How To Create A ‘Lead Magnet’ And Turn Your Online Viewers Into Museum Visitors

As of January 2019, there were over 1.94 billion websites on the internet, so making your museum website stand out – and more importantly – work for you, is increasingly critical. In an ideal world, your online visitors will make the leap off your webpages and through your museum doors, but how do you engage them long enough online so that they feel persuaded to do so?

In his latest guest article, Harry O’Connor from AIM Associate Suppliers, Heritage Creative, provides some useful tips for creating a ‘lead magnet’ on your website: a well-known online tactic used by the private sector which could also benefit independent museums and heritage sites of all sizes.

How To Create A ‘Lead Magnet’ And Turn Your Online Viewers Into Museum Visitors

What, you may ask, is a lead magnet? Quite simply it is a device – usually in the form of useful content – that enables you to gather information that benefits you and your organisation in some way. A great example is on our own website Heritage Creative. We offer the free download of an eBook I wrote specifically tailored to help people in the heritage sector to set up and run their websites.

To download a copy, site visitors simply have to enter their name, organisation and email details and they are automatically emailed a full copy of the book. With that email, I am then able to send useful tips and advice to people that are interested in our services, keeping us as a company in the front of the minds of this very targeted group of people. Many of the tips and emails that are sent out are automated, meaning I only have to write them once and every user that signs up gets the full range of the free content I send out to them.

You may be thinking that a lead magnet might suit a private company that has to generate leads and turn a profit, but it has little use to a museum or gallery, or any other heritage sector organisation for that matter. I strongly disagree, and as we are discovering, heritage and third sector organisations often find themselves in a highly competitive landscape whereby much can be learnt from private sector processes and strategies.

Quite simply, lead magnets are one of the most powerful, untapped ways of encouraging user engagement with your online audience. What’s more, they work especially well with a niche audience such as those interested in your particular museum. This means the people on your email list are highly targeted: they love what you do and are far more likely to engage in any content you send their  way. You can use this content to get your message across, but most importantly to keep in the minds of people that already love your offering.

To give you an example of the effectiveness of lead magnets, since releasing my book just a couple months ago, I have had many conversations from people that have downloaded the book, and have been invited to put forward proposals for multiple web design projects. I believe that for a museum, lead magnets are especially powerful and they are likely to significantly increase the number of website viewers that turn into visitors. Museums in particular have a duty to get a message across to their audience, it makes sense to utilise the power of the internet in this way.

Below I have listed a basic guide in 3 easy steps in order to help you get your very own lead magnet up and running. It takes a little work but is far simpler than you may imagine, and the rewards are plentiful.

1: Decide on your lead magnet

The  first thing you need to do is decide on what you want to create that will incentivise a download. For our company I wrote quite a large eBook because I had a lot to say and it’s a complicated subject, however you may find something more succinct better suits you and your audience.

Bear in mind my audience is mostly museum directors, curators, gallery owners, company directors and marketing professionals. For most people reading this, your audience will likely include members of the public who may want something quick and useful rather than comprehensive.

Think about what would work for them, be it a study guide for teachers, exhibit guide, historical facts or timelines, or perhaps a quiz or something that people can print out or interact with in some way. Whatever you choose, make sure it has value to your users, something they can’t get anywhere else. Try to keep it relevant to your particular museum and ensure your branding is consistent with what users expect.

In most cases your lead magnet can be written up in something like Microsoft Word and then converted to a PDF. For my book, I wrote it all on Google Docs and just downloaded the final thing as a PDF and uploaded it onto our website. A PDF is a sound format for your lead magnet as everyone can open it, and I’d say it is better than a Word Document for distribution. That said, your file could be anything that you can imagine – it could be a sound recording, video or graphic, whatever you think would work best for your audience.

2: Set up your signup forms

Now that you have your lead magnet you need to upload it to your website. Use your CMS or speak to your web developer to help with this (or get in touch if you need our help).

Once uploaded you are going to need some online software in order to capture people details and send them a link to your content. I used MailerLite which is free up to a certain limit and if you use this link you get a free $20 credit which you may wish to use if ever you grow the account. There are many alternatives, but this one seems pretty easy and robust and is very easy to use. If you are already using something like MailChimp then you may want to stick with that instead.

Once you have your newsletter software set up you need to create a web form that includes a name and email address as a minimum. It is important that you also include an opt-in checkbox and also make it clear to users  that they are going to be signing up to ongoing content. If you are unsure, please do speak to someone about your GDPR compliance obligations.

The key with presenting the form effectively is to have a prominent, physical representation of what the user will get. Let your viewers imagine the item they are downloading prior to filling in their details. For example, if you are giving away a book, make sure there is a picture of the “real life” book they will get, even if this is simply a mockup. You can see an example of our Heritage Creative website.

3: Write content for your automation workflow

The great thing about email automation is each and every person that signs up can be sent your content in order. This is great if you want a narrative over a long time, for example a series exploring a subject. Think about the “workflow” of content people will receive after they download your content, something that will engage and keep people interested over a long period of time.

The very first email will need to contain a link to download your lead magnet, and then you will need to set up a series of emails that get sent afterwards. A good period of time to stagger these emails is 1-4 weeks so your museum is kept in the forefront of your users minds, without being overly annoying.

When writing your content, please ensure you don’t come across too salesy. It is tempting to use your newly generated email database to directly ask people to come along to your museum, however I strongly believe you will get better results simply by keeping people informed and entertained. You already have a captive audience who love what you do, don’t feel the need to be overly persuasive

Because of the way automation works, you don’t need to write all of your content at once. You could write 2-4 emails spread over a couple months, which gives you that time to keep adding more over time.

With your new database of emails you can also send out one off emails highlighting an exhibition or event, and lead magnets are a great way to grow your main mailing list.

And that’s it! It’s actually quite a fun process to go through and you will learn a lot about your online audience this way.  I’d really love to hear how you got on and as an AIM Associate Supplier we are offering free advice and support to all AIM members, so please do get in touch if you need our help or advice.

Lastly, if you haven’t already been persuaded about the power of lead magnets , download a free copy of my free eBook, Preserving Heritage, which is packed full of useful tips and advice to help you with your museum’s online presence and marketing.

About Heritage Creative

Heritage Creative is a specialist web design company focused solely on the heritage sector. We are deeply passionate about preserving our heritage through the power of the internet. We pride ourselves on designing outstanding, high return, strategy-led websites that look beautiful whilst being highly accessible and easy to use. As well as the many wonderful organisations, charities and private companies we have worked with, we also have a wealth of experience working with funding organisations which are the mainstay of much of our heritage work. We have a track record of successfully delivering English Heritage, Lottery Funded and Arts Council supported projects as well as those led by local county councils. We offer a totally free, no obligation discussion about your website – you can come to our design studio or we are just as happy to come to you!

Heritage Creative Website


Heritage Creative Twitter: @HeritageCr8tive






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