[Updated] What are lead magnets and how do they increase leads?

One of the most common things we hear from new customers who have decided to use our content service is – "Everything sounds great! But what is a lead magnet?"

i like it what is it

While everyone understands what blog posts and CTAs are, lead magnets and pillar pages sometimes take a little more defining (but you might find you are actually already creating them, just under a different name). 

We understand that sometimes the world of inbound marketing can get a little ‘jargon-y’ and the last thing we want is for our customers to feel confused. Here, all will be revealed; we’re lifting the lid on lead magnet design, creation and purpose, starting with 'what is a lead magnet'?

What is a lead magnet?

A lead magnet is a piece of content that attracts your ideal customer to your website with the aim of converting them to collect their contact information. 

Arguably, lead magnets are one of the most valuable content types available to marketers. A very literal name, their meaning can be broken down:

  • Lead = a potential customer
  • Magnet = something that attracts.

To create a good and effective lead magnet, there are a number of requirements: 

  1.  The lead magnet must be enticing, offering value to your customer – something they haven’t seen before or can’t find anywhere else; something educational and helpful.
  2. The gratification they get from the resource needs to be immediate. Ideally, this will be a resource they can access and start using right away.

Through your lead magnet, you need to show that your business is better to work with, more trustworthy, and offers higher-quality products and services than your competitors.

What is the difference between a lead magnet and landing page?

A lead magnet is the tactical piece of content offered in exchange for your personas' details. To promote your lead magnet, your CTAs should point to it. Importantly, a lead magnet is short and easily digestible.

A landing page is the functional webpage that a persona lands on, from a search engine, social media post or a CTA, that contains the form to collect their email address in exchange for the lead magnet itself.

What is the difference between a lead magnet and a tripwire ?

Where a lead magnet offers free content, a tripwire is a low-cost product offered to encourage disengaged personas to convert. By turning a warm lead into a qualified customer, a tripwire product enables you and your website to upsell to more expensive products. 

How do lead magnets work?

Once a prospect downloads, watches or otherwise accesses your lead magnet, you can do one of two things to move them along their buyer’s journey and closer towards becoming a fully fledged customer:

  1. You can ask them for their email address in exchange for the content, meaning they receive their shiny new resource, and you now have their contact details to add them to your database, able to reach out to them.
  2. You can give them the content without asking anything in return, hosting the content on an ‘ungated’ page. This builds a rapport with your prospect, asking nothing in return but using the ‘give before you get’ mantra to build trusting relationships before encouraging them to commit to your brand.

Top tip: It may be that you know your buyer persona won’t respond well to being asked for their email address (perhaps you’ve tested this before and been disappointed with conversions) so offering a free, ungated resource first is the way to go. Following this, you could enable a different resource to appear to them upon their next visit to your site, this time asking for their email address.

So how do you spot a lead magnet? What does one look like?

The wonderful thing about lead magnets is how versatile and personalised they can be. Once you know the buyer persona you are targeting, you can ensure the content you create for them is in a form and with a purpose directly designed for them.

Buyer personas

For example, if your audience is female caravan drivers, aged 60-70s, who have a magazine subscription about motorhomes and like to travel out of school season to avoid noisy children, you might decide to create a lead magnet that can be printed and kept in their motorhome with them.

This might take the form of a ‘Getting off the beaten track’ printable map to follow to help avoid busy, family-popular camping routes. Or you could create an interactive checklist about what to pack for travelling a certain time of year, which can be used on a tablet screen (after discovering a lot of your personas use a tablet instead of mobile phone for internet access).

Whereas, if your buyer persona is a bar or club owning male in his 30-40s who lives in an urban area, he might need an entirely different lead magnet to capture him: something downloadable that's mobile-optimised so that he can come back to it later and use during his busy work hours.

Top tip: Understanding your target audience is essential to deciding which form your lead magnet should take: don’t start with an idea and work backwards, put your buyer persona at the heart of the content you’re creating, making it irresistible to their needs, lifestyle and pain points.

