cold leads

Cold Leads: What They Are, Difference From Warm Leads & How to Generate Them

Key points

  1. Cold leads are potential customers who are not yet interested in your products or services, unlike warm leads who are aware of your company and closer to making a purchase.
  2. Generating cold leads involves multiple strategies such as targeted advertising, content marketing, attendance at networking events, and direct outreach methods such as cold calling and emails.
  3. Effective cold outreach requires personalized contact, consistent follow-ups, providing value, and using a variety of channels, including email, phone calls, social media, and content distribution.

Technology has transformed how businesses connect with customers. Buyers can easily discover your agency through digital channels such as organic search, social media, and online forums. The result is a steady stream of warm leads—every business owner’s dream.

However, relying solely on these ready-to-buy leads equals leaving money on the table. After all, only a small fraction of prospects are in purchase mode. The rest are either unaware of their problem or aren’t actively looking for a solution.

So instead of dismissing these cold leads as a lost cause, a better strategy is to attract, nurture, and convert them into hot leads. Though this lead gen process may be a tough nut to crack, it’s an opportunity to reach a wider audience, expand your customer base, and boost your company’s revenue.

This article explores cold leads and how they differ from warm leads. I’ll also share proven tips on how to find and generate cold leads for your agency.

What is a cold lead?

A cold lead refers to a potential customer with little or no interest in your products or services. Think of cold leads as strangers going about their daily activities unaware your company exists.

Does this mean you shouldn’t try to win them over? Of course not. With the right strategies (that I’ll share later in this article), converting cold leads into loyal customers becomes a breeze.

Warm leads vs cold leads

Unlike cold leads, warm leads are individuals who are already familiar with your company and have displayed a level of interest in your products or services.

warm leads vs cold leads

However, understanding their differences allows you to tailor your marketing strategies for both lead types effectively and increase the likelihood of converting them into valuable customers.

Let’s look at how warm and cold leads differ based on the following factors.

  • Brand awareness: Warm leads are typically familiar with your company and may have engaged with your content on social media, joined a webinar, or signed up for your email newsletter. On the other hand, cold leads are mostly unaware your company exists.

  • Sales cycle: While they may not be ready to buy, warm leads are closer to purchasing. This means they require less time and effort to become customers. In contrast, cold leads require longer nurturing and persuasive efforts to “warm them” and move them along the sales funnel.

  • Engagement levels: Since warm leads have already shown an interest in your agency, they are more likely to engage in and respond to your marketing campaigns. In contrast, cold leads may require more consistent and personalized outreach to grab their attention.

  • Conversion probability: Leads who show an interest in your product or service have a higher chance of becoming customers than those who don’t.

How do you find cold leads?

The first step to finding cold leads is identifying prospects who haven’t expressed interest in your product or service. This sales process often relies on external sources to identify leads that fit your ideal customer profile. Let’s look at a few of these sources.

Cold lead advertising

Giant advertising platforms such as Google ads, Facebook ads, and LinkedIn Ads are great tools for finding cold leads. Promoting your agency on these platforms allows you to capture your ideal potential customers’ attention and drive them to take action, such as visiting your website or downloading an ebook.

Attend networking events

Some prospects in the research phase may need your services, but are unaware your agency exists. How do you identify such people? One great way is to attend industry conferences or networking events. It’s an opportunity to meet and connect with potential customers, share your knowledge, and leave a positive impression.

attend networking events

When you offer value in such gatherings, it’s easier to get the contact information of prospects interested in working with you.

Purchase contact list

While this isn’t the best strategy, there are reputable lead generation agencies that provide contact information of individuals or companies matching your target audience. This list may include their details such as email addresses, phone numbers, job titles, and industry sectors.

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However, buying contact lists may not always result in quality leads and could harm your company’s reputation.

How do you generate cold leads?

Identifying cold leads is only half the battle. The major work lies in warming up these leads to become precious clients. Here are some effective ways to generate cold leads for your agency.

Cold email

Every day, people receive thousands of unsolicited emails from companies they’ve never heard of, leading to the widespread notion that cold emailing is dead. But is it?

cold email example

While it’s not the #1 marketing tactic for generating leads, it works a treat when done right. In a Sopro report, 65% of companies agree email prospecting can reach decision-makers that other channels struggle to reach.

So if you spend some time identifying and sending relevant, targeted emails to your ideal clients, you’ll be successful with your cold email strategy.

Here are some tips on how to make cold emailing work:

  • Build a targeted email list: Don’t buy generic email lists. Research and compile a list of contacts who fit your ideal customer profile. You can find them on LinkedIn, Facebook groups, or online forums.

  • Personalize your subject line: adding a personalized subject line can increase open rates by as much as 50%. Examples include your prospect’s name, company name, or pain point.

  • Send relevant messages: Go beyond vague content. Tailor your email to the recipient’s specific needs and challenges. This shows you’ve done your homework and will most likely result in a response.

  • Focus on value: When sending cold emails, don’t just talk about you or your company. What’s in it for the recipients? Tell them how you can solve their problems or improve their bottom line.

  • Close with an actionable CTA: Be clear and concise about what you want the recipient to do next; whether to schedule a call, visit your website, or download a resource. An actionable CTA will guide leads to taking the desired action.

  • Follow-up multiple times: You may not get a response to your initial cold email. This is where follow-up emails come in. They are essential to getting more responses from leads. Belkin’s cold email research revealed sending a reminder can boost reply rates up to 50%.

Note: Blasting bulk emails will probably land in your recipients’ spam folders and may damage your company’s reputation. As such, ensure you send personalized emails that will boost your chances of converting cold leads into warm prospects.


Phone call

Receiving a call from an unknown company pitching their product or services is understandably a huge turnoff for many people. But the fact remains it’s an effective tactic for generating leads.

In short, according to the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research, 82% of buyers say they accept meetings with salespeople over cold calls and the reason isn’t far-fetched.

Cold calling is a faster way to initiate conversations, build rapport, and qualify your prospects. Unlike cold email, you can quickly gauge their interest to determine the next steps, where you may wait weeks before getting a response.

To maximize your cold calling efforts, ensure you have a well-prepared script and the skills to handle objections professionally.

Social media outreach

Many businesses used to overlook social media considering its platform for connecting with family and friends. Today, that perception has changed. With over 5 billion active‌ users worldwide, social media has become one of the most effective channels agencies employ to promote their services and generate cold leads.

But it’s not exactly a stroll in the park.

Here are some tips on how to make the most of your social media outreach:

  • People only buy from people they know, like, and trust. Sharing valuable content on social media helps with this. It allows you to create brand awareness, establish credibility, and turn strangers into prospects.

  • Engage in discussions where your ideal customer is mostly active.

  • Send messages to relevant people that might fit your ideal customer profile.

  • Leverage powerful sales tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator to find and connect with key decision makers that fit your product or service. With its advanced search filters, you can target people based on features such as industry, job title, company size, and location.

  • Use social media advertising features to target specific demographics and interests, putting your brand in front of a highly relevant audience.

Content marketing

How often have you read a blog post or downloaded a resource on social media from a company you’ve never heard of? This shows content marketing reigns supreme in attracting cold leads who are aware of their problems and actively searching for solutions online.

Creating and sharing valuable content helps you attract potential customers who need your product or services. This is especially true if you invest time in authority content marketing, and establish your brand as a thought leader.

Here’s how to leverage content marketing for your agency:

  • Identify your audience’s problems: Research the challenges your ideal customer faces. Social media, review sites, interviewing existing clients, industry-specific groups, and online forums are examples of information-gathering platforms.

  • Create high-quality content: Based on your research, develop helpful content such as blog posts, videos, ebooks, infographics, social media posts, and videos that address those pain points and offer valuable tips for overcoming them. You can also outsource this task to a content agency.

  • Optimize for search engines: Use relevant keywords to ensure your content appears in search results when buyers seek solutions to their problems.

  • Distribute content on various channels: As Ross Simmons, the CEO of Foundation Inc., a content marketing agency rightly says, “Create once, distribute forever.” In other words, repurpose your content for various platforms and promote them continuously to reach a wide audience.

  • Measure and optimize: Track and analyze various lead channels to determine what’s working and areas of improvement.

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Cold texting is an often overlooked strategy for reaching potential customers through text messages. It provides a direct way to connect with individuals who may be unaware of your company or its services.

Beyond traditional SMS, messaging apps like WhatsApp allow you to introduce your products/services to new leads and build relationships over time.

Also read

When cold texting potential clients, ensure your messages are concise, relevant, and valuable to the recipient.

Frequently asked questions about cold leads

What is an example of a cold lead?

A cold lead is an individual who has little or no interest in your product or service and is unfamiliar with your agency. Cold leads require more nurturing and consistent outreach to build awareness, establish trust, and convert them into customers.

How many times should you reach out before a lead is cold?

There is no set number of times you should reach out. It can vary depending on some factors such as industry, the lead’s behavior, your agency’s sales cycle, and the product or service. But you have to reach out at least three times before giving up.

How should you approach cold leads?

Approaching cold leads requires deep research, personalization, and providing value. Engage them through emails, calls, or social media to build rapport and establish trust. Consistency and persistence are key in converting cold leads into prospects.

Convert cold leads to clients and scale your agency

Only 3% of your prospects ready to buy now, according to Sticky Branding: 12.5 Principles to Stand Out, Attract Customers & Grow an Incredible Brand. Relying on warm lead sources alone won’t cut it, especially in today’s highly competitive market.

A more effective approach is to complement your lead generation efforts with tactics such as cold emailing, cold calling, and cold lead advertising. Doing this will help increase your sales pipeline, boost revenue, and help you scale your agency.

Avatar of Deian Isac
Head of Agency Success
Having worked as a content writer for 8+ years, Deian has partnered up with a lot of different agencies for content production. He understands their processes and now helps agencies scale up their operations with SPP. Besides his success activities, he also manages the content strategy of Service Provider Pro, writes captivating blog posts himself, and produces case studies.

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