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Differentiating your clients from your customers


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Over the Christmas break I downloaded a great little app from the Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing‘s advent calendar.  Originally launched at the Digital Marketing Show in November 2014 the app is a short, interactive marketing course introducing the fundamental principles of direct and digital marketing.

Despite my status as a Fellow of the IDM, I thought I would give it a go, not least because I wanted to see how learning via an app could work, but also because you are never too long in the tooth to learn something new.  While much of the content was not new, one particular strand really stood out for me.

The segment in question dealt with the difference between customers and clients, a distinction which is sometimes missed when we are creating marketing campaigns.  It doesn’t matter if you are an event company selling to potential exhibitors and sponsors or an event supplier selling to an event company it is crucial that these two relationships are identified.  The way in which you market to them should be very different.  Critical to any event sales campaign is being able to fulfil 80% of the revenue/attendance expectations with 20% of the effort, and this in its turn is reliant on being able to maximise the return from clients  in addition to converting customers into clients.

So what exactly is the difference?  As the diagram to the right (from the IDM Course) shows, a client is someone who has bought from you before.  These are the companies or individuals who you should be reaching out to with special/enhanced offers to make them feel real connection with your brand/property.  Since (hopefully) they have already had a good experience of working with you/the event that you have delivered, they should be in an excellent frame of mind to continue to collaborate with you and the better the offer you give them, the easier it is to shut out your competitors.

customer by contrast is someone who has attended your event/bought your services for the first time.  While not as valuable as a client you are in a key position to turn them into one.  Like your approach to your clients, it is imperative that you speak to these individuals as if you really know and value them.  Try to avoid including them in your generic marketing campaigns and really do think of things you can give them that first-time buyers can’t get.

In some markets, particularly one-off events like weddings, it isn’t really possible to turn your customers into clients.  However you do want to push them even further up the relationship royalty ladder by getting them to be advocates for your services.  This means that once the event is over you have some mechanism for keeping in touch over a long period of time so that when someone asks your client ‘do you know someone that could…’ you are front of mind.

Much of what we do as marketers is really aimed at the bottom end of the process, i.e. the suspects and prospects. The efforts required in identifying the masses of people who might become customers is often so overwhelming that we forget to differentiate our efforts to our most loyal and profitable clients.  If you haven’t done so already, it is time to ensure that you are maintaining a high quality, differentiated database which will ensure you can create individualised marketing campaigns that really deliver for your events and your business.

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