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

Many marketers call me looking for information. The terms prospect, list and lead are often used interchangeably. This is not true.

The list of terms is the most inclusive. On a cold-list, there are many people of all types. Advertisers used to mail out their ads and hope that they would be successful. Not everyone on your cold list is a prospect. Truthfully, marketing to non prospects can actually weaken the impact of your brand. It’s also a waste of money and time.

Lead generation is all about narrowing down your list to a manageable number of prospects. These prospects can then be used in direct mail, email or digital advertising.

Lead generation is a daily activity.


A prospect is someone you think could be a customer.

  • Why could they be a possible customer?
  • Are they similar to your current clients?
  • Compare demographic data such as income, age or homeownership?
  • You may want to dig deeper into the lifestyle data or purchase triggers in order to turn this information into valuable prospects.
  • Does your customer have the money to buy your product?
  • Do you use credible research or survey data when defining your target audience?

How to Create a Prospect List Using Data

What data can you use in order to define your prospects?

Many trade associations in different industries sponsor consumer opinion surveys that are available to their members. Water Quality Association, for example, produces a Consumer Opinion Study twice a year. The Water Quality Association, for example, produces a Consumer Opinion Study every two years.

These prospects may not be interested in purchasing today, even though your research shows that they are a large percentage of buyers of water-treatment products. They are still good prospects. You can increase your chances of them buying from you by keeping them in the funnel and marketing to more than one time.

You can also clone your customers by modeling them. Most prospect list providers do this at no cost.

Costs for prospect data can range from 5 cents to 25 cents, depending on the complexity of prospect names and quantities.


We can convert a prospect into a lead once they show some interest in your product. You have created the lead in this instance. This is a lead that you have generated yourself. You own these leads. It is your job to work with these leads.

Self Generated Leads

The best leads are those that have responded to your marketing outreach. Your marketing campaign has been successful. Your prospect has filled out the form on your site, which indicates that they are interested in more information.

You need to contact the person immediately after they fill out your form. A study by Lead Connect found that 78% of customers will buy from a company who responds first to their inquiry. This means that working with leads is a time-sensitive matter.

Hot Lead

Hubspot defines hot leads as qualified leads who are highly interested in your products. They are ready to make direct contact and ask for the sale.

Hubspot says that a hot lead is a good one

  • Has shown an interest in your product.
  • Your product fills a need
  • Your product can be purchased by them or they can authorise the purchase.
  • Is there a timeline for purchasing the product?

This is the perfect tool to help your top salesperson close the deal right away.

Warm Lead

Warm leads are individuals who have expressed an interest in your company or product. They may not feel a sense urgency, or have a set deadline for making a purchase. Warm leads are people who know about your product and want to buy from you. They may not be in the market to buy at this time.

Warm leads are definitely people you want at the top your pipeline. You want to nurture these leads. You’ve done a lot of work to get them here.

Warm leads can be worked using some tried-and-true methods. You might want to show them success stories or offer a product demonstration. Consider sending personalized emails, using remarketing and sharing content to show how you can provide value.

You might also consider making a short-term special offer in order to close the deal.


A Comment on Buying Leads

If I had one dollar for each prospect who called me looking for Hot Leads exclusive, would be rich. If a company had a list with people who wanted to purchase a new roof and they already had the cash in their hands, it would likely be working on that list themselves.

Lead generators can sell “aged leads” to other companies for those leads which don’t work out.

These aged leads may be an excellent source of prospect information for some businesses. Remember that you’ll have to start from scratch with these leads, as they don’t know your business or what you do.


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