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The Last Guide on Getting Email Leads You’ll Ever Need

The Lead Capturing Framework You Need

Imagine it’s your dream to open the best lemonade stand in your city. So one day, you grab the freshest lemons you can find, set up shop in your yard, and… crickets. Where is everyone?

You might make the best lemonade in the world. But if you don’t have customers to buy it, you’re wasting money (and time, squeezing that many lemons). So, instead, you adjust your plan. You still use the highest-quality lemons, yet you also incorporate:

  • The right location, filled with thirsty people

  • Engaging customer service that builds trust and connections

  • Flyers, ads, and a newsletter to promote your lemonade

The result? Now, you have so many customers that you often can’t keep up with the demand.

In the real world, even the best businesses and newsletters need an audience to make money. Collecting email addresses from potential customers is an excellent way to grow that audience.

In this guide, I’ll share some of the most effective (and free) lead-generation methods. You’ll discover how to create valuable lead magnets, leverage social media, maximize referral programs, and even host your own webinars and events.

Key Takeaways

  • Email leads are an essential part of growing your audience in 2024.

  • Acquiring high-quality email addresses doesn’t have to be expensive. Free leads can be even more effective.

  • Lead magnets, social media, and referral programs are great ways to reach your lead-generation goals.

Table of Contents

Understanding the Value of Email Leads

Instead of simply stressing the importance of email leads, I’ll share a few stats and let you decide if email marketing is worth exploring in 2024.

Impressive, right? Here’s the thing — you can’t expect to see similar results without a strong email list. That’s where email lead generation comes in.

What Exactly Is an Email Lead?

An email lead is the email address of someone you’d like to do business with. That can mean a future buyer, newsletter subscriber, or course enrollee.

Pro-Tip: Personalized content always beats generic. Segment your email leads into targeted groups for maximum engagement. 

What Is Lead Generation?

Lead generation is the act of capturing new leads using webinars, lead magnets, networking, social media, etc. An individual becomes a lead once they give you their contact information and agree to be contacted.

Recommendation: How to treat the emails you acquire is equally, if not more, important than how you acquire them. For a step-by-step guide on managing your email list, see this guide.

Setting Up Your Email Lead Capture System

Like a crowd that visits a lemonade stand, email leads can (and should) come from various sources. Track your leads as they come in, and you’ll have all the information you need to create successful future campaigns.

Some ways to capture leads are through:

  • Lead magnets

  • Webinars

  • Social media

  • Lead generation tools

  • Referrals

  • Purchased lists

In this post, the keyword is free. We’re going to look exclusively at no-cost methods of acquiring email leads. But free doesn’t have to mean low quality (for you or your audience).

Creating Valuable Content for Your Audience

Who’s thirsty? You might get a few people to purchase low-quality, made-from-a-mix lemonade, but high-value customers deserve the best. The same is true for creating lead-generating content.

Content Types That Attract Subscribers

We’ll explore each type of lead-generating content in more detail in the next section, but here’s a TL;DR list for ease of reference.

The Last Guide on Getting Email Leads You’ll Ever Need

Lead Magnets: Something of value you offer to your leads in exchange for their contact information. Lead magnets can be eBooks, webinars, free trials, samples, etc. The key to creating an effective lead magnet is providing real value at the right time.

Social Media Marketing: User-generated content on TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook helps to personalize your offer and can be a great way to capture the attention of people who aren’t as responsive to emails. And social media is the perfect way to build a network, too.

Free Online Email Lists: Online directories and forums can also be a source of email leads. Cold emailing these lists is challenging, though, and you’ll have to sift through the duds to find valuable leads. It’s often more practical to build an email list yourself. 

Networking and Partnerships: One of the most important aspects of lead generation is getting your offer in front of the right people. Networking allows you to organically build an audience, often resulting in higher-value relationships.

Referral Programs: Similar to networking, referral programs (like this one at beehiiv) allow readers to connect with businesses similar to those they already know. Rewarding your referrers gives them an incentive to bring in email leads themselves.

Webinars and Events: Effective webinars can take a lot of work, but they’re one of the best ways to interact with potential customers and capture their contact information. 

