Content Upgrade Ideas: 11 great lead magnets to grow your mailing list

11 content upgrade ideas that get results and grow your email list

Grow your email list fast by using these value-add content upgrade ideas for your audience. With a loyal list of subscribers you can skyrocket your traffic and engage your audience to convert cold visitors into warm customers.

11 super effective content upgrades

Growing your email list is one of the most overlooked tactics for new bloggers and businesses. But if you are trying to increase your blog traffic or convert visitors to customers its too important to leave to chance.

Digital marketing is an important part of building a business or blog online. But digital marketing is like a funnel. At the top there is a big pool of people that see your messages. From that group, only ten per cent will become engaged audience members. And only one per cent of those people will become your customers.

Each niche varies, but that means it takes 1000 contacts to deliver 10 customers. Ouch.

Social media is not what it used to be. You can’t rely on organic reach, so it’s more important than ever to build a mailing list to reach your audience. And that’s getting harder as well.

Remember the days when you could put a form on your blog inviting people to join your mailing list? And they did. Well those days are long gone. You may still get the occasional taker, but people want more. Much more.

Whether you call it a lead magnet, content upgrade, opt-in or straight up bribe, they all mean the thing. They are the welcome mat that sits at the top of that conversion funnel. Your audience is protective of their email address. And if you want an invitation into their world, you’re going to have to give them something valuable in exchange.

A content upgrade provides that value for people who visit your blog or website. It provides actionable information in an easy to follow format. It excites your audience about what you have to share and encourages them to join you on the journey.

A content upgrade makes your audience comfortable sharing their email address with you. And if you set them up in an automation sequence, they can work on auto-pilot.

Here are some the best content upgrade ideas to grow your mailing list fast. Even while you sleep.

Content upgrade ideas: #1 Create a mini course 

A mini course is my personal favorite of the content upgrade ideas. Most people find learning a new skill both valuable and exciting. Particularly if they can do it for free.

A good mini course is easy to access, quick to consume and has an actionable outcome.  To create your mini course, choose a key skill from your niche and show your audience how to use it. 

The format of your mini course is up to you. Video, audio and even text options are all popular. And you can share it via email, host it on your own website, or even use a teaching platform like Teachable.

Consider your delivery options carefully. You can drip -feed it to people over several lessons or supply the whole course in one go. Each has pros and cons. The drip feed option allows you to build familiarity with a new audience and set them realistic course goals. But there will be a steady drop out rate. 

Creating a mini course is not always the quickest content upgrade idea to put in place. But the results can be well worth the effort.

My free Canva beginner’s course has a design dashboard overview and five lessons. It’s delivered via email over five consecutive days. And I host the video tutorials on my own website.

In the first six months, over 10,000 people took the course and that number continues to grow by about 400 every week.

Create with Canva Beginner's Course

Content upgrade ideas: #2 Build a member-only resource library 

I’m going to be honest with you upfront. Creating a member-only resource library takes a bit of work.

But if you’ve already created a few freebies, and have more content upgrade ideas planned, this is a winner.

The idea of a resource library is to group all your content upgrade ideas together in one location. Then your audience only needs to sign up once to access them all.

A high-value collection of free resources will have them lining up to hand over their email. And they are less likely to unsubscribe if ongoing access is via email and password login.

It’s important to keep updating your resource library so it’s interesting and engaging. For example, if you host a webinar, add the replay and let all your existing subscribers know.

You will need a few technical skill to set up a resource library. But the extra effort could skyrocket your mailing list numbers and engagement rates.

I recently launched my resource library and now add at least one new download or course to it every month. 

Free online marketing resources pin

Content upgrade ideas: #3 Host a webinar

Webinars are fantastic list building opportunities. As long as they are good quality and well promoted. Live webinars create a close experience between you and the audience. They feel special for the audience and you get direct feedback on your content.

You may think webinars are all about the sales pitch. And many are. But whether it’s a direct sale, or a mailing list sign up, the premise is the same. If someone signs up for your webinar, you’re giving them free, valuable content. And they are giving you their email address for future contact.

