how to create strategic lead magnets

How to create strategic lead magnets

AUTHOR: Kenda Macdonald

As a dedicated consultant, I specialise in elevating businesses through top-tier consultancy, fueled by a deep understanding of buyer psychology cultivated over years of experience. My expertise lies in crafting marketing and sales strategies that propel businesses to new heights by leveraging insights into the buyer brain. As a bestselling author, public speaker, and strategist, my passion for decoding human behavior drives me to innovate and deliver unparalleled results. I've designed a methodology adaptable for all types of businesses, ensuring transformative customer journeys and experiences.

Lead magnets are the foundation to a strong strategic inbound lead generation strategy. They are the hook that brings your audience in for more. A good lead magnet should not only bring you more leads, but should also focus on engaging and qualifying those leads.

Unfortunately, not all lead magnets are created equal - and so many lead magnets lack the strategy they require to really engage your audience and move them along their buying journey.

Fear not! We’re going to fix that today, I’m going to walk you through exactly what goes wrong with lead magnets,  how to create a strategic lead magnet and how to use those lead magnets in your funnels and marketing automation.

First let's take a look at why your lead magnet may not be giving you the results you’re hoping for 🙁

3 Reasons your lead magnets could be underperforming

There’s nothing worse than toiling away creating something you think is going to be awesome for your audience, and once the hard work is done you launch it out into the big wide world and… nothing. Tumbleweeds roll on by.

If this sounds like you, don’t be down in the dumps my friend - you are not alone!

Over the many years I’ve been working in marketing automation I’ve seen the same recurring reasons for lead magnets flopping. Let’s take a look at them:

1. It’s not a good lead magnet

Unfortunately, lead magnets can come across as bit pants. Sometimes the content is just a bit meh and not valuable to your audience… 

However, it's most likely that you've just created something that doesn’t match what your audience actually wants.

What your audience needs, and what they want are two very different things. The problem here is that you’re an expert and you know what they need. So you create something that’s amazing and fulfils those needs thinking they will be excited and jump at it. 

If only it were that simple!

Alas, because it’s not what they want very few take up your glorious content.

2. You’re not distributing your lead magnet

So, you’ve done the hard part. You have the perfect content, catered to what your audience wants to see, but cleverly full of nuggets to help them see what they really need. 

However, you’ve hidden it away on a blog post that never gets any traffic, or on a website that doesn’t get much footfall - this is going to give you a hard time.

In order for lead magnets to work, they must be front and centre. People must be able to see them in order to download them.

And that means keeping them visible, telling people they exist on social media and generally driving traffic to them.

You’ve got the channels and you should have the data to know where people are looking, let’s utilise it!

3. You’re not following up after people sign up for your lead magnet

In my opinion this is the cardinal sin. You’ve got something awesome that people want, you have traffic going through to it, but you bring those leads in and then ignore their existence!

Lead magnets must always have follow up in place. You should be using nurture campaigns to ensure they consume your lead magnet, and then kick off a sales series where appropriate. You should welcome new people and figuratively lay down the red carpet for your new leads.

Luckily all three of these challenges can be overcome when you’re strategic in the creation of your lead magnets!

How to create a strategic lead magnet - 7 top tips

Let’s take a look at 7 tips to creating a strategic lead magnet before we look at matching your lead magnet to awareness.

1 - Understand your audience

Your first step to being strategic with your lead magnet is to understand your audience. Understand what they care about, what’s a challenge to them right now. What type of information do they want to see?

If you’re really clear on this you’ll be able to create a lead magnet they care about consuming, not just something you know they need.

I often refer to this as a bait and switch: bring your audience in for what they want, and show them how it’s not going to help them. Then giving them what they need instead. Bait with wants - switch with needs.

To do this without being slimy, you must still give them what they want - just show them how it’s not going to help them in the way that they are hoping for.

2 - Clarify your awareness journey

Once you’re clear on what they want - make sure you’re clear on where they are in their awareness journey.

