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10 Actionable Tips to Build An Effective Lead Magnet

11 Min Read

Converting website visitors into customers — as we all know — is not simple.

It’s often a lengthy process, which requires constant persuasion of prospective customers (or leads).

This process is referred to as Lead Nurturing, which starts with collecting leads. And, the more the number of leads, the higher is the chance of converting more customers!

So how do you increase the number of leads?

One answer is “by using a lead magnet.”

A lead magnet, as the name suggests, helps you attract leads.

Lead magnets can be critical in a successful lead generation strategy, and this post will help you deploy them the right way. We’ve covered ten tips that you can use to build super-effective lead magnets.

What’s a lead magnet?

Ever barged into one of those “Build Hulk-es-que abs in 90 days” cheat sheet that asks for your email address before you can download it? That, dear readers, is a lead magnet.

Simply putting, a lead magnet is something valuable that you provide to your visitors in exchange for their contact details (usually, their email address) on a lead-gen form.

Lead magnet example

A lead magnet can be anything: ebooks, whitepapers, research reports, eCommerce coupons, free access to an application, or simply a cliched squeeze page as shown above, etc.

One of the typical characteristics of a lead magnet is that once you trade with your email, the authors will try to up-sell/cross-sell their wares via a nurturing sequence. For example, the body transformers above will ostensibly pitch workout videos, diet plans, or a mix of two, with intense regularity, till you succumb and flash your credit card).

Users pay for your lead magnets with their contact information.

In our conversations with hundreds and thousands of marketers globally (VWO is an experimentation engine that powers 3400+ marketing teams to test and refine lead magnets day in and day out), there is no other conversation theme that draws extreme opinions in 2021—some are of the firm belief that lead magnets are dead. Most thought leaders, however, still sing pagans upholding the many merits of a lead magnet. 

For a lead magnet to serve as a true honeypot and maximize the conversion rate, many factors do the heavy lifting to convince visitors that you are the real deal. Following are a few time-tested truisms that separate ‘dang!’ magnets from the ‘bleh!’

1. Your lead magnet should have an ‘origin story’

In Patrick Hanlon’s Primal Branding, we learned that one of the strongest levers to lift a brand is having an ‘Origin Story.’ Origin Stories pull people towards a cause and convince them to rally to make it see the light of the day. Tesla does this well with its mission to produce expensive, high-margin electric cars to manufacture electric vehicles for the masses ultimately.

Like Tesla’s origin story, your lead magnets should gravitate around a cause that is held dear by your tribe and brand. Ultimately, your lead magnets have an outcome to uphold – why should ‘I’ trust in your squeeze page? Have you suffered the pain with similar (if not more) intensity as I? If not, there is no familiarity bias, and I would skim by your page without feeling the urge to drop my email

2. Keep lead magnets targeted

A lead magnet has to be extremely targeted to work.

If you’re offering a generic freebie on your form, you might end up collecting leads that are irrelevant to your business.

Consider this: If you are a men’s beard grooming brand, releasing a guide on ‘How to Make Your Beard Trend on Pinterest’ is not very likely to get you great leads because 80% of the audience on Pinterest are female.

 Targeting is essential in making your lead magnets work.

Take a look at this SaaS lead-gen form by Unbounce:

Unbounce Lead Magnet

Unbounce helps users create and optimize landing pages. Considering that, the lead magnet in the above form (“Guide to Landing Page Copywriting”) is highly targeted to its potential customers.

3. Use separate lead magnets for separate funnel stages

While plain lead-gen forms can’t tell you how serious your leads are, forms with lead magnets can.

Your lead magnets can attract exactly the kind of leads that you desire, with content catering to prospects from specific conversion funnel stages.

For instance, you can employ BOFU content to capture users that have a high probability of getting converted into customers. BOFU lead magnets are normally entertained by users that have closely evaluated your product/service but still haven’t made a decision to purchase it.

BOFU content (or lead magnet) is a resource aligned closely with your company’s product or service. It can be a whitepaper talking about the functionality of your product/service or simply free-trial access to your product.

4. Give a glimpse of your content beforehand

So how do you ensure that readers know the same for your regular lead magnets, too?

Simple! You tell them.

Tease your users into signing up for your lead magnets.

On your lead-gen form or click-through page, highlight points about how the lead magnet can provide tremendous value to readers. You can list out the broad headlines and a few actionable insights that your lead magnet covers.

Take a look at this form page by Kissmetrics.

Kissmetrics ebook

The lead magnet, here, is an ebook that is very specific to Kissmetrics potential customers. Noticeably, the form contains a lot of fields to be submitted by visitors. However, with an elaborate description of the ebook, the page gives a glimpse of its content. The page also lists out the benefits that the visitors can reap with the ebook. This helps nudge unsure visitors towards making an effort to download the resource.

It is important to note that including the business value of a lead magnet on the form is essential. Make it clear how the lead magnet will help visitors improve their business objectives. Take cues from “Optimize Your Conversions,” “Find More Customers,” and “Drive Real Growth” from the above form.

Here’s another great example from Formstack:

2015 Form Conversion Report · Formstack

5. Employ your best performing content

Want to get started with your lead magnet in as minimum time as possible?

Go through your content library and identify the one content resource which performed the best. It can be anything: the most downloaded ebook, most viewed/shared blog post or success story, most viewed/shared Slideshare presentation deck, webinar with the highest number of attendees, etc.

Content resources like ebooks, webinars, and slide decks can be readily used as a lead magnet. If your best performer is one of these, start designing your form.

Your star content can be your best bet as a lead magnet.

