The psychology behind high performing lead magnets

The psychology behind high performing 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.

Why is it so important to get lead magnets right?

The most famous marketing quote of all time, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half” - really gets my goat. 

You see John Wanamaker said that back in the late 1800’s when he founded his extremely successful department store chain. 

It’s a great quote… I don’t hate it per se. I hate that it’s still somewhat relevant to marketing and advertising for most businesses. 

Somehow over 100 years later we still approach our marketing in the same way: with a healthy dose of mysticism and magic. 

I like watching the convoluted processes some “gurus” suggest… I’m often left wondering if next they may suggest ritual sacrifice and a healthy dose of voodoo to bless your next lead magnet launch. 

You don’t need to sacrifice a chicken or offer the soul of your first born to the tempt the favour of the marketing gods. 

It isn’t lady luck (as lovely as she is). 

The reality is that we have the tools, the tech and the know-how to pinpoint exactly what is working, and what isn’t.

We’ve also had some phenomenal advances in our understanding of how the brain works. 

Combine a little behavioural economics know how with data and analytics and we have a match made in heaven. 

We know what works, because we can track it. We know why it works, because we can track what the brain is up to.

And amazingly… It’s quite simple. 

So let’s take a look at the psychology behind high performing lead magnets, and then some advice on how to build your own. 

Lead magnets - the psychology

Cracking a high performing lead magnet for your business all starts with attention. 

If you don’t have attention, and can’t capture it - you won’t have a lead. Your lead magnet needs to get attention, and then keep it so  you can build a relationship through to the conversion. 

Thankfully Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tvsersky sussed out the theory behind how we pay attention a little while ago. Since they first proposed the  duality of attention and how this applies to decision making (prospect theory), we’ve gone on to quantify it and prove it many many times over. 

Kahneman even won the Nobel Prize in Economics for his work in applying psychology to Economics. You can read up more about it in their book, Thinking Fast and Slow. 

The takeaway  you need is simply that we pay attention to the world around us by using two systems. System 1 and System 2

The interaction of these two systems is how we make decisions and process the world around us. 

System 1 is the fast, basically automatic system, referred to as the autopilot. 

System 2 is the slow, manual process, referred to as the pilot. 

The real main difference is that System 1 takes in around 11 Million bits of information per second.

Whereas System 2 takes in around 40 bits of information per second. 

The slower system is what is responsible for complex problem solving. While the faster system makes rapid choices and snap judgements. 

System 1 can only take in so much information because it uses a series of rules and mental shortcuts to understand the world around us. That’s the automatic bit.

System 2 can’t do that because it does everything manually. 

Let's paint the picture...

It gets confusing talking systems all the time - so I like to refer to the systems as the Minions, and Gru - from Despicable Me:

You see in the movie, Gru is a criminal mastermind - he has many extremely clever dastardly plans that he needs help making them happen. He can only do so much.

So he employs a race of little yellow dudes that help him get shit done. 

Problem is, they’re not very bright, they’re easily confused. So it’s a 'one minion to one job' kind of a deal. 

And that works perfectly - because there are hundreds of minions, each performing their own very specific job. It’s quite an efficient system. 

The problems happen when the minions are given something they can’t deal with… 

You’ll be pleased to know that this is EXACTLY how your brain works

All those rules and mental shortcuts are like little minions running around. They have one job to do - they understand one thing. But that’s OK - because there are so very many of them. 

The problem comes in when we need to pass information up to Gru for active attention and decision making. 

The brain does not want to use Gru. Using Gru means massive processing power and using calories. Using calories means less likelihood of survival. 

So it wants to save power and spend as much time as possible in minion mode. 

The only time information is going to get up to Gru is if it’s very very important, or it will hugely affect our chances of survival.

And that’s a big problem. 

Brains ruin your hard work on your lead magnets

When you create your lead magnets and your marketing materials, you create your content for Gru. A highly clever, logical being that is capable of complex decision making. 

Unfortunately our brains spend only 15% of the day in System 2. 

The rest of the day, we’re in minion mode. The minions are the gatekeepers to your audience's attention.

Download our FREE Lead Magnet Workbook!

How to create minion friendly lead magnets

The fantastic thing is, thanks to Kahneman and Tverksy’s work - we know what the minions want. 

They want something that is highly tangible, and matches what Gru is looking for. 

If we know our audience has a specific problem, then we can create the perfect lead magnet to solve that problem. And we can be really clear that the lead magnet does that one specific thing. 

The minions love this. It’s clear, easy to understand and they are happy to pass this information up to Gru. 

Your ultimate weapon in creating a highly converting lead magnet is to create it so that the minions can understand it. Get their attention and they will flag it up to Gru for that sweet sweet active attention. 

If you make it too fancy, or obscure, or for something your audience is not looking for the solution to - you’re going to have a bad time. 

If the minions don’t understand something, they filter it out and active attention doesn’t get paid to it. 

Minion friendly content is the way to go. 

So with the theory behind us, let’s take a look at what goes into a really great lead magnet. 

What makes a high performing lead magnet?

