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A Deep Dive into Client and Customer Differences

In the intricate landscape of business, knowing the difference between client and customer has become essential. What is the difference between client and customer? This question walks across various industries, from professional services like law firms to retail stores and the dynamic world of Software as a Service (SaaS).

The difference between these two terms, which are typically mistaken for the same, goes beyond mere semantics. In simple words, it describes the foundation of customer relationships, business strategies, and the very essence of monetary transactions.

A business will always aim to provide the best experience and service to its clients and customers so that it can operate effectively. However, there is a need to understand the difference between them so that you can know your target market.

In this article, we will explore the exact differences that set clients and customers apart in the realm of commerce, shedding light on the importance of these terms in shaping models, customer satisfaction, and long-term success.

1. Client vs. Customer: Understanding the Distinct Difference

In the world of professional services, understanding the exact difference between a client and a customer is as important as understanding the difference between the moon and the earth.

Didn’t get it? Keep on reading, and you will. Clients engage in ongoing relationships with businesses such as law firms, where monetary transactions are common. In easy words, clients purchase professional services and seek personalized and long-term advice.

1.1. Key Difference in a Business Context

It is the business world where the exact key difference emerges. This way, you can create a business profile for every marketing decision you make for your business.

1.1.1. Who is a Customer?

A customer is a person or company that purchases goods, ideas, and services from a vendor or supplier. The activities of the business are clear enough for the customer to ask for price and quality. Customers are crucial for the business because they ensure an inflow of revenue.

1.1.2. Who is a Client?

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a client is a customer or someone who receives services. A client can also be referred to as an external customer. This is because a business will brainstorm ideas and solutions specifically for them.

Client-based companies, usually in the SaaS industry, mainly focus on long-term success by providing tailored support and making closer relationships with them.

1.2. Realistic Expectations for Clients and Customers

client and customer
image from Unsplash

For any type of business, setting realistic expectations is important. Customers expect quality service and may only engage in casual purchases of your business. On the other hand, clients desire to make long-term relationships and offer more tailored support to them.

As a business, knowing these differences will help you to enhance customer satisfaction and client retention which directly impacts a company’s reputation.

Differentiate Clients from Customers

Robert Macoviak - Featured
Robert Macoviak

Understanding the fundamental difference between a client and a customer has been pivotal to our growth at Oyer, Macoviak, and Associates and we’ve sustained success in the insurance industry. To us, a customer might come seeking a specific insurance product—say, a policy for their new car or home.

These interactions, though important, are predominantly transactional. On the flip side, when we talk about clients, we’re referring to those with whom we build deeper, lasting relationships.

For instance, we might start with auto insurance, but through ongoing discussions, we understand their broader life circumstances and can advise on comprehensive coverage that spans auto, home, and life insurance, tailored to their evolving needs.

This distinction is not just semantic but shapes how we approach each interaction. For customers, our goal is prompt, efficient service that meets their immediate needs.

For clients, the approach is more holistic. We use our expertise to anticipate their needs, offering solutions that they might not have considered, like umbrella liability protection or specialized coverages such as boat insurance.

Through personalized insurance solutions, we aim not just to sell a policy but to become a trusted advisor and protector of their financial well-being over time.

The cruciality of this understanding across industries, and especially in our own, is that it directly impacts business strategy, from marketing to service delivery.

For example, in marketing, we tailor our campaigns differently: broader reach and direct product benefits for attracting customers, and more personalized, value-driven communication for nurturing clients.

This client-focused approach has been instrumental in not only expanding our offerings through feedback but also in leveraging digital tools to enhance personal engagement, ensuring we remain ahead of the curve while maintaining the personal touch that fosters lasting relationships.

Robert Macoviak, President, Oyer, Macoviak and Associates

2. Professional Services: Nurturing Client-Based Businesses

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While both involve monetary transactions, some differences affect long-term success and the company’s reputation.

This section of the article will explore how these types of businesses allocate resources, establish closer relationships, and create realistic expectations for their clients and customers.

2.1. Law Firms: A Classic Example

In the world of professional services, law firms are the perfect classic example of client-based businesses. Attorneys offer their legal expertise and advice to individual clients and corporations, fostering long-term client relationships and telling us the exact definition of a client.

Attorney-client relationships are typically built on trust and ongoing collaboration which is distinct from one-time customer transactions.

2.2. Business Strategy for Client-Based Companies

It is important to build a healthy relationship with clients for you to run a successful business. Client-based companies usually use a unique business strategy that aims to develop long-term client relationships to make their business or service successful.

For instance, a company can create marketing campaigns that target a particular demographic of clients. The company can offer incentives such as discounted rates and coupons.

