Every online-marketing pro talks about the importance of growing your list. They’re right, of course. But if you’re a solopreneur who provides client-facing services, how do take your website traffic and turn it into new business? Specifically, how do you create lead magnets that yield high-value leads and ideal clients?
In this post I share how to create lead magnets that convert your website visitors into leads. (Lead magnets are also known as: opt-ins, incentives, invitations, and ethical bribes. I think lead magnet is the best term for describing what client-facing service providers are trying to achieve.)
Throughout the post I’ll display examples of excellent online lead magnets. At the bottom I provide links to the sites and authorities that are referenced. And in the post you’ll learn:
• What lead magnets must do, in order to be effective
• A method for creating lead magnets that attract your best prospects
• Where to place lead magnets on your website
Lead Magnets: An Opportunity to Build Trust
Think about your ideal prospects’ relationship to you. In order for prospective clients to hire you:
1. They need to be confident that you (or your products) have the capability to deal effectively with both their urgent problems and their opportunities (I call these their “pains and gains,” a term used prominently in the book “Value Proposition Design.”).
2. They need to feel confident they will be able to work well with you.
3. They need to trust you (this is especially true for client-facing services).
The bigger and more important their challenges and opportunities are (and the more expensive your services are) the higher the level of credibility and trust that’s needed. Big challenges and opportunities also lengthen the typical sales cycle.
That’s why the core of any effective marketing system is to nurture relationships with potential clients over time.
But there is a way to shorten the relationship-building process. You do it with a lead magnet that gives your prospects critical knowledge — in exchange for their email address.
Email addresses comprise the most valuable digital asset you can have: your list.
Jeff Walker, an online-marketing pioneer, says:
For most digital businesses, your list is the one true asset that you can truly own. Your content can get knocked off, your technology can be bettered, your search-engine rankings can go away. But no one can take your list away. And with that list you can overcome nearly any setback. It’s your ‘license to print money.’ It’s your insurance policy.”
Lead magnets shorten the length of the sales cycle because lead magnets:
• Demonstrate your skill
• Demonstrate your value
• Build trust
Step-by-Step Method for Creating Lead Magnets
You’ve seen online lead magnets before. You probably have dozens of unread, boring lead magnets stored on your hard drive. Typical lead magnets come in the form of ebooks, white papers, and reports. And most of them don’t work. Here’s why.
Have you ever said, “Oh my goodness, please give me that white paper immediately!” Of course you haven’t. Most lead magnets contain information that the entrepreneur thinks her clients should have. But effective lead magnets promise to give prospects something they want. For example, Quicksprout’s lead magnet promises to “double your traffic in 30 days.”
Let’s get into the specifics. An effective lead magnet must:
a. solve an urgent or persistent problem, or
b. make big improvement in a specific area
There are several easy ways to find this “pains and gains” information regarding your ideal clients.
Step 1. Use the knowledge you gain from working with your existing ideal clients. This is your best source of information. Think about this question: What are your ideal clients’ most pressing problems and the areas in their lives where they’d like to make big improvement?
Step 2. Examine your content. What topics have earned the most page views, links, and shares?
Step 3. Conduct surveys or polls at your website. I learn a ton from my annual, 25-question Solopreneur Survey. But you don’t need a long survey to get the info you need for a lead magnet. A simple poll will do the job.
Step 4. Follow the influencers in your niche. Pay close attention to the issues that the most popular “gurus” deal with in their blog posts, tweets, books, videos, speeches, and other content. Those issues are the best candidates for your lead-magnet offers, according to online marketer Jon Morrow. Note I said to follow the most popular gurus, not the best ones; the most popular ones have their hand on the pulse of your niche’s needs.
Step 5. Find the most popular posts from the influencers’ websites. A great tool for this is Crawlytics, which will produce a report of the most-shared posts from any website. Another excellent tool is Open Site Explorer, which will tell you which pages on a website have received the most backlinks.
With both Crawlytics and Open Site Explorer, look for the problems and opportunities (the pains and gains) that get the most attention in your niche. In Crawlytics, you’re looking for the posts that received the most social sharing. With Open Site Explorer, find the blog posts that have received the most backlinks. Crawlytics and Open Site Explorer are premium services, but they offer lengthy trial periods. OSE’s currently is 30 days.
