Email is the centerpiece of modern indie businesses. It’s a critical way we engage with our audience for direct sales and relationship.
So, all us modern entrepreneurs know we need to be growing our email lists. And by now most of us have been to websites offering something for free via an email capture form.
You know the ones? “Get my 10 best dance moves cheat-sheet, just enter your email and I’ll send it right over to you!”
These are called “lead magnets” or “freebies” or “opt-in incentives,” and they are insanely effective for growing your email list. And not only that, they can be excellent for growing trust with your audience as well.
BUT, they have a nasty reputation for being sleazy, cheesy and all around barf-inducing.
So, there’s some challenges here — you can’t just make any freebie and slap it anywhere on your site for it to work.
So that’s what we’re getting into in this article. In this post you’ll learn:
- What makes a GOOD freebie
- What’s working for others (9 examples)
- How to design the right freebie for your business
We’ve been there before
I have a confession to make. For a while, in the beginning of Fizzle, we didn’t use a lead magnet.
We were just creating the brand and, to be honest, I didn’t want to come off as sleazy or too sales-y. I ended up letting us go for months without putting up a lead magnet.
But when we did, the results immediately started rolling in. You can guess exactly what that arrow is pointing to.
That’s right, our email growth was flat for months and then we added a free opt-in incentive to our site and things have been growing like this ever since.
But I hate those things!
I know, so do I. It seems like every site I land on now offers some kind of a freebie to get me on their list.
And a vast majority of the time I HATE THEM.
- They're cheezy,
- The offer is sleazy,
- They talk down to me,
- They make me lose trust in the brand.
The truth is, many people do this poorly and we don’t have to!
We want you to create a lead magnet that works FOR YOU, one that you feel good about and that builds trust, authenticity and interest with your audience.
So, let's talk about what makes a great email freebie.
“Don’t make sleazy lead magnets! This article will help.”
A good freebie has these three elements:
If you want to make a great freebie for your lead magnet, you’re going to need to cook with these three ingredients.
1. Irresistible Offer
- First of all, you have to have a specific, compelling offer.
- “Irresistible” is what we’re looking for. “Tempting” also works. What would tempt you? What would be irresistible to you? Nudes of celebrities don’t count, unless that’s your business (in which case, ewww).
- Get specific. Target a problem, a pain, something you can really help with. Bonus points if it’s unique.
- Don’t try to be a genius, be a researcher. An experienced nurse doesn’t puncture your arm a million times without paying attention. He looks for signals from your body to find the vein. We need to hit the vein, which means we need to be looking for signals from our audience. One place to look: your most popular posts, your most common questions.
- More on this our 7-day email growth challenge.
2. Indisputable Substance
- Your freebie is like a first impression… make it a good one.
- You don’t want to over-promise and under-deliver. That happens all the time online and it’s not going to lead you to long-term audience growth.
- We want this freebie to build trust and rapport with our audience. Make it feel nice. (More insights on this in the next section.)
- Don’t want to be such a perfectionist that you don’t make anything at all, though. Eventually it needs to be excellent, but your first draft can suck and you can improve it over time with feedback.
3. Crystal Clear Messaging.
- Make sure your audience knows exactly what you’re offering them.
- We did all that work in step #1 to make sure our offer was irresistible, now let’s make sure our visitors know about it! We need to highlight and callout this freebie in multiple places on our website.
- And when we callout this freebie we need to make sure the language is clear and compelling. Be sure to use 80/20 copywriting to inspire action from our visitors.
There are several types of freebies
Online today you’ll find several types of freebies. Here’s a quick list with some notes.
Note: in our 7-day email growth course we go into more detail about exactly which of these we recommend you use and why.
- Guide — educate someone through a challenging problem.
- Challenge — accomplish something in a set amount of time.
- Newsletter — a regular email with updates, news, information, etc. (We’ve written before about more newsletter examples.)
- Quiz — take a quiz, enter your email to get the results.
- Mini course — like a course, but mini… and free.
- PDF of some kind — could be used for guides or challenges.
- Video series — several emails to teach through an important topic.
- Email series — 1 email a day, or something like that.
- Audio training — like a podcast, but for subscribers only.
9 Examples with insights
Ok, here are some examples we like on the web. We’ve added insights below each so you can get a sense of what’s good/bad about each.
NOTE: each of these examples is talked through in-depth in the podcast episode at the end of this article.
- I love how clear the reason why is: “to help you add more intention to your life today.”
- I like that it offers multiple medias, books, videos, blogs and habits. That seems like a “grab bag” of goodies that I’ll be able to choose from according to my own preferences. This is kind of a big deal — each person coming to your site has different preferences. So, making me feel “empowered” to choose for myself can feel nice to a person.
