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Ideal customer profile vs buyer persona: What’s the difference?

Ideal customer profile vs buyer persona: What’s the difference?

Customers must come first. Period.


When you understand who your customers are, you’ll be able to:

  • Adapt your marketing methods to fit their interests
  • Qualify new leads faster
  • Adapt your sales process to how they purchase
  • Improve your product to fill their needs

And that’s just the start.

An ideal customer profile can help you build a clear view of who you’re selling to, giving all teams the insight needed to improve their processes and better fit customer needs.

But wait, isn’t that what a buyer persona does?

It’s common for these two terms to be used interchangeably, but there are actually subtle differences in the way they’re created and what they can do for your business.

So, what’s the difference between an ideal customer profile and a buyer persona? When would you use either one? Are the situations when your business could use both?

Let’s answer those questions and more:

What is an ideal customer profile?

An ideal customer profile, or ICP, is an example of the perfect customer for your business. Normally used by B2B companies, this profile defines the characteristics of a company that will buy your product. By identifying commonalities in your top customers, you can better target the market that is best suited for your product or services.

Your ideal customer profile is based on real data and created through research and interviews with customers.

Want to get started with your own ideal customer profile? Check out this interactive guide to jumpstart your ICP:

For a complete view of who you’re really selling to, your ideal customer profile should include:

  • Information about the company, such as size, goals, and industry
  • Budget and revenue
  • Location, if applicable to what you’re selling
  • Main challenges and pain points the customer is looking to solve
  • Common objections that are raised during the sales process
  • Typical purchase process, including who is involved in signing off on the purchase
  • Timelines and deadlines to purchase

When interviewing customers and researching data in your CRM or analytics tools, you may see other common traits that your top customers share, such as where they enter the sales pipeline, what they prefer to see in a product demo, or what finally convinces them to purchase. When you notice that the majority of your most successful customers share a particular trait, that should be included in your ideal customer profile.

What is a buyer persona?

A buyer persona focuses on the individual behind the purchase. Used by both B2B and B2C businesses, a buyer persona digs into the demographics, buying habits, online activity, motivators, and goals of the people who are buying your product or services. It helps marketing, sales, and customer service teams stay focused on the individuals they’re selling to.

Again, buyer personas must be based on real data, not on impressions or guesswork. The main way to collect data for buyer personas is by conducting interviews with customers or having them fill out a survey.

Another way to gather data for buyer personas is by using demographic data found in Google Analytics and other paid ad tools.

But, there's a caveat: Just because Google Analytics tells you that a large percentage of your website visitors are technophiles doesn't mean your buyer persona is a technophile. Sometimes the largest group of people that visits your website is not necessarily the group that actually buys your product. Take in all the data points, but verify that the data actually is representative of the person buying your product.

Buyer personas give you a clear view of the people behind the numbers. This allows you to:

  • Better align marketing efforts to the ideals and motivations of the individuals who need your product
  • Adapt your sales messaging to the language of the customer
  • Give your brand a voice that resonates with your audience

So, now that we’ve discussed these two different terms, what are the main differences between them?

Key differences between ICPs and buyer personas

Here’s an overview of the main differences between ICPs and buyer personas:

Ideal customer profileBuyer persona
Used mainly by B2B companiesUsed by both B2B and B2C companies
Based on statistical data from CRM, analytics tools, and customer interviewsFocuses on the individuals behind a purchase
Based on statistical data from CRM, analytics tools, and customer interviewsBased mainly on customer interviews, as well as demographic data from tools such as Google Analytics


That said, there are also many similarities between ideal customer profiles and buyer personas. For example:

  • Both are used to understand who you’re selling to
  • Both can help marketing, sales, customer service, and product teams to stay focused on the customer and their needs
  • Both can be used at all stages of the sales pipeline and customer lifecycle

So, how can you decide which one you really need?

Ideal customer profile vs. buyer persona: Which one is best for your company?

Not sure which one you need? Here are some signs that will tell you whether an ideal customer profile or a buyer persona is better for your business:

You might need an ideal customer profile if:

  • You’re a B2B company
  • Many unqualified leads are getting into your sales pipeline
  • Your reps aren’t prepared for common objections

You might need a buyer persona if:

  • You’re a B2C company
  • You’re seeing very low conversion rates with online ads
  • You sell to individuals
  • Your B2B sales team often loses deals in later stages because stakeholders are not convinced

When would you need an ideal customer profile and a buyer persona?

You might have noticed that a buyer persona is important for any business that sells to individuals.

Well, guess what: ALL businesses sell to individuals!

Yes, including B2B.

A B2B business does well to use both ideal customer profiles and buyer personas (or a profile that combines both).

In the end, your ideal customer profile will give you essential details about the type of company that you’re selling to and will help qualify new leads based on their situation, budget, timeline, and industry.

But a buyer persona will help you sell to the individuals that must sign off on the deal.

For example, a B2B sales rep may find a new lead that’s a perfect fit for their product. But if that rep doesn’t understand who they’re selling to within that company, the pitch may fall on deaf ears. Or worse, they could waste time trying to sell to a role that either doesn’t have the authority or isn’t the end-user.

Depending on the product you sell, you’ll probably need to convince multiple stakeholders during the sales process in order to close the deal. So, why not create buyer personas for each of those stakeholders?

These could include:

  • The end-user: The individual(s) who will actually use your product after purchase
  • The economic buyer: The person who controls the budget, normally either the director of a department or the CFO
  • The executive buyer: In some cases, this is the same as the economic buyer, but may also be the CEO, CIO, or someone else on the executive team who must sign-off before a purchase is made

With a buyer persona for each of these individuals, you’ll be able to adapt marketing and sales messaging to hit their individual pain points. For example, the end-user may be looking for a tool that makes his job easier. The economic buy will need to see the direct ROI of the purchase. The C-level executive will probably be more concerned with how the tool can scale, and what impact it will have on the department or company as a whole.

Each of these individuals is important to the sales process. By creating B2B buyer personas that highlight the needs and motivators of each individual involved in a purchase, you can better manage your sales process, adapt your marketing materials, and close more deals.

Start creating your own ideal customer profiles

Ready to create an ideal customer profile that gives you real insights into the minds of your customers?

You don’t need to start from scratch: Use our Ideal Customer Profile Kit to get a headstart on creating your own ICPs.

This kit includes a checklist to help you get started, as well as customer survey questions, examples, and templates based on the type of product or service you sell. It guides you to creating ICPs that are packed with actionable customer insights, not fluff info based on guesswork.

Sales happen naturally when you sell to the right people for the right reasons. Use our templates and guide to create profiles that help you profit.

DOWNLOAD OUR NEW ICP KIT →