Step 6. Pick the three most compelling pains and gains that you’ve identified and brainstorm three lead magnets for each. Choose the top three and then ask the people on your list how likely they would be to read/watch/listen to each of the lead magnets.
Remember the ultimate goal is to get clients, so the lead magnet should have a close relationship to the services you provide.
Step 7. Select a format. This could be a blueprint, case study, cheat sheet, checklist, email series, manifesto, template, test, tool kit, video course, webinar, etc. Please keep in mind that e-books have fallen out of favor in many niches. That’s because people have gotten wise to the fact that most e-books have only 2 pages of content that can be used right away. Give your prospects only the prime meat. They’ll appreciate it.
Step 8. Produce the lead magnet. You’ll hear people advise you to just get the product out there as soon as you can. That’s rubbish.
DO NOT just throw this together.
Remember, this is your one shot to impress prospective clients. Don’t blow it. If the product doesn’t deliver on what you promise, then the prospect soon will be an unsubscribe.
Step 9. Add opt-in boxes on your website to “sell” your lead magnet. I could write a book about this step, but the most important point is this: do not cover your website in opt-in boxes.
As I’m writing this, the current wisdom among conversion experts is that “feature boxes” are outperforming all other opt-in locations. A feature box is an opt-in box that stretches across the width of your home page. The feature box is located under the header and above your content.
The other “must” location is underneath every blog post. I also recommend placing one in your sidebar, but be aware that (according to inbound-marketing company HubSpot), people are becoming blind to sidebars, especially those on the righthand-side. HubSpot has moved all of its sidebars to the lefthand side. You can try a banner ad if you like, but people definitely have become blind to banners.
Here’s one caveat to the question of placement locations: mobile-responsive design renders the right/left discussion moot for prospects who are using smartphones to view your site.
Please, please, please equip your website with mobile-responsive design. Approximately 30 percent of your website visitors are on smartphones (and that percentage creeps upward every day), and smartphone users will not “pull and pinch” to read your content. If your site isn’t mobile responsive, you’re kissing off one-third of your potential future leads and clients.
Examples of Lead Magnets
Great digital lead magnets aren’t as common as you would think. (Most people default to the “Get My Newsletter” offer.) But here are some excellent ones:
• My 21-Word Email That Can Get You More Clients (this is the most effective online lead-magnet offer I’ve ever found. When I saw it, I couldn’t type my email address fast enough; I had to have that 21-word email. And interestingly, this offer does not use a headline; it dives straight into the subhead portion of The Formula. This offer was for a PDF, created by Ian Brodie.)
• Free Course: Double Your Traffic in 30 Days (course, Quicksprout)
• Free Report: The 5 (Dirt Cheap) Tools I Use to Create All My Videos (Including My $80 HD Video Camera) (LeadPages)
• 7 Universal Conversion Optimization Principles (ebook, Content Verve)
• The Daily Positive: A Positive Thought in the Morning Could Change Your Whole Day (email series, by Dale Partridge)
• Wisdom in Golf Premium 14-Day Free Trial (YouTube premium video, Shawn Clement)
• The Solopreneurship Self-Assessment Test: In 15 Minutes, Find Out How Close You Are To Becoming a Solopreneur (I developed this lead-magnet PDF product four years ago, and it still delivers three to five new prospects per day.)
• 52 Headline Hacks: A Cheat Sheet for Writing Blog Posts That Go Viral (PDF, by Jon Morrow)
Impact Branding and Design, an agency that specializes in inbound marketing, has gone “all in” with lead magnets. Here are examples of what they’ve produced:
• How Do I Rank Higher In Search Engines: Answers to Your Most Common SEO Questions (PDF)
• The Marketer’s Buyer Persona Kit (PDF)
• How-To Handbooks Series: How To Use Instagram For Business (PDF)
• Finally, there’s HubSpot’s Make My Persona, a step-by-step wizard for creating buyer personas. Make My Persona is an example of a new breed of lead magnets that actually do the problem-solving work for you.