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CMO copilot — v1.1

What's The Difference Between A Buyer Persona And An Ideal Customer Profile?

Questions about the difference between Ideal Customer Profiles and Buyer Personas is pretty common, even among experienced marketing and sales professionals.


Opinions vary, and experts definitely disagree, but the best answer is really that there are three answers:

 

  1. There is no difference

  2. ICPs are a subset of buyer personas

  3. Buyer personas are a subset of ICPs

 

Confusing? 😯 😟 😠

 

Definitely, but ICPs and buyer personas are really just a way to guide your marketing, sales, design and development efforts, so the right answer for you really comes down to how you choose to develop them.

 

ICPs, particularly in the B2B space, are often built around company-related factors like industry, business type, revenue, number of employees, maturity stage, product usage stats, etc., and occupation-related factors like job title, seniority, buying committee role, selected behavioral traits, etc.

 

Buyer personas, on the other hand, usually focus on individuals and whatever key behavioral and/or demographic qualities make them unique. 

 

 

The thing to keep in mind is that both ICPs and buyer personas are designed to facilitate segmentation and personalization. They help you set priorities, establish more meaningful KPIs, and allocate resources. And ultimately, they both get everybody on the same page, moving in the same direction, toward the same goal.

 

(If you run marketing, sales, design or development teams, you know what a big difference that can make — more focus, alignment and direction = fewer clusterf*cks.)

One really simple way to look at the functional difference between ICPs and buyer personas is to think of them in terms of “could buy” and “should buy” — ICPs represent the kinds of customers who should buy; buyer personas represent the kinds of customer who could buy.

Visualizing the difference between buyer personas and ideal customer profiles

Depending on what you sell, how you sell it, and why your customers buy it, you’ll probably develop your ICPs and/or buyer personas in one of three ways:


1. Your buyer personas will represent all the meaningful groupings of customers who “could buy.”


Visualizing the difference between buyer personas and ideal customer profiles with examples

2. Your buyer personas will represent all the meaningful groupings of customers who “could buy,” while your ICPs will represent all the meaningful groupings of customers who “should buy."


Visualizing the difference between buyer personas and ideal customer profiles with a focus on ICPs

3. Your ICPs will represent all the meaningful groupings of customers who “should buy,” but you will then break them down into subsets, creating a number of individual profiles.


Visualizing the difference between buyer personas and ideal customer profiles using ICP examples

Creating buyer personas and/or ICPs isn't always easy, but if you do take the time to plan, create and share them, the benefits are pretty substantial, like a big increase in marketing-generated revenue and a shorter sales cycles, to name two.

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