I’m often asked what the difference is between “audience” and “prospect”. While my answer might sound like I’m splitting hairs, the distinction between the two is critical. In my mind, the difference defines engagement, department ownership, and the primary methods by which each should be marketed to. As such, it’s a difference I take very seriously.

Definitions

So let’s jump into it. Here’s how I define each:

  • Audience: A contact or contacts you seek to engage but haven’t yet. Your audience is typically comprised of target organizations or contacts that fit into your ideal customer profile.
  • Prospect: A contact that has expressed interest in you (or your business); a contact you already have a level of engagement with, and one that has a degree of familiarity with what you have to offer.

Going a step further, your Audience typically represents Demand Generation targets, people who are at the start of their journey with you, and are only just beginning to become familiar with your products or services. By contrast, Prospects are typically the result of Lead Generation tactics, specific contacts with a vested interest in what you have to offer. For a more in depth background on both, I’ve written about Lead Gen and Demand Gen in the past, essentially saying those are more modern names for Inbound and Outbound Marketing, respectively.

How to Handle Each

If you’re following my perspective, you’ll agree that it makes sense to treat (general) Audiences and (specific) Prospects differently. How and where the contact was acquired sets the stage for all future engagement tactics and helps you better nurture their level of interest. The key is therefore establishing which category your contact fits into.

So where do we begin? Let’s compare the initial sources for both:

  • Audience (demand generation): External initiatives like emails and direct mail campaigns designed to drive engagement. These campaigns would be classified as one-to-many style interactions initiated by you or your organization. It’s likely the audience member has little to no interest in your organization during this particular initiative but the process is undertaken to foster awareness and recognition.
  • Prospects (lead generation): Inbound/website contact forms, asset downloads, and event registrations. One-to-One style interactions, primarily initiated by the prospect who is showing a level of interest in your organization.

Per the definitions above, your Audience would fall into the category of developing interest and engagement. Until enough interest can be generated, Audience members would remain solely under the ownership of Marketing. By contrast, Prospects are much further along in your sales funnel. At a bare minimum, Prospects represent a smaller pool of higher quality leads which Marketing can continue to engage and warm over time. However, Prospects have, by their very nature of engagement, demonstrated an established a level of interest in your organization and its offerings. As such, pending certain qualifiers, Prospects can and should be passed onto Sales for further nurturing and to begin a true sales cycle.

Next time we’ll walk through the roles and responsibilities of both Marketing and Sales with regards to your prospects and audience. If your organization is having these conversations and dialog, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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