But a webinar is a commitment for both you and your audience. Creating an hour worth of content and hosting it can be challenging. And participating in a webinar that is running at a specific time can be tricky for the audience.

You’ll hear plenty of success stories about webinars. But the reality is sometimes the signups are not as big as you hope. And the actual attendees will be even lower.

But that’s where the doom and gloom ends. The fact that a webinar is a big commitment means those who sign up are quality audience members. Their interest in your niche means they want to commit at least an hour to hearing your insights.

Creating and hosting a webinar does take skill. You host it on a service like Webinar Jam. When you choose a provider, go with someone who can give you a recording afterwards. This replay can go in a resource library, or you can send it to people who couldn’t attend live.

During the webinar, you can share your content via slidedeck, appear on camera, or combine both. Make sure your presentation materials look great and deliver on the signup promise.

Melyssa Griffin has a free evergreen Pinterest webinar that is very popular.

Melyssa Griffin Webinar

Content upgrade ideas: #4 Share checklists or worksheets

A checklist or worksheet converts detailed information into a step by step guide. This provides the audience with chronological actions they can follow to get results.

Put simply, a checklist or worksheet turns your very interesting read into an actual outcome for your readers.

You can create a checklist or worksheet in most word processing software or Google Docs. Then convert it into a PDF for easy downloading.

For something a bit more advanced, design apps like Canva have templates you can adapt.

Canva checklist template

Content upgrade ideas: #5 Create an eBook

Create a book. That sounds like a lot of work doesn’t it. But it doesn’t have to be.

Let’s say you want to create a 10,000 word eBook. If you’ve been blogging for a while, you can achieve this with existing blog posts. You will need to do some editing, but most of the words will already be there.

A good eBook takes readers on a journey. It starts at the beginning of a problem. And moves through actionable steps that solve that problem.

Your eBook doesn’t have to be 10,000 words. But standard non-fiction eBooks are around 50-75,000 words. So a 10,000 word free eBook is good value.

Professional formatting is important. Your eBook should include a proper cover design and content page with all the chapters listed. Break the content itself into short chapters of 1000-2000 words each.

Start collecting eBooks from other blogs for ideas on layout and content flow. And if design isn’t your thing, you’ll find plenty of inspiration to adapt in Canva.

Canva eBook template

Content upgrade ideas: #6 Share your secret list of tools

On the list of quick and easy content upgrade ideas is the toolkit. It’s a collection of the fantastic list of resources and tools you’ve used to grow your business or blog.

Every great blogger has a toolkit.  And every aspiring blogger wants to get their hands on it. Even established bloggers are keen to discover new tools to make things easier.

Have you collected a fantastic list of resources and tools you’ve used to grow your business or blog?

You can turn your toolkit into a list using word processing software or Google Docs. The number of tools you share isn’t as important of the quality of the information. Explain why you value the tool and how the readers can use it themselves. Don’t forget to include a link to the tool. It’s a pain having to Google for more information.

Keep your toolkit updated. Things move fast in the digital world. Chances are you’ll need to remove and add recommendations or your toolkit will lose its value.

I love the idea of a toolkit as a content upgrade. Mine on my website and it is one of the most popular pages with the most link clicks. I don’t ask for an opt-in, as the traffic is my primary goal for the page. But many people do ask you to sign up for their mailing list and are thrilled with the results they get.

Check out my big list of tools and resources.

Digital Decluttered tools page

Content upgrade ideas: #7 Share a template

A template provides your audience with the opportunity to create something. Without having to start with a blank page.

You can create a template for most things. Design templates for social posts are popular. As are eBook templates.

If you’re a strong writer, you can also create headline or blog post templates.

The options are only limited by your imagination. If you have a skill, create a starting point for your audience. Then let them fill in the blanks, or personalize it with their own content.

I have a lot of followers who are Canva users, so I share design templates with them.

These are my Canva Valentine’s Day templates. Shared as Canva templates for Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.

Valentine's Day Swipe 2Valentine's Day Swipe 3Valentine's Day Swipe 1Valentine's Day Swipe 4

Content upgrade ideas: #8 Create a challenge

Want to give your audience free content? And keep them motivated to action it? Try a challenge.

