Marketing Matchmaker: Prospects, Leads, and Opportunities

By Caroline Moore, November 05, 2014

So here’s the deal. In marketing, you’re trying to get people to do business with you. The ultimate goal.

It’s kind of like a fancy matchmaking service. Your business (person A) wants do business with (date) customers (person B). And the way to make this connection is through marketing.

That’s how you find the peanut butter to your jelly. The cheese to your macaroni. You get the picture.

But throughout this courtship, important distinctions need to be made. You can’t just use the same pickup line on everyone. Your potential customers are in different stages, and they need to be treated accordingly.

So let’s clarify these distinctions. What’s a prospect? What’s a lead? What’s an opportunity?


A prospect is part of your target audience. They fit the criteria for the kind of people you’re interested in, and will be interested in your business. This will be different for every company, based on what you’re trying to sell.

Prospects are potential customers that could be interested in you, but don’t yet know enough about you to be sure. They have a need that you might be able to fill, but they’re still looking at options. They’re in that research stage of the sales funnel.

When someone becomes a prospect, you want to give them information about who you are, what you know, and what you do as a company. Let them test the waters and get to know you. Give them informational blog posts and articles that show your expertise in your industry.

During the prospect stage, you (person A) think that person B is pretty groovy. They’re your type. You think that maybe they might like you if they got to know you a little better. You want to use content (or your best pickup line) that fits this stage. This is your chance to show what you know.

PPC ads, blog posts, and social content can grab prospects’ attention. You want them to take notice of you and see that you have the ability to help them. Use keywords that will draw in potential customers. These tactics draw them in and gauge their interest. If they subscribe to your blog, things are looking good.


A lead has expressed interest in your company. Maybe they filled out a form on a landing page or converted through a CTA. But one way or another, you now know that this person is interested in your company, but not enough to buy yet.

So now, after getting a better look at your personality, person B has given you a thumbs up, maybe even the winking emoji. You’ve got a chance!

You need to follow through on the pickup line with sparkling conversation that will bring them closer to sealing the deal.

Give leads engaging content, like emails, webinars, and advertising that will promote interaction. This content will be a little more product-centric than what you target prospects with. For example, your ad may invite them to set up a demo instead of just viewing information about your service.

You want to present your product or service like it’s the best solution to their problem. You’re their one true fit.

At this point, the customer is in the interest stage of the sales funnel. They like you, they think you’re pretty cool. They see your potential to fill their need. Now make them see that you are what they truly want.


An opportunity is a lead that is ready to do business with you soon. They’re interested and ready to commit.

Person B thinks that you’re pretty awesome, too. You pick a time for dinner and a movie next week. But it’s not a done deal yet! They still have time to change their mind.

Provide opportunities with all of the facts they may need to make an informed decision about their purchase. This means nurturing the opportunity all the way to the sale.

If person B doesn’t hear from you, they may not think it’s worth it anymore, or worse, forget about you.

Opportunities need reinforcement and encouragement to follow through with a sale. They want to do business with you, but have yet to take action. Make sure you have informative web pages that are readily available and easy to find. Opportunities are much more likely to follow through with a sale when they have all the information they want and need.

Why Are These Distinctions Important?

It’s simple. A pickup line can be amazing, but it can backfire when used at the wrong time.

In other words, great content won’t work unless you use it on your potential customers at the right time.

The exact definitions often vary from company to company, so your team needs to define it for yourselves. You also need to set up qualifications so everyone knows when a potential customer is a prospect, lead, or opportunity. That way, you know what content to use, and when, in order to make a sale.

How do you know if your timeline and marketing campaign is working? Look at your sales. If for some reason they aren’t going through, find where they drop out of the funnel and patch up the leak.

You’ll find the milk to your cookies in no time! The star to your burst, the ketchup to your fries, whichever metaphor you may choose.

Caroline Moore

Caroline Moore

Caroline Moore a former eZanga Content Marketing Intern. You can often find her singing groovy tunes, Netflix-ing (it’s a verb), or meandering Main Street in search of a great chai latte, preferably iced. Check her out on LinkedIn. More Articles by Caroline Moore