Client vs. Consumer

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Tue, Mar 20 - 6:41 pm EST | 12 years ago by
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Two basic marketing terms that are commonly confused and interchanged between them, however…. they mean two very different things. So in the spirit of helping out the marketing community who ignores the difference (and trust me, there still are many people who do, especially in marketing departments that are full of engineers and professionals with other career backgrounds).

(n) client/customer (someone who pays for goods or services)
(n) consumer (a person who uses goods or services)

Easy, simple, but huge difference. Who do you want to target your advertising to? Are you communicating the right message to the right person? Who is deciding what, when, how and why to buy? Are you talking to him/her directly? Is your consumer also your client or customer? — Just some of the questions to answer when you are creating marketing strategies directed to either of these personas; they both serve different functions, and as such must be treated and communicated to differently.

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  • Dawud Miracle

    Nice distinction – thanks. I guess the question comes down to do you want the patrons of your business to buy or to use your services and products? Buy is pretty straight forward. But use is a bit broader. Use doesn’t necessarily mean buy. Yet, use could also mean buy and use as opposed to just buy.

  • Pingback: - Are You Serving Customers or Consumers In Your Home Business?

  • Tim Shih

    Hello Ron,

    Thanks for your comment on Susan Abbott’s page. Your distinction between client/customer and consumer is good. We all make the mistake of using one for the other.


  • Ron E.

    Thanks for your comments.

    Dawud- I agree, analyzing who uses your product (and ultimately your brand) is a great way to understand your consumer and to improve it to have a broader market.

    Tim- Thanks for dropping by, hopefully you will keep doing so. I’m glad to comment on good stuff that I find on the internet, you have a great product there, definitely will try it out. (Tip on a “hidden” market for it: University Students – Lots of collaborative papers, and projects that could use the help of ReviewBasics). Hope to help!

    Ron E.

  • Pingback: What Would You Rather Have, Clients or Customers? - Dawud Miracle @ - (formerly Healthy WebDesign)

  • Jack Trytten

    You almost have it. For example, in CPG marketing it’s common to refer to distribution as customers and the final purchaser/user (i.e.housewife) as the consumer. In this case, though, the customer is also “using” the product — to fill their shelves and eventually sell. And the housewife may not be the eventual user — could be deodorant for her husband. So both she and the supermarket are customers but with very different requirements, needs and purchase motivations.

    Frankly, in the consumer products world it’s better to refer to distribution as “distribution” and where the purchaser (wife?) is different than the consumer (husband?) than that should be specified also.

    Next, in the btob world, particularly where the product is sold direct to the using company it’s important to realize that the person who consummates the purchase is often not the person who consumes the product. And neither of them may be the person who determines what is purchased. The purchase of a component part (bearing) may be consummated by a purchasing agent, and “used” by the production person/people assembling the product while the key person in determining what’s purchased is an engineer.

    The point of this is simple: You bring up a vital distinction. But there are so many different permutations and combinations it’s just better to ask specifically who does what to whom.

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