the needs of your customers.

Here are 14 lead magnet suggestions that work well for small businesses and their customers.

I’ll explain what each one is, why it works, and any extra considerations.

I’ve also tried to order them from least labor-intensive to most.

Lead magnet ideaWhat is it?Why it worksExtra considerations
Discount codes and couponsA money-off pop-up in exchange for someone’s email address.Everyone loves to save money. So a tantalizing 10%, 15%, or 50% off voucher they can use immediately is hard to resist. It’s also super easy to set up.Probably the most common lead magnet style because it’s so easy to implement. However, some consumers may be blind to it, so make sure your discount or coupon offers that little bit extra.
Gamified offersSpin the wheel, scratch cards, and lucky dip games that promise prizes, savings, and freebies.An elevated version of the discount code pop-up, but with an element of chance and risk. The consumer could win something amazing. Playing the game encourages sign-ups.Gamified opt-ins are extremely popular and work well. Just be prepared to meet the demand of what you’re offering.

They’re relatively easy to set up. However, you may need to buy the template.
ChecklistTurn the action points of your blog post into a simple checklist.Checklists are short, and give your audience something quick and simple to work through. They should be able to see the results of their work, and have a sense of satisfaction when they reach the end.Repurposing content is the simplest way to create your lead magnet checklist. You may need to find a design program so the download looks attractive. Canva is an easy choice.
Cheat sheet/summaryA ‘TL:DR’ version of your content. Summaries give a high-level overview of a longer article, while a cheat sheet includes the key points.Similar to checklists and downloadable guides, these are great for time-poor clients.To ensure your cheat sheet or summary is relevant and on-point, you’ll need to whittle your content down to the essential need-to-knows.
Guide downloadA downloadable PDF of an article already accessible on your site.Great for long pieces of content, such as ultimate guides. Not everyone will have time to read it right away, so give them the option to download it for later. This also makes it easier for them to refer to it as and when they need it without needing to return to your site every time.You may need to spend time redesigning the content to make it look great in PDF format.
Prompt cardsGive your audience inspiring lead-in prompts that relate to your business, products, or industry. Present them as attractive cards.Starting something is always the hardest part. Help your potential clients by showing them you’re full of great ideas that can help them act.These work well for service-based businesses. Other businesses may need to approach this lead magnet style as tangential content.
Bonus materialExtra information that builds on what the audience has already learned.Bonus material has an air of exclusivity. The ‘extra secrets’ and ‘bonus benefits’ are only accessible to those dedicated enough to opt in.This involves creating extra content. The offer must also be something that a) builds on the original content, b) adds clear value.
TemplatesA fill-in-the-blank template customers can customize.Another great time-saving lead magnet for your audience. You’ve done the hard work, so all they need to do is make it their own by adding the finishing touches.This is a white-label approach. Clients may be hesitant to use the template for fear of looking ‘samey’.
WorksheetsWorksheets or workbooks that help customers complete a specific challenge.Guiding your audience through something they’re finding difficult positions you as a trusted authority. There should be a visible result at the end.This will walk someone through a specific process. You should be aiming to give them a tangible result without giving away too much of your expertise.
QuizzesA series of questions that gives the audience a result at the end.Entertaining and irresistible (thanks, Buzzfeed!), once someone starts a quiz they’re invested and more likely to give their details to get the results.Creating a quiz lead magnet takes time. It also needs to strike a fine balance of being entertaining, yet informative and valuable. Quiz templates and software are available, but generally have a price attached.
Email courseA series of autoresponder emails that teaches your audience a new skill.Courses demand investment from your reader. Potential clients who sign up for these are warm leads. It also positions you as a trusted authority figure, and hearing from you regularly helps them get to know your business better.Formatting emails is generally pretty simple. But you need to test the autoresponder triggers, avoid overwhelming your audience, and have a ‘next step’ at the end of the course.

Tip: Try ConvertKit, as it’s super easy to set up sequences.
Webinar workshopA live or recorded event where your audience can learn from you.53% of marketers say webinars bring in the most lead conversions. They’re an easy way for people to meet and interact with you. Record the webinar so you can repost and repurpose the content across your marketing channels.Make sure you have a reliable connection, a good camera, and a quality microphone. Technical glitches will ruin a webinar workshop and lead to people dropping off. You may also need to subscribe to a paid video hosting platform to meet demand.
Whitepaper, report, ebookAn in-depth guide that delivers original research and findings.For the right sort of business, these weighty lead magnets are an instant sign of authority and experience.These are time-consuming to produce and often time-consuming for the audience to read. You need to deliver something of great value and be confident of ROI before investing in this.
Short video courseOne or a series of videos that teaches prospective clients a new skill they’re keen to apply to their business.Not everyone finds it easy to consume information through written articles. Videos may be quicker and more digestible for your audience. It also brings an element of reality to your business, as viewers can see and hear you (or a presenter).Make sure you have decent recording equipment. You’ll also need to invest time in writing the script, rehearsing, creating visuals, filming, and editing.

The repelling truth about creating attractive lead magnets

A lot of lead magnets are designed to give your ideal audience a quick fix to a challenge they face.

Sadly, the same can’t be said about how long it takes to create a high-quality lead magnet. 

Strong lead magnets are well thought out, well written, and well designed.

They’re rarely created quickly.

They eat up your time, your energy, and sometimes your budget.

You’ll probably want to outsource some of the creation as well (e.g. copy, design, getting it to work correctly on your site).

Small business owners rarely have loads of time or a big budget.

So how can you get your hands on an attractive lead magnet that will benefit your business? 

Bonus: 4 shortcuts to quicker lead magnet creation 

Thankfully, there are some lead magnet creation shortcuts you can take. If you use them wisely, they’ll minimize how much time and money you need to spend on these ventures without sacrificing (too much) quality.

  1. Use ChatGPT or another AI copywriting tool. These are really good for very basic stuff. Then add your human touch to it with some editing. 
  2. Find a design program or template for the style of lead magnet you want to create. For example, Canva has lots you can choose from. 
  3. Look into companies that offer white label lead magnets by searching for ‘lead magnet templates’. This should take most of the creation work off your hands. Just don’t forget to splash your branding all over it, and adjust the tone if necessary.
  4. Repurpose the content you already have. 

Create a lead magnet for every customer

Considering lead magnet creation isn’t a five-minute job, it’s tempting to find a one-size-fits-all bit of content.

My advice? Don’t.

As energy zapping as it is, your business needs (and your customers will appreciate) a variety of lead magnets. 

Your audience won’t all be at the same stage in their journey with your brand.

Some will be at the beginning, and so will be just getting to know you.

Others will have already spent money with you, and will be looking to spend more.

In marketing land we refer to this as ‘the customer journey’.

It’s your role to provide relevant content that supports each stage of that journey. 

What stage your customer is at will likely influence the style of lead magnet appropriate for them.

For example, someone interacting with your brand for the first time may only be invested enough to take a quick discount off your hands.

But a repeat customer may be more interested in downloading your ebook on your company’s journey to become more eco-friendly. (Or whatever.)

These customer journeys should be part of your larger content marketing strategy.

Keep them in mind when planning your lead magnets.

Need some help clarifying your lead magnet ideas?

And looking for some accountability to get them done?

Become a member of the Small Business Sweet Spot and I’ll help you along every step of your lead magnet creation journey.

Barb Davids - SEO Consultant

Barb Davids is an SEO consultant and owner of Compass Digital Strategies. Driven by data and analytics, she works hard to get business-changing results for her clients, such as 256% more website traffic and 22% more leads. Connect with her: Instagram | LinkedIn | Twitter
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