Guest column: Understanding the Visitor, Consumer and Customer

By Joshua Rockoff It is a common shortcut for marketers young and old to jump to the why and how...

By Joshua Rockoff

It is a common shortcut for marketers young and old to jump to the why and how of marketing before understanding their target audience. Reaching this conclusion without understanding the preliminary steps can lead to higher cost, wasted time, and, most importantly, a disengaged audience – even in the commercial real estate market.

To avoid this misstep, it is fundamental to understand the difference between the visitor, the consumer, and the customer. Doing so one can develop an effective yet surprisingly easy way to engage their target audience. Without knowing the distinction, marketers tend to focus on the incorrect group, missing a huge opportunity to shorten the marketing lifecycle.

In a single word describing each term, what is the definition of the visitor, the consumer, and the customer? Knowing the distinction will allow you to monetize efficiently.

Who is the visitor? In one word, they are anonymous. We do not know who they are. The visitor has not declared their intent. Because their exposure to you is limited to a single act, it is difficult to determine their level of interest.

Who is the consumer? This term is commonly associated with shopping or retail activities. Put that aside for this purpose. The consumer is identified by the single word: browser. They have not declared their intent, but you know more about them. They have expressed an interest, by merely visiting multiple ads or web pages; the key distinction is whether their interest is one of active or passive engagement. This group is better than the visitor, but still remains a mystery to their intent.

The last group is the customer. Putting aside the retail terminology, the single word to identify them is personalized. They have declared their intent by completing a transaction. A transaction can be anything like completing a form, submitting their email address and/or telephone number, doing a search on Google, signing a building register, or collecting a security pass. The customer has now identified themselves to where you can individually understand their interests. You are now empowered to target them individually or by associated group for your marketing activities. This is the easiest group to focus on.

This straightforward step of knowing the who, what, where, and when allows you to focus on the why and how. Knowing these specifics about your target audience, you are enabled to implement an engagement plan leveraging what information you have about the target audience and soliciting further information, shortening the marketing lifecycle. Without that identifying information, your tactics must remain focused on converting consumers into customers to facilitate the faster lifecycle.