There is an incredible amount of overlap between independent podcasters and independent authors. After all, we’re both out here trying to get our content into the eyes and ears of our ideal audience. As someone with a foot in both worlds, I’ve spent a lot of time considering how the promotional tactics that have long been used by indie authors can be adapted to fit the podcast audience. Somewhere in endless articles and books I’ve read on book marketing, there has to be something that I could use for everything, right? Something that would allow me to whip up a single marketing plan, then sail away with my millions. I’m still looking, but what I have learned in the meantime is how important it is to have an email newsletter.
If you don’t have a newsletter yet, you need one. A newsletter allows you to collect your listeners’ contact information and reach out to them directly. One of the best ways to get people to sign up for your newsletter is by using a lead magnet.
What Is a Lead Magnet?
A lead magnet is a piece of free, valuable content you create to give to your audience in exchange for their email address. It can be anything, as long as it provides value.
The idea behind lead magnets is to offer people an incentive to join your mailing list. Everyone already has too much email in their inboxes. So what kind of value are your emails going to provide? This lead magnet allows them to get a taste of what you have to offer while also providing you with another resource to connect you with your ideal listener.
For example, I have an 11K word novella as a lead magnet for my newsletter. It is a prequel story to one of my series, introducing the characters in a way that can be enjoyed both by my current readers and by those who have no idea who I am. It’s a full story written with the same care as any of my novels, including all the same battles with editing software and panicked plot hole elimination. While it took extra time and effort for a product I knew I wouldn’t sell, it has been well worth it in the number of email sign-ups I’ve received.
How Do I Make My First Lead Magnet?
Arielle Nissenblatt, founder of The Earbuds Podcast Collective, provides some important steps for podcasters to take as they plan their first lead magnet. “In order to determine what your lead magnet(s) should be, put yourself in the shoes of your ideal listener,” Nissenblatt says. “What are they googling? In fact, you can even put out a tweet, post on Discord, or ask around: what's the last thing you googled as it relates to marine biology, dating, finding a job, or another topic you might be podcasting about? Then, build a checklist or thought piece based on their answers — something that you, yourself, would actually want to spend time with, too.”
Inbox space is valuable and if your audience knows you’re worth listening to, they’ll be more willing to share their space with you.
As you make your first lead magnet, start with something that would appeal to your current listeners, as well as others in your target audience. You should also make sure that it is something you can reasonably create. If you’re a full-cast audio drama (or fiction podcast), you probably don’t want to create an entire bonus episode. While that’s very valuable, it’s likely not worth the effort and resources required. However, a mini-episode featuring only one or two characters might be a good option.
It can be tempting to reach for things like bloopers or deleted scenes for your lead magnet. And while these are fantastic for your existing audience, they are not a good option for anyone who doesn’t currently listen to your show. You are likely charming and hilarious, but without context, people won’t care enough to give you their email address.
Once you’ve made your first lead magnet to suit both your existing and potential audience, you can then create ones that target your current listeners. After all, the more lead magnets you have, the better your chances that someone will be interested.
What Are Some Lead Magnet Ideas for Both New and Existing Audiences?
The best lead magnet is going to depend on your podcast and your audience. However, there are certain types that work well for many authors that can easily adapt for podcasters. For fiction, short prequel episodes could be a good idea, as long as they tell a complete story. You might also consider writing a free short story set in your show’s universe.
Meanwhile, non-fiction podcasters can do similar things. Design yours around the general topic of your show, as Nissenblatt states above. Worksheets and short eBooks are very popular with both non-fiction authors and podcasters. You could also create a mini-episode that introduces listeners to your show with exclusive content.
When it comes to encouraging your existing audience to join your mailing list, you have a little more flexibility. This is a great time to pull out those hilarious and charming blooper reels or offer downloadable extras. This is an audience that is already familiar with your work. When you offer them a deeper experience with it, they’ll be encouraged to join your mailing list to get it.
If you’re looking at these suggestions and your to-do list with tears in your eyes, remember that your magnet does not have to be complicated. In fact, very simple things can be effective. You may not even need to create anything at all. In the episode “How to Build Your Email List Using Social Media with Aquilla [sp] Farrell” from the podcast Social Media Decoded, email marketing expert Aquila Farrell suggests making your lead magnet a shout-out on your podcast. If you are targeting your existing audience and put out episodes regularly, this could be a great opportunity to give them something they value with minimal extra work on your end.
A good lead magnet will make building your mailing list much easier. Not only will you entice more people onto your list, but you’ll also have something valuable to use in newsletter swaps, which can expand your target audience even more. So take some time to look at your audience, both existing and potential, and consider what they would want. Then make that thing and share it at every opportunity. Inbox space is valuable and if your audience knows you’re worth listening to, they’ll be more willing to share their space with you.
Amanda McCormack is an independent author and podcaster who focuses on paranormal fantasy, as well as the culture and folklore of New England. You can find her work at EnfieldArts.com.