We are often asked if it’s necessary to have a lead magnet professionally crafted in a sleek, printable PDF and the answer is no.  In fact, with a few exceptions, a PDF is not the ideal method for delivering your lead magnet. In this article we’ll discuss the three delivery types and when to use each type.

Within the email is always best

The most affordable and easiest delivery method happens to be the one most subscribers prefer: Delivering your promise within the body of the email.

If your lead magnet offers a list of the 10 best hikes in Toronto, deliver your list within the email, including the name, the description, and a link to say, the AllTrails map.

If a website visitor requests your recipe for a sensational Bloody Mary using a local vodka, then deliver the ingredients and the recipe right within the email.

Delivering information within the body of the email is what readers prefer. It increases the likelihood that they will read it and act on it. And it mitigates any “additional” steps to get the information they’re after.

Linking to a web page

The next best approach is to deliver your email with a link to a page on your website. Ideally the page is hidden from the casual reader, so that it’s more appealing for someone considering whether they should hand over their email address. But a hidden page is not a requirement.

There are two reasons to use this delivery method instead of the one mentioned above.

First, if your lead magnet is extremely long, this is a better method. In fact, you could take a hybrid approach.

Let’s say you want to share 47 things to do in your city. 47 things is entirely too long to deliver in an email and still look presentable. You could encourage people to click to the list by using a button within your email.

You could also list the top 8 things to do… with a button to leads people to the entire list.

The second reason you might choose this approach is if your lead magnet contains affiliate links.

Maybe your lead magnet is the perfect packing list for your overnight kayak expedition. If you are linking to Amazon for some of these items, then be aware that it is against Amazon policy to send affiliate links via email. You’ll have to use the email to link to a page that contains the affiliate link.

Other affiliate programs have no problem with this. So if you’re linking to REI instead of Amazon… or you’ve crafted a list of the perfect VRBOs in your area and you’re using their affiliate program (via Commission Junction) then you’re in the clear.  

In fact, one fantastic affiliate option you can use in a lead magnet it to include other complimentary (not competitive) tour operators near you. You can strike a deal with each other by using a special vanity code, or use an affiliate from FareHarbor’s Distribution network.


After over a decade of working very closely with dozens of affiliates, we know that sometimes there is a hiccup in the tracking of an affiliate via email (regardless of the email provider you use.) And for that, we recommend using a web page for lead magnets that includes affiliates.

Using a PDF

Finally, the PDF. PDFs are fantastic ways to share maps. If your lead magnet is a walking tour map, or a kayaking waterway map, or a map of the best murals in the city… then by all means use a PDF.

With these exceptions, we recommend against a PDF for a few reasons.

First, they can be costly to create. If you already have one, use it. But tour operators should never feel like they have to invest in a PDF design in order to have a successful lead magnet.

Second, most subscribers are viewing their email from you on a mobile phone, making a PDF difficult to read and digest. Again, if a person is anxious to get a map then they might take the time to open it on their desktop and even print the PDF.

But if they are looking for a list of the best places to watch the sunset in your city, they don’t want to have to read it on a PDF. They’d prefer it were within the body of the email.

Lastly, if you do decide to use a PDF you will not be able to attach it to the email. You’ll need to upload the PDF to your website/Dropbox/Etc and provide the link.

If you want to talk more about lead magnets and how they can work for your tour business…. Even if you never send a newsletter… then schedule a chat with our team today.

Lesli Peterson
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