Ideal Customer Profile vs. Buyer Persona: What’s the Difference?

Do you enjoy talking to brick walls? I know the acoustics can be “rustic,” but it starts to feel like a one-sided conversation after a while. Unfortunately, that’s how your sales and marketing strategies can feel if you don’t have a set of ideal customers and buyer personas.

You can throw discounts, promotions, and free dinners at your potential customers until the cows come home, but if you don’t know what problems your prospects are facing, you’re wasting your energy. So, if you’re looking to discuss a sale over a nice dinner, buyer personas and ideal customer profiles can help you make sure there’s a set of ears at the other end of the table (hopefully, with a person attached to them).

So, let’s go over what these sales tools are, and how you can make use of them during your team’s next strategy meeting.


What’s an Ideal Customer?

Imagine your company’s product or service for a second. What’s the point of it? Who is it helping? What does their company look like?

Any reasonable answer you can think of for these questions is an ideal customer. They’re imaginary companies that have imaginary problems that your product or service can hypothetically fix. But, these “fake” companies are very real businesses that you should stay on the lookout for.

Ideal customer profiles show the characteristics of your target audience, including:

  • Budget
  • Company size
  • Legal constraints
  • Industry
  • Location

While it’s a one-in-a-million chance that you’ll find a company that fits your ideal customer exactly, knowing these details gives you more ways to understand the companies you’re selling to.

But, businesses are more than just data and characteristics. They have people at the helm making every decision—people that we can define with a buyer persona.


What’s a Buyer Persona?

Now, imagine those ideal customers. Who are the decision-makers within their company? What problems are they currently facing? How do they decide what’s worth purchasing?

These questions help form buyer personas. Just like ideal customers, you shouldn’t go out and find the one person that’s a perfect fit for your products and services. They’re an idea of what your company’s buyers need from you, how they go about their work, and if it helps, what they might look like.

Yes, what they look like visually. Buyer personas are detailed representations of your customers, so having a face to match the personality can help you practice your sales strategy for when you meet with your potential buyers. Just don’t talk to yourself too much, or people will start to think you’re crazy.

Here are a few things that are crucial for building a buyer persona:

  • Pain points of past and current clients
  • Interviews with past and current clients
  • Common job positions that act as decision-makers in your target audience’s industry.
  • Reviews and testimonials

Once you have this info, take a look at what stays consistent with each of your clients. Maybe they don’t need to know how the product works, they just need a solution. Or, maybe they know what a solution looks like, and they need a rundown on some of the finer details that make your product or service the best option.


So, what’s the difference?

An ideal customer shows you who your company is targeting, and a buyer persona tells you how to sell to them. 

If you’ve ever looked up a recipe online, it’s essentially the difference between the top half and the bottom half. Ideal customer profiles are the top half. They’ll tell you what your target audience is, what their structure looks like, and twelve pages about why their company reminds them of their late grandma

…okay, maybe that last part is just for the online recipes.

The bottom half of the recipe is more instructional, like a buyer persona. Buyer personas tell you what your potential customers need to be successful and what tools you’ll need to bake a sale from scratch. 


Why you need both.

While ideal customer profiles and buyer personas are different, your marketing tactics won’t be as effective without both.

Let’s say you try to form your sales strategy around your ideal customer profiles. That would be like casting a fishing line without bait. Sure, you might catch a curious, and particularly desperate fish here and there, but it’ll be much harder to convince them to stay on the line.

Meanwhile, if you’re only using buyer personas, you’ll have the right bait, but you won’t know where to start fishing.

By using both of these marketing strategies in tandem, you’ll have the best of both worlds. You’ll be able to find important details about your target audience with ideal customer profiles. Then, with buyer personas, your team can form sales strategies that’ll target the decision-makers at these companies.

Using one without the other will deprive your team of the resources they need to close out a sale.


Your buyers don’t need products, they need solutions.

It all comes down to knowing your potential buyers. If you don’t know what your customers are looking for, your sales pitch won’t mean anything to them, you’re just talking to a wall.

But, when you can identify your target audience, and understand their pain points, you’ll have the resources to burst through that wall with an “Oh yeah!”, without spilling a drop of Kool-Aid.