Seth Godin on the crucial difference between clients and customers

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As a business owner or manager, should you focus on clients or customers?

The answer, according to marketing guru Seth Godin, is of course you can focus on either group. 

But these two groups are fundamentally different and as Godin explains in this blog post, it is crucial that you don’t confuse the two.

On one side of the ring is the customer.

“The customer buys (or doesn’t buy) what you make,” Godin says.

But on the other side of the ring is the client, who “asks you to make something”.

“The customer has the power to choose, but the client has the power to define, insist and spec,” says Godin.

The two groups also differ in terms of their volume.

“There is a large number of potential customers and you make for them before you know precisely who they are,” he says.

“There are just a relative handful of clients, though, and your work happens after you find them.”

“If a customer doesn’t like what’s on offer, she can come back tomorrow. If the client doesn’t like what you deliver, she might leave forever.”

According to Godin, it’s possible for businesses to “do great work” for both clients and customers but a choice must be made between the two.

“Choose your customers. Choose your clients,” he says.

“And most of all, choose which category you’re serving.”

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Eloise Keating is the editor of SmartCompany. Previously, Eloise was news editor at Books+Publishing, the trade press for the Australian book industry.

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