Throughout your sales cycle you’ll have people that will be at different points in theirs. Some of them will be looking to understand their problem, others will be looking to understand what solutions are available in the marketplace, some will be trying to understand what products and options are right for them.

Depending on where they are in their awareness journey they’ll have different needs and wants, and a strategic lead magnet will be designed to reflect that. We’ll touch on how to match this up a little later.

3 - Validate your ideas

When you understand awareness and you have a clear idea of what they might want, spend time validating your ideas. Keyword research tools will show you what search volume there is for certain topics. This allows you to see if there is interest in that topic.

You can also validate your ideas by speaking to clients, interviewing your audience and looking at the questions you most commonly get asked in your sales process.

At this point in time you should have a good sound idea for your lead magnet. Now it’s time to get into what you’re going to include. When you’re planning, ensure you’re being strategic with the content.

4 - Create better quality leads

Your focus should not only be to create a lead magnet that is useful to your prospects, but it should also ensure you have a better quality lead. What information do you need to include so that your prospect understands how you can help them better? How will they know you are the people for them?

5 - Set the scene and sign off

With your content planned out , double check that you have an introduction and close.

I often see excellent lead magnets that lack a bit of personal touch and professional polish because they don’t introduce who is creating the lead magnet, they don’t set the scene nicely for the lead, they don’t summarise the content in a meaningful way and there is no call to action at the end of it all!

6 - Focus on distribution

When you’re all done birthing your new shiny piece of content - make sure you give your lead magnet lots of air time.

Shout about it on social media and keep it in continual distribution. Let your list know you have something new and worth signing up for. Showcase it on your website and in your blogs.

Your lead magnets need traffic to funnel people into your campaigns - make sure they get some!

7 - Follow up to get the conversion

Finally, when you have people coming into your funnels - follow up to get consumption and conversion. You’ve put a lot of time and effort into this glorious piece of content! Make sure it’s being consumed…

More often than not, your prospects will download your lead magnet - and then never do anything with it 🙁

With a little bit of follow up, you can nudge your leads to consume the content they have requested and educate them in a meaningful way.

Helping them consume what they have requested is also a fabulous way to increase your conversion rates. Include calls to action and next steps and you’re on to a winning formula.

Matching lead magnets to awareness

Understanding awareness and catering your lead magnet to where your consumers are in their journey is one of the biggest conversion optimisers.

Consumers go through distinct awareness stages in their journey, and each stage requires different approaches for your lead magnet content.

Getting clear on where your consumer is means you can provide them with the content that is meaningful to them at that moment in time. You’ll be able to create lead magnets that are more appealing, and you’ll have clarity as to where they are in the sales process and what steps you need to take them through in order to get to sales.

Let’s take a look at each of the stages in turn, try to identify where your audience sits and what information would help them in that stage. I’ve included a B2B scenario as we run through each stage, and a B2C scenario at the end.


At this point in the process your prospect doesn’t realise that they have a problem. They might have the “symptoms” of a problem, but they certainly aren’t clear that it’s an issue for them.

This is the hardest stage to create a lead magnet for as they aren’t actively looking for information to help them. Advertising messages are very easily filtered out and ignored in this stage too.

If you have your heart set on creating lead magnets for this stage - focus on helping them identify what their symptoms mean. Webinars can be a useful lead magnet here.

An example of unaware:

Let’s imagine a company that needs marketing automation (and probably needs some help from a ninja).

At the unaware stage they are more than likely struggling to get clients, they spend so much time doing manual repetitive tasks and networking - trying to get more leads on board. When they have lots of leads it’s hard to manage them, and if that lead isn’t ready to buy straight away, it’s easy to forget to touch base. When the work is good they stop doing any kind of activity to bring leads in in order to manage the workload.

They feel like they’re in a constant feast and famine, but always very busy.

All of these pains they are feeling are a symptom of the problem. We could run a webinar on how to get out of the feast and famine, and show them that the lack of marketing automation is what is harming the business.

