Creating an Effective Top-of-the-Funnel Lead Magnet

If you want to generate a steady stream of top-of-the-funnel sales leads, you need a dependable, relevant, compelling, worth-sharing-my-contact-info-for lead magnet.

Not simply an offer that gets people to “buy now,” but a strategic content marketing device designed to pull potential customers into an engaging lead nurturing process—so they’ll remember you, know you, “buy when they’re ready,” and keep coming back.

It’s easy to see why an effective lead magnet is the direct response marketer’s best friend. But it’s something that takes considerable effort to create, get up-and-running, and optimized for winning campaign performance. The good news is a well crafted and finely tuned lead magnet can help you meet (and why not exceed?) your top- and bottom-line business goals.

In this first of a series of three posts about top-of-the-funnel lead magnets, we’ll explore the DNA of a great piece of content: what it’s made of, what it needs to come to life, and how it takes shape. Let’s start at its not-so-humble beginnings.

Drive Awareness: Your Lead Magnet’s Inbound Marketing Mission
Direct response marketers need their top-of-the-funnel lead magnet to do powerful things:

• Attract new prospects
• Make a favorable first impression
• Entice prospects to want “more”

By providing their contact information in exchange for your lead magnet’s content, new leads are giving you their express permission to market to them—but that doesn’t mean they’re ready and willing to hear a sales pitch.

In fact, they’re probably not, because at this point they’re still trying to identify their problem and find basic answers (not your specific solution!).

Thankfully, you have insights to share—and that’s why they’re asking to access your strategically gated content. If it meets their expectations and sparks additional interest, chances are good they’ll keep engaging as you nurture them with additional content offers.

So how can you be sure your lead magnet delivers? An effective piece of top-of-the-funnel content will contain:

• Valuable, unbiased, unique information or insights
• Answers to pressing questions around key pain points
• Top-level education and resource recommendations

As we said, an effective piece of top-of-the-funnel content won’t contain sales tie-ins. You’re collecting contact information so you can nurture your leads through the middle and end of the sales funnel, where you’ll (eventually) share branded, solution-specific content.

Bringing A Top-of-the-Funnel Lead Magnet to Life
With an understanding that your top-of-the-funnel lead magnet is meant to drive awareness—not sales (not yet!)—it’s critical you offer content that’s relevant and valuable to customers who are early in their journey of finding a solution and seeking high-level information.

This means your lead magnet should answer target customers’ questions about their key pain points and address common problems. If you’re not sure what these are, or need a refresh, here are some ideas:

• Survey your customer service and sales staff and ask them what questions they get from early-stage customers
• Find out which non-branded keywords are driving the most visits to your website
• Look at competitors’ websites to see what topics they’re covering with top-of-the-funnel content

Once you get a feel for what specific information or insights your potential customers are out there looking for, you’ll be able to create content that provides answers: your lead magnet, of course!

Taking Shape: Types of Top-of-the-Funnel Lead Magnets
In today’s multi-format, multi-channel world, there are many different types of lead magnets. What works for one audience won’t be as effective as what works for another. The format you choose depends on your target audience’s demographics and communication preferences, the length of your product or service’s sales cycle, the complexity of your product or service, the number and types of influencers on the final buying decision, etc.

Consider these examples to get a feel for what might work for your customers:

eBook—a great choice with a lot of perceived value for a product or service that requires some up-front education in a short, easy-to-read digital format.

How-to Series—can be delivered as exclusive, deep-dive yet bite-sized videos or blog posts to help potential customers grapple with a challenge or make a decision related to your offering.

Whitepaper—an excellent piece of longer-form content for sharing research results or “best practices” in your company’s area of expertise. The reader can glean important insights that demonstrate your thought leadership on a subject without being directly sold on your solution.

Infographic—may be ideal for a visual learner who’s seeking data-based insights. When putting this type content behind a lead-gen form, be sure to present comprehensive insights—a unique collection of data that’s otherwise hard to find.

Checklist—can help potential customers in the problem identification and awareness stage understand, assess, or categorize their challenges while moving them closer to potential solutions.

Interactive quiz or calculator—gets target customers immediately engaged in learning something new.

Strategy guide—an informative, thought-provoking piece that highly motivated potential customers will enjoy exploring as they consider potential solutions.

Template—this type of content is useful for target customers who want to experience a potential solution in a DIY capacity and to assess if they need additional support.

What’s “right” for your customers and goals might take some testing, but you’ve got to start somewhere. When your lead magnet is ready to go, the question becomes where to promote it so you can get your offer in front of the people who need it most. We’ll tackle this topic in our next post, so stay tuned or contact us to learn more today.