I'm currently doing an Applied Business assignment based on Business Planning - we had to generate our own business idea, including creating aims and objectives for the business. I've decided for one of my objectives to be "To raise awareness of the business amongst..." (where the '...' is the word I'm looking for). I can't put "To raise awareness of the business amongst new customers", because they aren't actually customers yet.

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    prospective customers, or prospects Feb 27, 2014 at 11:47
  • 1
    I wouldn't use 'punters' in any but the most informal of company. Feb 27, 2014 at 11:53
  • 5
    Potential customers, clients or service users. Feb 27, 2014 at 11:55
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    Suckers with money. Feb 27, 2014 at 12:26
  • 2
    Glengarry leads. And to you they're gold, and you don't get them. Why? Because to give them to you is just throwing them away. They're for closers. Feb 27, 2014 at 17:10

7 Answers 7


I think in your sentence that "potential customers" or "our target customer/audience" work.

When I am developing sales apps though the common buzz terms are:

  • lead
  • opportunity
  • prospect

And based on the comments I would like to add some content. Potential customer has the best connotation. As target customer isn't bad at all either. However I find lead and prospect to be dehumanizing. Opportunity kind of falls in between and I would surely never call a potential customer an opportunity to their face.

To give perspective to the general rules of using lead, opportunity, and prospect my company (LOTS of employees globally) uses the following rules (which my programs abide by):

  1. lead - information that we obtain through research or outside companies researching. Think of these as more or less cold call lists.

  2. prospect - these people were obtained because they showed interest or were referred. So if someone goes to one of our many websites and fills out a form asking for info on something then they become a prospect. [Side note: you went to a website 5 years ago and filled out a form. That company goes out of business. Before they close the doors they make an extra 20K selling all of their contact info to a research company. People can't sue them for privacy laws because their business is gone. - that prospect is now a lead at (many) other companies.] Also if you are talking to Jack at XYZ and he says Lisa at ABC would want the product, same thing.

  3. opportunity - these people are usually people who work for businesses that we already have relationships/contracts with. For instance if a sales person is auditing an account and sees that all of company XYZs finance department uses one of our products but that finance department has three more head count - those are opportunities. Tons of examples on these. It could be simply someone who uses a product and we can upgrade them to new product or different product.

I am not saying the three descriptions above are written in stone. They are an example of what a very large company uses and I am sure that many companies are similar. But there is variation and there are a lot of grey areas - and I am constantly having to fine tune my apps because of disagreements in management on how to classify a certain instance. In the sales world the difference is a big deal because each has its own %-to-sale. So if we label something an opportunity which revenue is more likely to happen and it is actually a lead then if a set of sales reps encounter this their trend numbers will be down - and they could get fired.

  • +1 I like "prospective/potential customers" for a general context, and "target audience" only when the topic is demographics. It feels a bit off to me to say "target audience" outside of that context. Another thing about "potential customers" is it's pretty passive and friendly, whereas something like "lead" or "opportunity" has a much more active and market-y (I don't know the word for that) tone.
    – Jason C
    Feb 28, 2014 at 7:16
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    @JasonC it is a corperate resource management term. It seems calculated because it is removing the humanity from the description.
    – Gusdor
    Feb 28, 2014 at 10:02
  • We use 'lead' in our business. Feb 28, 2014 at 15:40
  • @JasonC - you are right for sure. I build on salesforce platform and the whole premise is that everything in our life is an "odd". If you have a lead you have a 12% chance to get a sale. If you call the lead 3 times in the first two days you have a 20% chance. If you do this you have 30% chance. It's taking the human interaction and put numbers on it. 25% of the robots that upvote my answer will upvote this comment. Feb 28, 2014 at 18:39
  • @RyeBread Great answer. I've run out of votes for the day. So, virtual +1.
    – David M
    Feb 28, 2014 at 21:19

"Prospective customer" could be used considering that the person is not the customer yet but is likely to become.

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    "Prospective customer" is often shortened to "prospect" when spoken.
    – Wayne
    Feb 27, 2014 at 20:27

prospects would be most appropriate although that does not sound as slick as prospectives. consumer/s might also apply especially nowadays that we also consume ideas, media, and information.

here are synonyms from Collins Cobuild Dictionary: buyer, client, consumer, habitué, patron, prospect, purchaser, regular


Depending on what your business is, "a mark" might be appropriate :)


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    I doubt that the connotation of deception (or worse, assassination), is appropriate for this use case. Feb 27, 2014 at 19:42

In a business planning context, I would prefer:

Target market

Source: I have an MBA

If you're looking for your ideal customer (as opposed to a PITA customer) it might be your niche.

If it's a small business, the word you might be looking for is community.


Are you perhaps looking for potential clientele?

  • Customer - Someone who is contractually obligated to give you money in exchange for your product/service
  • Opportunity - Generic term for someone who is not contractually obligated to give you money in exchange for your product/service
  • Lead is an Opportunity that you have contact information for BUT has not been qualified as someone who could be interested in your product (Cold Sales)
  • Prospect is an Opportunity that you have contact information for AND has been vetted as someone who is interested in your product or who has deep enough pockets that you want them to be your customer (Qualified Leads)
  • Hi K Alan. Your question lacks specificity to the question. Could you identify which of your suggestions you believe fit the OP's example sentence and why? Citations that support your answer are a good idea, too.
    – nxx
    Feb 27, 2014 at 22:51

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