Play Blueprint: Free Guide Download

This article applies to:

Why Run It: To collect leads AND validate your expertise.

Who It's For: Any business can benefit from using Free Guide Downloads no matter what industry they’re in.  This is the place to be open minded and creative!  Remember, you don’t have to teach your readers how your company does something – you might simply be showing them how something can be done.  A Free Guide Download works whether your guide is How To Choose the Right Server or How to Change your Tractor’s Oil (B2B or B2C)

Implementation time: 20-30min

Play Snapshot

Many users agonize over creating a free guide, but we’ll address the actual content creation ideas a little later.  The point of this whole play is simple: to show prospects what you know and to give away some specific, critical bit of your expertise.  Think of this as an “ethical bribe,” because, in exchange for the knowledge you’re sharing, they are giving you their email address.  From there, you’ll automate a follow up sequence to upsell the prospect within your specific business model. 

The best part of this play is that, as an expert, you already know what people keep asking you about, so the content of your guide is easy to create.  By automating the entire process, you never have to remember anything, and your knowledge really pays off in terms of building rapport with prospects, demonstrating your willingness to serve others, and, when you structure this play properly, more sales … automatically!

The real benefit of running this play is you’ll be bringing in new leads to your database from outside traffic sources – that could be social media marketing, personal networking, or other organic means.  As a result, it’s critical that you remember to set up tags to properly document where a lead came from as well as the fact they downloaded this guide.

As your new prospect consumes the material in the guide, you’ll be automating follow up to them, creating the opportunity for upselling products and services in your business.   

Pro Tip: It’s easy to fall into the trap of providing “too much” or “too little” content in your Free Guide.  As a rule, you want your prospect to be able to easily consume the content, but you also want them to get actionable material.  Don’t make “clickbait” that is going to leave them unimpressed with your knowledge, but at the same time, don’t teach them how to build a watch to simply learn what time it is.  

Play Components:

1. Opt In

This is the landing page you’ll create to begin the entire process for your new prospect.  You’ll link to this in any marketing, social media posts, or blogs to allow prospects to go and download the guide. 

The expectation here is there’s only one thing that can be done on this page, and that’s to download the Free Guide.   You’ll want to use your business logo and branding colors, of course, but “less is more” in this case.  We’ve seen extremely successful landing pages in this play that contain less than ten sentences!   The perceived value of the download to the prospect is what “sells” this, not a lot of copy. 

As you can with any Landing Page, you’ll have the opportunity to create custom domain names when you publish your landing page.  Take it!  In this case, think about easy-to-remember names to use, like “”  Once published, you’ll see the step-by-step instructions for how to create the custom domain name for many of the larger hosting companies, like GoDaddy, as well as general publishing directions for use with other hosting companies. 

Remember, too, that you’ll be wanting to create the applicable tags to denote the prospect has downloaded the Free Guide – the tags will allow you to continue to use automation throughout the customer journey. 

2. The Guide

There are THOUSANDS of opinions on what constitutes a “good” free guide, and depending on your industry, you might be limited in what can and can’t be shared.  If you have a fiduciary or legal responsibility to clients, such as those businesses in the fields of investment, law, or accounting, a free guide’s content might center on where individuals commonly make mistakes before they get to you. 

For an automobile repair shop, your free guide might discuss easy do-it-yourself maintenance that any vehicle owner can do in their garage or driveway. 

In any case, don’t let the content of your free guide overwhelm you – remember, you want to teach the reader one specific thing.  (Hint – think of it in terms of teaching them how to make one small side dish, not the whole Sunday dinner at Grandma’s house.)

3. Delivery System

In many cases, you’ll want to use an instant confirmation.  To do that, you’ll start a sequence with the application of the appropriate tag and from there, the automation will take over.  From there, it’s simple to send a follow up of three emails.  Yes, this is an upsell, and the nature of the automation you’ll be directing the prospect into will depend on your business’s sales opportunities.  A traditional brick-and-mortar retailer may only be trying to drive foot traffic into their store, while a B2B company might be directing the prospect to schedule an appointment.  Still other businesses might be asking the prospect to buy a product or course “deeper” in their sales funnel.    

This play doesn’t simply end.  It’s important to think what happens to the prospect “next.”  Either they buy and move into another campaign – such as fulfillment, or onboarding, etc… or they may move into a longer-term nurture campaign.  

Below is your action plan that breaks down the tactics and tasks of each step -- and details the assets, and content you'll need to execute this play like a pro.

The idea is to create a lead magnet that is high value, desirable, and generates interest. We want people to sign up for your free guide so we can add them to your email\ marketing list and, ultimately, convert them to customers. Here’s a great blog article on how to create a free guide. And another with 16 ultimate guide examples.

Checkpoints to Launch

Choose a topic you know about
Consume as much content on the topic as you can (even if you are already an authority)
Write the copy for the guide, the landing page, and thank you page where the opt in will live
Insert the copy into a well designed PDF, and save it in PDF form and host it somewhere that's easily downloadable (like amazon S3, cloudinary, etc.)

Pro tip: the design and layout of a guide can really make all the difference. Consider looking at templates in Canva for layout inspiration or templates. Don't put too much information on the pages - space it out so it's easy to consume and not overwhelming. Hiring a graphic designer is recommended for this if it's not a talent of yours or someone on your team. This guide sets a first impression for your brand and what your future customers can expect when working with you.

You need a way for people to sign up to receive your free guide. A landing page is the perfect tool for this. A landing page is essentially a one page website that is dedicated to getting people to sign up for a specific offer or event.

Checkpoints to Launch:

Choose a landing page template or build a landing page on your website
Gather images, logos, banners, and other branding to use in your landing page along with the copy you wrote
Build your landing page and thank you page
Publish and test page

When someone signs up to receive your free guide, we want to have it delivered automatically by email. We’ll set up an automated process in the advanced automation builder to send a delivery email immediately to the new lead when they submit their information on your landing page.

Checkpoints to Launch:

Connect your landing page to a follow up automation
Create a delivery email with a button to download the guide - apply a tag when a contact clicks to download for reporting purposes
Create a couple of follow up emails to remind the contact to download the guide
Publish and test

Pro Tip: You can build a series of three emails and separate each with a 1-2 day timer. Add a link to download the free guide in each email and in the subject line use a variant of “don’t forget your free guide”.  Sometimes people will forget to download the free guide that they signed up for. Now they have 3 reminders. Add a click goal at the end of the free guide delivery sequence and have it stop the 3 email sequence when the download link is clicked in any of the delivery emails.

Success Metrics

Primary Metric: # of Downloads

Use the tag that you created when anyone clicks the button in your delivery or follow up emails to download your guide. While the number of opt ins for your guide is important, the number of folks who download it and move themselves forward to your next play are more important. Compare the # of opt ins with the # of downloads to get a percentage of how many are downloading, and look to optimize that number. If less than 20% are downloading after opting in, take a look at your delivery and follow up emails and tweak those to try to optimize the number of downloads.

[ COMING SOON: Tutorials for the best way to measure this metric ]

Common Next Plays

  • Guide Follow Up + Offer [Recommended]
  • Newsletter
  • Special Offer [Broadcast]
  • Sales Pipeline
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