Suspects Versus Prospects

There seems to be some confusion as to what suspects are versus prospects when it comes to marketing and sales. I think that quite a number of people use these marketing terms interchangeably when in fact they are two very different populations in the marketing process. In this post, I'll clarify the differences between prospects and suspects.

What's a Suspect?

A suspect in marketing lingo is a person that has a high probability of purchasing from you based on their demographic or psychographic attributes. Take a minute and think about what a suspect is in the police world. To the police, a suspect is someone who has a high probability of potentially having done the crime, based on their motives, proximity, identifying characteristics etc, but being a suspect does not necessarily mean that they were the ones who actually did it. It's the job of the police investigators to narrow down the list of suspects until they reach the one that they believe were responsible for the crime.

So let's translate that same concept over to the marketing world. In marketing, a suspect is someone who fits the profile of your target market, and thus, they have a high probability of buying what you have to offer. That profile could be something like:

  • Having a certain profession
  • Living in a certain region or city
  • Having a certain annual income
  • Being a homeowner or not
  • Having a certain credit rating
  • Being a subscriber to a certain type of magazine

Just as the police do when trying to narrow down their potential suspects; you as a marketer can better your response rates for direct response marketing campaigns by being more specific in key characteristics of your ideal suspect.

It's important to remember that your marketing suspects are people who are likely to buy from you, but they haven't necessarily expressed an interest in buying from you just yet. Let me give you an example...Buying a list from places like Infousa and other list brokers gives you a list of suspects because you're buying a list of people who have the key characteristics of your target market, yet these people on your purchased list won't buy from you until you make yourself and your offerings known to them.

What's a Prospect?

Now let's switch gears and talk about prospects. A marketing prospect is someone who has identified themselves as being interested in what you have to offer. In order for someone to be a prospect, that prospect must have taken some form of action on their part to raise their hand and express their interest to you. The most common form of this is when a website visitor requests additional information or subscribes to your newsletter. They have actively done their part to research your business and they're interested enough to give out their personal information in exchange for more information from you. A prospect might also identify themselves as such by filling out an interest card at your tradeshow booth, or putting their business card in a bowl.

So the goal as part of your marketing funnel is to spend your marketing dollars with as many suspects as possible and the goal is to convert those suspects into prospects and eventually into customers.

About the Author

Tristan Loo is a Copywriter and Marketing Strategist based out of San Diego, California. His passion is helping businesses of all shapes and sizes generate more sales through better written communication. To contact Tristan, click here.


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