Learn Differences Between Ideal Customer Profiles (ICP) vs Persona Profiles

Understanding marketing terms requires a digital marketer to know the key differences between terms that are incorrectly used interchangeably. The differences between ICP vs persona impact marketing strategies in important ways.

Learn Differences Between Ideal Customer Profiles (ICP) vs Persona Profiles

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Knowing who your customers are is a key element of successful digital marketing. 

In order to get the right messages to your audiences during the right time of their customer journey, you need to know exactly who you are targeting and build a strategy that focuses on key groups rather than the population at large. 

However, there are a few different ways to go about creating those audience portfolios that sometimes get confused with each other. 

Two terms you might have heard of in relation to understanding customer segments is an ideal customer profile, or ICP, and a buyer persona

These two terms are often used together as interchangeable ideas, but doing so is incorrect. 

There are key differences between an ideal customer profile and a persona, and in order to successfully market to your preferred audiences, you need a marketing strategy that includes both. 

Keep reading to know more about ICP vs persona.

    What is an ICP?

    An ideal customer profile, often abbreviated as an ICP, is a fictitious description of the ideal types of companies that would get the most value from your brand’s products or solutions and are the ideal buyers for your offerings. 

    While an ICP is a fictitious account, they will represent the companies you want to focus your marketing efforts on. 

    They are the types of businesses that would give your brand a high-value return business and stay with you for a long time. 

    They have high lifetime customer values and are less likely to churn or leave your brand for a competitor. 

    That also means that your ideal customer profiles are the types of businesses that will become spokespeople or advocates for your brand in your industry. 

    While every business can use an ideal customer profile in some way, they are much more helpful for companies that deal in B2B sales rather than B2C sales.

    ICPs are also useful to businesses that do account-based marketing and focus on specific accounts to sell to rather than all companies that could benefit from their products.

    How to Build an Ideal Customer Profile

    Your ideal customer profiles need to reflect real businesses in your scope, even if they aren’t an exact representation of who your customers are. 

    As an idealized, fictional account, your ICPs will have some amount of guesswork. 

    However, you want to use real data to help inform your decisions so your ICPs are as close to exact as they can get.

    Attributes to Consider

    There are many different attributes that you want to have covered in your ICPs. 

    You want to make sure that you are thinking through each of these specific factors and how they can apply to your business sales tactics in the future.

     You also want to keep in mind that your ideal customer profile will provide a long lifetime value and ROI for your business. 

    That might change some of the ways in which you go about creating your profiles. 

    Some of the key attributes to consider are: 

    • Industry
    • Company Size
    • Business Model (B2B, B2C, Saas, Retailer, etc.)
    • Estimated Revenue
    • Number of employees
    • Region or Geographical Location
    • Tech Stack
    • Number of Buildings or Branches
    • Company Pain Points
    • Number of Partners

    Questions to Ask

    In order to get to the root of some of the different attributes, there are a few questions that you can ask during your ideal customer profile creation process. 

    Those questions might include: 

    • What is your ideal company’s background?
    • How did your ideal company get started and how did they grow?
    • What stage of business are they in? Are they established or just starting out?
    • What is their budget for your solutions or products?
    • What can your business do for your ideal company?
    • What types of technology do they use? Are they up to date in their tech stack?

    What is a Persona?

    A persona, rather than being a fictitious representation of the ideal companies that will buy from your brand, is an idealized semi-fictional person who represents the ideal customer of your brand. 

    Through detailed research about your current customers or the customers you hope to get in the market, you can create a profile of your ideal customers that will reflect your real customers. 

    Buyer personas help you gain structure and context for the marketing activities you want to create. 

    It helps you know what kind of messaging, content, and language will resonate with your audiences and build better connections with customers. 

    Companies will likely have quite a few buyer personas, as each one will represent a different audience segment that has similar goals or intentions with your brand. 

    Rather than making a profile for every job title you interact with, it helps to base your personas around the common challenges they have and the solutions that your business can provide to solve those problems.

    How to Build a Buyer Persona

    Building a buyer persona requires you to do some extensive research into the people who will be making purchase decisions for your brand. 

    Whether that’s the end consumer or a decision-maker at an ideal company, you need to know who has the power to make decisions and who is the person you need to target in your messaging. 

    A persona should be a completely filled-out profile of demographic information, personality descriptions, behavior analysis, and professional goals. 

    The more complex your profile is, the better you can personalize marketing messages and campaigns to target specific pain points or goals in your audiences.

    Attributes to Consider

    Some of the common attributes that you’ll want to have included in your buyer persona profile include: 

    • Name
    • Description
    • Job Title
    • Salary
    • Personality Traits
    • Education Level
    • Professional Background
    • Pain Points
    • Attitudes and Beliefs
    • Age
    • Gender
    • Race or Ethnicity
    • Professional Goals
    • Personal Goals
    • Experience with Technology
    • Prefered Social Media Platforms
    • Professional Obstacles
    • Potential Objections

    Questions to Ask

    In order to understand more about your buyer personas, you’ll also want to ask yourself some questions while creating your personas to help visualize them as real people, even if they are semi-fictitious representations. 

    Those questions might include: 

    • What is your persona’s dream job?
    • What hobbies and interests do they have outside of work?
    • What can your products or services do to solve their pain points?
    • Why would the persona choose you over a competitor?
    • Where do they spend their time online?

    ICP vs Persona: What’s the Real Difference?

    The short and sweet of ICP vs persona is that an ICP represents an ideal business that you want to sell to, while a persona is a detailed account of the people who could benefit from your products or services. 

    Oftentimes, a persona will represent a specific buyer or decision-maker within your ICP. 

    In other terms, your ICP is a helpful tool at the beginning of a sales or marketing funnel when you are trying to narrow down the types of companies that you think you want to focus your sales tactics on. 

    The buyer persona is more useful throughout the entirety of the marketing funnel as you focus your messaging and try to create personalized experiences with your customers based on their specific needs.

    Should You Have Both an ICP and a Buyer Persona?

    The short answer? If it makes sense for your business, yes. 

    Having both an ICP and a buyer persona helps you create a strategy that knows exactly who to target from beginning to end. 

    A good way to think about how to use both an ICP and a buyer persona together is to consider the goals of each profile. 

    Your ICP will help you know what types of businesses you want to target. However, once you’ve determined what businesses those are, you need to take things to a human level. 

    After all, deals are made between people, not organizations. 

    You can use your buyer persona to help create consistent messaging and key marketing tactics that target the individual stakeholders or decision-makers within your ICPs. 

    For example, say you identify that Business A matches your ICP and you want them to buy from your company.

    You can then use your buyer persona profile for a Business CEO to create targeted marketing messages and campaigns that will be of interest to the CEO of Business A. 

    By using the ICP and the buyer persona together, you can identify the companies you want to sell to, then create strategies to market to the individuals in that business.

    Wrap Up

    Both ideal customer profiles and buyer personas are needed to create digital marketing strategies that work. 

    However, there are key differences between an ICP vs persona that need to be taken into consideration while building out your audience segments. 

    By knowing what makes each term different and knowing how to create each one as a separate entity, you can find a way to match the two together into a cohesive marketing strategy for your brand.

    To learn more about how to create buyer personas, check out our Buyer Persona Generator tool!

    You’ll be able to work through the entire process of creating a persona including naming them, picking their appearance, and diving down deep into the demographic and personality questions that will make your persona come to life.


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