Lead generation: it’s the ongoing, eternal struggle of any B2B IT provider.

Techy B2B services are rarely (if ever) an impulse buy. They’re subject to much longer sales cycles as prospects weigh up their, likely quite numerous, options.

So, in truth, the IT provider lead generation struggle is two-fold:

Email marketing is a great way to address that second point. Building a social media following is great but whizzy, algorithm-driven social feeds aren’t always a great way to garner deep, lasting attention. Arguably, a far more focused place to grab your prospects is through their inbox.

But in order to do this, you need people to actually join your mailing list. Politely asking interested parties to sign up to your email list is OK, but there’s not much of an incentive there for the prospect. You’re effectively asking “Hello complete stranger, please share your personally identifiable information with us so we can maybe send you email newsletters at some nebulous point in the future.” It’s not very tempting, is it?

So how do you dangle that carrot? How do you get your ideal customers to part with their email address in this increasingly privacy-focused, post-GDPR world?

With lead magnets, of course!

But before we go much further, let’s dive a little deeper into the IT industry’s singular lead generation and nurturing struggles.

IT Providers vs. Lead Generation: The Eternal Struggle

In such a tech-driven world, it’s essential for businesses to get their IT right, first time. And with supply chain attacks even hitting big tech industry players, organisations are understandably choosing their IT providers more carefully than ever.

So before a company even considers working with you, they need to know, like, and trust you. It’s said that it takes between 6 and 10 prospect interactions on average to finally convert a customer; though here in 2024, I’ve heard on the old marketing grapevine that this is more like 12 to 18 touches! Yikes!

This lends credence to why email marketing is such a powerful channel as these “touches” can easily be automated, targeted, and delivered directly to your prospects’ inboxes.

Another consideration is that when your ideal customer is in the market for a new MSP or a tech solution, they are bombarded with thousands of companies that – to the untrained eye – offer much the same products in much the same way.

With this in mind, it’s essential to not only set yourself apart, and not only to instil trust – but to do so in a way that piques people’s interest and keeps you squarely on their radar. Encouraging email sign-ups using lead magnets is a great way to achieve this.

So let’s get on with it, starting from square one.

What is a Lead Magnet?

A lead magnet is an exclusive, online digital resource that’s provided in exchange for a prospect’s contact details – usually including their email address. It’s common to ask for a few additional details like the prospect’s company name, their industry, and their geographic location so the list-keeper can personalise the emails that go out to each subscriber.

What kind of digital resources can be given away as lead magnets?

Anything that can be made immediately accessible to new subscribers online can be a lead magnet – as long as it’s protected in a way that only subscribers can access it. Making the content exclusively available to subscribers only is key; otherwise, why would people bother signing up?

Some common lead magnet formats include:

Lead magnets are sometimes referred to as “gated” content, because you effectively have to “pay your toll at the gate” (i.e., share your email address) to get to it.

The secret to a good, tempting lead magnet is to promise, and provide, something of practical value to the reader. If you don’t promise a practical takeaway or an insightful new way of looking at a problem, then your prospect is not going to see the point in signing up. Likewise, always follow through on the pre-sign-up promises you make about the content of your lead magnet or your subscribers are naturally going to feel short changed. Not a sensation you exactly want to instil in your prospects!

Side note: If you’re unsure how much to give away for free in your lead magnet, then check out my blog post How Much Should You Give Away for Free in Your Content?

Why Do Lead Magnets Help Generate Leads?

Lead magnets encourage new leads because they provide a tangible incentive for the visitor to subscribe. Compared to the limp, self-serving request to “sign up to our newsletter,” the allure of a lead magnet clearly answers your prospect’s question of “what’s in this for me?”

It’s win-win situation: the prospect gets their free, handy resource and the company gets another willing and qualified lead.

Once a subscriber joins your mailing list, you can set to work on providing those multiple touchpoints that move them down the sales funnel. And if everything goes well, they’ll emerge from the other end a happy customer.

Why is Email List Building Important?

Sending promotional emails en masse is no longer the stigmatised pursuit it once was. As modern email technologies have got better at filtering out unsolicited spam, laws and regulations have also come into force to protect citizens as independent data subjects.

But why is building your email list better than growing a social media or YouTube audience? In my opinion, the answer is simply one of ownership and agency over your prospects’ data, and the matter of marketing continuity.

Say you have a large following on a major social platform. That’s great! But how would you communicate with those followers if the “powers that be” on that platform decided to delete or disable your page, or group, or channel?

In their efforts to moderate content, platforms can be quite draconian in deciding which pages to keep and which ones to delete at the drop of a hat. Or, in a less likely scenario, what would you do if that platform disappeared overnight?

Without that particular account, or group, or platform, your followers will be scattered to the winds. You’d need to build that list again elsewhere – possibly from scratch.

Now, instead of having an avid social following, imagine you have the names and email addresses of those interested parties. Because email is a much more decentralised medium, it’s unlikely to simply go kaput. No single organisation or entity “owns” email, likely contributing to its enduring success.

There’s also an argument to be made about the differences in how we use email and social media, and how they’re configured to display media.

When you’re scrolling down a social feed, there’s always the lure of the next post, and the next post, and the next post after that. Social media algorithms are specially designed to keep pulling you along – keeping you focused on the social platform. This way, the site in question can continue to keep their own brand high in your mind, continue to serve you with ads, and gather valuable behavioural data about you.

There’s a reason that these platforms are free – they make their money from our data and attention.

Though there are some similarities between navigating a bustling social feed and a jam-packed inbox, we generally spend more meaningful, undivided attention on email than we do absent-mindedly tumbling down a social media feed.

Crafting a Desirable Lead Magnet

All lead magnets have to serve a genuine prospect need – to scratch a real, persistent itch. In order to decide what itch to scratch with your lead magnet, a bit of market research goes a long way. What questions do you get asked frequently? Particularly common questions should probably be tackled on your public-facing blog or an FAQ page, but topics that require a more in-depth, nuanced exploration could be tackled in a lead magnet.

How that itch should be scratched may also inform the format of the lead magnet too. For example, an in-depth exploration of a topic might be best conveyed with an ebook or webinar. Instructions on how to do something might be best approached in a visual medium, or as a step-by-step checklist. Addressing a problem that involves numerical calculations may be worth addressing with an exclusive online calculator or tool.

But whatever form your lead magnet takes, the text and information within needs to be impeccably well-crafted.

Remember that a lead magnet is a single part in the overarching narrative of buying from you. You want to give a little more value in your lead magnet than you would give “out in the open” on your blog in order to provide a certain level of exclusivity. But don’t feel tempted to give too much away. It’s still a free resource, after all, and leaving something to the imagination might tempt them to engage with you further – perhaps even on a paid basis!

Want to attract new leads with a well-written lead magnet of your own?

If so, you’re in the right place. You can find out more about my lead magnet writing (and wider content writing) services here, or get in touch for a friendly chat.

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Note: This post was first published on the 5th September 2016 and has since been edited.