Unlike transactional customers, clients desire more personalized attention, tailored support, and ongoing value to keep their interest in a particular business.

Businesses offering this approach establish closer relationships and make sure the company’s reputation and value in the market stay strong.

2.3. Resources Dedicated to Client Relationships

Unlike retail stores with a broader customer base, client-based businesses employ some significant resources to maintain client relationships.

How do they do it? By investing in delivering the highest possible standard of service. Also, they provide them with personal attention and innovative rewards programs to make sure that customer satisfaction and client retention don’t fall.

3. Customer Success: Building Ongoing Client and Customer Relationships

Someone buying apples from a store
Image by: Erik Scheel/Pexels

Customer-based businesses focus their approach on customer satisfaction and retention, which typically require them to innovate rewards programs for their loyal customers. These businesses aim to align the quality of products or services with customers’ desires. Let’s explore how these businesses do it.

3.1. Importance of Client and Customer Satisfaction and Retention

Customer retention and satisfaction are crucial in the world of professional services. Businesses like retail establishments work to retain patrons by offering outstanding customer service and creative rewards schemes.

This fosters ongoing relationships where the customers are ready to pay more money for quality service. Strong client and customer retention can help a company measure the value of its service.

Also, they can acquire new customers and clients through referrals from their ongoing relationships. However, it is important to understand customers’ desired outcomes in business to ensure their loyalty and long-term success.

3.2. Innovative Rewards Programs for Loyal Customers

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Loyal customers are the lifeblood of client-based businesses, hence they deserve special attention to keep their interest in the business. Many companies in the business world provide innovative rewards programs to retain these valued clients.

Loyalty programs should increase in value as clients continue to use your services. This can act as motivation for new customers and clients to aim for in the future.

For example, SaaS companies offer support and immediate value to retain SaaS customers. These programs help maintain closer relationships and enhance a company’s reputation.

3.3. Importance of Clients and Customers’ Desired Outcomes in Business

Understanding the customers’ desired outcomes is essential to maintain long-term client and customer relationships. In industries like healthcare providers and digital marketing, aligning the company’s business strategy with what customers pay for is essential.

You can get an insight into customers’ and clients’ desired outcomes through interviews, feedback, and surveys. For this work, you need to provide quality and efficient customer service for your business.

It goes beyond everything, basically about making customers into their long-term clients with realistic expectations. If a business has differentiated these terms between clients and customers, it will see immense success and growth.

AI-Driven Marketing for B2B and B2C

Matthew Montez - Featured
Matthew Montez

In the realm of digital marketing and AI-driven solutions, differentiating between serving clients versus customers becomes especially nuanced.

One thing I’ve championed at MBC Group is the personalized approach we take with our B2B clients versus the broader stance we adopt for B2C customers.

Our shift towards AI-driven Marketing Solutions, including the introduction of AiDen, a smart AI chatbot, underscores this distinction vividly.

For B2B clients, it’s all about establishing a deep, ongoing relationship. We tailor our marketing strategies and tools (like AiDen) to directly address their unique challenges and goals, practically demonstrating our long-term commitment to their growth and success.

An example of this is how we’ve configured AiDen to provide extensive support and insights for business clients, enabling enhanced customer service and engagement for their customers, in turn.

This necessitated a detailed understanding of their industry specifics, operational nuances, and the broader market context they operate within—a testament to the high degree of personalized attention and customized solutions we provide.

On the B2C front, the approach pivots towards leveraging data analytics and AI to understand and predict customer behaviors en masse. While personalization still plays a role, it’s more about creating broader appeal across segments.

Here, AiDen enhances the user experience on digital platforms by offering quick, automated responses, scaling the reach efficiently without losing the touch of personalization.

The AI learns from interactions, improving over time, which indirectly fosters a sense of long-term relationship with end-users by consistently meeting their immediate needs in a highly efficient way.

This dual approach underscores the importance of using technology not as a one-size-fits-all solution but as a versatile tool that can be finely tuned to serve diverse needs, whether it’s offering bespoke solutions to B2B clients or engaging with B2C customers at scale.

In both scenarios, the aim is to make every interaction feel as personal and relevant as possible to strengthen relationships and drive success.

Matthew Montez, Founder, The MBC Group

4. SAAS Industry Insights: SaaS Clients vs. SaaS Customers

What is SaaS? What Do SaaS Companies Do?

In the dynamics of the SaaS industry, differentiating between SaaS clients and SaaS customers is essential to have a successful business. Yes, these terms sound similar, but they hold distinct differences that directly impact business strategies and customer relationships.

4.1. Who are SaaS Customers?

SaaS customers typically pay money for a service and typically seek immediate responses and solutions for their needs.

