Client vs Customer: What’s The Difference?

Updated: November 12, 2022 is reader-supported. When you buy through links on my site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Many people might believe that a customer is simply the same as a client. However, that’s not the case. While everyone who spends money with your company is essential, some are much more loyal and vital to your company’s success. That can be an essential dichotomy to remember when running a firm.

Typically, you’ll want as many people as possible to be clients, although that won’t always be the case. That being said, many people aren’t clear on the client vs customer difference and wouldn’t realize why this should matter to their business. As it turns out, it matters much more than you might have thought. That will be the case regardless of whether you’re leading a law firm, accounting firm, or even an advertising agency or real estate agency.

What Is A Customer?

As you might expect, a customer is anybody who spends money at a business. Also known as a consumer, almost anybody can be your customer. Interactions with customers tend to be relatively brief and can often be infrequent. For example, you might only buy ice cream from a van at the beach once or twice every few weeks.

Client Vs Customer

Essentially, it’s a transaction that starts and ends with the sale, and there’s no contact outside of the sale. While you might visit them again, it will be another transactional effort. However, it’s possible that you could interact with them on social media, although that may not result in a sale too often. That’s different than being able to call them loyal customers.

What Is A Client?

A client is essentially a much more loyal customer. They’re a fan of your business and actively look to return on a regular basis. They have an ongoing relationship with you and your product or products, and they’re someone that you actively building a relationship with. While this can occasionally be short-lived, it can often be long-term.

There can be quite a few benefits associated with turning customers into clients. Perhaps the most notable is that you’ll earn much more money per person than you otherwise would have. This low-cost-per-acquisition can be highly sought after. It also means that you should see an overall increase in sales, as clients are more likely to visit regularly.

They might also be positive for your marketing efforts, as they’ll often recommend your business to friends and family. Word of mouth can be a significant driver of sales, which makes this something that most businesses should look for.

Clients are also focused on the big picture. They’re not purely focused on the transaction at hand. Instead, they’re looking at how your product or service can help them long term. That’s especially the case for both you and your client’s foreseeable future.

As a result, it can feel much more like a partnership rather than a simple exchange of money. In doing so, a client-based business can use its clients to achieve its business goals. That’s what helps highlight the differences between customers and clients.

Why Are Clients Important?

Some people might wonder why this should be important to a business. In short, it’s because it can be a vital component for your company’s success. That’s because customer loyalty has fueled many well-known companies’ growth. Apple, McDonald’s, and others are all known for having clients that visit their restaurants or use their products regularly. They also happen to be some of the largest companies in their sectors.

Having clients means that you can maximize your retention rates, which you can then use to fuel your long-term growth. While this will take a lot of short-term dedication and effort, it’s something that pays off increasingly larger dividends in the long term.

That should make it a priority for anybody running a business.


Naturally, there can be quite a few similarities between customers and clients. The most obvious of these is that they both spend money at your company. Both will need your attention with any problems that might pop up because of your product, and both will help drive your success and growth.

All of that might make you think that they’re just as important as each other for your business. As valuable as they both are, clients can be worth much more to your company. Their main differences could explain this much better than their similarities do.

Key Differences

You might assume that there aren’t many differences between clients and customers if any. However, this isn’t the case. These can be broken down into three distinct categories. While each is quite important, they can affect your business in different ways. These are:

  • Definition: The definition is one of the more obvious ways that customers and clients are different. A customer is someone who buys a product or service from your company. A client is someone who wants professional support from you in the short- to long term. With a client, your product or service is seen as more than transactional.
  • Relationship: When a customer completes a transaction with a business, there isn’t any formal agreement in place. Instead, they hand over money in exchange for what you’re offering them. Clients, on the flip side, are looking for more of a long-term approach, which may or may not end after an initial purchase has been made.
  • Length Of Time: The length of time you spend with a customer is typically short. That’s why they usually don’t like things that have longer timeframes. Instead, they’re looking for one-time purchases that have a relatively short time period. With clients, however, it’s usually the businesses who put their best foot forward when it comes to the time frame. While it might still be longer than a one-off sale, they’ll still look to keep it as short as possible to keep clients happy.