Examples of lead magnets

One-page lead magnets

Traditionally, lead magnets are a downloadable PDF. Think about your own purchasing decisions online: there’s something reassuring and satisfying about having a physical copy of something.

 printable downloadable PDF lead magnet examples

As soon as I’ve bought anything online, I check my inbox to make sure I have verification that the order went through. You receive a confirmation email, then an email to let you know it’s shipped, then an email to confirm it’s now reached your address – the modern world of shopping is focused on being a reassuring experience, understanding that people need to receive validation for their decisions.

It’s the same concept when someone is downloading a free resource from you. If they’ve gone to the effort of filling in a form to download your lead magnet, they want to see it drop into their inbox quickly, making their decision as tangible as possible.

Examples of downloadable lead magnet PDFs include:

  • Ebooks
  • White papers
  • Checklists
  • Infographic posters
  • Case studies
  • Cheat sheets
  • Templates
  • Workbooks
  • Guides

Top tip: While it's sometimes thought that the digital world must have moved on from downloadable and printable resources, you’d be surprised at how many people appreciate the comfort of physical content. It might be worth creating a digital and downloadable version of the same resource – this is something we’ve found our customers at ESM Inbound really like, then they have the option.

Moving image, audio, and interactive lead magnets

Some of our clients have requested alternative lead magnets, according to the needs of their persona. These include chatbots, pop-up forms, and interactive tools, such as generators.


Of course, you need to conduct some research into how successfully your audience digests video, but for the most part, the internet is alight with video content. Indeed, most people prefer acquiring their information through this format than reading (By 2022, online videos will make up more than 82% of all consumer internet traffic — 15 times higher than it was in 2017.) Examples of moving image, audio and interactive lead magnets include:

  • Introductory/brand-awareness videos
  • Walk-through/how-to guides
  • Podcasts
  • Interviews
  • Webinars
  • Live chat
  • Slideshows
  • Calendars
  • Generators
  • Forms
  • Chatbots
  • Quizzes/surveys

Top tip: Climbing out of your content rut could mean creating more interactive content. ESM Inbound is open to your ideas and will be on hand to guide you through the logistical process if you require a lead magnet outside of our usual one-page offering. Approach us about any lead magnet ideas you have and we will be able to scope it out, informing you of any additional factors or costs ahead of production.

And the best type of lead magnet for B2B businesses? According to GetResponse’s research, video (24.2%) and written (22.8%) type lead magnets have the highest conversion rates.

How to use lead magnets

Ultimately, a lead magnet is designed to drive leads to your website, qualify more prospects and increasing the number of customers. By promoting your latest lead magnet across social channels, email and your website, you’ll encourage more of the right people to find and download it, spreading the word about your fantastic work, building lasting relationships and encouraging awareness of your brand.

By downloading your lead magnet, and using it, in exchange for a few details, your prospects get a handy, instantly useable resource to help them with their pain points. The whole process looks something like this:

Step 1: We create a one-page lead magnet for you (after a consultation call and planning time with you to pinpoint exactly what you want).

Step 2: We upload the approved lead magnet to your website.

Step 3: We create a gated landing page (this is a form which must be filled out ahead of leads getting their lead magnet). This is a form with a few fields included, such as their name, industry, location and, of course, email address.

Step 4: We create a thank you page – once the form has been submitted by the visitor, they are taken to a ‘thank you’ message, reminding them what they’ve downloaded, explaining their email with the lead magnet attached is on the way to them, and directing them towards other similar content they might be interested in.

Step 5: We write a follow-up email to prospects, attaching their lead magnet and, again, thanking them for their time and including a few links to other materials they might be interested in.

The more interesting, helpful, educational content you send to leads, the more they will see you as a business of influence, a thought leader and someone worth working with. By highlighting your USPs and offering free content to help prospects help themselves, you’re showing your faith in your own abilities and setting yourself apart from the competition.

Work with the UK's expert team for marketing audits, reports & campaigns

ESM Inbound is a UK-based marketing consultancy offering audits, reports & campaigns. 

Work with the experts to get your marketing & sales back on track. 

ESM Inbound's content includes affiliate links. This means that we may receive a commission if you make a purchase through one of the links on our website. This will be at no cost to you and helps to fund the content creation work on our website.