Customer Profile vs Buyer Persona: Two Sides of the Same Coin
This is the second part of a 2-part series on the B2B ideal customer profile (ICP), buyer personas, and their connection to sales enablement. Revisit what’s an ICP and why it matters for sales enablement.
As much as the title of this post leads you to believe, it’s not really customer profile vs buyer persona. There’s no competition between the two. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Imagine fog lifting from mirrors after a hot shower, disturbed sand settling to the bottom of the ocean, clarity of mind after a difficult breakup, a complex paint-by-numbers painting revealing itself stroke by stroke… What starts off as a blank canvas, the more you paint, the picture becomes clearer. Paint between the lines and use the colors provided in the kit — your picture comes alive.
Sure, you could paint outside the lines and mix your own colors, but how would your picture turn out? Is it recognizable as Van Gogh’s Sunflowers? Or Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa?
ICPs and buyer personas clear up your ideal customer and the buyers in your market segment. While they’re inherently different, both come together and paint a portrait of the people you’ll encounter along the buyer journey.
Customer Profile vs Buyer Persona: The Difference and Why it Matters
What is the Ideal Customer Profile?
In our previous blog on the ICP for sales, we defined the ICP as a description of the buyer who is a great fit for your product and therefore who is most likely to buy. ICPs can also be seen as a list of attributes a buyer needs to have in order to be successful as your customer.
They’re an indispensable tool used to define the market problems you’re solving for, qualify sales-ready leads, and inform and map out future product releases and launches.
What is a Buyer Persona?
Buyer personas are more focused than the ICP. Take your ICP and break it down into smaller groups who share similar buying characteristics. Each of these smaller groups are called buyer personas.
Buyer personas are archetypes that capture the buying patterns you observe through your market research. They’re built using characteristics collected from data and include information like demographics, goals, challenges, roles in the buying process, and where they look for ideas and new information.
How Do All These Parts Fit Together?
From the wide-open market down to individual personas, the following diagram shows how all these moving parts fit together.
Example of a B2B Ideal Customer Profile and Buyer Personas
In a typical B2B space, your ideal customer will define which companies are a good fit for your offering. Your buyer personas are the people at those companies you need to work with.
Let us show you what we mean. Here’s a B2B ideal customer profile and a couple of buyer personas for a cybersecurity product we’ll call “ABC.”
Why the Difference Between Them Matters
ICPs and buyer personas are 2 sides of the same coin. While you can’t have one without the other, each side of the coin is unique and the difference between them matters.
At a high level, ICPs are focused on the fit of the account and don’t go into much detail about the individuals your teams will encounter along the B2B buyer journey. Sales and marketing teams can use them to maintain alignment via lead scoring and qualification processes.
On the other side of the coin, buyer personas provide structure and context by way of mapping out and curating content for the buyers and decision makers in that account.
Creating a buyer persona helps you put a face and personality on your target audience and provides a human connection between you and your potential customers. It’s always easier to communicate with someone you know than with a stranger.
Customer Profile vs Buyer Persona: Which is More Important for Sales Enablement?
ICPs and buyer personas are equally important for sales enablement. Just like in a game of heads or tails, both sides of the coin hold equal weight. It’s the strategy behind it that gives them meaning. And the strategy here is to improve sales efficiency and increase predictable results.
Both ICPs and buyer personas streamline the sales process by narrowing down your target buyers, improving your lead’s buying experience, and achieving organization-wide alignment.
Narrowing Down Your Target Buyers
Sending every lead to sales is a waste of time. At least 50% of your prospects are not a good fit for what you sell. Not everyone is suited for your product and ICPs help filter out the bad-fit leads at the beginning of the sales cycle. This practice is part of lead scoring and qualification, key processes of a sales enablement framework.
Once you identify the accounts that are a great fit for your product, you want to start thinking about the kinds of people your sales teams will encounter along the buyer journey — the people who are responsible for making the purchase. This is where your buyer personas come in.
By defining your buyer personas, you start to put a character on your target audience. Having developed buyer personas makes it much easier to create content that speaks best to them, in the appropriate tone and style, at the right time in the buyer journey.
Ideally you should have your ICP and buyer personas defined before planning product launch activities, but it’s never too late to start. If your solution is already out in the market, do it anyway. Gather your teams to come up with a plan or hire a third-party agency for help.
Improving Your Lead’s Buyer Journey
The best sales enablement strategies shift in alignment to the whole buyer journey. More and more, sales teams have fewer opportunities to influence customer decisions, so you need to meet buyers where they’re at.
Defining the ICP and buyer personas are the first step to achieving just that. When you align your teams on fit and sales readiness, you’re ultimately working with leads who want to buy your product. They want to be on this journey with you — it’s up to you to seize the day and deliver to win the deal.
Sales enablement content is a crucial component of improving your lead’s buying experience. Marketing teams work closely with sales teams to gain a deep understanding of the various buyers the sales team will meet along the buyer journey. Using buyer personas, they then create content that addresses key concerns or questions at various stages of that journey.
Starting the sales process with great-fit leads and nurturing them throughout each step of the buyer journey is a sure-fire way to boost customer happiness and retention, thus increasing your revenue and customer loyalty.
Achieving Organization-Wide Alignment
Defining your ICP and buyer personas is a strategic exercise that requires alignment across your organization to have the most impact. Success within these frameworks depends on systems thinking, which looks at the whole organization as a basis for understanding and managing its people, processes, and technologies.
The siloed approach to business is no longer in alignment with today’s digital buyer journey. While silos were effective at managing departments that owned entire processes, in the new B2B buyer journey, lines between departments are blurred making key processes cross functional. This nexus is essentially the birthplace of sales enablement.
ICP and buyer persona definitions are an opportunity to create a common language throughout the sales process. They support key cross functional processes that are essential to sales and marketing alignment — and ultimately sales enablement as a whole.
High-growth organizations have ICP and buyer persona alignment buy-in from top to bottom. Leadership takes an active role in monitoring ICP and buyer persona performance and impact across the organization. This trickles down throughout the organization, unifying teams and building confidence that everyone is working towards the same goal.