12 Types of Lead Magnets to Attract Leads For Your Online Course

Our content is reader supported, which means when you buy from links you click on, we may earn a commission.

What is a Lead Magnet?

Essentially, a lead magnet is an enticement that provides real value to a prospect in exchange for their contact information (which is usually their email address).

The benefits of email marketing include long-term follow-up.

The first step is to gain their attention and then add them as a subscriber.

Once they’ve subscribed to your email list, you can send them emails relating to your business, specially, your online course. And that’s when the selling can take place.

Your lead magnet can be a white paper, an eBook, a software download, or anything else your audience will find useful.

Why You Need a Lead Magnet

As a course creator earning a full-time living offering online courses for now close to two decades, collecting as many email addresses from interested visitors as possible has been the biggest factor in my success.

It really all comes down to math.

If you have 1,000 visitors to your site every month, then every month you’ll convert at whatever conversion rate that works out to be for you. The conversion rate for direct visitors is typically pretty low so 1% is pretty realistic.

That’s 10 sales a month.

You’re limited to 10 sales a month unless you increase the amount of traffic to your site.

With email marketing, you’re probably still getting those 10 sales a month plus now you’re building a list of subscribers. Some of those subscribers will also convert over time.

With a good lead magnet that entices the right people to sign up, you could gain 30 subscribers a month (that’s only a 3% sign-up rate and very realistic). With a decent email follow-up sequence, you could convert 2% of those subscribers. Now that’s 6 course enrollments in addition to the 10 you were already going to make. So you’re at 16 new course enrollments every month.

Of course it is possible you’d see some direct sales and subscriber overlap, but you’ll definitely see an increase by offering a lead magnet and following up with your subscribers.

More Monthly Enrollments Plus Enrollments from Promotions

Some months I’ve offered a promotion where I earned over $10,000 in course enrollments just by sending a few emails to my subscribers. That’s in addition to what I would have earned without running a promotion. So it’s smart to collect email addresses and follow-up with those people. You’re only going to earn more money over time.

Overall, with a good lead magnet, the number of leads you get is often dramatically increased over just offering a newsletter. If your site doesn’t provide a targeted, valuable incentive, potential subscribers are unlikely to part with their email address.

Considering all the scammers and spammers out there, that caution is understandable. You must give your visitors a very good reason to opt-in.

In addition, consider email marketing best practices with every step you take or risk turning your subscribers off. Make sure if you entice visitors to opt-in through a valuable lead magnet that you actually deliver on that value.

Effective Lead Magnets

The best lead magnets are tailored to your audience and implement the principles of simplicity, specificity, and perception of value.

The first requirement is to understand your audience and how your lead magnet relates to the learning materials you’re offering.

You can research this on social media, forums, or by inviting feedback from your visitors or existing learners. What do they really want or need?

The second is simplicity.

Lead generators that are too long or difficult will be abandoned, even if prospects look favorably on what you offer. Anything that involves a complex process, such as long forms, multiple clicks, and huge blocks of text will seem frustrating to most users.

The secret to simplicity is specificity. Determine exactly what your prospects are looking for, and what problems they are trying to solve. Then craft your lead-generating machine to address this problem. But be aware that different audience segments may have different problems calling for different solutions.

Lead magnets provide value that not only entices, but becomes evident within moments. This should be accomplished within a few minutes, at most. It should not be a drawn-out process with a huge or multiple downloads.  There has to be a high perception of value and it must be presented directly.

Types of Lead Magnets for Online Course Educators

Here we’ll go through a breakdown of the different types of lead magnets that might make sense for your online course business.

1. Guides/Reports

Guides and reports provide your visitors with more in-depth information about the programs you offer, or what steps are necessary to become involved. But don’t overwhelm your prospects with information. As Jonathon Lister, a VP at LinkedIn observed: “Speak to your audience in their language about what’s in their heart.”

You can choose any format, but PDFs are a safe bet as this is a common file type that most people are familiar with.

Check out this free report on the state of the blogging industry.

Lead Magnet Report Example

I know most people feel like guides and reports are kind of ‘meh’, but you can entice a lot of people to sign-up to your list with a simple PDF. Everyone knows what they are and is comfortable reading them over time. They are also very easy to create. I highly recommend using guides and reports to build your email list.

2. Cheat Sheet

This is a more generalized view providing insights and tips. A cheat sheet generally has a more casual approach than a report. For example, you could provide prospective students with a rundown on various tools they should have, digital and otherwise, study tips, and so forth.

Cheat sheets are also usually not more than a page or two in length so they’re even easier to create than a report or guide. Explain what’s involved and state the benefits. You could also format them more creatively as checklists, flowcharts, maps, or similar ideas. At its most basic, it’s simply a concise list of the essential information a prospective student will need to know.

Here’s a cheat sheet for businesses looking to get traffic from Instagram.

Lead Magnet Cheat Sheet Example

3. Toolkit

Think of this as a resource list. Not dissimilar to a guide, it could take the form of a starter kit, glossary, perhaps a course template, or any other structured format that will be helpful to prospective students. You could even make extra money as an affiliate by listing products your students will find particularly helpful.

