Customer is a concept that comes from the Latin cliens and refers to the person who accesses a certain product or service after making a payment. Although there are occasional customers, the term is usually applied to those who access the product or service regularly.
According to DigoPaul, a customer, therefore, can be a buyer (who buys a product), a user (the subject who uses a service) or a consumer (the person who consumes a product or service).
Potential, on the other hand, is that which contains power, which can exist or which has the virtue of other things. The term is also used to name the available power or force of a certain order.
The notion of potential customer allows to name the subject who, according to a market analysis or marketing study, could become a buyer, consumer or user of a specific product or service. The potentiality, in this case, refers to a behavior that has not yet materialized.
Potential customers, therefore, are those people, companies or organizations that have not yet made purchases from a certain company but are considered potential customers in the future since they have the financial resources and the appropriate profile.
By considering potential customers as a variable, it is possible to estimate certain sales volumes for the future. In other words: potential customers are a possible source of future income. For example: a man who, in the last five years, has contracted three mobile phone promotions provided by company X, is a potential client of this company at the time of a new promotion.
But like any concept related to markets, since the mid-1990’s, the potential customer paradigm has been affected by a series of changes in the relationship that consumers have with their preferred products. What to a certain point in history was a dynamic in which buyers acted blindly, controlled by large multinationals, without significant power of opinion, has become a race in which both parties try to get ahead of the other: on the one hand, the giants, who lose body volume every time; on the other, a growing legion of informed consumers who shout from the rooftops their experiences with the former.
The Internet has turned the consumer into an active component of the industry: they no longer just watch and decide, but inform themselves and demand, and do not usually accept a “no” for an answer. If a company doesn’t give you what you ask for, then keep walking until you find it. This freedom, this free will of the clients did not enter into the potentiality equation, which is why the efforts of companies to keep buyers interested have had to be increased.
Returning to the example given a few paragraphs above, it is likely that this man who is a regular at company X promotions could be considered a potential customer. However, today, between the time of your last transaction and the next move by the company, a lot can happen. One possibility is that a group Y will appear, with offers that will captivate you more, and quickly make you forget about X.
This does not mean that two decades ago the same situation could not have occurred, but today it takes a fraction of the time and money to create a business, so future plans are no longer so secure. It is essential to act at all times, to remind those potential customers that we exist and that we will always have new products and services that will surprise and satisfy them.