Email Infinity Plus – Part 2: Building Your List with Lead Magnets


Email Infinity is full of ideas for daily emails. But that’s no use without a list! So how do you attract subscribers? What can you give away, to kickstart the relationship… now that the days of “Ten 10 Tips” are far behind us?

Here’s a quick story…

My first copywriting website, way back in 2006, had a tiny sign-up form half-way down the home page. It said “Join my newsletter”, and carried a super vague promise:

“Give me your contact details, and I’ll send you copywriting tips once a month.”

And (weird as this sounds now) hundreds of people signed up!

People I knew were falling over themselves to get in. And total strangers finding the site on Google were opting in within seconds.

If memory serves, my sign-up rate was close to 70%. All from “Join My Newsletter”!

Looking back, it was crazy. I got my first 1000 subscribers with no effort whatsoever – and thought list building was nothing but “build it and they will come”.

Then suddenly the goldrush arrived… and everything changed in a heartbeat. Every business cottoned onto the value of building and mailing a list. So the free monthly newsletter became the norm. And sign-up rates took a serious tumble.

However – the slow-down didn’t hurt everyone!

There were bright sparks out there online, still coining it in. Still getting new subscribers in their droves. Because they didn’t offer a newsletter – they offered a free report.

BIG DIFFERENCE! Think about it…

If I ask you to sign up for a newsletter, I’m saying “Every month I’ll send you some articles on Topic X”. And that’s not much of a pull. It’s unclear. It could be irrelevant to you. AND you’ll have to wait for it (whatever “it” turns out to be!)

BUT if I ask you to sign up for a report, I’m saying “Let’s take that problem you’re dealing with, and solve it here and now.” And that’s far more compelling. It takes an URGENT problem, and the answer is SPECIFIC, RELEVANT and IMMEDIATE.

Granted, the free report idea was nothing new, even then. Years before the internet, the smartest marketers were giving away reports via newspaper ads, to build lists of people who shared a common problem. But the web added the “get it now” edge, and it really took off from there.

And so the tide turned. The free report replaced the online newsletter. Whether you called it a “white paper” or “lead magnet”, it wasn’t long before every website had one:

  • “7 Ways to Get More Customers”
  • “How to Drop a Dress Size in 2 Weeks”
  • “3 Steps to Perfect Abs”
  • “Insider Secrets of a City Trader”
  • “Quit Smoking in 30 Days”

The web was awash with it all. Until inevitably –

The bubble burst again!

Hence where we are today. Customers have gotten wise to the ways of list building. They’ll see a sign-up page making outrageous promises, and their inner sceptic screams out “DON’T BOTHER!”

They worry that… if they go ahead… they’ll never see the benefit.


Well for one thing, they’ll never read it! They might start with good intentions and read a page or two. But then they’ll file it away for another day… knowing the day will never come. (It happens a lot with PDFs, as they’re so easy to ignore!)

What’s more, they doubt it’s worth the hassle. They’re sure they’ll be disappointed, for at least one of these reasons:

  • “This content doesn’t live up to the hype”: the solution was supposed to be “easy” (or “fast” or “cheap”). But it’s tricky (or slow or expensive). Massive let-down.
  • “I’ve seen this a million times!“: so many reports regurgitate the same old material. Stuff that anyone can find on a blog with a 2-minute Google search.
  • “Hang on, is that it?”: if they’re handing over contact details, they want something weighty. It doesn’t have to be lengthy, but it should be useful!  But most reports are just a page or two, with little insight – and no practical details.
  • “It’s a marketing trap!”: new subscribers fear they’ll get caught in an endless funnel that clogs up their inbox with no easy opt-out.

So in that perfect storm:

Sign-up rates – and readership – have fallen sharply

The average sign-up rate is down to 2% and falling. So you need 50 visitors now, just to get one subscriber. And worse, you could need 10 subscribers or more to get one who really connects with you. Meaning… you need 500 visitors to find one motivated reader!

That’s the bad news. But don’t worry, it’s only the norm – and norms can be defied.

The top 2-3% of marketers do things differently. They still (mostly) give away information, in the form of a single subject report or guide. But –

They make it something worth paying for. So it’s far too good to resist when it’s offered up as a gift.

It all comes down to…

The 3 Laws of Irresistible Giveaways

LAW 1: Outclass Your Rivals – offer something that’s worth paying for.

LAW 2: Sell The Freebie – push the pain and antidote, just as you would with a price tag.

LAW 3: Don’t Pitch To Strangers – dazzle them with a helpful blog first, then retarget them back to your sign-up page.

Okay, this third law is broken every day, even by the best marketers who’ll often pitch straight from an ad. But many will tell you, they get their best results by using ads to build their base for remarketing, so they’re pitching to people who already see their value. It’s worth testing.

