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AMiable Solution #355: Which Comes First: the Prospect or the Lead?

: When you’re looking to grow your customer base, do you turn to prospecting or lead-generation first?

When you’re looking for new customers, what comes first, a prospect or a lead?

Your answer may differ from your neighbor’s.

In fact, InTouch, maker of sales and marketing software, claims the answer is prospects, saying “Finding prospects for your business and then nurturing them into leads are the building blocks of a sales cycle.”

Mindy Lilyquist, founder of Epiphany Marketing Management, however, claims the opposite. In an article for The Balance Small Business, Lilyquist says, “A prospect is a potential customer that has been qualified as fitting certain criteria…A lead is an unqualified contact.”

Whether you call that first contact a lead or a prospect, the more important question is this: how do you get those names? How do you find new customers?

The answer is not always complicated or expensive:

· Look outside. Renting mailing lists, email lists, and phone lists from list brokers continues to provide marketers with quality, qualified names and contact information. Pair a well-researched list with a focused campaign and you’ll have a targeted, trackable way of adding names to your database.

· Get social. Customers—and companies—want to create long-lasting relationships with the folks they do business with. Social media offers an excellent, real-time way for marketers to have conversations, share information, and build trust and brand identity with potential customers.

· Make friends with influencers. You know who your audience listens to and turns to for expert advice. Join forces with them by sharing their content/contact information with your audience and they, in return, will share your information with theirs.

· Become an influencer. You have special knowledge about your industry. Share it with those who need it most via blogs, infographics, free reports or documents (in exchange, of course, for some contact information and the right to use it), published articles, etc. You’ll emerge as an expert in your field, one that potential customers are more likely to trust and seek out.

· Get involved. The more you do and the more exposure your organization gets, the more likely you are to draw the attention of a potential customer.

· Get in the mix. Network with colleagues. Spend time with vendors. Rent booth space at trade shows and exhibits. Whatever you need to do to introduce others’ to your services or products and establish your organization as a reputable business, do it. Recommendations, recollections, and referrals go a long way when needs arise.

· Make a lot of calls. Calls to action, that is. Putting your information, your benefits, your campaigns out there in print and electronic form will get people interested. But giving them a specific direction—to call for more information, to sign-up for a free trial, to click a button to schedule a consultation—creates movement, action, and contacts.

· Keep on the lookout, always. Finding new customers isn’t something you do on occasion. It’s nearly a full-time job. Schedule prospecting and lead-generating activities on a daily basis, and be prepared to be patient and consistent.

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