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Your Customer vs. Consumer And The Marketing Differences Between The Two

American business leader and consultant, Peter Drucker, once said that “the aim of marketing is to the know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself.”

The idea is that any business’ goal should be to understand your customer. After all, the only difference between a hobby and a business is whether someone pays you for your work.

Knowing your customer, truly knowing them, allows you to build connections, anticipate changes, and build products that truly solve their problems. If your business builds a brand around your customers and solving their problems, it doesn’t matter what you sell because your customers will trust you and follow you.

An important note here is to remember that marketing is more than just creating advertisements. We often fall into this trap of thinking of marketing as what happens after the product is created. In reality, marketing is one of the biggest parts of your business because it includes the process of building your product and brand. How your product looks, the materials, the location of your store, the coloring of your logo, the costs of your employees and how that affects the cost of your product, all of these are part of the thought process when you’re thinking about marketing.

A key point to creating a successful marketing plan to begin with the end person in mind. Who are we selling to/marketing to?

Consumer vs. Customer

One of the easiest mistakes that business owners tend to make is that they confuse their customers with their consumers.

Your consumer is the person that uses (or “consumes”) your product/service. For example, a child is the consumer of a video game that her parents bought for her.

Your customer is the person that pays for your product/service. For example, the parents that bought the video game in the last example, are your customers.

Notice here how the customer and the consumer are two different people. Sometimes, it can be the same person for example, someone buys a t-shirt for themselves. However, its important to realize when the consumer and customer might be two different people because it can be a powerful tool for marketing/selling.

Why Does This Matter?

This matters because the messaging often changes when you’re trying to appeal to a consumer vs. a customer. As a general rule of thumb,

Marketing to your Consumer will be Visual and Qualitative

Marketing to your Customer will be more Quantitative

Let’s take a watch company for example:

Marketing to a Consumer: “This watch is prestige, power and dominance. Having this watch will give you social status.”

Marketing to a Customer: “Get him this gift of prestige, power, and dominance for just $299 this holiday season.”

Notice how the marketing to a customer added more focus on the pricing.


Apps and Websites Use This A Lot:

Marketing to a Consumer (App User): “Free to use this fun, addictive game and compete against your friends!”

Marketing to a Customer (Ad Agency): “Advertise on our app game, where we have 30 thousand users that spend 1 hour a day on our game playing with friends!”

Grocery Stores Do This To:

Ever notice how there seems to be so many candy and small toy options at the check-out counters at grocery stores? Most grocery stores purposely place a bunch of candy at the eye-level of little kids.

In this case, the consumers are little children who are excited by the colorful wrapping. The customers are the parents who are then pressured into buying the candy by their children. Following the rule of thumb, you’ll notice that the candy is facing the kids but the price tags are usually angled up for the parents to see!


Summary and Action Steps

Understanding the difference between your customer and your consumers, if one exists, is a pretty powerful tool in understanding how to effectively market your business. It’s no secret that resources are pretty limited when it comes to running a small business, so why not be focused and deliberate?

Here are some action questions:

  1. Who is your Consumer?

  2. Who is your Customer

  3. What do each of them care about?

  4. Which one holds more power?

  5. The child is the consumer but holds enough power to force the customer to buy

  6. The consumer of a fancy pen is less likely to pressure the customer. Instead, the customer holds more power because they want to gift something meaningful

  7. Market to both but focus on the one that has the more power

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