Audience Building · · 3 min read

Lead magnets that actually work

If you've ever tried to build up an email list, you've probably heard advice about creating a "lead magnet" to get people to sign up.

If you haven't or if you need a refresher, a lead magnet is basically the offer you make that incentivizes someone to hand over their email address.

The term "magnet" was used to emphasize that the offer is so good that it actually ATTRACTS people to your opt-in form.

And back in the day...that was a novel idea. Instead of simply saying, "Subscribe to receive my emails" making an offer to GIVE something on the sport in return for an email address really stood out.

It led to a lot of advice like:

  • Checklists
  • Short guides
  • Ebooks
  • Lists like "10 Ways to _____"

But these methods just don't work like they used to. The jig is up. We've all seen it, and we all know what you're really up to.

...and do any of the above really sound that enticing?

There is a baby in that bathwater, though. I don't think that having a lead magnet is the wrong approach...but instead of a lead magnet making you stand out, it's more of a pre-requisite.

It's like wearing a suit to a fancy job interview. It won't get you the job...but if you don't have it, you're almost certainly NOT getting the job.

Lead magnets today aren't a pre-requisite in the sense of you need to give me a thing, but in the sense of you need to OFFER me something worthwhile.

There are a few methods that I'm seeing work well. But before I get into those specific ideas, I want to share the most important insight:

The more useful something truly is, the more irresistible it is.

...and we've gotten a LOT better at sniffing out that value before we enter our email address.

So my best advice is this: create something so good you could actually sell it – and then give it away for free.

That is the most valuable, successful lead magnet strategy. Something that's truly WORTH paying for that I can instead have for free.

A few ideas worth considering:

Email courses

This is one of my personal favorites. An email course is fairly quick to put together, but when written well, it's a REALLY valuable and efficient knowledge transfer. When someone opts into a sequence with a specific goal, you provide value, build trust over a period of several days, and even build trust with their email inbox since they'll be looking for you.

Example: My Professional Creator Crash Course

Video courses

Admittedly, I don't see this being done, but I think it's a big opportunity. I would think of this still first-and-foremost as an email course, but deliver videos or links to videos in those emails. This will feel REALLY high value since we are accustomed to paying for pre-recorded video courses.


People online are often trying to create or achieve something. Templates help them get there faster. This could be done in Google Docs, Google Sheets, Notion, Airtable, or whatever tool(s) your audience already uses.

Example: Ryan Robinson's Cold Email Template


Good quizzes do three things for the taker:

  1. It helps them understand something about themselves
  2. It gives them their next step
  3. It gives them a way to express themselves to others

Remember BuzzFeed quizzes? Those went viral because people shared their results as a form of expression...wouldn't it be great for someone to share your lead magnet?

Important: The outcome of the quiz needs to be useful for the quiz TAKER, not the quiz maker. It would be easy to design a quiz that tells YOU x, y, or z about the quiz taker...but that doesn't serve THEM.

Example: Her First 100K Money Journey Quiz


We are social creatures. People crave interaction with other people like them. They crave a safe place to be heard, understood, and get support. Digital community platforms like Circle have made it easier than ever to stand up a great-looking digital community.

Warning: this can create a significant maintenance cost in terms of the time to foster the community.

Example: Freelancing School community

Free challenges

People love to challenge themselves and achieve goals. If you provide the structure for them to opt into and make it easy for them to get started, challenges can be a really compelling offer.

Example: #Tweet100

This is a good list, but it's not an exhaustive list.

The bottom line is if your lead magnets aren't performing, they probably aren't giving enough.

You can create your own strategy here too, you just need to create something so good that not only is it a no-brainer to sign up, but people can't help but tell others about it too.

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