“Understand your customers” is the most common brief marketers get in every marketing discussion.
Often, it is not followed by concrete steps to do so, but with a promising statement like, “understanding your customers will allow you personalize the experience, reduce the sales cycle” Etc. As annoying as it can be as a marketer to hear all that, the truth is, you need to understand your customers. And before you judge us, let us follow up that statement by telling you precisely what you can achieve by ‘understanding your customers well’.
You’ll be able to –
- Optimize your marketing campaigns to meet their interests
- Qualify and generate new leads
- Tweak your sales approach to match the purchase pattern of your customers
- Build/alter products/services to meet their needs
And all of that will be a start.
This is why having an ideal customer profile is of such huge importance. It not only paints a clear picture of whom you are selling to but also presents you with all the necessary information to optimize your processes, products, services, and campaigns to match the needs of your customers.
Now, you may be thinking we nonchalantly defined buyer persona while highlighting the benefits of having an ideal customer profile by your side. Aren’t you?
But, let us tell you, we did not.
Yes, the terms Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) and Buyer Persona are often used interchangeably, for the difference between the two is slim, but there is a difference between the two. The underlying differences between the two is how they are built and what they can do for your business. In this post, we will try to answer the questions surrounding the two to help you differentiate one from another, when you should use either of them and can a business can use both.
Table of Contents
What is an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)?
An ideal customer profile (ICP) for any business essentially is a company that will significantly benefit from their service/product and yield maximum return to the firm. It can be a proxy account that has the potential of a long-term association and eventual conversion into a brand advocate.
What is a Buyer Persona?
A buyer persona is an ideal representation of your customer(s) based on the data you have on your customers and the extensive market research you have done in the search for the right customers for your product/service. It is worth mentioning that while the buyer persona can also be fictional, it is backed by factual data and provides actual structure and insight into your potential customer. It makes it easy for businesses to outline their marketing strategies with regards to content, and the overall organizational goals.
ICP vs Buyer Persona: The Difference
To put it mildly, an ideal customer profile essentially is the type of businesses you should be targeting for your products/services, while the buyer persona is the detailed profile of the individual you should be going after or the individuals who actually make a purchase from you.
An ideal customer profile is normally associated with B2B businesses. However, that is not a mandate. To build an effective ICP, you need statistical data from analytics tools, your CRM, and sometimes even through customer interviews, which is why it is more frequently associated with B2B brands.
Buyer personas focus on the individuals behind any purchase and use data such as buying habits, demographics, likes, dislikes, sociographic etc. Buyer personas are based on factual data, not mere impressions or guesswork. The data to build a buyer persona can be collected through your marketing automation tools, Google Analytics, and/or any social media platform.
For our B2B Demand Generation services, our ideal customer profile will be any business looking for leads to expand their product/business reach or to target customers in new geography. The buyer persona will be the CMOs, CSOs, Director Marketing, Demand Gen Specialists or the decision-makers in those organizations.
Ideal Customer Profile + Buyer Persona = Success
If you look at it mathematically, you will find that the buyer persona is a subset of the ideal customer profile. And thus, to achieve success in your business goals, you need both. Understanding the challenges, goals, traits, and firmographics for your ideal customer profile will help you build an impeccable strategy aimed at targeting the accounts best suited for your business. You also need to understand that there are human beings behind those accounts, and they are the ones who will be signing the deals. And that is why you need to treat each ICP as human and must cater to the humans behind each of those accounts.
This will not only significantly boost your sales conversion process but will also help you personalize your message. The clearer your sales message is, the higher your chances of getting a conversion are. Each of your ideal customer profiles should have multiple buyer personas for which your marketing team can create a message.
You must ensure that the ideal customer profiles you have created are detailed enough to help your organization target the accounts that best suit your business offering. And the buyer personas should help the marketing and sales team understand the individuals you are targeting, to customize the messaging and content they create.
Use ICP & Buyer Persona Both, to Get in Front of Your Customer(s)
Spending some time defining the perfect business opportunity for your business could save your sales folks valuable time. This is why, right from the outset, when you sit down to outline your sales and marketing plans, your focus should be on the prospects in terms of the accounts and individuals that are the perfect fit for your offering. Once you have identified the ideal prospect, you can easily chalk down a scalable, predictable, and efficient sales process to initiate conversions.
Ideal customer profile and buyer persona(s) both serve as secret weapons for your salespeople and enable them to identify who your real prospects are. As a business, building the perfect ICP and buyer personas is half the battle won; you automatically gain a substantial edge over your competitors and can win over your customer with a highly personalized customer experience.