The Difference Between Cold, Warm and Qualified Leads

Marketers, and particularly online marketers, will preach the benefits of warm and qualified leads over cold leads. But what are warm and qualified leads and how do they apply to online marketing and what makes them so much better than cold leads?

Cold Leads

We have all been the on the receiving end of a cold lead cold call. This is when, for example, a credit card company calls you out of the blue and tries to get you to sign up for one of their credit cards. You never contacted them, showed interest in their products or services, and were completely annoyed by them because they probably called you in the middle of dinner.

Warm Leads

A warm lead on the other hand is someone who has shown interest in a product or service either by following your company on social media, signing up to your email newsletter, as a referral from a friend or previous client or some other expressed interest. These types of leads are simply prospects who have shown interest in learning more about a product or service, are much more valuable than cold leads, but really only consist of someone whose contact information has now been captured.

Qualified Leads

Qualified leads are the best types of leads because these people tend to be closest to the buying stage of the sales cycle. For example, a person who does a Google search for a specific product or service is a qualified lead because their need has brought them to go online and search for a company like yours.

To get in front of qualified leads via search engines, you’ll likely need to invest in SEO and PPC advertising. Check out this guide to better understand how these two disciplines both differ from, and complement, one another.

However, there are different stages of qualified leads and these can be established using what is called the BANT approach:

  • Budget: does the prospect have enough money to buy your products?
  • Authority: can the prospect make the purchase decision or do they answer to someone else?
  • Need: do they in fact have a need that the product or service will fill?
  • Timescale: is there a specific time period in mind where they intend on making a purchase?

While a person landing on your website based on a search engine search is a form of qualification it does not ensure a sale. The more you know about your prospects the closer you can get to closing a deal and the better prepared you are to determine if they are potential customers or tire kickers.

Capturing Qualified Leads on Your Website

If you are already driving visitors to your website you can use the following tips to learn more about them and their stage in the buying cycle:

  • Offer a number of free guides in exchange for their contact information. The more valuable the guide the more contact information they will provide and the more you will know about their potential.
  • Provide an email signup on your blog. This will maintain your brand in the eyes of visitors who may not be ready to buy.
  • Make your social media networks prominent. Allowing visitors to follow you on social media gives you extra opportunity to stay in front of them and market your products and services.

Search engine optimization, social media and email lead capture are often considered to be great sources of warm and qualified lead nurturing. Learning to leverage these outlets will ultimately lead to decreased marketing costs and increased ROI.