Deciding on Your Opt-In: 6 Musts to Making Valuable and Memorable Content for Download

Opt-In Ideas

Opt-ins can take practically any size, shape, or style, but often appear in the form of...

  • Downloads / Reports
  • eBooks
  • Checklists
  • Quizzes
  • Lists
  • Planners
  • Calendars
  • Spreadsheets
  • Trial Software
  • Templates
  • Cheat Sheets
  • Resource Guides
  • Swipe Files
  • Photo Packs
  • Wallpapers
  • Lock Screens
  • Challenges
  • Webinars
  • Online Courses

Conversion is currency, and consistent contact with target audiences rewards in sales, new projects, referrals. But before that happens, you’ve got to get names on your list.

Opt-ins (sometimes called “lead magnets”) are a great way to do just that. These valuable pieces of content are shared with visitors to your website, in exchange for access to their email addresses or other contact information.

These are compelling content marketing tools for two reasons: because they make your expertise believable to prospects that take the time to apply what you've already shared, and because every new email you capture expands your reach so that you're able to spread the word further when you have a new product, feature, or service to share.

    Although choosing to create a valuable opt-in is often easy, creating the content for said opt-ins often proves to be quite hard. People often make the mistake of creating content their customers don’t need or want, in formats that don’t reach them where they already are, or add any value to their lives.

    When we create opt-in offers with our clients, we focus on the areas of their expertise that come to them so easily that they take it for granted. They’re often blind to this information, and wouldn’t think of as a marketable “hook.” This is exactly the kind of information that makes for a great opt-in offer. You can have the best, most creative opt-in idea on the web, but if it doesn’t offer uncommon insight in the form of uncommon content, “value" goes right out the window.

    Your expertise, their need, and a call to action that connects the two in the mind of the reader. These are the three pieces that must work in tandem for an opt-in to be a success.

    With that in mind, how should you decide what your opt-in should actually offer? Here are some of the guidelines we use to choose wisely when answering that question with our own clients.

    Emphasize education and utility over entertainment.

    When you encounter a pop-up or sidebar featuring an enticing offer, what do you often feel? Skepticism? Annoyance? Cautious optimism? Users, customers, and prospects want to know that giving you access to their inbox is a win for them – not just for you.

    No brand wants to be known as an inbox burden, and an opt-in that doesn’t add value or impress with insight is an opt-in that’s on the fast track to becoming an opt-out. Avoid anything that feels like entertainment (recycled blog posts, ‘vlogs’, or links to your social media) and instead focus on your area of expertise and how it can be applied in the life of your audience.

    That doesn't mean you should make it dry and boring, though. Use humor where applicable if it works with your brand voice and tone, and try to be as short and sweet as possible so they can get straight to the action for themselves.

    Aim to offer the highest amount of value that you can create in the least amount of time.

    The best thing about an opt-in is that content you can create in an hour or less is content that can drive interest in your brand for years to come, something also known as “evergreen content.”

    An opt-in is something quick and easy. Don’t overthink or spend too much time on it. Instead, think about striking a balance between what you can teach, share, or package up quickly and easily that also helps your ideal customer's life or business. For your first opt-in offer, you’ll want to spend no more than 2 hours on the content itself.

    Got the idea down, but need help designing it up? Talented partners like Four Oh Seven, Phyllis Sa Design, and Flourish Collaborative can handle the design side of things so you can skip the Photoshop crash course and give your opt-in offer a professional design that will stand out.

    Help your ideal customer recognize their own needs, before they’re even aware of them.

    The best opt-ins bring prospects to a moment of realization (“I need this”) before a moment of reckoning (“I can’t live without this”).

    Are there patterns to your customer interactions that reveal more about what clients don’t know they need until you recommend it to them?

    Pinpoint those, then strategize about how to build a powerful opt-in around the ‘a-ha’ revelation that sells itself.

    Tease a more comprehensive product or service and prove ‘on the fence’ prospects that they need exactly what you offer.

    Your offering should be a small slice of your service, not the full helping. It’s helpful to think about your process for working with people, then tease the first step as the lure to the next.

    Or, in the case of a product, think about the skeleton version of the full product. If you’ve built a killer productivity app, give away a ‘lite’ version that doesn’t include all the bells and whistles. If you offer consultation or discovery calls, package up the questions you ask as a workbook. 

    Help kickstart projects before they even begin. 

    If you work in client services, your opt-in can even double as a project kickoff tool. Imagine an interested client ready to go with some of the homework you often send off at the beginning of a project, already done. This would save you both time, getting straight to the point with a client who knows what they need, or at the very least, more awareness about what their pain points are and how you’re the best person to alleviate them.

    What information do you need from clients that can bypass some, not all, of the discovery process? Spend some time thinking about how to break client ‘homework’ or discovery into self-guided opt-ins that save you both a step.

    Make them feel something about your brand.

    Finally, your opt-in should be more than an informational hook – it should be an emotional one, too. The fact is, opt-ins are a dime a dozen. Every marketer, from the amateur to the expert, recognizes the importance of an opt-in in the process of list building.

    You might be surprised by how easy it can be to bolster your brand identity and story through some very simple additions to your opt-in content.

    If you’re offering a checklist or an eBook, a cover page and personalized letter explaining what it is and how to use it can help your opt-in stand out. If you want to teach something, a webinar can help people get to know your voice and personality. For printed materials, 'bake in' your brand through headers and footers that keep you top of mind as people print them off and use them. 

    Show them the tip of the iceberg.

    It can be a little bit scary to give away what you know for free, but that's why you're going to focus on an opt-in you can create with just a few hours of work. Lead your prospects through your approach to dealing with one specific problem so they can watch your thought process unfold for themselves, with no additional work on your part.

    They'll get the message loud and clear that this is just the tip of the iceberg, and it'll be so much easier for them to believe that buying your product or working with you directly will truly help them get what they need.