Entrepreneurship – from ideas to reality
Entrepreneurship – from ideas to reality

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Entrepreneurship – from ideas to reality

1.1 Are they customers at all?

Who are my customers? It seems like quite a simple question with an obvious answer. However, a number of related questions arise from this. The first one probably ought to be, are they customers at all? Here are some examples to illustrate:

  • Customers are those that purchase a good or service. If you go to a vegetable supplier and buy a box of avocadoes for your ‘pop up’ café, you are being a customer, but not a consumer.
  • Consumers are those who use a product or service. If you work in a large organisation it is likely you will use stationery or other equipment bought centrally, in which case you are a consumer but not the buying customer. If you get to choose it for yourself, you may be a customer and consumer.
  • The term ‘client’ is often used in a professional services context, like accountancy, but is increasingly applied to a range of services in the public and third sector. In part this is because it suggests a mutual expectation and is intended to recognise the stake each has in the relationship.

(Adapted from The Open University, 2018)

Activity 1 Customer, consumer or client

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes
  1. How do you think of your customers? Are they buyers or users? Would it be accurate to think of them as customers, consumers or clients? Or is there another way that you think of them?
To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

In Video 1 all of our entrepreneurs refer to customers. Watch the video now paying particular attention to how they describe their customers.

Download this video clip.Video player: Video 1
Skip transcript: Video 1 Who are your customers?

Transcript: Video 1 Who are your customers?

CLAUDIO MARTURANO:
The product is specifically targeted to maintenance personnel within the aviation industry. The business is designed to be a support mechanism to give constant, up to date, accurate and regulatory training for maintenance personnel.
ALEX BOND:
Initially, our customers were going to be anyone who had risk of food poisoning. And now they've switched to being anyone who runs food manufacturing plants. So any, Two Sisters is a big one, Bakkavor they're our ideal sort of customers.
EMMA PRINCE:
Our customer base ranges from parents and carers, through to the local authority, through to schools, and the youth service and other organisations. We work very collaboratively. And of course, the recipients of our service, the children and young people themselves. And they range from 5 up to 20 at the moment. So it's quite a broad reach, really.
NICK ALLEN:
We named our customer Coco, after Coco Chanel. Because she's fun. She's very stylish. She loves what she wears. She feels very comfortable in social situations. And she likes to have her clothes noticed. And so we've made luxury scarves that are very shimmery and feel very nice and soft to touch. And the designs draw you in.
End transcript: Video 1 Who are your customers?
Video 1 Who are your customers?
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).
  1. Having listened to Claudio, Alex, Emma and Nick, make some notes for yourself about how you might describe the target audience for your marketing communications, products and services.
To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Discussion

Clearly, the entrepreneurs describe their customers in many different ways – from businesses or organisations, roles within an organisation (e.g. teachers) or even Coco Chanel. Emma talked about parents – those with children who are the ultimate beneficiaries of her service. Over time they have all got to know in increasing detail who their customers are and in both Alex’s and Nick’s case, this has resulted in a view of the ‘ideal customer’ for their business.

Thinking about your own enterprise or ideal – would it be an individual or someone that represents the end consumer? Why might it be important to make these decisions? One answer lies in understanding the distinction between who pays, and who uses or benefits from the product or service. Your relationship to both of these parties and how you communicate with them could be substantially different.

ENT_1

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371