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Ideal Customer Profile Vs. Buyer Persona: What's The Difference?

Updated: Apr 21, 2023

What’s the difference between an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) and a buyer persona?


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Three answers:


1. There is no difference.

2. ICPs are a subset of buyer personas.

3. Buyer personas are a subset of ICPs.


Confusing? 😯 😟 😠


Everybody has their opinion, but ICPs and buyer personas are really just a way to guide your marketing, sales, design and development efforts, so it really comes down to how you choose to develop them.

ICPs, particularly in the B2B space, are often built around company-level qualifications like industry, revenue, number of employees, maturity stage, product usage stats, roles, etc., and may include (or be further segmented by) key behavioral and demographic differences.


Buyer personas, on the other hand, are often built around a specific kind of organizational framework like use cases, pain points, life stages, etc. and dive deeply into key behavioral and demographic differences.


The thing to keep in mind is that both ICPs and buyer personas are great for segmentation and personalization.


Both ICPs and buyer personas help you set priorities, establish more meaningful KPIs, and allocate resources.

Both ICPs and buyer personas 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.)


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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.



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


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



  • 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.”


  • Your ICPs represent will represent all the meaningful groupings of customers who “should buy,” but you will then break them down into subsets, which will become your individual buyer personas.




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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TL;DR


ICPs and buyer personas are inter-related. How you define them really depends on how you use them, but no matter what, the benefits of taking the time to flesh them out has big benefits.


You can also find free, downloadable resources here:

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