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Lead Magnets: What Are They and Why Do You Need One

Most of the clients I work with are in service-based industries. So their websites are not designed to sell products. They're there to generate leads - usually in the form of an inbound phone call or an enquiry form being submitted.

You'd think it would be pretty easy to get someone who's visited your website to fill in an enquiry form. After all, it doesn't cost anything and it often involves little more than typing in your name, email address, and phone number. So there's hardly any effort needed either.

And yet, when I start working with a new client and carry out an audit of their digital marketing, they are usually surprised to find that only a very small percentage of their website visitors actually submit an enquiry. To use the technical term, they have a low conversion rate, even though they are not asking their visitors to do anything complicated or trying to get them to part with any money.

what are lead magnets - Lead Magnets: What Are They and Why Do You Need One

So, the question is:

Why Aren't Your Website Visitors Getting in Touch With You?

Well there are various reasons, but they all tend to fall under one of the following headings:

1. Lack of trust/lack of rapport

How often do you meet a stranger on a train or in a coffee shop and start chatting to them? Probably not very often.

And, if you do find yourself striking up a conversation with a stranger, do you start by giving them your name? Of course you don't! It's far more likely that you'll have a ten minute conversation and then, right at the end, say something like, "Well it was nice chatting to you. My name's David by the way."

This is because most of us guard our personal information quite carefully. And we need to get to build up a bit of rapport with someone and start to trust them before we reveal too much about ourselves.

So if this means we're reluctant to reveal our name to a stranger who we've met face-to-face, is it any wonder that we're not keen to part with our name and contact details when confronted with an online form?

2. Fear of being sold to

Rightly or wrongly, a lot of us fear that if we fill in an enquiry form we have taken the first step towards engaging with a salesman who's going to try to sell us something we don't want.

Our fear of losing control of the situation and being tricked by a clever salesman stops us taking action - even though we probably do want/need what's being sold, else we wouldn't have visited that website in the first place.

It's the same defence mechanism that humans have been using in shops since long before the internet came along. 

what are lead magnets - Lead Magnets: What Are They and Why Do You Need One

Sounds familiar? And yet five minutes later that same customer might well approach the sales assistant and ask for some help. The key difference is that this time the customer is in control and so feels far more comfortable engaging with the sales assistant.

3. Not ready to buy yet

Sometimes the person visiting your website just won't be at the right stage of the customer buying journey yet in order to engage with you. They may genuinely be "just looking, thanks" whilst they do their own research and weigh up the options. 

That's not to say they won't come back and make an enquiry with you or buy something from you at a later date. It's just that now isn't the right time.

What you need to do is make sure that once it is the right time, you're still at the front of the customer's mind. And don't worry - I'm going to explain how you can do that shortly.

4. Lack of time

Ok, I know what you're thinking. How busy does someone have to be that they don't have time someone to fill in a form with their name and contact details?

Well, if yours is one of five or six websites they're visiting and they were to fill in a form on every one, the time involved actually starts to add up. This is one reason why comparison sites have become so popular, because one form can be used to make contact with multiple potential suppliers.

But, even if you have a nice short enquiry form and yours is the only site your potential customer is visiting, they might still have the perception that filling in an enquiry form or giving you a call is going to take too much time. And, because time is the one thing we can never get back, people often become very protective of it.

I recently started working with a client who runs a training company where they offer a free one hour taster session to potential students. You'd think it would be easy to get people to come to a free taster session, but it's not. And that's because the majority of people will need to get to know, like and trust a person or company before they are willing to give them an hour of their time.

Fortunately, there is a simple but effective tool that you can use to address these four problems.

what are lead magnets - Lead Magnets: What Are They and Why Do You Need One

Lead Magnets and the Law of Attraction

A lead magnet, coupled with a series of follow-up emails, is a great way to build up trust and rapport with your website visitors, whilst keeping them in control of the process and making sure they remember you once they're ready to buy. 

If you're not familiar with the term "lead magnet", it's basically something that you give away to your website visitors for free in return for them providing you with their name and email address. People are much more likely to share their contact info with you if you make it worth their while.

Once you've got someone's name and email address in this way, you can add them to a mailing list and send them regular non-sales emails to help build a relationship with them and to make sure they don't forget about you between now and the time when they are ready to buy.

The lead magnet itself can take various forms. It might be a downloadable PDF, or access to a free course, or maybe a recording of a webinar.

The format of the lead magnet isn't too important. What matters is to make sure it offers value to your visitors. It should not be a sales brochure or a company newsletter.

say no to newsletters

One thing that really drives me mad is when I audit someone's website and see a box that says "Sign up for our newsletter".


Anyone daft enough to sign up for this will typically get an email once a month full of exciting stories such as:

what are lead magnets - Lead Magnets: What Are They and Why Do You Need One

MyCo Ltd wins award you've never heard of


New MyCo office opens in Croydon


Mr R Slicker wins employee of the month

All great achievements, I'm sure, but no-one cares!


A newsletter is not going to work as a lead magnet. Your lead magnet needs to be something that people are genuinely pleased and excited to receive.

Now we've talked about the reasons why you need a lead magnet and explained the basics of what a lead magnet is, the next step is to decide what your lead magnet will be about and what sort of follow up emails you're going to send to the people who sign up for it.

I'll cover all of that in a few days time in my next blog. Meanwhile I'd love to know what you found useful about this article and what ideas you've got so far for a lead magnet of your own. Please use the box below to leave a comment or ask me a question.

About the Author David Miles

As a digital marketing consultant, author and trainer, I specialise in helping businesses in the financial services and healthcare sectors use the internet to get more enquiries and increase profits.

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