A Guide to List-Building with Lead Magnets


November 15, 2020

I’m going to assume you’ve heard about the importance of building an email list.

According to a report published in 2013 by the Direct Marketing Association, email marketing on average sees a 4,300% return on investment for businesses in the USA. So it’s not a new theory that the time it takes to build an email list is not wasted, especially as a small business owner.

But today I want to talk about what having a list has meant for me, and more specifically how I’ve built it.

I’ve found that email has been the most natural way to build an intimate relationship with my clients, customers, and blog readers. Sure, it’s an effective way to sell products, but more importantly it’s a pulse on how my business is doing and if it’s meeting the needs of my audience.

I hope my story inspires you to see list building as creative expression within your brand, and that you pick up a few tips to build your own.


As a reminder, this quarter, I’m walking you step-by-step through a studio refresh so you can get a behind-the-scenes look at what it means to go through the branding process. I hope that it takes the guesswork out of the branding experience and helps you decide whether or not you can do it yourself.

The Lead

Let’s start at the very beginning. List building, just like client or audience building, is (shocker) not about the number, but the quality of the lead. It’s not enough (or ethical) to just add the email address of every person you know to a spreadsheet. What you’re looking for is a list of people who are genuinely interested in your business. So let’s start by defining who that person is.

Who is your ideal client or customer… do you know? If you’re still working to define who that person might be, check out this blog post about identifying your ICA.

For Drop Cap Design, I’m looking to attract a list of small business owners who are looking to build a digital brand.

But… let’s take it a step further.

It’s not just any small business, it’s one that values slow and intentional growth, that’s built on solid products and services, that leaves a positive footprint on the world, that sells with integrity.

And it’s not just any small business owner, it’s one who wants to personally grow through the journey of starting a business, who desires to live a rich life outside of their work, one who is generous with their knowledge, resources, and network.

The Lead Magnet

Once you’ve landed on some language around who your lead is, it’s time to attract them with a lead magnet.

What you’re looking for is an offer that will compel them to part with their email address and welcome you into their inbox.

You also need to start the relationship on the right foot. So while it’s usually an easy and immediate win, you want to overdeliver, value their time, and show up in an authentic and intentional way. You also want to tie your lead magnet to a specific product or service that would be the right fit for their needs.

I currently have three lead magnets that tie to three different branches of the business, and three different kinds of audiences we serve.

My over-arching target audience is the small business owner, the one I described above. However, I have different ways of serving them based on where they are in their journey.

For the businesses needing to focus on brand building, the first step is organizing ideas and identifying immediate needs. Our Brand Scratch Pad is a workbook full of prompts for auditing a business, brain dumping all the ideas, and charting a clear path forward. Ultimately, our branding services are going to be a great fit for someone looking to build their brand. But regardless of whether or not a lead immediately books us, they’re going to be able to make a plan and see some progress by working through the Brand Scratch Pad.

For business owners at the very beginning of the journey, curious about entrepreneurship and what it takes to get started, our Guide to Starting a Studio is a look and what needs to happen to become a legitimate online business. Full of tips and actions to get that idea off the ground, it’s a great overview of what needs to happen when. Our mentor sessions were created for exactly this reason, and before working with anyone on a coaching or consulting basis, it’s important to first know where you stand and where you’re trying to go. So the guide is our way of helping a lead figure out exactly that.

And finally, for burned-out business owners looking to make some significant changes and invest in personal development, I always recommend working with the Enneagram. It was a game changer for me, and I’ve seen so many of my clients step into their power and potential after working with the system. For those who don’t know their type, I created a Find Your Type ebook that explains what the Enneagram is and how to work with it. Currently, my Enneagram project is just a blog, and I don’t have any paid products or offers available yet, but that may just change in the next year 🙂 I think it’s worth it to build a list around that passion point, so that if the opportunity comes to create something for my Enneagram enthusiasts, the audience is there and ready.

The List

Ok, so once you have your lead identified and you have an idea for how you want to attract them, where do you store those emails?

You’ll need to choose an email marketing platform for your business. This is where you’ll upload your lead magnet, create a landing page to get information, and store all of those new email addresses, your “list.” When looking for an email provider, I suggest finding a platform that doesn’t punish you for growing, that allows you to create landing pages without having to purchase another system, and that feels easy to use.

Most often, people start with MailChimp, ConvertKit, or Flodesk. I’ve also had a bit of experience with Lead Pages (but it’s expensive.) Whichever you choose, remember that you own your list. You can download your contacts and transfer your provider at any time (which is what I’ve done when making the move!)

As your business grows, you’ll want to track different kinds of data and use your list in different ways, but I wouldn’t get in the weeds of that just yet. Pick a platform that you first of all enjoy using, and that you can commit to for at least a year as you focus on growth.

I had a dormant email list for years before I committed to a system and Flodesk.

Over the years I have worked with MailChimp and Convertkit. While both are great, nothing has compared to my experience using Flodesk. It’s visually appealing, intuitive, and comes with beautifully pre-designed emails so you don’t have to hire a designer to make things look the way you want them to.

I can upload and store my lead magnets, segment my list (meaning that I can track which email addresses opted into which magnets), and send my weekly email which brings me to my next point…

The Email

Ok, so you’ve got your lead, your lead magnet, and a place to host your list. What do you do with a “subscriber” once they’ve opted in?

This is where you show up and build a relationship. And it’s where I’ve struggled in my business for years until now.

My weekly email to my list is called The Sunday Edition.

During this rebrand, I realized that I wanted something that felt like a Sunday morning newspaper, and an invitation to quietly welcome in the week. I came up with The Sunday Edition, a newspaper-style email sent every Sunday with my latest blog post, a glimpse into my life in and out of the studio, and any current offers.

It’s been my way of slowing down, reconnecting, and being intentional with my content. It’s also been a joy to receive responses, get to know my list personally, and even see changes in myself and my business from week to week.

If you’re not currently on our list through one of the lead magnets above, but want to start getting The Sunday Edition, be sure to subscribe to it below. And if you’ve opted in to one of the magnets, don’t worry, you’re already on the list 😉

  1. Claire says:

    The “guide to starting a studio” link seems to be broken? It sends me to a Flo desk login???

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This immersive workbook will help you create a solid foundation for your brand and identify how to best market your services in a way that feels effortless & natural. In this workbook, you’ll unpack your brand story, identify your ideal market, find your brand personality, & curate a visual style that customers instantly feel drawn to.