A lead magnet is something  you give away for free, in exchange for contact information and the permission to contact that person.

A high performing lead magnet does the same, but it brings you better quality leads in the process. It educates and engages your leads so  they are highly qualified and ready to purchase at the end of the process. 

This is a little harder to do, but is relatively simple with a little bit of strategic know how:

You need to move your prospect through an awareness level with your lead magnet. 

Target their awareness level, focus on the problem and challenge they are facing then and there and give them what they need to move to the next level.

So for instance, if they are problem aware, help them get to solution aware. 

If they are product aware, help them get to most aware - and so on. 

When you do this you not only create a lead magnet that is specific - but also one that moves your prospect to the next stage in their sales process. 

Both minion friendly and highly converting. 

With that in mind, let’s take a look at what goes into a minion friendly, highly converting lead magnet. 

How to make your lead magnets awesome - and minion friendly

There are 7 lead magnet must haves: 

1 - Your lead magnet must solve a problem

If your lead magnet is not solving a problem, you’re not going to get the minion’s attention - and it’s not going to be valuable. No value means no customer.

In this example ADPR put up a social post focused on the problem of being unknown in one's industry and it links to their blog on investing in PR. The lead magnet comes in as part of the blog copy, offering a buyer's guide to support with choosing the right PR agency. 

The link takes you to a simple download page with a lead capture form. 

Lead Magnet Example - Problem 3
Lead Magnet Example - Problem 3
Lead Magnet Example - Problem 4
Lead Magnet Example - Problem 5

2 - You must provide a quick win

If you make your lead magnet hollow or full of posturing your leads will get no value out of it. Giving them something they can instantly go off and do builds a relationship and trust so much quicker - and means they will be far more receptive to your offers.

Jammy Digital provide a great example of a quick win lead magnet.

On their homepage, the first thing you see is a great tagline and a download button. Click that and you transition to a landing page where you pop in your email to get your hand on the Homepage Blueprint.

You go to a super friendly thank you page with simple instructions. And, before you know it the download is in your inbox. Quick win achieved!

3 - Your lead magnet must be specific

If your lead magnet isn’t specific it won’t be understood by the minions, and it will get filtered out. Keeping it specific means it gets flagged up and gets attention paid to it. 

It wouldn't be right if we didn't include one of our own lead magnets in this list of examples...

We've got a blog all about why you should use UTM links in your emails and how. So it gave us a great opportunity to share a freebie download to help our audience.

We explain clearly what it is they are going to get.

4 - Always keep it easy to consume

Don’t make your lead magnets long winded and hard to consume. Instead focus on making them accessible and actionable. That’s far more valuable and far more likely to convert.

5 - A good lead magnet is high value

Remember that in exchange for your lead magnet your audience is giving you their precious contact information, and they’re inviting you into their inbox. Your lead magnet needs to be pretty awesome for people to woo them into letting you into their lives. 

Canopy & Stars offer a slightly different type of lead magnet. The value of it is not based on educating their audience, but providing a chance to win a £1,000 gift voucher. And they do it by way of a quiz.

It's a simple quiz with pictures and a bit of fun thrown in, at the end they offer a selection of places to stay based on your answers. The way they gain leads is by asking for your email in exchange for being entered into the gift card competition.

Pretty clever if you think about it... they've even gotten to know a bit about you thanks to the quiz. This is a great way to support list segmentation and marketing automation. Nice one Canopy & Stars.

6 - Keep your lead magnets instantly accessible

Lead magnets that have instant access are consumed to completion far more than those where there is a delayed gratification. Humans prefer an immediate award over one in the future, so keep it quick and breezy!

Talk about instant access. The only way you can even access the Secret Escapes website is by providing your email. And people do! 

It feels super exclusive and I didn't bat an eyelid when handing over my email. I wanted in!

7 - Don’t forget to demonstrate your expertise in your lead magnet

Your lead magnet is a part of the sales process, so you do want to make sure  you’re positioning yourself well as your prospect is consuming it. That does not mean you go on a crazy sales rant… No no. Instead a little gentle positioning and some good strong calls to action can go a long way. 

Let me introduce you to Forks Over Knives.

I was conducting some lead magnet research and found myself reading their 'beginners guide to a plant-based diet' page, which is jam packed full of information and an abundance of lead magnets and links to useful stuff. Already I'm like "these guys know their s**t".

Before I knew it I was reading through one of their sales pages where they really went deep into educating me on plant-based diets. They offer a free 14-day trial which I nearly signed up for... before remembering this is just research and I'm not ready to give up being a meat-eater. Sorry guys!

They have some great lead magnets throughout their site, and the definitely demonstrate expertise. I've no doubt their list of contacts is pretty extensive. 

If you can tick off these 7 must haves you’re going to have a highly converting minion friendly lead magnet. 

We’ve covered a lot in this blog post, so we’ve wrapped it up nicely for you in this lead magnet workbook. 

It’s been structured to ensure you’re creating a phenomenal lead magnet that the minions will love and your audience will consume.

Download our FREE Lead Magnet Workbook!