Consumers, customers and clients: The same or different in your business?


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Consumers Customers Clients Same or Different

A photo of an old ipod and an ipod nano. The same or different?

For some they would say they are different but for others they would say they are the same. Much of your answer will depend on your situation.

A similar same or different situation came up the other day when I was talking to a number of business owners. The question that came up was the the difference between consumers, customers and clients.

For some businesses, these words may be interchangeable and there may be no difference but for others there may be and understanding the differences could be the margin between success or failure.

According to the Oxford dictionary:

A consumer is:


A customer is:


A client is:

However, if we look at the origin of the word ‘client’ it can add more to the meaning. The original word comes from Latin and is meant to mean a person under the protection and patronage of another, hence a person ‘protected’ by a legal adviser.

Going back to why the original question was raised. The question came from someone who was offering consultancy and advisory services to a large organisation. The challenge that they faced was that they had produced a proposal for someone who then had to go and get approval for the project before they could proceed. I suggested that she was dealing with a consumer of her service, an end-user, and not a budget holder and that she was not speaking to the customer (budget holder). We talked some more about trying to find out what her ‘customer’ would need before they were happy to proceed and she found the distinction useful.

I then suggested that if she then developed that relationship into one that was typified by ongoing, repeat business then that organisation would become a ‘client’, one that was under her ‘protection’.

Do these differences exist in your business?

Thanks to Andrew for the image.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adrian Swinscoe
Adrian Swinscoe brings over 25 years experience to focusing on helping companies large and small develop and implement customer focused, sustainable growth strategies.


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