Marketers who follow these principles get big results. Forget the typical 2% sign-up rate. The big guns who work this way typically hit 10% or more. Plus, their subscribers pay more attention. So 20 or 30 visitors is enough to get one motivated reader.

So – all that said, let’s look at:

12 Lead Magnets that still work today

Lead Magnet #1: Instant Karma

An easy win to start with. Gently push the reader towards a sale, by sharing useful info that stirs up a need or desire.

A few examples:

  • If you’re a butcher, offer a book of recipes for healthy eating. Then they’ll buy the meat from you, because you sell the highest quality.
  • If you’re in hospitality, offer tips on how to get more business through entertaining.
  • If you do loft conversions, offer a guide on how to create a workspace at home.

Get the idea? It helps the reader, because they’re getting valuable info that moves them towards a goal. And it helps you, because any reader who wants to act on your advice will need supplies or support – and seeing as you’ve earned their trust, why wouldn’t they turn to you?

Lead Magnet #2: Consumer Champion

This is ideal if your industry is plagued by rogue operators and half-truths. You position yourself as the “saint among sinners” – by calling out bad practice and helping potential buyers to proceed with caution.

It also works well if your customers are spoilt for choice, and don’t know which way to turn.

The best market for this is the high ticket consumer sale, like home improvements. Think roofing, conservatories, extensions, kitchens, heating and more. But it works in B2b sales too… wherever there’s a rat to expose!

Your guide can talk through all the options and how to make the right choice, by weighing up practical issues and aesthetics. It can also bust a few myths, expose industry lies, and tell readers which questions to ask before they sign a contract.

Lead Magnet #3: Future Banking

Maybe your potential customer isn’t able to buy from you yet? Maybe there’s something they have to do first, before they can take the next step?

No problem. Your guide can help them with the interim task, and line them up as a future customer.

If you run a driving school, this is ideal. Target 16-year-olds, and give them some pointers that will get them ready for their first lesson. Position it as a chance to get ahead of the game: “the sooner you learn these basics, the sooner you’ll get your licence.” Then you’ve laid the foundations – getting them on side, so they come to you when they turn 17.

The same applies if you’re a marketing consultant working with growing businesses. A start-up can’t afford you, so give them tips on how to get their first customers for little or no cost. Then stay in touch… and when they come to scale up, you’re in pole position.

It’s all about getting in before the feeding frenzy. Just ask yourself:

  • What obstacle do your future customers have to get past, before they can buy?
  • How can you help with that obstacle now,  to line them up for another day?

Lead Magnet #4: Delay & Conquer

Like the “Future Banking” method, this sows seeds for the future.

The key is to show readers how to preserve or prolong something they already own, instead of coming to you for an early replacement. That something could be a mattress, a fridge, a leaking roof…anything that wears out sooner or later. Often, replacement is a huge financial burden, so they’ll pay attention if you show them how to eke out a few more months or years.

It might seem like an odd move! But look how it plays out…

  • … You lock out your competitors. If they’re falling over themselves to sell a replacement, while you’re saying “Hang on, maybe this can wait”… you’ve changed the customer’s thinking. And suddenly, you’re the only one left in the mix.
  • … A percentage will read your guide and buy from you anyway – sooner, not later. Just include the “tell-tale signs” that show when it’s time to replace, and some will shrug and accept the inevitable. Then of course, they’ll buy from you as the vendor who tried to help them out.
  • … If they take your advice and delay things, that’s fine – they’ll buy later. All you have to do is stay on their radar between now and then. So include some maintenance tips: things they should do regularly, to prolong the product’s life.

Lead Magnet #5: Revelations

This is a “did you know…?” report, where you share some new or little-known information that benefits the reader. It’s a great option if your industry is constantly evolving and creating new possibilities – because everyone hates missing out.

Here are some examples:


  • … If you run an IT business, write a report on working more efficiently in the cloud.
  • … If you build apps for mobile, write about how you’re using new tech to make money for clients.
  • … If you’re a printer, write about variable printing and the chance to personalise your marketing.

Medical Science:

  • … If you’re a cosmetic dentist, write about the new treatments that can improve a customer’s smile.
  • … If you sell hearing aids, explain the recent advances that treat most types of hearing loss.


  • … If you’re a HR consultant, tell business owners about the impact of new employment laws.
  • … If you’re an accountant, create a new report once a year setting out the impact of the budget.

Any business:

  • Share an insider secret, like tips on the stock market (keep it legal!)
  • Share something forgotten that worked long ago – like an old sales technique developed during the great depression.

See? You’re sharing news – whether it’s actually new info, or simply new to the reader.

