Are Gated Lead Magnets Valuable Anymore? How You Should Think About Them in 2024

With all the focus on video, blogging, and social these days, longer form lead magnets are not getting a lot of love.

“Long form content sucks.”

“No one reads ebooks anymore.”

“There are so many bad ebooks out there.”

But yet they do still have their place in the content marketing mix.  They are the smart and hardworking colleague in the corner versus the noisy individual contributor who gets more attention (social content, your blog).

There are six great reasons why you should do lead magnets, but first, let’s get our definition out of the way.  What is a lead magnet? It can be an ebook, but it also could also be a high-value whitepaper or research report, or even a useful piece like a detailed worksheet or template. It is anything anyone downloads, so you can track it, follow up, and get leads from it.  Also, lead magnets solve problems for your customers: whatever the format, it should be a complete answer to one aspect of a customer problem.

Six reasons to create a lead magnet

  1. To go deeper into a topic. Naturally, it’s longer or more detailed, so you can explore a topic in depth. They give your customer specific tools and enough info so they can solve one problem or move forward in one area of their business.
  2. Establish yourself as helpful, credible, and trustworthy. Lead magnets allow you to demonstrate value and expertise beyond what you can do in simpler or shorter form content.
  3. To genuinely help your customer. Related to the above, your goal should be to help solve a problem. You may be concerned you are giving away too much for free but you are just solving a TINY problem, a microproblem. They would pay you to do more. You are providing value so that when they are ready to solve the entire problem, they will come to you.
  4. Repurposing opportunities. Once you create a long-form piece of content, you can easily chop it up into blog posts, social posts, or newsletters.  This is very true for an ebook, but also you can repurpose, reuse and distribute any type of lead magnet across you remarketing channels to get more eyeballs on it.
  5. Collect email addresses for your newsletter or email list. Building that email list is important for having a channel you own and nurturing people who have raised their hands to hear from you.
  6. Kick off a nurture sequence. If you gate it, back it up with a nurture sequence. (We’ll talk about gating later because this is controversial).

How to create one

Here are the high level steps involved in creating a great lead magnet.

  1. Identify that microproblem that you need to solve for.

Your lead magnet should solve 1 small problem for 1 specific target buyer. This, of course, means you need to know your buyer really well.  What keeps them up at night? What are their problems (as related to your business and product).  There are dozens of articles about how to find out these things with research, talking to sales, and conducting customer interviews.   You can even use AI. Find those problems and identify a small one that you can fix with one aspect of your service offering.

For example: you are a project management tool. You know your ideal customers have to get work out of excel, email and post it notes, but they don’t even know where to start. One problem is often that they currently don’t have their processes written down. They are ad hoc, variable, and chaotic. So, a lead magnet could solve that problem by outlining how they would create standard operating procedures, something like “How to Get Started with Creating SOPs (and Why)”.

  1. Choose your content format.

A lead magnet could be a worksheet (excel file or .doc file), a template, an ebook, a research paper, a longer video, a webinar, or a calculator.  It literally could be anything you think of that solves that real problem for one audience. I have given up my email address for a gated podcast series: exclusive only for subscribers.

  1. Research what’s already out there.

You need to avoid being redundant in your space. Did someone else write this same ebook? Is that piece any good? If so, either pick another topic or beat it: be more thorough, complete, and concise.

  1. Make it easy to get.

Downloading your lead magnet should just take a couple clicks.  If you are going to put a gate up to get information on your buyer or put them in your database don’t create more friction than you have to.  Keep the form pretty simple: name and email are the most common.  Maybe role, company name and company size – but consider whether you really need that. People won’t complete a form that is more than 3 -4fields.  Also, you can either provide the download link on the thank you page or in one email that you send after they fill out the form. (I like the email because you can forward it or file it so you can find it again later.)

But, about gating….

Should you gate it?

Your default should be to NOT Gate.  But I hear you: How do you connect with customers after they download if you don’t have a gate? Here’s the way you should view this:

  1. People who download lead magnets aren’t ready to buy. They download content because it intrigues them or because they need it at that moment. Even if you do ask them to sign up, and even if they choose to bother with that, they did it just to get that content. The point is to solve a problem for them and attract them to your brand so they come back to you for more, not to annoy them or to start trying to sell to them.
  1. They will come back if they like your content. Maybe not tomorrow but sometime, because if your content was good and it solved their microproblem, you will be top of mind when they need MORE of what your solution provides.
  1. When they come back, they have self-qualified themselves as a potential customer. This saves you time and guesswork on who in your audience is ready to buy. Trust the boomerang effect.

If you do gate make it worth their time. It better be really good content. It needs to be a golden checklist, a game-changing template, a quiz that give a true aha moment, or an ebook that solves that one problem.  It needs to answer a question in a thorough way that is different from the dozens of other ebooks out there.

Parting thoughts

Here are some other ways to maximize the value of your lead magnet:

  • Do a lead magnet every quarter and test it. Promote it and see how many downloads and leads you get.
  • Consider stitching together 3-4 blog posts on one topic to turn that into a lead magnet. If you have content clusters this is a viable way to go.
  • Distribute it broadly. Get more eyes on by sending it out across all your channels: social, email, your website.  Note on SEO: if it’s a web page you can SEO optimize it. Otherwise, your best is to SEO optimize the landing page or any page it’s hosted on.
  • Promote it a lot. Success of a lead magnet depends on how often you mention it to people.  Post snippets plus a link out to it weekly on social, drop it in the footer of email signatures, link to it from your blog posts.
  • Re-use it. If it’s an ebook, ‘atomize’ it into multiple blog posts or social posts.

Check out this blog post from HubSpot if you are interested in further reading on lead magnet best practices.

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