Are You Making This Mistake With Your Lead Magnet? (It’s Super Duper Common.)

THANKS TO MY INDUSTRY, I say the word “magnet” far more than I'd like. It's never not reminded me of “maggot,” so yes, I think about housefly larvae rather often.

Lead maggots. Lead magnets.

…I really wanna say maggot.

Then again, some lead magnets really are lead maggots—as in, they are these tiny little turds of uselessness that have no place in your business or in clogging up the internet. But the tricky part is that if you're new at online business you don't KNOW they're duds—all you know is that some blowhard with a microphone on some stage labeled BROCON21 *high five!* is telling you that you need one. And it needs to be free. And it needs to “contain useful information.” So you're like, okay, check! And then all the boys will come to your yard because this is how you market yourself online, you are told.

So you take a stab. Give it a good ol' college try. You try to make something “useful” that people need to enter their email address in order to get. (AKA the definition of a lead magnet.) And you do! YOU HAVE COMPLETED THE TASK AND SAVED THE UNIVERSE!

Buuuuttttttttttt, then crickets. Turns out, your lead magnets aren't MAGNETIZING. Where did you go wrong?!

So listen. There are a few different factors with lead magnets, one of them being that if no one actually sees the fucking thing, it's not going to do Jack Nicholson (even if it was brilliant). This makes sense because unlike actual maggots, lead maggots don't grow wings and eventually fly.

The other thing that sometimes goes wrong is that the lead maggot is too flimsy and unsubstantial—and therefore not something people are willing to give their email addresses for. The litmus test for this is if you think the title of it could easily be a blog post, instead. For example, your “top twenty book picks for runners,” if you're a running coach. While that's lovely information, it doesn't feel material enough to exchange an email address for. (Plus, the assumption is that your opinion on books will be important enough for anyone to care about, but that only happens if you're a celebrity.)

The OTHER thing that sometimes goes wrong is that the lead maggot isn't strategically tied to what you're selling. If you're a wedding photographer you might really want to create a lead magnet advertising your top 5 Lightroom presets, but how will that help get brides on your email list? Unless you're specifically selling your knowledge to other wedding photographers, this lead maggot is dead in the water for the people you're trying to serve: they don't even know what Lightroom is. (So watch out for masturbating in front of your peers with how cool you are and how much you know. It's a common trap.)

But you know what the most COMMON mistake with lead magnets is?

The #1 sin of all lead magnet glory? THE THING that makes online business owners weep at their laptops? The top reason why no one's opting into your lead magnet?

You put a Mercedes engine inside a 1980 Hyundai.

And no matter how much you swear it's a Mercedes, all they see is a jalopy.

I'm referring to your packaging, of course: specifically, what you call your lead magnet. The #1 mistake that most people make when creating a lead magnet is—dun, dun, dunnnnn—putting all of this effort into it, but then naming it something incredibly dull and uncompelling like “Susan's Recipes.” Or “Getting in Shape for Beginners.” Or “30 Helpful Tips to Career Success.” Or “5 Ways to Feel Empowered.” <–Can we please 86 this word, too?

These are all simply far too vague & general to be compelling. But it's not your fault! You're not a copywriter! However, you do need to pocket a few copywriter's tricks to make this work well for you. And the one I want you to focus on today with this is what I'm calling Middle Finger Law #225: This Bitch Got a Secret.

YES THAT'S THE FORMAL NAME, what else would it be?!

You want your lead magnet to feel like you have been hoarding a dirty, dirty secret—one that, once understood, will help your clients accomplish something SPECIFIC.

The lead maggots above, transformed into lead magnets:

  • The Bar Fly's Guide to Getting in Shape (Without Missing Happy Hour)
  • 25 Ancient Recipes That'll Make You Thinner Every Time You Eat Them
  • $100K Outta College: 10 Real Resumes That Scored a 6-Figure Job Right After Graduation (Doctors and Lawyers Not Included!)
  • 7 Days to Kick Your Husband to the Curb: How I Did It Without the Drama—And How You Can, Too.

Persuasive lead magnets are always hyper-specific and always make you feel like you're getting in on a dirty secret. The two work hand-in-hand. You can have a hyper-specific lead magnet that doesn't lend an air of mystery and it won't be as effective, i.e. “How to Get In Shape If You're a Bar Fly.” Similarly, you can have an air of mystery without any specifics and then you just sound like a weirdo, i.e. “The Secret to Everything Running.”

So when I say “This Bitch Got a Secret,” what I mean is “your lead magnet's going to be great as long as you hint at the fact that there's a Mercedes inside…not just let 'em think it's a Hyundai.”

Because to the disappointment of spiritual shamans everywhere, sometimes it's not what inside that counts.

Sometimes, a great package is the only way to make people stare.

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Quit your job. Work remotely. Travel the world. Find your f*cking self.

Every weekday morning at 8am Eastern you’ll get 3 ideas to help you make big moves and big money. Written by Penguin Random House author, entrepreneur & digital nomad, Ash Ambirge, who likes to believe she still has standards.

The Middle Finger Project has helped over 500,000+ unconventional subscribers ditch the crock pot & go on an adventure. Established 2009 from Santiago, Chile.

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