Lead Magnet #6: Supporting DIY

Do you sell a service that amateurs can attempt – like copywriting, web design, decorating or gardening? If so, your report can show them how to do it without you. For example:

  • WEB DEVELOPERS – How to get more sales by making your website mobile-friendly.
  • LANDSCAPE GARDENERS – How to make your run-down garden the talk of the neighbourhood.
  • WINDOW CLEANERS – How to get professional results next time you clean your windows.

It’s another type that looks like suicide at first! But share your best tips, and there’s no downside. Some readers will act on your advice, then sing your praises everywhere. While others will read and decide they’re better off hiring you! Especially if you end with an offer.

Lead Magnet #7: The Can of Worms

Here, you show the reader how to solve a problem – only to expose a second, much bigger problem that needs an expert touch. So they feel they’ve opened the proverbial can of worms.

To put that another way, think of the films you’ve seen where someone climbing a mountain thinks they’ve reached the top…only to look up and realise they’re still miles from the summit.

Here’s an example, for a digital agency:

  • Explain how to choose the best keywords for a Google Ads campaign.
  • Offer full detail on keyword types and how to analyse search trends – to find a set of keywords that can generate quality leads.
  • Reveal the next set of challenges, like setting up and running the campaign.
  • Make an offer to anyone who needs help with the next step.

Lead Magnet #8: The Bigger Picture

Think of the types of business that might send you referrals – and the types you refer. For example, if you run a printing business, you might get referrals from graphic designers, and pass referrals to couriers. And if you’re a wedding planner, you might swap referrals with cakemakers, dressmakers, venues, photographers and more.

These referrals happen between sectors that naturally align: the customer who buys from one will need some kind of help from the other. And that gives you scope for an interesting lead magnet – because you can “cross-over”, to give advice on the related service.

For instance, a personal trainer could offer healthy eating tips. While conversely, a nutritionist could offer exercise tips!

In the same vein:

  • … A copywriter could advise on web design and conversion.
  • … A roofer could advise on how to plan an extension.
  • … An exhibition planner could advise on signage.

This is not an obvious ploy, but it can be effective. Firstly, because you’re moving the customer to a place where they need you (the new healthy diet creates a lifestyle that cries out for an exercise plan… the new extension needs a roof… the new website needs copy). And secondly, because it can be a brand new source of business.

Think about it. For most sales, you start talking to the customer when they need someone from your industry. And that can get you into a bidding war – even when you’re referred. But this option brings you into the conversation earlier. Before your competitors know anything about it.

Example: say you sell underfloor heating for new kitchens and bathrooms – so you rely on referrals from builders, fitters and suppliers. You’ll get in early if your report shows how to plan a new kitchen or bathroom…with a small section on heating!

Again, it’s unconventional, but everyone stands to gain:

  • Readers will value the insight of someone independent, who’s seen the industry warts and all.
  • You get to demonstrate a rounded understanding of the project – a big plus, when competitors only see their own piece of the jigsaw.
  • Local trades (e.g. kitchen or bathroom installers) get referrals from you, and start sending business your way.

Lead Magnet #9: The Survey

This is a great way to reach a prospect while they’re idly browsing Facebook. All you do is take them through a few questions that reveal something about them, like where their strengths and hidden talents lie – then ask for their email address in return for the results.

It might feel like a trashy option, but it’s actually quite powerful. In fact, its real power is very rarely used. Think of it this way…

Your potential customers are giving you access to their inner thoughts and hang-ups…while giving you permission to stay in touch! So you can send follow-up emails based on the info they give you – offering the most relevant solution you can deliver.

Example: say you’re a business coach, and your survey asks “What kind of entrepreneur are you?” – and one of the questions asks about their attitude to selling. Those who state they lack confidence are prime candidates for training in assertiveness, persuasion and any number of other skills.

It’s amazing how few marketers use this to full effect!

Lead Magnet #10: The Quiz

People love testing their knowledge on any field that holds their interest. And the answers they give can reveal sales opportunities – like training or a done-for-you service to fill knowledge gaps.

It’s an easy option for any kind of B2b consultant.

Take HR. You can target owner-managers of growing companies, and test their knowledge of employment law… then use the results to promote a course or service.

It works because you’re forcing them to realise they were unaware of something critical – but doing it in a helpful way, so they’ll trust you to show them the answers.

Lead Magnet #11: The Contest

One of the biggest challenges for any marketer is getting people to pay attention to a message. So why not BUY their attention, with the offer of a prize?

Just show them a video where you make your elevator pitch, or an offer. And next to it, add a multiple choice question that has something to do with the content.

They’ll take in more of your message then, as they listen out for the answer. So it’s a no-brainer – and you only need two things: a question, and a prize.

