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7 min read

ICP vs. buyer persona

B2B marketing

Your audience can vary a lot, and you need marketing strategies to reflect that. This is where segmentation comes into play!

There are many reasons why you’d want to split your audience into different groups or categories, mainly the fact that it allows you to deliver tailored messaging to your customers.

Segmentation is usually demographic, psychographic, behavioral, and geographic, and you choose what makes more sense in the context of your marketing campaigns.

What are ideal customer profiles?

When we talk about segmentation, the first thing that comes to mind is probably personas, but they aren’t the only type.

developer working on her laptop, code on screen

Ideal customer profiles (ICPs) are descriptions of fictional companies that derive value from your product while also providing value (and the best return) to your business.

ICPs are usually broad descriptions that help companies understand what their ‘perfect’ customer is, and they also tend to have a solid lifetime value, since they don’t churn as much. ICPs can also advocate for your brand and product!

Ideal customer profiles can help you to better define the problems you’re looking to solve, ensure your operations are aligned with what your audience needs, and help you to improve your offerings in the future.

With ICPs, you’ll know which leads to send to sales, for example, and which are unlikely to convert. The characteristics that make a customer ideal will depend on your circumstances. For example, do you sell to a particular region/country? If so, geographics are important. How much budget do you have? How much revenue is your audience turning over? Are there any barriers to purchase that might impact your audience?

This can help you to identify what your ICP looks like. If you believe a lead doesn’t qualify, then you can set them aside and save your sales team the time to engage them.

Why do you need an ICP vs buyer persona? Because they’ll let you know exactly who you should target by identifying key features that profitable customers share.

How to improve your marketing personas
Personas are a fundamental part of any B2B marketing strategy. Whether you’re launching a new product or feature, revisiting sales assets, or building a product demo, they should be at the forefront of your mind throughout and shape what you create - and how.

How to create an ICP

There are some elements inherent to ICPs that you may want to include when creating your profile.

While you may have a good idea of who your ideal customer is, don’t rely solely on your hunches – they might be in the ballpark, but you’ll only get accurate data without missing any key details if you do some research first.

1. Specify the problem you’re solving

This is key because you need to know how you can help your customers. Does your software resolve an issue your customers have been having for a while? Does the tool shave off time in their daily tasks? Is the tech designed to cut down the number of steps for a certain task and, therefore, makes their lives easier?

If you fully understand what you’re solving, you can better define your ideal customer profiles, since you’ll know exactly what they’re looking for – i.e., who can benefit from your product the most.

2. Figure out the characteristics your best customers share

Analyze your existing customers in-depth to find out the attributes they have in common, whether that’s the type of business, the technologies used, the revenue of the companies, etc.

You can use an existing database or tool for this, if possible, or conduct interviews and send out surveys to your happiest customers and ask them questions like, “what made you choose us?”

A good ideal customer profile will also include questions that give you data about the company’s behavior and attitudes, like:

  • What are its biggest challenges?
  • What tech does the company use?
  • What are its goals?
  • And its pain points?

You can also include negative characteristics, so you're aware of the companies that aren’t a good match for your product.

3. Evaluate customer feedback

Accept the good and the bad – customer feedback is a fantastic way to learn what your target audience thinks of your business and product, and provides you with the perfect opportunity to improve your offerings.

While data is crucial, so is feedback. So, ensure you know exactly what your customers like about your company and what could be done better. And, by acting on that feedback, customers will be happy they’re being listened to.

4. Define your ICP

While each company will have different traits, every ideal customer profile should have basic information like the size of the organization, its budget, and its location.

Once you’ve got all the data, you’ll want to document everything in the same place for quick reference. Make sure other stakeholders in the company can use the framework and review it to keep it up-to-date and useful for everyone else, including the sales team.

The information you get from your ICP vs buyer persona is also useful for your marketing strategies, so that you’re not only targeting the right audience, but also have the right messaging and how to best position your product.

What are buyer personas?

Buyer personas are also semi-fictional representations of your ideal customer. But, while ICPs refer to companies, buyer personas are about individuals – they’re also usually more in-depth than ideal customer profiles, as they include elements like motivations, demographics, fears, job titles, and more.

Just like with ICPs, you want to find patterns and put together the traits they have in common, which will give you a general idea of who your buyer persona is.

You can also have more than one buyer persona! If your product is aimed at both software developers and full-stack developers, for example, it makes sense to have different personas.

Your blueprint for aligning social campaigns with brand personas
We all know social media is useful for building personas, but how can you use them to develop and optimize your company’s online presence?

How to create a buyer persona

Buyer personas help you to think like your customer and, by doing that, you can better get your message across to your audience. But, how do you even start? The process is similar to the creation of ideal customer profiles:

1. Research your target market

Buyer personas are based on research, just like ICPs. You may have a pretty good idea of who your audience is but, without this research, you might not be able to develop the right messaging or tailor your marketing efforts as accurately as you would with a solid, well-researched persona in place.

To perform this research, you can ask your customers questions. Talk to your customers, send out a survey, try to identify their motives and challenges, etc.

The questions you should ask should be about the job your customers do, the specific market/industry they’re in, what they’re looking for in a product (as in, the problems or challenges they have), their personal background, any training and development they do, and so much more.

2. Jot down your audience’s demographics

This might be the simplest step, since you probably have access to this information already, be it on your CRM (customer relationship management) tool or your community.

For example, if your main demographic is developers in their twenties, they’re likely starting their careers and, therefore, their goals, challenges, and motivations will be a lot different than someone with years of experience.

3. Add their goals

What motivates your audience? What issues do they have? What are they looking for in a product? Make sure to include their goals when creating your buyer persona, since this can help you to better understand how to interact with them – and how to approach them when it comes to promoting your product’s features and benefits.

4. Create messaging for your buyer persona

Your audience might be unique so, you’ll want to get your messaging right when you interact with them. So, you must get the tone of voice right as well, which includes being factual, straight to the point, and avoiding fluff.

Create content that resonates with your persona, such as elevator pitches, that also help other stakeholders in the company understand your audience better – and speak the same language when communicating with devs.

Why you need both an ICP and a buyer persona

ICP vs buyer persona? Do you have to choose one or the other? As mentioned, your ICPs are the companies you should target, while a buyer persona refers to the people who buy from you.

Your ICP may be a business-to-business company while your buyer persona will be the people who work there, from the sales team to the marketing managers. In addition to this, ICPs tend to be more focused on the numbers (such as revenue), but buyer personas include more qualitative and subjective elements, like your audience’s challenges and fears.

You need both because it helps you to understand all your customers’ and audience’s challenges, goals, and characteristics, which you can then use to build a strategy that draws people in.

It’s also important that you regularly update your ICP and your buyer personas since the industry is always evolving and the business needs to reflect those changes. That way, you can keep tweaking your offerings, improving your messaging, etc.

Written by:

Teresa Garanhel

Teresa Garanhel

With a background in digital marketing, Teresa has been creating content for companies across many different industries over the years, from manufacturing to technology and everything else in-between.

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ICP vs. buyer persona