Know your customers: Buyer Personas and Ideal Customer Profiles

Marketing buyer persona - ideal customer profile - sopro

Getting to know your customers can be tricky business. That’s why creating Ideal Customer Profiles and Buyer Personas is really important. But if you’re struggling to know the difference between the two – and how to make them part of your sales strategy – you’re not alone.

In this blog, we’ll look at the difference between Buyer Personas and Ideal Customer Profiles, and how to actually implement them into your business practices. 

What is an Ideal Customer Profile?

Think of your perfect customer. That’s an Ideal Customer Profile. Now think of how you can get them to buy from you. That’s what an Ideal Customer Profile helps you do. Ideal Customer Profiles (known as ICPs) are fictitious customers with all the qualities that would make them the perfect fit for your product/service. 

It gives you a crystal clear reference for the people and businesses who’ll gain the most value from your brand, and who’ll ultimately provide you with the biggest ROI. Your ideal customer shouldn’t cost much to acquire, and should be pretty loyal. Ultimately, you’ll want them to become an advocate for your brand. 

An ICP not only defines who you should sell to, but also who you shouldn’t sell to. It allows you to disregard the customers who aren’t a good fit, letting you focus on those leads with the highest conversion potential. 

What is a Buyer Persona?

While your ICP acts as a model of who you want to sell to, your Buyer Persona characterises the buying patterns of customers who fit within your ICP.

Personas are semi-fictional depictions of your ideal customers, curated using real data from your existing customers. Buyer Personas detail the demographics, goals, motivators and challenges which face these customers.

Buyer Personas give structure to your sales and marketing, and simplify your goal setting, time allocation, and resource planning.

According to ClearVoice, marketers who use buyer personas (and map their content based on these personas) benefit from 73% higher conversions compared to companies who don’t bother. Broadview also reports that 71% of companies who exceed their revenue and lead targets have documented Buyer Personas, while 56% of companies found that using buyer personas improve the quality of their leads.

Both appear to do pretty similar things, right? So do you really need both?

Yes. Here’s why.

Do you need an Ideal Customer Profile AND a Buyer Persona?

Both serve a different purpose, but ICPs and Buyer Personas are strongly linked and work in harmony. So it’s really important to use both in your sales and outbound marketing strategies.

While your ICP provides direction to who your company should be targeting based on general qualities and characteristics, your Buyer Persona will advise your teams on who they’re creating marketing content for, who they’re selling to, and what questions they should be prepared to answer.

The aim of the game is to get qualified leads, right? But remember that you’re ultimately interacting with an individual to make that sale – not the whole company. The more human and personal you can come across in your sales efforts, the more relevant and relatable you’ll seem (and the higher your conversion rate will be). That’s why Buyer Personas are so important.

Remember: You’re only going to get the big rewards if you build your ICP before your Buyer Persona – as Personas exist within your ICP. Get it in the wrong order and you risk losing potential quality leads. 

No losing leads here. With years of experience built into our platform, Outbase provides you with the tools you need to easily map your market and really get to know your customers before reaching out to them. See how Outbase can connect you with customers who want to speak to you, direct to your inbox.

How to create an Ideal Customer Profile

Step 1: Describe your ideal customer

Start by asking yourself not only who uses your product, but who loves your product and gets the most value out of your brand.

Make a list of your top ten customers who you go above and beyond for. From this list, take note of the industries, budgets, locations and size of each company. This will give you the basic foundations needed to build your ICP.

Step 2: Interview your top customers

Now it’s time to dive deep into this customer list and evaluate them individually to get into the nitty gritty of their buying behaviour and journey. 

Set up calls or meetings with your most successful customers for a conversation about their experience with your product and your company. You want to find out things like how they discovered your product, why they chose your brand over competitors, and how they gained value from using your product.

Try asking them the following questions:

  • How much research did they do before buying from you?
  • How did they discover your company? 
  • Why do they continue to use you?
  • What are their main pain points/challenges?
  • What problem did they solve by using your product/service?

