Who or what is a customer?

Spend a few minutes defining a “customer”.  Then ask your marketing colleagues to write down their definition of a “customer” as he relates to your company.

You will find that your colleagues will come up with different definitions.  To say that a customer “is someone who buys from us” is simplistic in the extreme and any marketing strategy based on promoting to “customers that buy from us” will have very little effect.

An agreed definition of what comprises a “customer” is essential in a company if a workable marketing strategy is to be adopted because it is obvious that you must market differently to important customers medium customers, small customers intermittent customers and people that have never bought from you and maybe have never heard about you.  There are many shades of customer or non-customer and these have to be defined.  Is a customer an account that spends R3 000 per month with you every month over the past 12 months or is it an account that spend R10 000 with you last month but is unlikely to order from you again for several months or maybe never again?

The extreme length of some customer lists that we have seen indicates that little thought is given to pruning the list off accounts that should not qualify as customers any longer – but of course pruning a list depends on what the list is used for.  The lists are, furthermore, peppered with inaccuracies regarding company names and addresses, let alone contacts who have changed jobs or have passed on to a better world.

We have been given lists of customers who own “our equipment” only to find that a good few of them have switched to competitive equipment several years ago and are now good customers of competitors; consequently, a redefinition of customers is an important exercise, after which they should be ranked according to categories or according to their buying power and frequency of buying as it relates to your company.

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