They may be short-term customers, often found in the digital marketing and smartphone technology sectors, making these businesses a part of the SaaS industry.

4.2. Who are Saas Clients?

A client is a long-term customer who invests in your SaaS product. They invest in your product, and you end up having a personalized long-term relationship with them.

Their aspirations and potential to become long-term clients are the primary differences. Yes, you read it right, customers can be turned into long-term clients if the right strategies have been used by the businesses.

4.3. Long-Term Success in the SaaS Business

If any business wants to achieve long-term success in the SaaS industry, it needs to understand the client and customer’s exact needs. While both will provide you with revenue, it is important to turn your customers into clients for the long-term success of your business.

You can do it by focusing on client-based businesses, fostering long-term relationships, and providing more resources and quality service. For SaaS businesses, it’s just not about immediate exchange but about building trust and loyalty over time.

Emphasize Knowledge-Centric Interactions

Michael Hurckes - Featured
Michael Hurckes

In my role at MAH Advising PLLC, I’ve navigated the nuanced realms of nurturing client relationships within the professional services sector, specifically focusing on the legal and financial services industries.

From this experience, I can say that these sectors place a heavy emphasis on individualized, knowledge-centric client interactions.

This approach significantly differs from retail or SaaS industries, where customer relationships often scale through technological means and standardized services.

For example, our legal advisory services invest heavily in understanding the unique contexts of each client’s situation. This means allocating resources to in-depth consultations, custom legal research, and strategy development tailored to the specific goals and challenges a client faces.

Such depth of engagement requires not just time but a high level of expertise from our team, emphasizing the value of human capital in professional services.

Conversely, my observations of the retail and SaaS sectors highlight their strategic use of CRM systems and data analytics to manage customer relationships at scale.

These tools allow for the personalization of communication and services to some extent, but the interactions are fundamentally different. They aim to create efficient, repeatable processes that can serve a large customer base with minimal customization. 

By juxtaposing these approaches, I’ve learned that while technology plays a crucial role in managing relationships across all industries, the depth and nature of personalized service in professional sectors like law and financial advice demand a more hands-on, human-centric allocation of resources.

Michael Hurckes, Managing Partner, MAH Advising PLLC

5. Customer Acquisition vs. Customer Retention Strategies

To make any business successful, two key strategies need to be adapted: customer acquisition and customer retention. These approaches aim to secure customers’ loyalty and ensure the continued growth and prosperity of an enterprise.

5.1. Customers Pay Money: Acquisition

The Key to Business Success: Customer Acquisition Strategy  (Video 8 of 10)

Customer acquisition typically focuses on bringing in new customers who are ready to pay money in exchange for products or services. It requires strategies such as digital marketing and targeting potential clients in a smaller target market.

This phase often requires immediate exchange and the establishment of direct contact with the end user, which helps businesses grow over time.

5.2. Customer Retention and Building Loyal Customer Relationships

6 Easy Ways to Boost Customer Loyalty and Retain Customers

Customer retention centers on nurturing ongoing relationships with existing customers. It’s an important factor for customer-based businesses such as retail stores and healthcare providers. This relationship can be formed by the staff’s good behavior with customers, which potentially turns them into loyal customers of the business.

Businesses can also provide these customers with special deals only for them so they feel special, and the customer retention rate increases. By using these strategies, businesses can encounter long-term success and good relationships with their clients.

5.3. Company’s Reputation and Customer Retention

The company’s reputation plays an important role in customer retention. Long-term clients such as law firms seek professional advice, which typically relies on a business’s ability to meet its realistic expectations and deliver desired outcomes. The reputation of a company is equal to the retention rate of potential customers.

Take Away

In these crowded business industries, understanding the exact difference between clients and customers is essential to crafting effective business strategies. Both have needs and wants that need to be addressed effectively.

Customer acquisition and retention strategies both play an important role. However, it is about finding the right balance between the two. Thus, new and existing clients and customers can positively impact your business.

If you want your business to succeed then you need to nurture a good working relationship with clients and customers. Once they feel valued, the more they work with your business and help it grow.

Whether you are in a law firm, department store, or part of the SAS business, recognizing these differences and tailoring your approach accordingly can help you provide the best customer service, high customer satisfaction, and thriving long-term client relationships.


Q1. What are the two types of clients?

There are typically two types of clients: external clients (customers outside a company) and other internal clients (departments or individuals within the same company or organization)

Q2. Can a customer be a client?

A customer is a potential client, especially when you find out that they are making an ongoing relationship with a business or a service provider.

Q3. Who is the client in B2B?

While talking about B2B, the one you can call a client is the business or organization that is purchasing products or services from another business.

Guest Author: Saket Kumar

Last Updated on by Saket Kumar


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