However, if you want to employ your best blog post or success story as a lead magnet, you’ll have to first repurpose it into a downloadable file. Experts advise against putting blog posts behind a form.

Repurpose your blog post or success story into an ebook or a checklist or a cheat sheet. Now, employ them as your lead magnet.

6. Use content upgrades as in-content lead magnets

In-content lead magnets are the ones that are placed within an existing content resource. Mostly used within blog posts, they can also be placed within ebooks, presentation decks, etc.

Content upgrades are in-content lead magnets that are a downloadable version of the content they’re placed in.

Content upgrades often provide greater conversions because they are more contextual.

Here is the logic: Since readers are spending time reading through the content, they are (probably) finding it useful. This is a good time to offer the same content resource to the readers in a snackable form, which they can download and refer to anytime in the future.

This same technique has helped Backlinko’s Brian Dean increase his conversion rate from 0.54%. to 4.82%.

7. Provide more than just eBooks

Sure, ebooks are a handy resource to give away. But what if your website visitors crave for something other than ebooks? What if other forms of resources relate to your business and potential customers better?

Some innovative types of lead magnets are actually worth taking a shot at.

Jarrod Drysdale, the man behind Studio Fellow, Bootstrapping Design, and Cascade, uses a unique and intriguing design-course to capture leads.

He offers the course on The Tiny Designer website to both designers and non-designers.

The Tiny Designer email course

And, this is where he captures his leads.

The Tiny Designer: email course registration page

Using free online courses is a great way to generate leads. Thinkific is an online course platform that helps you to do that, and you can even launch your lead magnet for free using their Free plan.

You can even have quizzes as a measure of collecting leads. Interact Quiz Maker is one website that helps you do just that.

Interact Quiz Maker lead magnet

Here is an extensive list of various possible lead magnets provided by ConversionXL, segmented by audience type:

Experts

  • E-books and Whitepapers
  • Mini-courses via email
  • Video or video series
  • Audio recording, podcast
  • Free course/webinar (free education in any format)
  • Assessment or Test

eCommerce

  • Free coupon
  • Free shipping
  • Free gift with the first order
  • The educational content on how to achieve/build stuff with what you sell
  • Guide to saving money when shopping for X
  • Membership (make prospects feel special, invite them into your VIP group that provides bonuses, advice, etc)
  • Educational material related to the need they will solve with your product.

Software

  • Free trial
  • Freemium account
  • Demo

Service business

  • Free coupons
  • Educational content for DIY projects
  • How to be a smart buyer of X
  • Things you need to know before buying Y
  • Free online tools (home decor planner, pet optimal nutrition calculator, car online custom tuning, etc.)

8. Offer a bundled package

When many of your competitors are offering free resources to their visitors, you need to step your game up.

Tempt your visitors with not just one free resource but a package of multiple resources. If one free resource can deliver significant value to the visitors, a package of resources can be invaluable!

 Raise the stakes on your lead magnets with a whole package of content.

This is how Copyblogger executes it extremely effectively.

Copyblogger offers a package of immensely valuable content resources to its visitors in exchange for their email addresses.

Copyblogger lead magnet

This is the registration form that follows:

Copyblogger lead magnet form

The form exhibits the list of ebooks that is included in the offer. Using this, Copyblogger has been successful in increasing its email signups by almost 400%.

9. A/B test your lead magnets

A/B testing is essential in determining whether a lead magnet is working for you or not.

Even when a lead magnet is driving a significant number of leads to you, you cannot be sure if that is the best you can achieve.

A few A/B testing ideas can be derived from this post itself:

  • A/B test in-content lead magnets with a sidebar lead magnet or a pop-up lead magnet.
  • Test to see if a glimpse (gist) of lead magnet on a form helps you increase conversions in comparison to a form with just an image of the lead magnet. Find out what is driving the conversions (the offering or the form design).
  • Test to find if a package of content works as a better lead magnet than a standalone content resource.
  • Test different kinds of lead magnets given in the extensive list under point number six.

Apart from these ideas, you can also test the design, placement, and usability of your lead magnet forms.

You can also go through our archive of more than 150 success stories to find inspiration for your test hypotheses.

10. Always provide top-notch content

Last but not least, your lead magnet has to be greatly useful to your visitors.

If your visitors don’t find any value in the lead magnet, they won’t develop a positive image of your brand. When your brand image suffers, so does your business.

Even if a half-cooked lead magnet ends up delivering you thousands of leads, most leads might not convert at the end.

Keep the following points in mind:

  • Don’t offer obsolete content resources.
  • Deliver the exact resource (in shape and content) which you promise on your lead-gen form.
  • Offer content that is relevant to your typical website visitor.
  • Make your content resources easily understandable.

Implement these ideas to build lead magnets on your website, and don’t forget to A/B test them. 

It’s a wrap!

We, at VWO, are in constant conversations with our customers who use us to test if their lead magnets are working for them. Feel free to give us a spin and see if your lead magnets are hitting the right spots. Following are some ways in which various teams test their lead magnets with VWO:

  • Messaging (Marketing teams test multiple messaging variants in their lead magnets to see what sticks)
  • Design Principles (UX teams test their lead magnet design blocks and gauge if long form works better than short form if persuasion elements are in line with the messaging etc.)

So, have your lead magnets worked for you? What did you do differently? Please write to us at marketing@vwo.com with your stories.

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Nitin Deshdeep
Nitin Deshdeep Nitin is a traveler, a cinephile, and a webaholic. (He just can't get enough of cat videos!) Professionally, Nitin is a marketer at VWO, who loves to write about Conversion Optimization.
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