Ready to boost your email lead generation? This next section is for you. 

Crafting Enticing Lead Magnets

An effective lead magnet trades something of real value for a reader’s contact information. Sure, you can advertise a copy-and-paste ebook and gain a few email leads, but are those the leads you want?

Think back to the lemonade stand business for a moment. You could post ads that look like this:

The Last Guide on Getting Email Leads You’ll Ever Need

Unless they really, really like lemonade, people probably won’t give their email addresses to you. There’s no benefit to doing so, and it’s clear your only goal is to get their information. You might try something like this instead:

The Last Guide on Getting Email Leads You’ll Ever Need

Okay, it’s hardly the best design. But the point is that adding value to your lead magnets gives potential customers a reason to click. And if there’s a benefit to them, they’re much more likely to share their contact information.

Why Trust Me? I’m an excellent designer (kidding). I’ve written hundreds of lead-generating emails and blog posts for SaaS companies, marketing agencies, and e-commerce stores. I know first-hand how to acquire valuable leads and the pitfalls to avoid. I’m an audience-building nerd.

Here are a few ideas for your next lead magnet:

  • 5 of the Easiest Ways To [BLANK]

  • Learn How To [BLANK] in Less Than 10 Minutes a Day

  • Why Choosing [BLANK] Matters

  • 13 Templates for Your Next [BLANK]

  • 100 of the Best Profiles To Copy on [BLANK]

  • Enter Your Email for a Free [BLANK]

Remember: The most critical part of an effective lead magnet is providing readers with real value. Because if the first impression a potential customer gets is that you’re sneaky or only interested in yourself, they won’t stay subscribed for long.

Choosing the Right Lead Magnets

The Last Guide on Getting Email Leads You’ll Ever Need

Your audience includes multiple people who respond to different forms of content. Choosing suitable lead magnets for your potential customers is key to gaining their trust (and, hopefully, their contact information).

  • Ebooks and whitepapers are opportunities to provide in-depth information on a specific topic. These high-value lead magnets earn trust and show potential leads that you know your stuff.

  • Free trials let potential buyers test your product, service, or newsletter to see if it’s valuable enough to purchase.

  • Templates and toolkits let the readers jump to execution quickly. They might wonder, “If they’re willing to give out this information for free, what’s hiding behind that subscription?”

  • Discounts are self-explanatory. They’re a quick way to get email leads, but you’ll have to look for ways to turn these one-time buyers into repeat customers.

Identifying Your Target Audience

Here are a few questions to ask yourself when identifying your target audience:

  • Who is my ideal customer?

  • Where do my leads hang out?

  • What problem can I solve for them?

  • What keeps them awake at night?

  • What kind of content do they like?

Once you have answers to those questions, you can create the best lead magnet for your audience.

Lead magnets are one of the most common ways to collect contact information, but they’re not the only way. Let’s talk about social media.

Leveraging Social Media Platforms

The Last Guide on Getting Email Leads You’ll Ever Need

We all know that social media is popular. But if you asked me last year just how popular it was, I’d be way off. Skim through these stats, and you’ll see why businesses place such a heavy emphasis on social media marketing.

  • As of January 2024, there are 5.04 billion social media users, just over 62% of the entire world’s population.

  • Two hundred sixty-six million people have begun using social media in the last year alone. That’s an average increase of 8.4 users every second of every day.

  • Users worldwide spend a combined 12 billion hours on social media platforms daily.

Would you be surprised if I said social media is an excellent tool for acquiring email leads? I didn’t think so. Here are some free ways to use your X (formerly Twitter), Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook accounts to generate high-quality leads.

Optimizing Your Social Media Profiles

Your social media profile is the first thing many prospective customers will see. So make a good first impression. Let’s use beehiiv’s Instagram profile as an example.

The Last Guide on Getting Email Leads You’ll Ever Need

With a short bio and link, you can tell exactly what beehiiv does, what you’d get by signing up, and where to go to do it. There’s no guesswork.

Pro-Tip: Include a link to a simple landing page where readers can enter their email addresses. Add an opt-in form or an engaging pop-up so they don’t miss it. 

