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Demand Generation

Lead magnets: Rest in Peace - Unleashing Demand Generation

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minute read

July 28, 2023

We live in a world where digital marketing strategies evolve at high speed. Therefore, it is time to challenge the foundation of conventional wisdom: I declare lead magnets dead! Yes, you heard it right. But before you declare me nuts and my statement “sassy”, let's look at the changing landscape of customer engagement together.

Traditional lead magnets can no longer effortlessly capture the attention of today's audiences. Technology advances, and so do the expectations of our prospects. If you disagree, please keep on reading and if you nod in agreement, I encourage you to continue as well.

Together, we will embark on a journey through the rise and fall of lead magnets. And we will even discuss a way to revive the essence of lead magnets.

Traditional lead magnets used for attracting engagement.
Traditional lead magnets used for attracting engagement.

The history of lead magnets

Marketers started using lead magnets a long while ago. When referring to "a long while ago" it means the times far before the internet even existed.

Ask your grandma (or even her grandma) when someone first offered her something for free. Then, seconds later, they asked her to subscribe. She likely will not remember - the point is lead magnets go way back.

A common example of such an early-stage “lead magnet”, that you still see quite often, is a newspaper. A proven way to get more subscriptions according to many publishers. Now, when most people spend a lot of hours online, lead magnets have found their way to the online environment.

Many social media platforms paved the way for lead magnets by creating lead generation forms. This is a simple way to virtually give a newspaper and easily receive someone’s contact details. Marketers have welcomed these lead generation forms with open arms.

The rise of online lead magnets

In the first few years of using lead magnets online, they were really successful. They would gather the contact details of the people who were interested in your product. In return for their details, these people got a well-thought-out piece of content for “free”. You could think of for example a well-written e-book or a perfectly thought out whitepaper that was of great value to the lead. Lead magnets in the past were often of higher value (more about that later) which made people more enthusiastic to get them.

This enthusiasm about lead magnets and the success of using them to gather personal details started to spread like wildfire. Every marketing blogger started writing about it. Every marketeer read about it and every campaign was suddenly a campaign with a lead magnet.

For the average marketeer, this was a brilliant way to meet their quarterly goal of “gather x amount of leads”. In just a few weeks, they could reach their quarterly goals with little to no pressure.

One specific niche of marketers that started using lead magnets more than any other was marketers in the B2B realm. Getting in leads in the B2B sector is often harder than in B2C. This is because deal sizes are a lot bigger and products are often a lot complexer to understand.

To reduce the friction (coming from deal size and complexity of the product) and increase the amount of leads in the B2B sector, social media platform like LinkedIn created lead generation forms. This resulted in lead magnets also finding a nice and cosy spot within the B2B sector. They settled down and grew as they had never done before. They seemed to spread like a disease.

If you clicked on a LinkedIn ad in 2020, you were almost guaranteed to be immediately asked for your contact details. All this to download a whitepaper, e-book, content calendar or cheat sheet. I couldn’t find the research to prove this, but you get the point.

As with many things that spread like a disease (shout-out to you COVID-19), people start to get sick of it quite fast (maybe COVID-19 was not the best example to use here). This is also what happened with lead magnets.

The fall of online lead magnets

This easy solution for marketers to reach their get in leads and reach their goals resulted in marketers pushing campaigns live like their lives depended on it. Setting up these campaigns was done within the blink of an eye. However, the bottleneck was in creating the actual lead magnet.

This resulted in campaigns with lead magnets of very little value. These lead magnets were sugar-coated in the ads, but in fact, they were sh*t. Marketers collected contact details and the person only realized they downloaded something crap when they opened the piece of content. Still month after month the average marketeer pushed such a campaign live to reach their quarterly goals.

As years went by marketers saw fewer and fewer leads coming in via traditional lead magnet campaigns. “Consumers” of the lead magnets started noticing the pattern of getting invaluable pieces of content in return for their personal details. Also, people got sick of sales calling them after they downloaded a piece of content saying “I saw you were interested in our product!” while they had only showed interest in a specific sh*tty piece of content. Here we are in an online landscape with a lot of ineffective lead magnet campaigns.

The need for a new approach: Demand generation (the rise?!)

A growth mindset used as a tool for demand generation.
A growth mindset used as a tool for demand generation.

Because traditional lead magnet campaigns are now less effective, marketers are desperately searching for a new approach. An approach that gets them the desired leads again. But how do you do this in an overloaded online environment in which people feel swindled?