Problem aware

Something has happened! Your lead has suddenly become aware that there is a problem / issue that they are facing. What is this event? What is their challenge?

Consumers that are problem aware have a very specific mind set: they want to find out all about their specific issue and what it means to them. This is a research intensive stage and what Google calls the Zero Moment of Truth - the point at which your prospects will turn to the internet / other trusted sources of information.

In order for a prospect to move to the next stage, they must achieve their outcome: to be clear on what their problem is, to have full understanding of the impact and to have the realisation that there might be solutions out there that could help them solve their issue.

Lead magnets that help your leads understand what their problem is, like eBooks, quizzes, webinars, email series and so on work well here.

An example of problem aware:

Following on our example above, our company has realised that they really need to get some more consistent lead generation and management in place. The start researching various options and come to realise through this research that marketing automation could solve their problems (and a whole lot more).

At this point lead magnets on how to improve lead generation or lead management would go down a treat. We’d need to show them the problem, validate how they are feeling and introduce the idea of marketing automation as the solution.

Solution aware

Solution aware is all about realising that there are ways they can solve their problem.

As your leads move into being solution aware, their mindset is all about researching the various solutions available to them. They are trying to understand the concepts, but aren’t looking for specifics just yet.

The outcome of this stage should be that they are clear on what marketing automation is, and can see how it could solve their specific challenges.

Consumers look for lots of  “what is” or “how to” content here. Lead magnets that help them see how they could solve their problem with the various different solutions are gold. Any guiding content that helps them understand the solutions is what you’re aiming for.

An example of solution aware:

Leaning on our problem company, they will just have been introduced to the idea of marketing automation, so they will be looking to understand what it is.

Guides and eBooks that are called things like “Marketing Automation 101” or “What Marketing Automation is and how to use it” are things they may be looking for.

Product aware

Once your prospect moves out of solution aware, they will be looking for specific products and services that will apply to them.

They’re clear on the foundations, so their mind set is to apply this information to their unique situation - what would work for them specifically? They want to understand what is available out there in the market place and see all the options.

Their outcome at the end of this stage is to start narrowing their options down so that they can make a final decision - the point of purchase.

Product based lead magnets are fantastic here. You’re looking to create content that helps them understand what their criteria is for a product or service. Think buyers guides, demos, industry guides, eBooks that help clarify choices and understand products or services.

An example of product aware:

Our marketing automation prospect is now clear that they need marketing automation, but there is so much out there for them. There are over 8000 tools available! How do they choose what’s right for them? How do they get clarity on what’s right for them?

As experts, we know that they don’t just have to choose between platforms, they also need to choose between services. Will they do it themselves (DIY) in-house? Will they bring in a consultant to help them with the process (DWY) or will they bring in an agency to do it all for them (DFY).

So at this point we can help them understand the nuances around both product and service choice with buyers guides and free consultations.

Most aware

Finally your prospect is at the end of their buyers journey - they know all they need to know to make an informed decision, and now they’re down to the final hurdle: who do they buy from?

When your consumer is most aware, they spend time figuring out precisely which company / brand suits their needs best.

At this point they will be comparing options between you and your competition. They’ll be looking at pricing and deliverables. This is usually the point that they will reach out to sales.

Your job at this point in time is to be mindful of their mind set: They are eliminating choices and learning more about those that match their criteria. Your key to success here is differentiation. Show them how you weigh up, and where you excel. Set the baseline for what good is, and show them how to choose the best option for them.

Their outcome here is purchase. Lead magnets that offer them a little bit of expert help are perfect here. Whether it’s free consultations, demo’s, checklists for criteria, in-depth product details, costing calculators, case studies, quotes and scoping help - it’s all about helping them understand what they should expect and how you fit their needs.

Notice how late in the journey sales is… We have all that time that we could be nurturing and engaging all the way from problem aware, but it’s only here that they’re ready for sales.

