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Marketing magnets that bring new people to you!

If you have ever been to a website that offers a coupon, discount, free resource, e-book, or another enticing offer in exchange for your email address, you have encountered a lead magnet.

Organic (free) reach and click-through rates are plummeting on social media, which means it is harder and harder to deliver our message of hope and welcome. But if someone gives you their email address, the chances that you will actually get their attention increase dramatically.

This is due to a concept that marketing guru Seth Godin calls “permission marketing.” It is the opposite of annoying spam or random social media posts that we easily scroll past. Instead, you build a relationship of trust over time that leads to opportunities to offer products or services for sale.

And this may sound like a bunch of business talk, but it only takes one small side-step to redefine permission marketing for the church:

We build a relationship of trust over time that leads to opportunities to invite people to engage with our ministry.

What is a lead magnet?

A lead magnet is something of value that you offer in exchange for contact information — typically an email address.

It is essentially the digital version of the coffee cups churches have been giving away for decades when people sign the registration pad or return a “connect card.”

Why use a lead magnet?

Many churches already do a form of general email marketing where they stay connected with the congregation and get information out. But, if we are being honest, a visitor to your website or worship service is unlikely to want to sign up for a general list like this. How many of us feel like we need another newsletter hitting our inbox?

But if you offer something of interest and value, it drastically increases the sign-up rate. And with a little bit of strategic thinking and planning, lead magnets can also offer a way to make specific connections and target our communication for increased effectiveness in the future.

What forms can lead magnets take?

Lead magnets can take many forms, and some that make the most sense for churches include:

  • PDF cheat sheet or checklist (for example, 10 ways to improve your relationships with friends and family)
  • PDF e-book (a summary of a popular sermon series, for example)
  • Email sequence (such as a five-day devotional series on dealing with stress during the holidays)
  • Audio or video series (example: clips from a parenting class)
  • Expanding on popular content (if you have a sermon or series that connected really well, you can offer a PDF download, email sequence or video series that goes more in-depth or shares the resources you used to prepare that sermon/series).

Effective lead magnets

Great lead magnets do two things:

  1. They focus on the person you’re trying to reach.
  2. They meet a specific need, answer a specific question or offer a solution to a specific problem.

For example, United Methodist pastor Adam Weber created a 3-part email devotional series on recovering from burnout. While the series is about prayer and our relationship with God, it isn’t called “Pastor Adam’s thoughts on prayer.” Instead, the focus of the title and pitch are on the person experiencing burnout and meeting his or her need to get healthy.

How to get started with lead magnets

Set up an email service provider

You can use a dedicated email service, or there may be one built into your Church Management System (CMS). Either way, you want to be able to collect and organize email addresses into various lists.

Go ahead and create a separate email list within your service provider or CMS specifically for people who sign up for this lead magnet. You can always move them over to your general church email or newsletter list later if they end up getting involved in the church, but for now, put them on their own list.

Create your lead magnet

Start with your target audience in mind and meet a specific need that they have. Also, think about what form would make the most sense for the content and the target audience. For example, a PDF of “35 things to do with your kids over the summer” might work best as a checklist that parents can print off and hang on the refrigerator.

Set up the opt-in form

Some email service providers, like MailChimp, allow you to create opt-in forms that you can embed on your website. There are also plug-ins for WordPress websites that offer this functionality and options within the form builder on Squarespace.

As you’re building your opt-in form, look for an option to select the email list to which you want new sign-ups added. Be sure to select the new list you created for this lead magnet.

You can feature these opt-in forms on various parts of your website, like the home page or “about us” page. You also can insert them below blog posts or articles.

Create a landing page

A landing page is a page on your website specifically dedicated to only one thing. In this case, the page can feature as little as a headline describing your lead magnet and the opt-in form.

When you post on social media or run Facebook ads advertising your lead magnet, send visitors to this landing page, as those who click on these posts are expressing direct interest in signing up and receiving the giveaway.

Set up delivery of your lead magnet.

Most email service providers allow you to customize the email people receive when they join a list. When you are writing this email for your new lead magnet list, you can include a link to the giveaway. Some opt-in form builders also allow you to redirect people to a specific page on your website once they have submitted the form. The download link, video(s) or other content could be on that page.

If your lead magnet takes the form of an email series, you will either need to set up email automation so that new users receive the series upon signing up, or you should advertise a start date and send each installment to the entire list at once.

Develop the new relationship.

Remember that the people signing up for your lead magnet did so because they were interested in that free resource — not your general church email newsletter. If you start sending them a cluttered (or even well-designed) email about all the events going on at your church, it may feel like a bait-and-switch.

Instead, think about how you would continue the conversation in person. If you had coffee with someone who read your PDF on “10 ways to improve your relationships with friends and family,” what kinds of questions would you ask them? What other resources or links might you want to share with them? Which specific event or ministry at your church would you invite them to check out?

Now that you have permission to show up in their inbox, don’t waste or abuse it. If you think strategically about how to develop these relationships, that free resource may eventually lead to someone coming to know Christ and joining your church.

Advanced lead magnet strategy

The best lead magnets not only meet a need in the moment, but also provide a specific path for relationship building.

An example from earlier was a PDF download with a list of “35 things to do with your kids over the summer.” This is a smart lead magnet approach because the focus is on the need of the person reading it. It’s also great because you can include your vacation Bible school, summer movie nights or other family-focused events within the list of activities.

But it does something even more valuable moving forward. You can safely assume that anyone who signed up to receive this resource is likely a parent, knows a parent, or cares about activities for children in your town. And because you are placing those who sign up on a specific list, you can target communication to this list in content, style and language.

When the back-to-school season arrives, you can write an email inviting parents and families to get involved at your church. Or you can even go above and beyond by sending them a new PDF checklist of “fun things to do on the weekends during the school year” — including events at your church, of course!

And the next time your children’s or family ministry has a special event, or you have a parenting sermon, series or class, you have a direct line to the people in your community who care the most.

Dan Wunderlich

Rev. Dan Wunderlich is an extension minister focused on worship, communication, and creativity with the goal of helping ministries and their leaders better connect with their communities. Find out more about his work and his podcast "Art of the Sermon" at

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