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Client vs. Customer: How to Find Your Ideal Buyer

Discover the differences between clients and customers with the ultimate Blinkist guide. Learn how to find your ideal buyer and adjust your business strategies accordingly. Get the essential insights you need to thrive in the market.
by Rob Gillham | Feb 5 2024
Client vs. Customer: How to Find Your Ideal Buyer

Want to skyrocket your business strategy? Start by nailing one critical marketing strategy: the difference between clients and customers. It’s a distinction that many gloss over, but the truth is, it’s a huge deal.

In the business realm, clients and customers aren’t just two words for the same thing; they’re entirely different categories of people, each with unique needs and expectations.

In this guide, we are going to walk you through the defining traits of clients vs. customers. We’ll uncover why this distinction is a powerhouse of a strategy in itself, and how it can shape everything from your marketing approach to your service delivery.

When you know whether you’re dealing with a client or a customer, you can better meet their needs, make them happier, and keep them coming back.

The Definitions: Client vs. Customer

Let’s make it simple: what’s the difference between a client and a customer? Both buy things, but the way they interact with businesses is different.

Client: Think of a client as someone who has worked with a business for a while. They usually require special services or advice that’s just for them. A client’s relationship with a business is more like a partnership

They rely on the business for its expertise and help over time. Imagine someone going to a lawyer or an accountant; they are clients because they need specific advice and help that fits their situation.

Customer: A customer is someone who buys something from a business, but typically doesn’t stick around for long. Their interaction is more about buying a product or a basic service.

It’s that one-time purchase – like when you buy coffee or a shirt. They’re looking for a good product, a fair price, and maybe convenience.

Understanding the Differences

Now that we know who clients and customers are, let’s dig deeper into how they’re different. This is important because understanding these differences helps a business with their service delivery and to make better plans.

  1. The Relationship building: Clients usually have a longer, more personal relationship with a business. It’s like having a favorite hairdresser who knows exactly how you like your hair. Customers, on the other hand, might just walk into any hair salon, get a haircut, and leave. They don’t really need that personal touch.
  2. Buying Motivation: Clients look for expertise and solutions to their problems. They want someone who understands their specific needs. A customer is more about making quick decisions, like grabbing a snack from a vending machine.
  3. Interaction: With clients, businesses often have more back-and-forth conversations. They discuss, plan, and customize services. For customers, it’s usually a simple exchange – they see something they like, they buy it, end of story.
  4. Decision-Making Process: Clients take their time before they decide. They might research, ask questions, or think about their options. Customers decide faster because they’re usually buying simpler things that don’t need much thought.

Whether it’s a long-term relationship with a client or a quick sale to a customer, knowing what they want and need is what makes a business successful.

The Differences between Clients and Customers with Examples

Let’s look at real-life examples to see how client and customer differences play out in various industries. This will help businesses understand how to apply these concepts in their own field.

For Clients:

  • Legal Services: In a law firm, for example, clients look for legal advice tailored to their unique situations. Whether it’s a business needing contract law expertise or an individual seeking family law counsel, these clients require a close, ongoing relationship with their lawyer.
  • Accounting Firms: Here, clients might need help with their taxes, financial planning, or business accounting. They rely on accountants for specialized advice over time.
  • Marketing Agencies: Businesses turn to these agencies for ongoing marketing strategies and campaigns. The agency works closely with its clients to create and execute plans that evolve with the client’s business goals.

For Customers:

  • Retail Stores: Customers at a retail store are looking for products that meet their immediate needs, like clothing or electronics. They make quick purchase decisions based on factors like price, quality, or brand.
  • Restaurants and Cafes: Here, customers come for the food or drinks. They’re not looking for a long-term commitment; they just want a good meal or a coffee.
  • E-commerce Websites: Online shoppers are typically customers making one-off purchases. They browse, select, and buy products based on convenience and price.

In each of these examples, the approach to serving clients and customers should be different. For clients, it’s all about building an ongoing relationship and offering customized solutions. For customers, it’s more about providing a good product or service quickly and efficiently. 

The Importance of Relationship Building

Understanding the distinction between clients and customers helps businesses personalize their approach and build the right kind of relationship. Let’s break down why this is so crucial.

How to Build Relationships with Clients

  1. Tailored Solutions: Clients expect services that are specifically designed for their needs. For instance, a financial advisor might create a unique investment strategy for each client.
  2. Long-Term Engagement: Building a strong, ongoing relationship with clients is essential. This involves regular communication, understanding their evolving needs, and adapting services accordingly.
  3. Trust and Reliability: Clients need to feel confident that the business understands their unique challenges and can offer reliable solutions.

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How to Approach Customers

  1. Efficiency and Convenience: Customers usually prioritize quick and easy transactions. For example, a grocery store should focus on making shopping as convenient as possible.
  2. Quality and Value: Customers are often driven by the quality of the product or service and its value for money.
  3. Transactional Relationship: The relationship with customers is generally short-term and based on the immediate transaction. However, providing an excellent experience can turn a one-time customer into a repeat buyer.

In both cases, the end goal is to meet their specific expectations in a way that fosters satisfaction and loyalty.