For instance, if you’re offering a course in web design, you could prepare a digital toolkit that gives an overview of concepts covered, some of the methods you teach, how this is a particular benefit to your leads, and links to some useful online applications like workbooks or samples.

This is a toolkit from an educational site.

Toolkit lead magnet example

4. Videos

There’s a reason why 87 percent of online marketers use video. Videos draw the eye quickly, and are incredibly easy to use. If you have the skill-set, or can pay someone who does, you can make a video that’s entertaining as well as informative. Just remember the rules for specificity.

It can also help to support other types of content, for instance persuading viewers to download a free trial or report. Just remember the rules for a good lead magnet.

If you’re OK creating an extra video or a video set just for selling your course then these work well to not only get subscribers, but convert them into buyers. I’ve used videos as a lead magnet and seen a lot of success with them.

Here’s a test prep site where the lead magnet is access to a library of free videos.

Lead Magnet Video Example

5. Free Trial

Software companies generally engage users by offering a limited freebie version of their product. You could do the same thing by providing a brief version of whatever course material you’re offering, based on the prospect’s interest.

You could provide several samples to demonstrate your approach to test-taking, editing tools, financial aid, class selection and sign-up, or other activities students might want to familiarize themselves with.

Offering a trial is one way I’ve greatly increased my subscriber list as well as my conversions. You know the people who opt-in for a trial are already committed to buying a course on your topic and that they’re just shopping around. So your free trial list is very close to buying from you which means you can send them more aggressive follow-ups to get them to convert. Letting subscribers see exactly what you offer is a great way to boost your sales.

This example shows how a test prep company is using a free trial of their course as a lead magnet.

Lead Magnet Free Trial Example

6. Discounts or Free Shipping

If you provide educational materials via DVD, CD, printed books, or provide any physical accessories or equipment, you should make special note of free shipping or available discounts. This adds to the perception of value. Special discounts can also create a sense of urgency.

Providing various discounts via digital coupons are also a great incentive. You can be very versatile with this. Think about seasonal or holiday discounts, repeat customer discounts, or even offering special coupons for subscribing. Be creative.

In the example below, a test prep company is using a lead magnet to get college students to sign up to their list for a discount on their course.

Lead Magnet Discount Example

7. Polls, Quizzes, and Surveys

These types of lead magnets can be very engaging. They also have the double benefit of helping you to learn more about your prospects. For an educational site, you could offer quizzes about career plans, technical knowledge, IQ or personality tests, or whatever is relevant to the courses you’re providing. You can find tools online to help you create your own custom quizzes.

Ask for the prospect’s email address so you can send the results or findings. Like videos, they can also support other lead generation techniques. If they are highly interactive, such as providing quick feedback, users might even come back to try them again and give you additional opportunities to add them to your mailings.

Here’s an example quiz lead magnet that could be used to help generate leads.

Polls, Quizzes, and Surveys

8. Assessment Tests

Similar to quizzes, offering a free assessment test online can intrigue prospects and make for an interesting and rewarding experience. For example, you might assess a user’s language or math skills to see whether certain courses will be a good fit for them.

Participants will react well to a brief congratulations! and a good score. You could also recommend training courses for those who score lower. Be sure to invite them back to try the assessment test again.

Hubspot has gotten great responses with their assessment tool.

Lead Magnet Assessment Example

9. Blind Sales Material

Often, what prospects really want is to know the cost and what they’re getting for their cost. You could provide a simple, downloadable course catalog that describes what you teach and the pricing for each course.

You can provide your catalog as a download with links back to your site. That way your prospects can save it and refer back to it whenever they like.

Here’s a course catalog from ATD (Association for Talent Development) collecting opt-ins.

Lead Magnet Catalog Example

10. Templates

A template is an outline prospects can follow. It’s normally a “fill-in-the-blanks” style worksheet.

It’s an immersive lead generator that allows the user to make an easy estimate of what the learning experience will be like or how it can work for them.

In this example you’ll find an email marketing template for entrepreneurs.

Lead Magnet Template Example

11. Scripts

Scripts can be good lead magnets. Perhaps you’re preparing your students to advance their careers. If so, you can offer scripts that helps them easily create better resumes or impress at interviews.

You can assemble a collection of almost anything that isn’t copyright-protected, or write up helpful scripts for resolving any number of issues or problems your audience might be expected to encounter.

Here’s a lead magnet for free sales scripts in exchange for the prospects email address.

Lead Magnet Script Example

12. Web Apps

Think of a tool users would find useful. Perhaps a calculator designed for a specific formula, a translation tool, or whatever might come in handy for your students as they follow your courses. Really, it’s for any prospects who might be interested in these subjects.

Have it built as a free offering on your site. But provide the URL or login only to those who opt-in to your mailing list. Hopefully, they’ll keep coming back to use it and spend more time thinking about the educational opportunities you’re providing.

Here’s one final example: a useful web app called List Goal.

Lead Magnet App Example

Frequently Asked Questions on Lead Magnets

What type of lead magnet do I need?