In most contests, the question is based on something quirky, like a fun fact mentioned in the video. That keeps it light-hearted and adds a dash of curiosity, so the prospect is more likely to click the play button.

As for the prize, your best bet is entry to a draw for a high ticket item: something exciting that your prospect WANTS…not something dull that they NEED!

Just keep in mind, there are some caveats around prize draws. So check the latest rules from the Gambling Commission.

Lead Magnet #12: The Calculator

Lead magnets are typically used for the slow burn approach. But what if the prospect is ready to go, and shopping for a good deal – like renewing their mortgage?

Fine – all you need is a calculator.

Let them enter some figures or select a service level. Then present the info in any way you choose:

  • You could simply give them a figure and a link to take the next step.
  • Or add a special offer they can redeem online or by phone.
  • Or give a ballpark estimate, and get them to book a call for a fixed quote.
  • Or ask them to sign up to get their figure by email or post.

of the other guides we’ve covered!)

And One More For Luck: The Tailored Solution

Thanks to recent advances like chatbots and interactive video, you can ask the prospect questions… and use their answers to steer them towards the most relevant content.

For example, a business coach might start by asking where the prospect is at in their business: is it a start-up, growing business, downsizing or preparing for exit?

Then the next question would look at their biggest challenge – using broad labels like finance, HR, sales & marketing etc.

Then it starts getting specific.

Say the prospect has chosen “Rapid Growth” and “People Management”. Their next set of choices would include the most likely problems, like “Rewarding Staff” and “Finding New Talent”.

But it would be different if they’d selected “Downsizing” with “People Management”. Then the next choices might be “Handling Redundancies” and “Managing Change”.

See how that works?

The end goal is to have them opt in for a piece of ultra-specific content. Like:

  • Remodelling Your Processes in Readiness for Exit
  • Raising Finance to Fund Your Next Stage of Growth
  • Hiring Your First Member of Staff

Of course, that calls for a lot of content! But you’d see a high opt-in rate, because the prospect is getting a perfect fit.

DECISION TIME: which Lead Magnet is right for you?

Whatever your business, whatever your goal, you should be able to use at least one of these lead magnet types. So here’s a list of statements to help you choose…

“I can show customers how to achieve a goal by using my product or service”
> Try Lead Magnet #1: Instant Karma

“My customers are confused, nervous, vulnerable or spoilt for choice”
> Try Lead Magnet #2: Consumer Champion

“There are people who can’t buy from me yet, who’d value my help today”
> Try Lead Magnet #3: Future Banking

“My customers are replacing something that’s starting to wear out”
> Try Lead Magnet #4: Delay & Conquer

“My customers need to know about a new trend, gizmo, law, risk or secret”
> Try Lead Magnet #5: Revelations

“My customers hire me as an expert, but some will try to do it themselves”
> Try Lead Magnet #6: Supporting DIY

“My customers have to solve a mini problem before I can deliver the service”
> Try Lead Magnet #7: The Can of Worms

“My customers need other services to compliment the work I do”
> Try Lead Magnet #8: The Bigger Picture

“I need more info from the customer, to make a recommendation”
> Try Lead Magnet #9: The Survey
> Or Lead Magnet #10: The Quiz
> Or Lead Magnet #12: The Calculator
> Or Lead Magnet #Bonus: The Tailored Solution

“My customers need my help to fill their knowledge gaps”
> Try Lead Magnet #10: The Quiz

“My customers have a poor attention span”
> Try Lead Magnet #11: The Contest

“My customers respond to big incentives”
> Try Lead Magnet #11: The Contest

“My customers know what they want – they just need a cost”
> Try Lead Magnet #12: The Calculator

Next Up: What to Say in Your Nurture Sequence
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What is Email Infinity?

If you send regular emails, and you know the agony of staring at a blinking cursor, waiting for inspiration to strike…stare at this instead!

Email Infinity comes from years of geekery, of late night sessions analysing email after email.

Stuff I’d mailed to my own list. Stuff I’d written for clients. Stuff from pros and gurus. Stuff from regular SMEs.

It all went under the microscope, in a furious bid to reverse-engineer whatever “it” was that was working.

The result is 100+ proven ways to generate ideas – enough to keep anyone in emails till the end of their days.

UK Copywriter James Daniel

James Daniel

You might not know who I am, but no doubt you've read my copy. If you've ever bought a hearing aid, a pizza oven, flat roof or vacuum cleaner. If you've hired a will writer, an IT guy or accountant. If you've been to events on marketing, acting or how to buy a business. There's every chance it started with a bit of my copy - a few simple, chatty, gently persuasive words. Ring any bells?

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