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Friday, July 19, 2013

Clients v. customers | services v. products

Seth Godin has another excellent post.  This one notes the distinction between customers (who decide whether or not to buy your product) and clients (who pay you to make things for them).
Seth Godin
In the context of ICPSR I think we have a product we call "ICPSR membership."  Customers buy it (or not), and if they do, they receive a reasonably well defined set of services, largely centered around the ability to access high quality datasets and documentation.  We have many hundreds of customers for this product.  I think our Summer Program is also a product, and that too has may hundreds of customers.

We also have a smaller number, perhaps a dozen or so, of clients.  In the best case we have a handful of clients who all pay us to perform a similar set of tasks for them: curate their datasets and documentation, preserve the curated artifacts, and publish the content on a specially "skinned" version of the ICPSR web site for all the world to see.  Adding more clients who want us to do this kind of work benefits all of the other clients, and, often, our customers too.

And like any organization which draws much of its revenue from contract work for clients, we also have those that push us in new, different directions, sometimes for the better, and sometimes for the worse.  The trick, of course, is not too try to head off in too many different directions at once.  And to favor those clients who pull us in better, not worse, directions.


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