- I also like that when I click the button a pop-over box appears. No re-loading a page, just a quick “get it now.”
- First of all, this is a great example of making your freebie look and feel very nice. If you haven’t yet, this is a solid example of that.
- We’re up front and clear about the value: “create YOU OWN unique selling proposition. It’s an essential piece that makes everything in your business easier.”
- I like that the imagery is there at the bottom, but I gotta be honest, I don’t know what I’m looking at. I want to go in there and clean it up so it makes a visitor feel more about how solid it is. This image of all the pages is kinda clutter-feeling.
- By the way, same thing with the title of the guide (it’s a bit wordy and unruly, doesn’t speak directly to the compelling reason why) as well as the cover (why a wave? Why split the words’ colors like that and make it hard to read!? I need to fix this :)
- This is one of my favorite product makers, and they even have awesome blog posts like this, but the call to action for the email newsletter is just so weak I had to call it out!
- Here’s what I would do… people are buying these bags for travel, specifically minimal travel. I don’t want to HEAR stories from the road, I want to LIVE stories on the road. So, I think of a couple things we could make.
- First, I think of a “the top 30 destinations for solo-travelers” or something like that. I see their audience as potentially more oriented toward solo travel. It’s a gamble, but could work. Worth a try, right? So make something that focuses on that group that’s irresistible.
- Second, I think of packing lists, or a piece of education about “how 15 professional travelers pack their bag. Plus a free packing checklist.” No brainer. Spend some money on a great writer to put it together and a decent designer to make it work, and you’ve got something that might work really well.
- Again, the whole point of this is to get interested folks on your list so you can get in touch with them when you have a sale, or release a new product, or offer them a discount, etc. Keep the end in mind.
- Jen over at Simple Green Smoothies has always run some kind of challenge prominently as an email opt-in offer. They have been tremendously effective at driving sign ups.
- I love how simple this one is: 7 ingredients, 7 green smoothies, 7 mins a day for 7 days.
- The call to action is clear: For 7 straight days, you’ll blend a daily green smoothie that will fuel your body and boost your energy. Simple 7 makes healthy eating habits affordable, delicious, simple and quick.
- I’m not a fan of pop-ups, but it’s hard to deny how effective this one is. It showed up immediately after opening West Elm’s site. I know this one is effective because my wife and I have both signed up while shopping for new stuff for our house.
- Then, after signing up, the onslaught of promotions and advertising was impressive and constant. These guys clearly know how valuable email marketing is.
- Quizzes can be really smart, for a few reasons. First, they inherently make people curious. Second, it’s natural to ask people for an email address at the end of a quiz to send the results to. Third, they can gather a BUNCH of really useful information about the person taking the quiz, which can be useful for segmentation and targeting after.
- This example from Ramit Sethi at I Will Teach You To Be Rich is solid. It’s short, and the call to action is very clear. It’s really the only thing featured on Ramit’s website.
- I love how clear the value prop is here. Cailen is a working mom, and she knows what her people want — a thriving, 6 figure business, while ONLY working 3 days a week?? There’s a system for that?! She spells out exactly what her days look like, including a template & task list.
- One thing Steph spells out in the podcast episode below is how clearly Cailen makes her offer VALUABLE instead of heading in a “douchebag” kind of direction. This is a great example of an offer that could head in an unsavory direction, but it DOESN’T because of how it’s put together.
- Quizzes are fun and have an irresistible quality to them. Kristen & Rachel at Clarity on Fire took the number one question they get asked, “how do I figure out my passion?!” and turned it into a quiz. The quiz reveals one of four “profiles”, which helpers audience members better understand their ideal career path & working style.
- More info: How Two Best Friends Who Hated Work Got Unstuck With Rachel & Kristen Of Clarity On Fire (Courage)
- I like that Marie has an audio training, which is a little different than your classic, standard PDF.
- “How to get anything you want” is pretty strong in terms of value / piques curiosity.
- In particular her offer is laid out in a VERY simple, attractive and non-missable way on her site.
Which is the best freebie type for you?
So, if you’re growing your email list you’ve got to use a freebie. But what freebie type is best for you? And what’s the best way to use it on your website?
We’ve made a free 7-day email course to help you decide:
- You will get value from this email course. Each email is quick and actionable so you can work on things that actually matter to your business.
- You won’t just get marketed to. We write actionable, focused content every week that will apply to your business without purchasing anything.
- You really will be able to grow your email list. Most people don’t know what makes visitors become subscribers. If you’re getting any traction on your site or social media channels this process will absolutely help you create an offer that grows your email list.
“What makes a good email freebie? Here’s 9 utterly clear examples”
Check out the audio training for this article
We’ve recorded a special episode of our podcast to accompany this article. Go deeper with these concepts as we share more:
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