Christoph Schiessl's Blog

Customers and Users Are Not The Same

A few weeks ago, I discovered a fatal flaw in my thinking about customers, users and consequently about business in general. To fix that flaw, I had to re-evaluate the feature set of my products as well as my entire approach to communicating with (potential) customers.

As an entrepreneur I’m used to learning new stuff all the time, but I’ve been making that mistake for quite some time to be honest. I guess some lessons take a bit longer than others.

Unfortunately, I used to assume that my customers and my users are the same people. After all, that seems like a reasonable assumption to make, right? But while working on CashPilot I discovered that my assumption is completely wrong: Customers and users are in fact not the same people. And here is why…

I’m selling my products to businesses. Therefore, I’m operating in the B2B market. How can customers in the B2B market be characterized? Well, they are always decision-makers. Let me be absolutely clear about this: In every organization, there are only a few people with the power to make independent decisions about where money is to be spent. Those people, and no one else, are your customers. They decide whether to spend money on you and your product or not.

Who are your users then? In my case, the people using CashPilot are employees without decision-making power (such as secretaries and the like). They are using my product, because their boss told them to do so. They didn’t choose my product for themselves, nor did they spend any money on it.

The point I’m trying to make is this: It’s not enough to design your products for the people you expect to be your users. You must consider your future customers as well. Both groups – your users and your customers – must get something out of your product.

I’m certainly not the only one who has been lured into this trap. Just look around and you’ll notice that it actually is a very common mistake. Maybe it is a natural mistake for young entrepreneurs to make: Most of us don’t have any employees and we are only used to buying stuff for ourselves. We never had the opportunity to learn thinking differently, because we’ve never been in a situation where we would purchase something for someone else to work with.

Let me end this article by saying, that there are exceptions to this rule: B2C is a different kind of animal altogether. Even in B2B markets the distinction doesn’t have to hold necessarily. It really depends on the product you’re trying to sell. Anyways, it’s a potentially very expensive mistake to make and therefore worth some consideration.

comments powered by Disqus