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

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The customer comprises the heart of your business. Pretty obvious, isn’t it? Without them, sales would not be made, no revenue would be generated and your business would not grow.

It is not the case, however, that any customer will suffice. What you need are good fit clients who cost you the least to acquire and are most likely to buy. What you do not want are those clients who demand greater resources to acquire than the fruits that they give back. Or even worse, those prospects who are nothing more than an unqualified lead on which you have wasted time and resources.

To realise the former and evade the latter, therefore, you need to know who your perfect customer is.

When you know who your ideal customer is, you are able to streamline your sales and marketing efforts to target the right companies. For example, you can adapt your marketing methods to fit their interests, adjust your sales process to how they purchase or, perhaps most obviously, alter your product to satisfy their needs.

It can sound basic stuff when you boil it down, yet it is never quite so easy to put into practice. To simplify such tasks, therefore, it helps if you can determine your Ideal Customer Profile and Buyer Personas.

As Hubspot states

There are common misconceptions about the difference between ideal customer profiles and buyer personas, and understandably so. They have similarities in that they both include a set of guidelines your teams can use to qualify leads.

Both establishing a set of guidelines to qualify prospective leads, it is common for the two terms to be used interchangeably. However, if you can understand the difference between the two and utilise them strategically, you may just unlock the secret to helping your business flourish.

What is an Ideal Customer Profile?

An ideal customer profile is a profile of characteristics that represents the perfect client for your business. Rather than looking at the individual people, your ICP looks at the business as a whole, determining firmographic information such as:

  • Industry / Sector
  • Turnover
  • Number of Employees
  • Geographic Location
  • Products / Services
Although the profile that you paint is hypothetical, the characteristics that you determine should be based off the real data that you have collected after assessing the common traits of your best customers.

 

For example, as a UK-based textiles business your ICP may be a Vintage Clothing Company employing 5-10 people in the United Kingdom and turning over £1,000,000 a year.
Having pinpointed the accounts that best fit your company, you can then begin to think about the individuals who are responsible for opening the doors for you. And this is where the Buyer Persona comes into play.

What is a Buyer Persona?

A buyer persona is centred upon the individual who is behind the purchase decision. In a B2B scenario, the buyer persona may be the owner, sales director or even the financial director of your ICP. In a B2C scenario, a buyer persona will be a certain segment of the general public with demographic and psychographic data. Regardless of the context, however, your buyer persona allows you to better align marketing efforts to the ideals and motivations of the individuals who may use 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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