These answers will give you crucial insight to inform your ICP.

Step 3: Identify ideal characteristics

Once you’ve carried out your interviews and gathered the data, you should process everything using your CRM platform, identifying any similarities between your top customers. Use any recurring qualities and patterns to influence your ICP. 

Step 4: Bring everything together

Once you have everything, bring it all together and compile it into a table collating the common attributes of your most successful customers. Congrats, you’ve got your ideal customer! You can get laser-focused on the right people to target, using factors such as:

  • Industry
  • Location
  • Size
  • Budget
  • Decision makers
  • Pain points
  • Objectives  

Outbase can help you whittle down data to focus on all these factors and more. Our platform delivers a constant, predictable flow of leads to your sales team, meaning you can shift your focus from lead-sourcing and data challenges to close-rates and growth targets. Take a look.

How to create a Buyer Persona

Step 1: Research your audience

The most important thing with Buyer Personas is that they must be created using real-life data – you can’t work off assumptions. Like you did when putting your ICP together, look at your current customer base and observe the key things that influence their decision to buy from you, such as location, language, where they consume their content, decision making power, and challenges. 

After you’ve looked at your own customer base, it’s a good idea to do some online research on the ones who haven’t bought from you yet. LinkedIn is great for researching B2B buyer personas – it allows you to carry out in-depth research into companies and industries, including the specific profiles of people who work within these companies and industries.

Step 2: Identify customer pain points

Next up, you need to find out what problems the customer is trying to solve, or what barriers are stopping them from reaching their business goals. 

You can make good use of your customer-facing teams here. Sales and Customer Service are the primary contacts for your customers – essentially the face of your brand. They’re experiencing customers first-hand, so will understand them the most. See if they can think of any common pain points for customers and how they overcome them.

Step 3: Identify customer goals

Now you know what’s troubling your customers, you can find out what they’re working towards – what their goals are. Even if these goals don’t directly relate to your product/service, there’s always an opportunity to adapt your sales approach to help them reach said goal.

Like you did when identifying pain points, talk to your customer-facing teams to see what goals your customers have. Your sales team will have great insight from their past sales efforts and reaching out to prospects.

Step 4: Know how you can help

With genuine pain points and goals in mind, you can now bring your offering into the mix to understand how exactly you can help. Rather than viewing your offering as a product with a set of features, shift your focus towards emphasising the benefits you can bring to the customer based on their needs.

Three key questions to ask yourself:

  1. How can we actually help? 
  2. What are the main barriers to making a purchase? How can we overcome them?
  3. Where are our followers in their buying journey? Are they just researching or ready to buy?

Step 5: Bring your persona to life

With all your information at the ready, it’s time to refine it down into the recurring characteristics. What industries, challenges, goals, and budgets pop up on the regular?

If you group these common characteristics together, you’re left with the building blocks of your customer personas. Now it’s time to bring them to life. 

Each persona should have a name, job title, life stage, and any other defining attributes. The more realistic you make them, the more accurately you can make your sales and marketing techniques. Try to include enough information so that you can actually visualise these buyers and understand how they go through life with their goals and pain points in mind. 

For example, you could have Maria the freelance marketer. 

She’s a key decision maker in her self-owned business and rakes in approximately £30,000 per year. Her goal is to grow her client base through optimising social media channels, while her pain point is chasing up clients for payments. Your brand could help her by finding her new and unique ways to brand herself to other businesses on social media, while providing a secure and automated product to keep track of payments.

The process of creating Buyer Personas and Ideal Customer Profiles can feel like a lot of work, but it’s all part of an important process that you need to trust. Invest the time now, and reap the rewards later. 

With five years’ experience in sales prospecting, Outbase can help you identify and target the customers who need you the most. We’ll map your market and run campaigns to target the different personas within your ICP. Try it for free

Written by:
Colette Hagan-Young Content Writer