If you’re looking to build your email list, you’ll need to create a lead magnet. A lead magnet can be an ebook, a checklist, a course, or anything else that would be of value to your target audience.

The key is to make sure your lead magnet is relevant to your niche. You also need to make sure it’s something people actually want.

Once you have your lead magnet, you can start promoting it on your website and across social media.

How to create my lead magnet landing page?

Having a lead magnet is not enough. You also need a well-designed landing page optimized for conversion. Here are four tips for creating an effective lead magnet landing page:

  1. Keep it simple: A lead magnet landing page should be free of distractions. Stick to a single purpose and make it easy for visitors to understand what they need to do to get the freebie.
  2. Use engaging copy: The copy on your lead magnet landing page should be attention-grabbing and persuasive. Use strong headlines and bullet points to highlight the benefits of signing up.
  3. Include a strong call-to-action: Your call-to-action (CTA) should be clear and concise. Make it easy for visitors to see how they can claim the freebie by providing a noticeable CTA button or link.
  4. Use visuals: People are more likely to convert on a lead magnet landing page that includes visuals such as images, videos, or infographics. Use these elements to further engage visitors and convey the value of your offer.

How to get people to join my email list?

There are many ways to get people to join your email list. Here are some ideas:

  • You can offer something of value in exchange for their email address. This could be a discount code, an exclusive piece of content, or entry into a contest.
  • You can make it easy for people to sign up by including a sign-up form on your website or blog.
  • You can reach out to potential subscribers and ask them to join your list.

No matter what approach you take, the key is to make sure your offer is appealing. Plus the sign-up process must be simple and straightforward.

What makes a lead magnet work?

There are three key factors to making a lead magnet work: relevance, value, and perceived cost.

  • Relevance: your lead magnet must address a pain point or challenge that your prospect faces.
  • Value: this could be in the form of an e-book, video series, or checklist.
  • Perceived cost: if people feel like they’re getting a lot of value in exchange for their email address, they’ll be more likely to take you up on your offer.

How do I design a lead magnet?

Here are some tips on designing a lead magnet that hits the mark:

  • Start by identifying the pain point that your lead magnet will address. What problem will it solve for your target audience? Once you know the answer to this question, you can begin to design an offer that will speak to their needs.
  • Take some time to create attractive visuals for your lead magnet. Remember, first impressions count! If your offer doesn’t look appealing, few people will bother to sign up for it.
  • Don’t forget to include a strong call-to-action (CTA) with your lead magnet. This is what tells your audience what they need to do next to claim your offer. Make sure your CTA is clear and easy to follow. Plus, be sure to send people to a landing page that’s optimized for conversions.

How do I write effective lead magnets?

To write an effective lead magnet, you need to figure out what your audience wants and needs. What kind of information are they looking for? How can you help them solve their problem? Once you know this, you can craft a lead magnet that’s relevant to their needs.

Your lead magnet should be high quality and valuable. It should offer real solutions to your audience’s problems. It also needs to be presented in an engaging way. If your lead magnet isn’t up to par, people won’t be interested in your emails or staying on your list.

How do I know if my lead magnet is effective?

One way to measure the effectiveness of your lead magnet is to look at your conversion rate. This is the percentage of people who take the offer and convert it into leads.

If your conversion rate is low, it could be a sign that your lead magnet is not effective.

Another way to measure the effectiveness of your lead magnet is to look at the quality of the leads it generates. If you find that most of the leads who sign-up are not interested in your product or service, then your lead magnet is not effective.

What are some examples of effective lead magnets?

There are many different types of lead magnets, but some of the most effective include ebooks, checklists, and cheat sheets.

To be effective, a lead magnet must be relevant to your target audience and offer value not available elsewhere. For example, an ebook on gardening tips would be an effective lead magnet for a gardening website.

A lead magnet should also be easy to consume and access; for instance, it should be in a PDF format that can be downloaded with a few clicks.

In Conclusion

Those are the 12 commonly used types of lead magnets. Often online course owners will offer multiple lead magnets to get people to opt into their list. You can always review your email marketing analytics to see which lead magnet converts into course enrollments the best. You can also use your analytics metrics to determine which lead magnet to focus on if you’re undecided and try a few different types.

If you’re not sure where to start, then offer a PDF or a sample of your course (like a few videos taken right from it). They’re typically easiest to create and the faster you get started, the more subscribers you’ll be able to add to your list!

Lisa Parmley
Lisa Parmley

Lisa Parmley is the founder of coursemethod.com. After gaining a Master's degree, she worked in research for about seven years. She started a training company in 2001, offering a course helping people pass a professional exam. That course has earned multiple 7 figures. She created SEO and authority site building training around 2007 which went on to earn well into the 6-figure mark.

She has 22+ years of experience in the trenches creating and selling online courses. Get help starting and growing your online course business here.

Grow faster with free step-by-step training for online course founders.

Access Course Method Pro progress tracking and Strategic Planners
+ gain inspiration from successful course creators in weekly emails.

Unsubscribe at any time.