Are you looking to elevate your customer service to the next level in this digital age? Then the  Blinkist collection, Keeping Your Online Customers Happy can be a perfect resource for you. Compiled by the Blinkist Curators, this Marketing book collection focuses on leveling up customer service amidst digital transformation.

The Difference Between Customer Service and Client Management

Customer Service for Customers: Customers typically rely heavily on customer service, with recent statistics revealing that a significant 58% of Americans have reached out for assistance in the last four months. This statistic underscores the ongoing demand for responsive and efficient support in addressing customer needs and resolving issues.

Difficult customers are never fun, but don’t let them get under your skin. In our article How to Deal With Difficult Customers you will learn 19 strategies how to deal with them without losing your cool — or your job.

Client Manager for Clients: When working with clients, the approach is different. Instead of regular customer service, you have client managers or account managers. These experts provide personalized and dedicated support to meet the specific needs of clients. They focus on building long-lasting relationships, understanding individual requirements, and ensuring a customized service.

Marketing Strategies for Clients vs. Customers

Crafting the right marketing strategy for clients and customers is vital for business success. Each group requires a different approach based on their unique characteristics and expectations.

Marketing to Clients

  • Relationship-Based Marketing: For clients, businesses should focus on building and maintaining relationships. This could involve personalized communication, like emails or newsletters that address the client’s specific interests and needs.
  • Content Marketing: Providing valuable content, like detailed guides or in-depth articles, can help establish a business as a trusted authority in its field, which is crucial for attracting and retaining clients.
  • Referral Programs: Encouraging clients to refer others can be effective, as clients are likely to know others with similar needs or preferences.

Marketing to Customers

  • Mass Marketing Strategies: When targeting customers, broader marketing strategies are often more effective. This can include social media campaigns, TV commercials, or online ads aimed at reaching a large audience.
  • Promotional Offers: Sales, discounts, and other promotional offers can attract customers looking for value and immediate benefits.
  • Seasonal Marketing: Aligning marketing efforts with holidays, seasons, or events can appeal to customers’ desire for timely products or services.


How to Sell to Customers and Clients

The sales process and cycle differ significantly when dealing with clients versus customers. Understanding these differences can help businesses tailor their sales strategies for maximum effectiveness.

Sales Process for Clients

  • Longer Sales Cycle: Selling to clients typically involves a longer process. It starts with understanding their specific needs, followed by presenting a customized proposal, negotiating terms, and finally closing the deal.
  • Consultative Selling: This approach is key when dealing with clients. It’s about acting as a trusted advisor, providing solutions to their problems, and building a relationship based on trust.
  • Follow-up and Retention: Post-sale, the focus is on maintaining the relationship, offering ongoing support, and checking in periodically to ensure the client’s needs are continuously met.

Sales Process for Customers

  • Shorter Sales Cycle: The customer sales cycle is typically much shorter. It’s often as simple as attracting the customer to the product, convincing them of its value, and completing the transaction.
  • Transactional Selling: This method is more about the immediate sale. It focuses on product features, benefits, and price, rather than on building a long-term relationship.
  • After-Sale Service: While the relationship might be transactional, good after-sale service – like easy returns or customer support – can turn a one-time buyer into a repeat customer.


Client vs. Customer: The Key Differences

Next up, we’ve got a concise breakdown that’s going to be a real eye-opener. This table maps out the key contrasts between dealing with clients and customers across marketing and sales.

It’s a quick-reference guide that’ll show you at a glance how to optimize your approach for each group. Why does this matter? Because tailoring your strategy based on these differences is a straight shot to boosting your business efficiency and customer satisfaction, let’s take a look:

Clients Customers
Marketing Approach
  • Relationship building
  • Personalized communication (emails, newsletters)
  • Content marketing (guides, articles)
  • Referral programs
  • Broad strategies (social media, TV ads)
  • Promotional offers (discounts, sales)
  • Seasonal marketing strategies
Sales Process
  • Longer sales cycle
  • Consultative selling
  • Tailored proposals
  • Ongoing support and follow-up
  • Shorter sales cycle
  • Transactional selling
  • Quick transactions
  • Efficient after-sale service

After diving into the key differences between clients and customers, there’s even more to explore, especially when it comes to mastering the art of Marketing & Sales. And where better to turn than Blinkist? With a massive library of over 6,500 titles, Blinkist is your shortcut to staying on top of your game in the fast-evolving world of marketing and sales: Categories > Marketing & Sales

Clients vs. Customers: Our Key Takeaways

The key to thriving in business is recognizing the subtle yet significant differences between clients and customers:

For clients, it’s like nurturing a garden. It’s about a commitment to growth, understanding, and adaptability over time. You’re cultivating a landscape of trust and personalized service, where every interaction is a chance to deepen the relationship.

Contrastingly, handling customers is akin to orchestrating a well-timed flash mob: it’s quick, impactful, and memorable. Your aim is to ensure every short-term interaction is so seamless and satisfying that it converts casual buyers into loyal fans.

Remember, success isn’t just about meeting expectations; it’s about exceeding them, whether dealing with clients or customers. So, take these insights, weave them into your strategy, and watch your business soar in customer satisfaction and loyalty. 

And if you’re keen to dive deeper into Sales & Marketing topics, Blinkist’s extensive library of over 6,500 titles is at your fingertips. With a 7-day free trial, you can explore all the knowledge even at no cost.

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