Customers and users aren't always the same

For many businesses, the customer and the end user are the same person. When your product makes customers' lives better, they're willing to buy it. But, this isn't always the case.

  • For many consumer internet companies, users don't pay the bills; advertisers do - they're the real customer.
  • In enterprise sales, the person who authorizes a purchase order is often different from the person who directly benefits from your product or service.

Some friends were asking what I thought about their new startup idea. It's clear that they'd be enthusiastic users, but it was less clear whether they'd enjoy selling their product to their customers. In companies where revenue can be deferred until the user base reaches critical mass, this isn't a big issue. But, when enterprise deals need to be closed to get users, this should be a red flag.