Major changes in today's marketing landscape are needed. An approach that is customer focussed again. An approach that does not solely focus on getting personal details for the sake of reaching marketeers quarterly goals. An approach that builds a brand and creates long-term revenue and brand value instead of short-term, low-quality leads.

Luckily there is a new wave of marketers that has risen up against this “old-school” way of doing marketing. The new approach is called “Demand Generation”. Marketing would not have been marketing if this new strategy did not have a catchy name right?

Right now, there are already several demand-generation agencies that make use of a demand-generation strategy for their clients. You can read more about them in our previous blog.

What is a “demand generation strategy”?

This demand generation strategy is almost the opposite of the marketing strategy we’ve discussed so far. Demand generation is all about building trust and providing value to the customer in the long term. It does so by educating and nurturing prospects with free, valuable content.

Content that answers actual questions from prospects about pain points. Pain points they experience in life that your product can help lighten (but the prospect is not aware of this yet). Content that is tailored for your ideal customer profile (ICP) backed up by proper research. And the greatest contradiction is that it is provided for free without requiring prospects to leave their personal details.

So what is the purpose of this demand generation strategy if it is not bringing in leads immediately? Obviously, in the long run still leads (and hopefully new customers). But a bit more specifically, these are not just any leads; they are leads with whom the company/brand has established a long-term relationship. The marketing team has carefully guided the lead through every step of the marketing funnel and informed them about the product.

This ensures that the customer is then ready to contact the company themselves and thus more open to making a purchase.

Because if there is one thing I wanted to make clear with this article (next to “lead magnets are dead”), it is that you don’t sell products overnight anymore, especially in B2B). You need to create a bond with customers and offer them value before they become of value to your company.

And this may be surprising following my earlier rant, however, lead magnets can still be valuable. Indeed, this means that lead magnets can still be of use and they are not actually dead.

However, the whole campaign should be created with the customer in mind. And most importantly, it should actually offer value!

If you want to know more about demand generation and how to use it for your brand, read our practical guide.

How can you integrate lead magnets into demand generation?

Effectively integrating lead magnets into a demand generation strategy.
Effectively integrating lead magnets into a demand generation strategy.

As mentioned before lead magnets can still be of great use in marketing and gathering leads specifically. However, it greatly depends on how you use them, what they look like and whether they are valuable. In short, keep these three points in mind when integrating a lead magnet into your demand generation strategy:

Make the lead magnet consumer-focused, not product-focused:

  • Keep your lead magnet consumer-focused. Your lead magnets should be of great value to your customers. Almost to the extent that you could charge for it - but, you do not.
  • How do you do this? Investigate the target audience extensively. Get to know your customer - what are their pains and gains and how does your product or service help?
  • To answer these questions, interview customers and complete a Value Proposition Canvas with sales and customer support.

Only use lead magnets end of the funnel

  • Only use gated lead magnets at the end of the funnel. Most people will only then be willing to share their personal details with you.
  • Unfortunately, many people still expect an illogical call from sales and are therefore hesitant about lead magnets earlier on. Therefore, state well what they can expect after downloading and don't ask for too much.
  • Carefully define the metrics that determine whether someone has successfully completed the funnel to the point where you start offering the lead magnet. It should be a point where people trust your brand and maybe even show interest in the product you are offering.

Logical follow-up

  • Adjust the lead magnet so it becomes a logical follow-up on previous content you have used in your funnel.

Examples are:

This all sounds very easy and straightforward. However, setting up a proper demand generation strategy can be a pain in the *ss without a B2B demand generation agency. You need a clear vision of where you want to go and who you want to target.

Getting help from a demand generation marketing agency to set out a proper strategy can be really helpful. From there on you can choose yourself to actually execute the strategy or do this together with the agency.


To conclude, traditional lead magnet campaigns are dead. This has resulted from marketers misusing and exploiting them. It is simply no longer sufficient to share low-value content in exchange for high-value contact details from prospects. These potential customers now view lead magnets as a waste of their time.

However, if you use them within a proper strategy, they can be really helpful to get in high-quality leads. However, you cannot build a funnel that provides value overnight. You also cannot make sales overnight either.

I suggest marketers reconsider their marketing efforts and adjust to this "new way of doing marketing". Read our article if you want to read more about implementing a demand-generation strategy.

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