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How To Create a Lead Magnet: A Simple Writing Formula

Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.

Opt-in offer, bait piece, freebie: call it what you want. The fact is that if you want to attract readers or prospects, you need to know how to create a lead magnet.

A lead magnet is a free piece of content — an incentive that you give to readers in exchange for their email address (or other contact info) and permission to send information.

You create a lead magnet to find readers, generate content writing leads, and build your email list. Then you use all those new email addresses to stay in touch with readers, offering them your writing services and your products.

You can see how powerful a lead magnet can be … if it’s a good one.

Lead magnets come in all formats: article, white paper, report, eBook, tip sheet, checklist, guide, resource list, toolkit, video, mini-course, download, free trial, free assessment … you can package your freebie ideas for your customers in a way that is most appealing to them.

Maybe it’s a checklist for busy moms or a snazzy video for young adults or a fact-based, well-researched white paper for the savvy business owner. Your email service provider, or even a graphics application like PicMonkey, offers lead magnet templates to use as you design your freebie.

So while the format you choose doesn’t matter so much, there’s one thing that does matter when you create a lead magnet. Your content.

How to Create a Lead Magnet: a simple #writing formula with Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter #WritingTips #FreelanceWriting #Marketing

How to create a lead magnet: a simple writing formula

There’s a simple acronym I like to follow to create enticing lead magnet content: P-S-A. No, that’s not short for “public service announcement.” Instead, the letters give you a simple lead magnet writing formula. They stand for Problem-Solution-Action.

P: Problem

Your lead magnet’s goal? Persuade a reader to relinquish her email address. That’s a challenge because no one wants more email clogging up their inbox … unless it contains ultra-helpful, valuable information that solves a problem.

Yes, this is one instance in your life when you want to know about people’s problems. You want to know a snag or obstacle or a dilemma that your readers face. Maybe your reader’s pain point is …

  • Finances. He wants to save money — or at least not spend so much — and is eager for your tips.
  • Time. He wants to get more done in less time. A particular technique or tip can help.
  • Expertise. He needs a specific piece of information about a certain topic like choosing motorcycle headlights … carving a turkey … writing a resume.
  • Convenience. He may have the ability to gather information to choose a diamond for his fiancée, but not have the time or the know-how to do so. Your lead magnet packages it all in one place.

Jot down half a dozen freebie ideas for customers that address one of their pain points. Then choose just one problem your target prospect faces. Your lead magnet will articulate the problem, explain why it’s a problem, and solve that problem.

For instance, let’s say you provide LinkedIn resources and tools so professionals can build their networks. Your target readers are new to LinkedIn. You may think that their problem is setting up a profile. But they don’t struggle with social media. In fact, your target readers are comfortable with technology and move around easily on a handful of other apps. They tweet a dozen wisecracks a day and have lots of fun on Instagram.

Their problem is setting up their first LinkedIn accounts in a professional way.

Your reader may or may not consciously know this is her problem, so you connect the dots for her. Your lead magnet verbalizes the problem for your reader and explains why it’s a problem: “New to LinkedIn and want to look like a pro?”

If you’d simply said, “New to LinkedIn?” your prospect will think, I’ve been there and done that with other social media platforms. I don’t need help setting up my profile.

But looking like a pro? That’s another matter.

Your winning lead magnet identifies the problem your reader faces — and spells out why it’s a problem.

S: Solution

Chances are good that you’re on a few email lists. How did you land there? In other words, why do you collect a vendor’s opt-in offer? Because the vendor offered information that you needed, like “How to Monetize Your Pinterest Boards” or gave you a tool that you really want, like “5 Block Patterns for Baby Quilts.”

“A free report solves a problem for your prospects and positions you as an expert in your niche.” says keynote speaker and content marketing strategist Kathryn Aragon. “People prefer to buy services from people they know, like, and trust. You can build trust by allowing your prospects to see your work.”

A freebie allows a reader to see your work. She has already started to get the feeling that you understand her because you’ve identified her problem and explained that it is possible to solve it. Now, if you give her a clear solution to her problem, she’ll start to trust you.

In our example, you promised to help the reader create a professional LinkedIn account. If you don’t deliver, your reader will be irritated and will click off the rest of your site for good. But give your reader three clear steps to follow so she’s on LinkedIn in 30 minutes — looking like a pro — and she’ll be as pleased as punch.

Your opt-in offer must promise a clear solution to the problem: “New to LinkedIn and want to look like a pro? Set up your profile and win the job with this special 3-step guide.” Then, once you’ve made the promise, make sure your content delivers it.

A: Action

You’ve presented the problem and solution. Your reader is thrilled! You’ve addressed her pain point and given her a valuable way to address it.

It’s at this stage that most writers think they’re . Yet if they click “save” and load it now, both writer and reader lose out. The reader is left hanging. And the writer squanders an ongoing relationship with the reader.

But not you. You know how to create a lead magnet — and it includes a call to action. Now that you’ve identified the reader’s problem and solved it, you tell the reader what her next step is to be. What do you want her to do? Maybe …

  • You want her to click on a page on your site.
  • You want her to call you to set up an appointment.
  • You want her to share a link with a friend.
  • You want her to join a special online group.
  • You want her to pin an image.
  • You want her to comment on your social media site.

Tell your reader what to do next and you’ll solidify your relationship. For instance, you might say, “Now that you’ve created your professional LinkedIn profile, check out this tip sheet for joining LinkedIn groups in your niche.” And you create a clickable link so she can do so.

How to create a lead magnet that builds trust

P-S-A works for me every time I create a lead magnet. It works because people want solutions to their problems. And if they have a friend at their elbow pointing the way, their lives are easier.

  • P: Focus on one problem. ONE! And be sure to explain why it’s a problem.
  • S: Give a clear, helpful solution.
  • A: Tell your reader what to do next.

Follow the simple P-S-A writing formula for lead magnets, and your reader will start to feel that you understand her. In the process, you’ve given her valuable information for free. You’ve proven you’re trustworthy. And that leads to an ongoing relationship with your reader as a subscriber or new client or regular customer … which is priceless.

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