June 18, 2024

A suspect is not a prospect


Prospects are people who are able, ready and willing to buy. Suspects are merely eligible to do so. – Lester Wunderman

Far too much time and money is wasted on marketing to suspects. Misusing data and technology enables marketers to waste time and money at scale.

Prospecting with email is one example.

Recently I got an email from a marketer selling a technology solution that serves banner ads. It went on to explain that the technology allows you to target users by their IP address. She asked for a 15 minute phone call to “connect.”

I told her that would not be necessary, that her product is irrelevant to what I do, and that I am not a prospect. She very politely explained her rational for identifying me as one.

It was because my LinkedIn profile says I develop strategies to help clients win more sales with customer-focused digital marketing. That might make me a suspect because of the ‘digital marketing’ descriptor. But it does not make me a prospect that is ready and willing to buy.

Not by a long shot.

This little story illustrates some of the problems and opportunities of marketing in the digital world today.


We assume. A single data point doesn’t give you the full context of a person’s point of view or what is relevant to them. There is often a gap between what we think we know about people and what we truly understand.

We interrupt. Technology gives us more ways to reach people, but it also gives us more ways to interrupt people and alienate them. There is still a pervasive interruption mentality.

We don’t ‘get’ social. Social platforms are for building personal relationships that might develop into business relationships. Overeager marketers use them to build prospect lists for cold pitches before the relationship is established.


Digital technology can dehumanize business interactions or it can be used to reach people in a more personal, relevant way. What drives relevance is the humanity of businesses that create products and experiences that matter to people. It starts with the customer instead of the product.

Instead of creating a product and then searching for people to buy it, the opportunity lies in finding out what people really care about and creating a product for them.

Then your prospects will flock to you.

Mastering digital technology so you can prospect for customers at scale is not as critical to success as using it to be relevant to your audience.

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