Engaging With Social Media Influencers

If your goal is to build an email list, engaging with influencers who already have a large audience is an easy way to get your foot in the door. Getting noticed will take some effort (and a good product), but your time spent building these relationships will have significant payoffs.

If you’re not sure how to reach out to an influencer, start small. 

  • Make personalized comments on their posts. 

  • React quickly as new content releases.

  • If they respond, don’t wait to start a conversation. Reply or send them a message in the post thread to continue your discussion.

Influencers work hard to build their following. So when an opportunity arises to mention your product or service, focus on the benefits that it’d bring their readers. Influencers will be much more likely to vouch for you if they trust you have good intentions.

Networking and Partnership Opportunities

The Last Guide on Getting Email Leads You’ll Ever Need

Go back to the lemonade-stand world one more time. Imagine you’ve built a following through email leads and social media, and people love what you do. 

Because you’re doing so well, your local lemon farmer says, ‘Hey, what do you think about helping each other out? You keep using my lemons in your lemonade, and I’ll hand out samples and your flyers on my farm. We give tours to thousands of people every year, you know.”

You’d probably get more customers than you could handle. And because they’d be coming from a lemon farm, you’d know they’re your target audience. 

Here’s the thing, though — a partnership like that doesn’t come about by chance. Building a relationship with a successful business owner takes time.

Real-world networking is the same. There’s no shortage of long-term benefits, but you have to put in the work to see results.

Networking Strategy 101

“The single greatest ‘people skill’ is a highly developed and authentic interest in the other person.” - Bob Burg

Any successful networking strategy starts with you. Sure, you might only be networking to acquire email leads. But people can tell when you don’t care, and nobody wants to feel like they’re being used.

When you show that you genuinely care about someone, they’re much more likely to respond how you want. So, focus on building relationships rather than building a list. Then, when an opportunity for a partnership arises, you’ll both have the benefits clearly in mind.

Here are a few networking tips to keep in mind:

  • Show you care by keeping the focus on the other person.

  • Be consistent in your approach. Strong relationships don’t happen overnight.

  • Don’t be sneaky when you bring up your product or service. Tell them how they’d benefit from working with you.

Implementing Referral Programs

Referral programs are an excellent (albeit less common) method of acquiring new email leads. The basic structure is this:

Tell people about your product -> People refer your product to their audience -> You gain new leads.

The people who refer your product could be customers, partners, vendors, colleagues, or readers. It doesn’t matter who refers you as long as it helps get your product in front of as many people as possible.

How a referral program functions in the real world depends on the platform that you’re using. For example, beehiiv’s referral program is a one-click, no-code approach to lead generation. Here’s how the process looks:

  1. Choose the incentives and milestones for your referrers.

  2. Drop the referral block into your post (or throw it in a template for easy access).

  3. Let autopilot take over and watch the email leads roll in.

The Referral Program can be found by clicking Grow -> Referral Program from your beehiiv dashboard. Check out this video guide to see it in action. 

Maximizing Referral Program Engagement

Some loyal members of your audience will happily refer you, but for maximum referral program engagement, people need incentives.

You can reward your referrers with:

  • Branded merchandise

  • Discounts

  • Free subscriptions

  • Exclusive benefits

Or whatever else you think would motivate your readers to action. The key is creating incentives that mean something to your audience.

A lemonade newsletter creator might set up a reward system that looks something like this:

  • At three referrals, readers get added to an exclusive newsletter with personalized tips.

  • At five referrals, readers get a free month of premium access.

  • At ten referrals, readers are added to a special Discord server where they can discuss their love for lemons and interact with the creator.

You can easily add these three no-cost rewards to your referral program. Here’s how the setup process looks in beehiiv:

From the Referral Program tab, go to Configure -> Rewards -> Add Reward.

The Last Guide on Getting Email Leads You’ll Ever Need

Next, create your reward milestone by specifying the number of referrals needed and building an email to send when the milestone is reached.

The Last Guide on Getting Email Leads You’ll Ever Need

All that’s left is to drop your referral block in a post or template and watch the leads roll in!