Naturally, each of these can have a certain impact on your business. That should mean that you’ll want to spend time and effort turning a customer into a client. When doing so, you should see quite a few benefits, including overall better satisfaction ratings and more loyal customers.

Clients Place Importance On Trust

One of the most significant differences between clients and customers is when and why they buy from your business. Customers are more likely to pick up your products when there’s a promotion on and will tend to do so relatively infrequently. However, that means sales and similar events can be a great way to get their attention.

In contrast, clients will buy from you because they know your company and they trust it. There’s already a relationship, and they know what to expect. That trust eventually turns into loyalty, which is what you want to develop in a customer. As a result, they typically don’t tend to care about promotions or sales events.

While they’re probably not going to complain about them, they’re still likely to buy from you when there aren’t any sales on.

Customers Look For Price And Value

Everyone puts importance on specific things when they’re going to buy a product. In many cases, this will be the price of something and whether or not you’re getting value for money. That means that they can be relatively easy to advertise and sell to.

In the majority of cases, you simply need to have an attractive product at an affordable price, and you’ll likely have customers. The hardest part of this, though, is showing how high-quality the product is. That means that the majority of marketing and sales efforts will be focused on effectiveness and quality.

In general, consumer-based businesses simply want people to spend money on them. That could be online, in a restaurant, or in-store. The main focus is the transaction taking place and exchanging goods or services for money. As a result, this can be a relatively simple relationship that shouldn’t take much time.

However, this does mean that it isn’t going to be the most long-term way to make money and might not be the most profitable way of selling products. In contrast, turning these customers into clients might be more beneficial.

How to Turn Customers Into Clients

With all of the above insight, you might be considering turning customers into clients. If you’re wondering why you should do so, the answer can be simple. They offer several benefits, some of which include:

·         Improved Long-Term Sales;

·         Increased Retention;

·         Better Word Of Mouth Marketing.

Each of these can help fuel your company’s success and allow it to expand into new markets. At the same time, sales and profitability should continue to grow. It’s easy to see why people will want to go for this. However, few people know how to achieve this. It’s one thing to want it, it’s quite another to get it.

There is a significant number of things that you could do, but they all boil down to the same basic principle. You have to put the customer first. Doing so makes them feel as though they’re important to your business and that you care about them. Taking this approach gives them a positive impression of your company.

That will make them more likely to visit your business again. Should this repeat enough times, then you’ll be the first company that you think of when it comes to your industry or niche. However, that still leaves open the question of how you can do this.

There’s no clear-cut answer to this. Instead, it can depend significantly on your customers. Everyone wants different things, so it can be difficult to give a broad answer to the question. There are ways of finding out, however. You could add surveys and other information-gathering initiatives to your website.

Doing so allows customers to provide you with feedback about their experiences at your company. Using this information, you can then implement initiatives that address any issues that might have been flagged. Alongside this, you can find out what your strengths are and reinforce them.

Taking this approach makes your customers feel more important, as it lets them know that you listen to their feedback. It also means that you can address the issues that matter most to your customers, which will subsequently encourage them to come back. Should everything be done correctly, that will result in even more repeat business.

There can be a lot of complexities to the client vs customer dichotomy. Naturally, you’ll want as many people as possible to be clients. However, it can take a significant amount of time to get there, and there will be a lot of factors that affect it. Implementing loyalty tactics, offering high-quality customer service and products at affordable prices will all play a role.

There’s no overnight way to turn a customer into a client. It will take time and effort, although it will prove to be quite a positive investment. Once a customer is a client, they’ll prove to be with you long term, which should reap dividends in future spending. They could also work as great ambassadors, as clients are more than likely to recommend your business to friends and family.

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