What is the difference between a list, a prospect and a lead ?

I get many calls from marketers looking for data. Many people use the terms list, prospect and lead interchangeably. But, that could not be further from the truth.

The term list is the broadest. There are lots of people on a cold list; all kinds of people. In the “old days of spray and pray”, advertisers mailed to everybody and hoped that some of their efforts would pay off. Well, not everyone on a cold list is your prospect. The truth is that marketing to non-prospects can actually weaken your brand’s impact.  Not only that, it’s a tremendous waste of time and money.

In lead generation, the key is to take that cold list and narrow down the possibilities to create a workable list of solid prospects. These prospects can be used for direct mail, telemarketing, email, or digital advertising.

Lead Generation needs to be a daily exercise.

In general, a prospect is a person whom you believe could be a potential customer.

  • Why might they be a potential customer?
  • Do they resemble your current customers?
  • Are you comparing demographics such as age, income, or homeownership data?
  • Are you looking deeper at purchase triggers or lifestyle information to help massage the data into viable prospects for your business?
  • Do they have the credit to afford your product?
  • Are you using credible research or survey data to help shape your prospect universe?

Using Data to Define Your Prospect List

What kind of data can you use to help you define your prospects?

Many industry trade associations sponsor consumer opinion studies that their members can access. For example, the Water Quality Association produces a Consumer Opinion Study every two years. This gives their members credible survey data that pinpoints the top buying groups: New Homeowners, Families with Children, Homeowners with Credit, Homeowners with a focus on the environment.

Even though the research has shown that a high percentage of these groups are buyers of water treatment products, these prospects may not necessarily be keen on purchasing from you today. But they are still good prospects. By keeping them in your funnel and marketing to them more than once, you can increase the probability that they will purchase from you.

Or, you can model your own customers to see if you can clone them. Many prospect list providers will do this for you at no charge.

The cost for prospect data ranges from 5 cents per record to 25 cents per record, depending on complexity of the prospect name and quantity.

Once the prospect exhibits some kind of interest in your product, we can move them from prospect to lead. In this case, you have generated the lead yourself. We call this a self-generated lead. These leads are yours and yours alone. Your job is to work with them.

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