Hosting Free Webinars and Events

In August 2023, influencer, author, and businessman Alex Hormozi held a free live webinar promoting his book, $100M Leads. Here’s what he posted on LinkedIn the following day:

The Last Guide on Getting Email Leads You’ll Ever Need

180,000 people signed up to attend his event. And as of today, the replay on YouTube has just shy of 1,000,000 views. Pretty awesome for a free webinar, right?

Now sure, Alex Hormozi has a massive following and more resources than most creators. But those stats prove what kind of lead generation can result from hosting a live webinar.

Here’s the catch — People won’t sign up (and definitely won’t sit through) a webinar or event if it doesn’t provide real value. 

Providing Real Value

Hosting a webinar or event is just like any marketing effort — people won’t take action unless they see what’s in it for them. So, if you’re considering hosting a webinar, ask yourself:

  • What sort of real value can I provide the attendees?

  • How and where can I promote the event?

  • What will I use to capture email addresses?

  • How will I follow up with those leads?

Zoom, YouTube Live, and Google Meet are great free options for which platform to use. 

  • Zoom’s free tier allows up to 100 participants for a maximum of 40 minutes and includes recording and chatting.

  • YouTube Live doesn’t feature a lot of interactivity, but the number of participants is uncapped. 

  • Google Meet’s free tier is similar to Zoom, allowing 100 participants for a maximum of 60 minutes.

Opt-In Forms and Pop-Ups

Opt-in forms are likely the primary way you’ll capture email leads from web visitors. They make subscribing to an email list easy and allow you to personalize forms to your reader. Here are a few tips to make your opt-in forms stand out:

  • Make the design eye-catching and stay on-brand. Remember – the goal is to engage readers, not scare them with a jarring pop-up.

  • Keep it simple. Create a headline focusing on the main benefit a reader will be interested in enough to share their contact information.

  • Include an engaging CTA that motivates readers to take immediate action.

A successful pop-up form might look something like this:

The Last Guide on Getting Email Leads You’ll Ever Need

Pro-tip: Have fun with your CTAs. Your readers might respond better to “I want in” or “Show me the money” rather than “Subscribe here.”

Another area where opt-in forms see a lot of responses is in the website footer. Here’s how that looks in the same beehiiv-powered newsletter, Habit Examples:

The Last Guide on Getting Email Leads You’ll Ever Need

Personalizing your opt-in and pop-up forms on beehiiv is simple and allows you to tailor them to your audience. Want to see more examples of successful opt-in forms? Check out this detailed list.

Analyzing and Refining Your Strategy

It’s easy to get lost in the details when creating a lead-generation strategy.

The Last Guide on Getting Email Leads You’ll Ever Need
  • Lead magnets

  • Social Media

  • Networking

  • Referrals

  • Opt-In Forms

There are plenty of paid ways to capture email leads, too. Whatever methods you choose to implement, remember that results matter most. Don’t be afraid to tweak your lead-generation strategy if you’re not seeing the returns you’d like. You might try:

  • Testing a new CTA on your opt-in forms.

  • Putting yourself in front of more people by networking on social media, forums, and in your community.

  • Creating a high-value lead magnet with information your audience can’t get anywhere else.

  • Transitioning to an email platform with a strong referral program, like beehiiv.


Lead generation is a vital part of any successful business. The most effective methods vary depending on your industry and goals, but if you focus on providing your readers with real value, they’ll happily share their information.

Want to boost email leads without creating a capture system from scratch? Try beehiiv’s referral program today by getting your first 30 days of a Scale plan for free!

How To Get Email Leads for Free FAQs

Here are answers to a few lead-generation questions we’ve seen.

How often should I send emails to my list?

As vague as it sounds, it depends. You should base your email sending frequency on how your audience responds. The key is consistency. A regular schedule of emails is vital to building connections with readers.

How many lead magnets should I create?

You can create as many as it takes to get the results you want! The best part about lead magnets is the ability to personalize them to specific audience segments. At the very least, you should create a separate lead magnet for each product line or service you offer.

Can’t I just buy an email list?

You can buy a list instead of capturing leads on your own. The problem is that purchased leads often aren’t the same caliber as ones you could acquire with a more personalized approach.

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