Ideal Customer Profile & Buyer Persona – What is the difference?

Why Both Ideal Customer Profile & Buyer Persona Are Important

There is some confusion surrounding the definition of Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) and Buyer Persona, which are important elements to understand when creating B2B content marketing. It is key to clarify these terms in order to clarify who we are creating content for, so we create the right content that helps make it easier to buy, for the personas within our ICP.

When you have a fundamental understanding of your persona (within your specific ICP) and their pains, you will no longer be struggling with identifying great content to help them solve their problem and make it easier to buy your service.

The goal of this article is to clearly define the role of both the ICP and Buyer Persona as it relates to B2B marketing. 

What Is The Difference Between ICP & Buyer Persona?

An Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) is the description of the Ideal Company, that matches the profile of the your most desirable customers you want to get more of to grow your business. The Persona are the job titles of the decision makers and influencers within your ICP, that experience the pains that your company helps to solve.

What Is An Ideal Customer Profile?

Let’s start with the Ideal customer profile (ICP). The ICP is a representation of the ideal organizations you wish to work with. It should be a picture of the type of organizations your company would like to attract, sell and work with long term. In other words, it’s the account type you want to land more deals from.

The ICP is made up of the following:

  • Industry
  • Niche
  • Firmographics
  • Demographics
  • Revenue
  • Growth
  • Profit
  • Objectives
  • Pains experienced
  • Product or service specifics

What is the ICP used for?

As a general rule of thumb, we use ICPs:

  • to find more prospects that are similar to our ICP, when creating targeted ad campaigns on e.g. LinkedIn
  • to segment the prospect in our CRM system so that we can focus our marketing and sales resources on the kind of prospects we want more of.

One key point to remember, and keep it all straight is, you will never create content for an ICP. Content is created for a Buyer Persona inside of an ICP, as the company it self is not experiencing pain or problems, but specific persona and decision makers within the company does.

So if you are talking about content, you know you have left the ICP and moved to Buyer Persona for the ICP, which we will cover in the next section.

What is a Buyer Persona?

The buyer persona is a detailed representation of a buyer that is working inside your ICP. It would include things like demographics and psychographics. And, might even delve into their fears, desires and how they struggle to understand and solve the problem. 

A Buyer Persona is a description of a buyer within a company. And, the should include things like the following:

  • A fictitious friendly name
  • Department and Job Title
  • The websites and online platforms they frequently use (so you know where to reach them)
  • Years of experience
  • Struggles or pain points and how they manifest in their daily work
  • Desired outcome / Goals – jobs to be done
  • Their criteria shortlisting vendors
  • How they influence the purchase
  • What they look for when shortlisting vendors

The Buyer Persona should be simplified and representative of the buyer’s role within an organization. In fact, a Buyer Persona can fit on a single page and may be found in the following guide:

Illustration Of Ideal Customer Profile vs Buyer Persona

The magic starts to happen when we put the Buyer Persona and ICP together.

The Ideal Customer Profile rests above the Buyer Persona much like a boss does on an organizational chart. See the following as an example:

Ideal Customer Profile & Buying Persona - What is the difference?
Distinction Between Ideal Customer Profile and Persona

Why Is The Distinction Between Ideal Customer Profile & Buying Persona Important?

EXAMPLE – CPA Firm

A CPA Firm, that creates B2B marketing content, may have different ICPs they are targeting, like construction companies and health care, and their most desirable customers, but the decision makers, buyer persona, differs and so does both their pains and the solution that is needed to bring about the desired outcome.

The CFO may be struggling with assessing “work-in-progress” on their construction projects, which has major EBIT, tax, and cashflow implications.

A Hospital may be struggling with cost allocation across tens of thousands different cost types to understand how they can operate more efficiently and be more profitable.

EXAMPLE – IT Services Company

An IT-Service company will have multiple ICPs as well, like a multinational consulting firm that has tens of thousands of workstations and secure file servers, and manufacturing companies that requires complex maintenance of integration between hundreds or thousands of manufacturing equipment and applications, including their ERP system.

The lead partners, senior managers, IT manager, and CFO in the consulting firm may be struggling with unbillable hours due to failing remote secure access or failing ability to update workstations remotely.

The COO, plant managers, CFO, CTO, and Procurement, in a manufacturing company may be struggling with failing integrations, data not being updated, which create problems in planning, delivery, and visibility of the operation.

So it is important to understand that creating a few personas that applies across more than one ICP will not always work, and the result is that the content we create will not resonate with the decision maker, and the efforts will have been wasted.

It is not always so in every industry, but in most cases there are vast differences, and that is why you should specify you ICPs and buyer personas well before you you spend a lot of resources creating your B2B lead generation and marketing automation engine.

We hope you enjoyed the article and that it helped clarify the difference between ICP and buyer persona and why they are both important for your b2b lead and sales growth.

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