What Is the Difference Between an ICP and a Buyer Persona?

Learn how ICPs & buyer personas are different and how they help you deliver your outreach messages to more people who match your best-fit clients.

What Is the Difference Between an ICP and a Buyer Persona?

Learn What an ICP & a Buyer Persona Are and How Both Help Improve Sales

Have you ever heard the saying, “if you stand for nothing you’ll fall for anything”? In sales it goes more like, “if you stand for nothing, you’ll win nothing.” Less catchy…but accurate nonetheless.

If you don’t tailor your messaging to your ideal client profile (ICP) and buyer personas, you’ll have a hard time finding sales-qualified leads.

But what’s the difference between an ICP and a buyer persona?”

In the simplest terms, an ICP is your optimal type of client or business you sell to while your buyer persona is the type of person you sell to at that business.

If you’re prospecting and outreaching to leads such as on LinkedIn to book more meetings and win clients, understanding your target audience with ICPs and buyer personas is important to connect with the best people and resonate with them.

Both an ICP and a buyer persona inform your LinkedIn sales strategy by clearly defining who you should be reaching out to and what to say to them.

If you’re looking to focus your sales on a targeted and more willing audience, keep reading to learn what ICPs & buyer personas are, how you find yours and how to leverage them to win more sales.

What Is an ICP?

An ideal client profile, or ICP, is a fictional summary of the best client for your business.

Your “best client” is the client whose problems you are best positioned to solve with the product or services you currently offer.

When you’re well-positioned to solve a client’s problems, you can expect high retention with less conversion efforts. Essentially, your ICP delivers the highest lifetime value for your company.

You can also use your ICP to customize your marketing strategy to the right audience. For example, you may have built a portfolio of clients already.

If you know who your ICP is, you can use that to inform which client-success stories are most relevant to your ideal audience. Pick 1–3 of your current clients that best match your ICP and create content about how you helped them. This sales-enablement content is great evidence that your product or service is valuable.

Case studies, client testimonials and sample work are great examples of sales-enablement content you can create and share in multiple places.

Publish these content pieces on your website, include them on social media when you add a portfolio to LinkedIn and repurpose them for different formats like social posts or ebooks and you can scale revenue fast when messaging leads.

Showing you have proven experience solving a problem will help you win over more leads.

How Do You Create an ICP?

Creating your ICP is an important aspect of positioning yourself in the market.

To determine your ICP, consider:

  • Company size
  • Budget
  • Industry
  • Location
  • Business model
  • Tech stack
  • Pain points

Considering your product or service in relation to each of these points will guide you to your best-suited clients.

For each point, think critically about what you offer, what you can’t offer, what a business might need and what they already have.

Take budget for example. If you have the best solution or the most experience in your area, your offering will be out of budget to some companies. By contrast, if you’re not the best option but you’re more affordable, then you’ll want to position yourself as the best option a specific group of clients can afford.

Leaning into your unique solutions to specific pain points can further clarify who within that budget you are the best solution for.

Considering each factor that goes into an ICP will help you carve out the best client for your business.

What Is a Buyer Persona?

Once you’ve established what companies make the best client, you’ll want to learn about who at that company you’ll be talking to with a buyer persona.

The key difference between an ICP and a buyer persona is that while ICPs identify characteristics about your target buyer’s job type and company type, buyer personas identify the characteristics your target buyer has as a person.

A buyer persona is a fictional profile of a person who represents a potential lead. They’re essential for businesses to understand a buyer’s ambitions, pains and emotional pulls & pushes.

Identifying these details helps bring this “person” to life so you can make a strong impression.

Consider your marketing efforts. If you’re running ads on Facebook or sending a personalized LinkedIn message, having a clear idea of whose attention you want to attract will help you tailor your messaging to capture your audience’s attention.

Similarly, if you’re social selling on LinkedIn, buyer personas help you craft targeted posts and articles; buyer personas are important B2B social selling because the more your activity on social media reflects that you empathize with your buyers’ pain points, the easier you’ll attract interest from people who can be your best clients. 

How Do You Create a Buyer Persona?

To create a buyer persona, research your best clients. find out who, exactly, they are as a person. Your persona can include objective information like industry and job title but should focus on more abstract data like personality.

Some factors to include in your buyer persona include:

  • Demographic (age, seniority, income, education, location, etc.)
  • Professional title
  • Industry
  • Professional goals and pain points
  • Behaviors, personality traits and values
  • Interests

What would good personality traits or emotional triggers for buyer personas look like though? Do you care if lots of your best clients like sports or are vegetarians? Maybe if you sell sports gear or meat-free products, but for most agencies and firms, these aren’t helpful details.

If you’re a marketing agency prospecting for B2B clients, do you produce your best work for ambitious managers who feel stuck? If they lack skills but aspire to be known for being the best at what they do, you might be better off talking about how your services could empower them than what your output would look like. 

But yes, we do mean personas. Plural. Because buyer personas are so detailed, creating a few helps highlight both areas of overlap and niche areas that don’t overlap to help bulletproof your messaging.

If you target companies with 1–50 people, for example, consider the differences between founders and employees. And the responsibilities and priorities of an employee in a 50-person company differs from one in an eight-person company. Or maybe you always work within the 50–100 range but across different industries.

When creating buyer personas, zone in on differences & similarities amongst your ideal clients and create both a brand-level overlapping persona and specific niche personas around personalities. 

Why You Need Both ICPs and Buyer Personas

Your ICP and buyer personas work together to help you form a strong cold-outreach strategy.

Put yourself in your clients’ shoes. You’re a busy professional who gets multiple sales pitches per week through LinkedIn.

Some of those pitches are clearly irrelevant to your business—the sales person has wasted their time contacting you. They probably don’t have a strong ICP nor a clear picture of where to direct their efforts.

Some pitches could be relevant, if vague, but you don’t have time nor interest to find out more. That seller probably didn’t consider who you are and what’s important to you. They need a buyer persona.

And then you get a pitch that resonates. Maybe you’re a scaling business or the seller identifies that you need to prioritize communication without constant meetings. They present a video solution that lets you speak and share your screen like you might in a meeting and sends personalized video outreach at scale.

You resonate with the pain point they’ve identified and understand the potential value in their solution. They’re the only pitch you engage with that week.

There’s a very good chance that they executed on thought-out ICPs and buyer personas to inform their LinkedIn lead generation.

At first it may seem counterintuitive. If you really narrow down your sales efforts, won’t you have a smaller pool of leads?

Well…yes. But the pool you’re left with is specific and you can improve the quality of your outreach, enabling you to target the right people and connect with more qualified leads!

Use ICPs and Buyer Personas to Target Buyers Efficiently

So you’ve done the research, put together your ICPs & buyer personas and you’re ready to reap the benefits of your efforts.

With targeted and well-researched ICPs and buyer personas, you can more efficiently message leads during the outreach stage, such as on LinkedIn.

What’s the best way to approach your LinkedIn messaging strategy?

First, craft your LinkedIn outreach messages using language informed by your ICPs and buyer personas. Pretend you’re writing to those personas and pitch them a specific reason to consider your product or service as a solution to their problem.

Next, adopt a strategy to bulletproof your messaging with AI and send outreach messages at scale.

You can use Sales Navigator to manually filter the people at companies that fit your ICPs, then determine which of your buyer personas to send each person. This is a great strategy for a one-person team with no budget or capacity for more than a handful of clients.

To scale and connect with the right people, LinkedIn lead automation improves outreach by ranking leads based on the likelihood of a reply and provides AI-suggested responses so you can send the right message based on your buyer personas to prospects who matter the most.