Business Growth Insights

Ideal Customer Profile vs Buyer Persona: Why You Must Understand Both

Ideal Customer Profile vs Buyer Persona

Written By Richard Mawer

Richard is the founder and CEO of Ignite Growth Consultancy, he is an expert in digital marketing, strategy, sales, processes and systems. Also the author of the #1 Amazon best selling book "Remarkable Business Growth", he has been helping small business owners to grow to £1m turnover and beyond for the past 25 years using his proven STEPS Growth Methodology.

Your business thrives because of your customers, so understanding Ideal Customer Profile vs Buyer Persona is important.  To grow, it’s essential to understand two concepts: the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) and Buyer Persona. Not all customers are the same. You need customers who are easy to attract and likely to buy. Avoid customers who take too much effort with little return. To do this, pinpoint your perfect customer.

It is a simple fact that knowing your perfect customer lets you refine your sales and marketing strategies. Tailor your marketing to their interests, adjust your sales techniques to their buying habits, and modify your products to their needs.

Though these concepts seem basic, they’re not always easy to apply. That’s why understanding the ICP and Buyer Persona is vital.

As Hubspot mentions, both ICP and Buyer Persona guide your team in identifying good leads. Many people use these terms interchangeably. However, understanding their differences can greatly benefit your business.

Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)

An ICP describes the best kind of company for your business. It focuses on company details like:

  • Industry
  • Turnover
  • Number of Employees
  • Location
  • Products/Services
  • While this is a hypothetical profile, it should be grounded in real data from your best customers.

For instance, if you’re a UK-based textile company, your ideal customer might be a UK Vintage Clothing Company with 5-10 employees and a turnover of £1,000,000 annually.

Once you’ve identified your ICP, you can move on to the people within these companies, which is where the Buyer Persona comes in.

What is a Buyer Persona?

A Buyer Persona focuses on the person making the purchase decision. In a business context, this could be a company’s owner or director. For consumers, it’s a specific segment of the population. This profile helps you align marketing strategies with potential users of your product.

They allow you to adapt your sales message to the customer and enable you to turn unqualified leads into qualified ones.

What is a Buyer Persona - Blog post Image

To realise such benefits, you must outline the characteristics of your hypothetical buyer persona and support this with real data and market research.
Features may include:

  • Demographics: Age, Location, Relationship Status, Gender, Family
  • Educational Background and Career Path
  • Job Role: What is their typical day? What skills do they utilise?
  • Psychographics – How they make buying decisions?
  • Responsibilities – In their role and how you can help them.
  • Pain Points – Challenges they face.
  • Goals
  • Trusted sources of information – Where they go to get information online, on social media, offline, in magazines, what blogs they read, what shows they attend etc.

For example, as a UK-based textiles business your Buyer Persona may be Eco-Friendly Emily who is the owner of a UK-based Vintage Clothing Store that would like to reduce her carbon footprint yet at the same time buy high quality, cost-effective fabric.

What’s the difference and why do you need both?

With their overall goals being intrinsically linked it is no wonder that the two are utilised interchangeably. However, certain fundamental differences exist between the two:

Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) Buyer Persona (BP)
The Company The Individual
Only need a single ICP You may need 4-5 BPs within a single ICP
Predominantly utilised in B2B scenarios Used in both B2B and B2C scenarios

Understanding your ICP enables you to locate the most valuable customers to your business. It enables you to set a strategy aimed at attracting these companies and will allow you to qualify new leads based on their situation, budget, timeline and industry.

However, it is no use to locate these businesses if you simply become stuck in the revolving door in the foyer, repeatedly going round in circles as you fail to convince the individual players on the inside to let you in. At the end of the day, it is a human being that signs the deal and thus without your buyer persona your ICP is simply a qualification tool.

The two work hand in hand. Use your ICP to find your target companies and your buyer persona to identify the key people within those companies. It’s simple. The important thing is to constantly mature both with real data from prospects and customers who fit your profiles.

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