Leads, Prospects, & Suspects, Oh My! Sorting Out Sales & Marketing Jargon

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Believe it or not, all those terms sales and marketing types like to throw around have distinct meanings. Here’s why your fitness or wellness business should care.

Sales vs. marketing

To the casual observer, these may seem like synonyms.

So let’s clarify. Marketing is about making people want your products and services. Sales is helping them get their hands on it. It’s really that simple. Anything that doesn’t do either of these isn’t sales OR marketing.

That article about how to prepare for a mud run? Marketing. People who want to do mud runs are going to have to learn how to train. They might not have known that before, but you’ve built the feeling of necessity with your article.

Summary information about your product specs? Marketing, because until someone understands what your product actually is, they can’t already want it! (unless you are SO GOOD at marketing that people want your stuff just because of the brand).

Location, pricing, schedule, and availability for classes? Information on how to sign up? Sales. People already want to sign up; they just want to know where, when, and how much.

Customer testimonials? That’s a toss-up. If the testimonials make you want the product when you didn’t before, then it’s marketing. If they help remove friction in the buying process, they’re sales. Usually they’re sales.

That canned article about the obesity epidemic? That’s just a lecture.


Someone who you reasonably think might want your products or services. If it’s just a name from a list you bought, that’s not a lead, no matter how much the folks selling you the list want you to think that. Those names might be leads if they subscribe to a magazine, website, or other information feed closely associated with your type of products or services. They might be leads if they expressed interest in a related topic on Facebook or searched for businesses similar to yours on Google.

If you sell wetsuits, for example, then a list of past open-water triathlon participants might be considered a lead list, as would a list of USA Triathlon members.

Leads are even better if they started as subscribers to YOUR email newsletter, visited key pages on YOUR website (for instance, your FAQ), or downloaded YOUR white papers.


Anyone that superficially looks like a prospect — they’re a living, breathing human being — but isn’t really close enough or interested enough to buy anything.

If your wellness business is locally focused on walk-in business, anyone outside a reasonable driving radius is probably suspect. Anyone outside your state or country is almost definitely a suspect.

If you do a fair bit of online business and mail-order product fulfillment, tread a bit more lightly — that inquiry from two states away might be legit. It won’t hurt to leave it on your list.

Finally, if a lead never seems to be on its way to becoming a prospect, it may be suspect just because of an unwillingness to buy, at least right now. At that point, you have two choices: refine your marketing, or ignore such leads.

A rule of thumb: the cheaper the lead is to obtain, the more likely it’s a suspect, not a prospect. That’s why buying email marketing lists is nearly always a waste of money.

Qualified lead

After you’ve gone thoroughly through your lead list and thrown out the suspects, what you should have left are people who have some interest in buying your products or services. Some of those people may have only mild interest, or the timing may be wrong to purchase from you. They’re not going to buy any time soon.

What’s left are qualified leads — that is, people with genuine interest in what you have to sell.

You still have to overcome any potential disinclination to take timely action.


A little further down the spectrum from Qualified Lead are people with a genuine interest in your products or services, an ability to buy, and an inclination or motivation to buy. Most prospects feel some sense of urgency towards a purchase, but something may be holding them back, such as pricing, timing, or a lack of information about exactly what comes with the sale. They may want reassurance that your products or services are truly the best fit for them, and satisfaction guarantees that remove any risk from making a purchase.


A lead or prospect who did what you wanted them to do. Ideally, this means a sale, but if you don’t sell online, it may mean a click on a “Directions to our facility” link or a click-to-call phone call to talk to a live person. Provided that you have some degree of certainty that a sale will follow, it’s OK to count conversions that fall just short of a sale — especially if it’s the only way you can track the same customer from interest to purchase.

Cost per conversion

An important statistic. This is the total amount spent on sales and marketing divided by the number of conversions.

Value (revenue per conversion)

The revenues you receive from new business minus sales and marketing costs, divided by the number of new customers. If your cost per conversion is greater than the revenue from a customer’s initial visit, you may find yourself “upside down” and losing money if you cannot ensure a 2nd visit from the customer. For gyms and other businesses with monthly and yearly membership or subscription based revenue models, this isn’t much of a risk — though it should be taken seriously. For clinical practices such as physician’s offices, chiropractors, physical therapy clinics, acupuncturists, or massage therapists, it’s important to price your products and services appropriately, so that you reclaim on the first visit at least what you are spending on advertising.