A challenge sets specific goals for the participants. And provides a deadline for achieving them.

Challenges have set beginning and end times. This helps reduce the procrastination risk that comes with other content upgrade ideas. It’s up to you whether participants can start any time, or on set dates.

But they aren’t perfect. People do tend to drop out over the course of a challenge. It’s important to create engaging and entertaining content. And to set a realistic time frame. You might also include accountability checkpoints so participants can share their progress.

Challenges work well across most niches. I’m currently working on a list building challenge for my readers.

One of the most successful examples is the Simple Green Smoothie Challenge that has attracted over one million signups. 

Simple green smoothie 30 day challenge

Content upgrade ideas: #9 Invite people to join your private group

Private groups build a community of people with similar interests.

While you can host a community on your own website, Facebook Groups deliver all the same benefits and more.

By creating a private group, you offer your audience an exclusive experience. But you have to provide value to them as group members.

Add regular content like live Q&A sessions and tutorials. Make sure you are available to answer questions and provide feedback.

A private group is a great offer for email subscribers. But it can also create a stronger relationship between you and your audience. Getting people onto your mailing list is important. Keeping them there even more so.

Create with Canva Facebook Group

Content upgrade ideas: #10 Develop a quiz

Everyone loves a quiz! The best quiz will help your reader decide on an action to take.

When you create a quiz, you should choose a topic that sparks curiosity with your audience. It’s important to develop questions with care. Your reader is looking for accuracy. Make sure you test the quiz with as many people as possible to ensure a satisfying result. And make it so interesting that people will hand over their email address to get their results.

Quizzes are also easy to integrate with social media. If there is a fun or interesting angle, encourage people to share their results with their freinds.

Thrive Themes Quiz Builder is a WordPress Plugin that helps you create an engaging quiz in minutes – no coding required. There are social media share options and A/B testing to increase conversions built in. I build all my quizzes with this tool.

Thrive Quiz Builder

Content upgrade ideas: #11 Share a swipe file

Swipe files are the ultimate freebie. They are an invitation to your audience to take something you have created and use it for themselves.

Swipe files vary a lot. They can be email copy, designs, process plans and more.

When you share a swipe file, make sure it comes with instructions. Once they have your files, it should be easy to adapt them for their own purposes.

I created a huge list of inspirational quotes for social media as my swipe file. There are more than 700 and they can be downloaded as an editable spreadsheet via Google Docs. With the help of Canva, I also individually branded the artwork for each of my different websites. This swipe file is now available in my members-only resource library.

700 Quotes Digital Decluttered700 Quotes Create with Canva

Five bonus content upgrade ideas

  • Transcript: Got a podcast, video or audio file on your blog? Transcribe it yourself, or use a low-cost service like REV.
  • Cheat sheet or whitepaper: If you don’t have enough content for an eBook, this is a good alternative.
  • Article PDF: If you have a substantial article on your blog that you think your audience.
  • Case study: Show your audience how someone else achieve a result and get them inspired.
  • Spreadsheet: You can turn a spreadsheet into a calendar, a budget, just about anything. And who wants to create a spreadsheet from scratch!

Not sure where to start?

So what can you offer your audience? Think about the topics you can share that will add value, then combine them with one of the content upgrade ideas here, and you’re mailing list will be growing before you know it.

Or you can take this quick quiz – it’s just three questions and there’s no email sign up required to get your results. 

Got questions?

My free Facebook Group has a dedicated discussion thread on list building, so jump on in and join the conversation if you have any questions, suggestions or other thoughts about list building.

If you’re not already a member of the group, you will need to join first to access this list building discussion.

You might also be interested in:

How to start a blog

How to use Pinterest to grow your profitable blog


One of the ways I try to cover the costs of maintaining  Digital Decluttered and offer free courses to my audience is via a small number of affiliate partnerships (with tools I genuinely use and love) where I get a small percentage commission on sales made via referral. You don’t pay any more for purchasing via my affiliate links – in fact in some cases you even receive a discount. If you click one of my affiliate links, your support is greatly appreciated.

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