Gain an edge over your competition by creating a "lead magnet" for your website. A lead magnet will have visitors staying longer on your site while also consenting to receive information from you in the future.

"[A lead magnet] is something that you, as the website owner or business owner, are giving away free to people in exchange for their name and email address," says Kathy Colaiacovo, president of Pepper It Marketing in Halifax. "It's an exchange of information."

Popular lead magnets include white papers, e-books, checklists and audio or video content.

The added benefit of a lead magnet, Colaiacovo says, is that it enables you to pre-qualify leads. Anyone who downloads your content is demonstrating an interest in the type of information you have to offer.

Here are three tips for developing your own lead magnet:

1. Automate your delivery
Use an email marketing delivery system that allows you to set up a lead magnet giveaway easily, Colaiacovo says.

To generate leads, Colaiacovo adds, you should not provide the content directly to users who request it. Otherwise, you won't be able to stay in contact with visitors who download your content.

Instead, include a form on which visitors are required to provide their name and email address in order receive a free copy of your lead magnet in their inbox.

Popular email marketing programs such as MailChimp and Constant Contact typically have opt-in confirmation and "unsubscribe" features to ensure your emails do not violate Canada's anti-spam legislation, Colaiacovo adds.

2. Provide full content
The educational content you provide in your lead magnet should be a complete lesson, Colaiacovo says. Don't tease users with incomplete or partial information.

"You have to teach [readers] something without them having to take any further steps to educate themselves."

For example, a lead magnet that briefly lists eight steps to growing a small business is incomplete, Colaiacovo says. Your reader would need to know the reasoning behind each step, she adds, and an explanation regarding the way this process will ultimately benefit them.

3. Identify yourself on the content
A lead magnet also can serve as background information or preparatory material for a prospective client to review before meeting you. Include your name and contact information on the downloadable content, to help the client associate you with the material provided.

Lead magnets such as "Ten financial terms everyone should learn," and "Seven questions to ask before hiring a financial advisor" will help build your reputation by demonstrating your expertise in the field, Colaiacovo adds.

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