Target audience

The total set of people you want to receive your marketing message.

Target demographic

What you can reasonably know about the people you are marketing to. For instance, income, zip code, gender, ethnicity, size of household, interests, etc. Most good lead lists will contain information about the list’s demographics. Your marketing will likely target only a segment of the lead list that is well matched to the appeal of your products and services.


“Shorthand” for a particular bundle of traits in a target demographic. For instance, “Busy Moms”, “Triathlon Teresa”, “Joe Sixpack”, “Multitasking Millennials”, or “Crossfit Charlie.” Many high-quality lead lists from well known marketing databases may be segmented into personas. It’s important to know which persona you’re selling to, since with larger lists, you cannot know your audience members individually.


The key information you must share with your target audience that communicates to them why they should want your products and services and why they would be a good fit. For instance, the Desoto brand of swimwear and wetsuits has crafted a message toward competitive triathletes around speed. Faster in the water, faster in and out of the water, faster in and out of the wetsuit. Their message substantiates their claims by pointing out product design features that underscore the speed message.

Your message should be consistent from the very first marketing communication all the way through the final sale. To your prospects, your message IS YOUR BRAND.

That message may span the full range of media options available to you, including your website, print ads, banner ads, search ads, website content, social media ads, videos, email newsletters, and paid advertisements on traditional media such as radio, television, magazines or newspapers.

A smart ad agency will help you craft a message that “follows” your target audience where they go most often and nudges them a little in your direction with each successive exposure.


Any attempt at delivering your marketing message to specific personas within your target audience / demographic.

A campaign may be a single “blast” style communication across multiple media channels, closely coordinated for maximum impact. It may be a months-long string of emails cultivating increased interest in a training program and advancement through its ranks. Or something in between. But it is SPECIFIC.

If you are just throwing a generic email, search ad, or Facebook post over the wall, that’s not a campaign. That’s not even sales or marketing. That’s just you talking.


The number of times your marketing message has been “in front of eyeballs.” You have no idea just from this number whether anyone reacted to the message — and in fact, if you have lots of presentations but nothing else, you’re either taking a very long-distance view of marketing or you’re paying to share information that isn’t leading to anything.


The number of times someone (and it may be the same person!) clicked on one of your online ads. That may be a pay-per-click banner ad, a search ad, an ad embedded in a video or content stream, a video ad promoting your products or services, or a display ad shown on a hosted webpage whose visitors fit into a roughly identified demographic and interest profile. The point is that these individuals who saw your ad clicked on it.

Call to action

The part of your marketing message / advertisement that tells people where to go and what to do.

Percent viewed (10 sec, 30 sec, 100%)

The amount of a video that was watched by the average viewer of your video ad. Statistics are usually available on the number of people who stayed engaged for 10 seconds, 30 seconds, and the full video. These numbers are significant because they represent not only attentional drop-out points, but the two places where embedded advertising may take place within online videos (if enabled) and the end of the video, where your URL / phone number / call to action is usually placed. People who viewed 100% of your ad are likelier to take action than people who viewed just enough to get to the “Skip Ad” button.


Interaction with your marketing message. The term is used most frequently in social media marketing analytics.


Any engagement with your marketing message that you didn’t have to pay for directly. Site visits from prospect searches that didn’t arrive from clicks on an ad are considered organic. Direct visits to your website URL are organic. Likes, shares, and comments on a non-paid Facebook post are organic. However, the term is most often used to refer to website visits resulting from a search and subsequent click on a non-paid site listing.

Drip Marketing

Any marketing that takes multiple steps and does not immediately attempt to make a sale. Drip marketing campaigns usually attempt to get a small enough amount of mental “buy-in” from prospects in each step of the campaign that none feel at risk from expressing further curiosity. The additional steps also make it easier for suspects to “qualify out” of the process and remove themselves from unproductive sales cycle.


In marketing, a particular avenue of sales or marketing communication; for instance, email, social, TV, radio, etc. In sales, it may also refer to direct sales vs. distributors, partners, etc.

Multichannel / Omnichannel

Spanning more than one channel at once.

Missionary Pitch / Missionary Sale

Attempting to deliver a sales or marketing message to a suspect or unqualified lead.

Unless you have a LOT of time to preach to the natives, just… don’t. You’re not going to change minds that don’t want to change, and it will save you money and heartbreak to get out while the getting’s good.

A better way of looking at this is: people who tell you they don’t want your product are doing you a favor by saving you the additional expense of advertising to them.