An example of most aware:

Coming back to our B2B example, our prospect has narrowed down what they need and want. They have a list of requirements, and they are reaching out to consultants and agencies to find the best fit. They might need help validating their budgets and choices.

Here case studies, consultation and assessment of their requirements go down a treat!

A B2C example of awareness lead magnets

The main difference between B2B or B2G (business to government) and B2C lead magnets and the awareness journey is simply in the speed. B2B is often a longer, more protracted process with many decision makers involved (hello B2G!), while B2C happens far more quickly. All the stages are the same however.

To show you how this works, here is an example of a recent purchase I made as a consumer: buying trail running shoes.

I recently picked up trail running - running in forests and outdoors spaces. Not roads or a treadmill or anything sensible like that. Wet, muddy, wild running. When I started I was blissfully unaware of the many technical issues that come with running outdoors in winter.

I had no idea cold wet feet were so awful - and how bad they would make your trainers smell. I didn’t realise that the cold fatigues your muscles and makes it harder to run. I didn’t understand the importance of moisture wicking base layers for sweaty runs. I was totally unaware.

A few rainy days, puddles, some snow and cold snaps and I had my catalyst. I was seriously problem aware. I turned to the internet in search of shoes that would keep my feet dry. It was in this research that I uncovered that what I was doing was actually called trail running. Who knew!

Once I knew what I was actually doing and realised the reason it was so hard was because I was cold I started researching trail running gear. Here I found waterproof trainers, technical base layers, thermal running gear. I was solution aware.

I spent some time researching which shoes to buy, and learnt that there are varying grades of shoe for the type of running you do. I was product aware.

Finally I narrowed down my choices, and looked at 5 different shoes. I studied the reviews, looked at their prices and found the pair that fit my criteria. I was most aware.

I repeated the exact same process for my thermal running tights, my base layers and my waterproofs. If a product didn’t make it to the end of those processes, if there was a lack of information or criteria mismatch, it didn’t get purchased.

I’m very happy with my running gear, it keeps me on the trails 3 times a week 🙂

So whether you’re B2B, B2G or B2C, understanding your awareness journey and the information that you need to provide to get your consumer closer to sales is vital to providing the right lead magnets to qualify and convert your prospects.

Understanding how to use lead magnets in your funnel

I often find the term lead magnet to be restrictive. Lead magnets aren’t just for bringing people into your funnels - they’re also awesome for helping you move people through your funnels to purchase.

Don’t limit yourself to using them only as an entry point - use them right through your sales journey to get them to the end. Pre-empt each new question and step and provide a journey that is personalised to their challenges in each stage of the process.

To help break this down into a more widely used concept, let’s look at funnel stages:

Top of Funnel Lead Magnets (Tofu)

The unaware stage and the problem aware stage are considered very top of funnel. This is where you’ll have the highest number of leads. Lead magnets created here often bring in larger amounts of leads, but you have work to do to qualify and convert them. This is good! You have time to build a relationship with your audience here.

Middle of Funnel Lead Magnets (Mofu)

Solution aware is considered middle of funnel. Prospects are more refined with their searching, but are still looking for information to help shape their journey. As with Tofu lead magnets, you should be able to bring in a good quantity of leads here (depending on your market of course), but you must focus on education and nurture before you jump straight into sales!

Bottom of Funnel Lead Magnets (Bofu)

The product aware and most aware stages are all about the sale. Prospects here are very targeted, but can be few and far between. You have less ability to build a relationship here, and as such new prospects entering at this stage are less likely to convert.

Using lead magnets as an engagement tool

Our best advice is to focus on building a relationship through the funnel. Use your lead magnets to educate and nurture, pre-empting each stage and being ready for the sale when they raise their hand to speak to you.

Don’t forget to also use lead magnets to keep your list engaged in general. Sending lead magnets to your existing list is a fantastic way to kick them back into the sales process with your follow up campaigns and some good lead scoring. 

Further resources: