This is Carley.
Carley is 25 and looking for a car loan that will help her buy a new car. She’s never done this before and isn’t sure how to get a loan, so she starts by searching online for “car loans”. Her search returns plenty of results – way more than she really needs – and she feels a bit overwhelmed.
One of the results is a site named www.bestcarloans.com that claims, “Compare car loan offers”, which is perfect! Now Carley can get a better idea of what loans are out there and maybe get the best deal. She goes to the site and answers a series of questions with her basic information, like her name, her zip code, what type of auto loan she needs, when she plans to buy a car, etc. At the end of the process, she confirms that BestCarLoans.com can share her information and is presented with multiple credit lenders, clicking on a few promising offers to learn more about them.
Carley just became a lead.
Carley: Wait, what? What’s a lead? Is that contagious?
A lead is a person who exists (i.e. not a spam bot) who has expressed interest in buying a product or service. The ideal lead is a consumer who has both intent (“I want / need this thing and am planning to buy it”) AND purchase power (“I have the money / credit to buy this thing”). By answering BestCarLoans.com’s questions and allowing them to share her information with credit lenders, Carley has indicated that she has both intent to apply for a car loan and (implied) purchase power to qualify for the loan. Therefore Carley is a good lead.
Carley: Oh, well, that’s all true then.
Because Carley just submitted her information and is at the start of her search for the perfect car loan, she is considered a hot lead.
Carley: Hey, I’m not sure that’s appropriate.
Not that kind of hot, Carley.
Carley: Okay, just checking.
A hot lead (a term used mostly in call centers) is one that is new, shows a high level of intent to purchase, indicates a quick time to act, and comes from a reliable source. As time goes on and people lose interest or find another solution, the lead becomes less valuable and colder. This means that it’s important to contact the consumer quickly while they’re still interested and / or haven’t been inundated with other solutions.
Unbeknownst to Carley, her information is quickly filtered and sold by BestCarLoans.com, aka the lead seller, to the highest bidder… or bidders, aka the lead buyers. These lead buyers may resell the lead to other lead buyers or keep the lead for themselves and contact Carley directly. They might do this through any variety of means, such as a phone call, a text message, social media, email, direct mail, etc.
Carley: Hang on a minute. They can sell my information to other people?
Yep, you gave them permission when you allowed them to share your information.
Carley: But I don’t want to talk to all those other people. I just want to talk to the credit lenders I selected for my car loan.
What if some of those “other people” were car dealerships? Or car insurance companies?
Carley: Hm, good point. A car loan is no good without a car. And I’ll need insurance, too.
Ultimately these companies want to convert the lead – Carley’s interest and willingness to pay – into a sale. They make money and Carley gets her car loan.
Carley: Check out my sweet ride!
It’s a good day to be a consumer.