We operate in a consumer-led environment, meaning customers have their pick of brands, products, and anything their hearts desire. So, it’s your job as a marketer to differentiate yourself from your competitors by personalizing the customer experience — and that starts with your marketing.
Understanding your customers and tailoring your marketing to their needs goes a long way toward generating sales and converting loyal customers into advocates. In fact, 66% of customers expect brands to understand their pain points while 63% of consumers won’t engage with a brand that has poor personalization.
The secret to great personalization is creating ideal customer profiles (ICPs), buyer personas, and user personas. Yes, those are all different things; yes, they are all necessary; and yes, they’re confusing. This guide is for all the marketers out there who want to expand and improve personalization and see better results from their marketing efforts.
Personalize your marketing with customer profiles
The key to personalizing your marketing and improving the customer experience is, unsurprisingly, knowing who your target audience is and who you’re helping with your solutions. Each type of customer profile has its own purpose. We’ll tell you what they are and how to build each.
What is an ICP?
An ideal customer persona, or ICP, doesn’t focus on a single person. Rather, it identifies the characteristics that would make a company the perfect customer for your business. It’s most commonly used in business-to-business (B2B) companies and account-based marketing (ABM).
To start building your ICP, you need to gather information. Identify who your happiest current customers are and interview them. You can also comb through your CRM to see which companies visit your site and interact with it more often, and on social media (specifically, LinkedIn) to look for companies that you’d want as customers and construct an ICP based on that. Lastly, you can talk to your sales team to see which companies have been great fits and breezed through your sales funnel.
With the information you gather, answer the following questions:
- What is your ideal company’s background? Define company size, history, vision, mission, location, and industry.
- What stage are they in? Define what funding stage they’re in, if they’re investor-backed or bootstrapped, and what their revenue is.
- What is their budget? Your ideal company needs to be able to afford your products. Define different ICPs for different budgets.
- What problem(s) of theirs do you solve? Define what your ideal company’s pain points are and how you solve them.
- Who makes the purchasing decisions? Figure out what the purchasing process looks like — who makes the decisions and how long the decision-making process takes.
- What does their current tech stack look like? What marketing technology do they currently use? Would your solution complement their existing tech stack or replace it?
What is a buyer persona?
Unlike the ICP that defines an ideal target business, your buyer persona defines the person you’d like to convert to a customer, whether that’s your user (like a marketing manager) or the primary decision-maker at a company (like a co-founder). Both B2B and business-to-consumer (B2C) companies build buyer personas to guide their marketing efforts.
When you put together your buyer persona, you also need to gather data from different sources: your existing happy customers, your product analytics dashboards (e.g., Google Analytics), and your assumptions based on past knowledge.
Buyer persona questions
Here are some questions you need to answer to establish your buyer persona:
- What is your ideal buyer’s dream job? Define what your ideal buyer wants to do for a living.
- What industry are they currently in? Define their current job and what industry they belong to.
- What are their current pain points that you can solve? Determine your product’s main value add.
- Why would they buy your product over your competitors’? Define what makes your product different and better than the rest.
- What are their hobbies and interests? Find out what your ideal buyer likes to do outside work and what they’re interested in hearing about.
- What is their demographic? Determine your ideal buyer’s age and where they’re located.
- Where do they hang out online? Establish where your ideal buyer looks for information online, where they go to find things they enjoy, and so on.
- What is their budget? Know how much you want your ideal buyer to spend on your product.
What is a user persona?
While the other two profiles on this list focus on your ideal customers, this last one tells you who’s already in your customer base. While it’s nice to have dream customers and clients, it’s also important to ground yourself in real-world data.
Your user persona may or may not be your ideal buyer. But they are your customers, so you need to get to know them to maintain a personalized customer experience. Talk to your existing customers, send out surveys, and start conversations with them by asking questions through email. Learning more about your customers and building your user persona will help you craft marketing messages that turn customers into loyal brand advocates.
User persona questions
Here are some questions to keep in mind when defining your user persona:
- What are your existing customers’ demographics? Find out where your existing customers are from, what they do for a living, what their civic status is, and how old they are.
- What is their personality like? Establish what your customers are like — are they friendly, impatient, or a mix? Do they appreciate the cold facts, or a personalized touch?
- What motivates them to wake up each morning? Determine why your customers continue to do what they do.
- What problems are they facing and why are they your customers? Find out what problem your product solves for your customers and how your product solves it.
- What are their current goals? Find out what your customers want to achieve within a certain timeframe, with or without your product.
- What are their main pain points? Figure out your customers’ biggest problems.
- What brands do they follow? Your customers follow different brands — determine which ones they like and why they like them.
- What are their hobbies and interests? To start conversations with your customers, you need to know what your customers like to do in their free time and what they like learning about.
- What stage are they in life? Find out if your customers have a family, if they’re happy with their jobs, if they’re just starting out, or if they’re ready to move on to the next opportunity.
- What technology do they subscribe to? Find out what pieces of technology your customers use and how adept they are at adjusting to new pieces of technology.
Why is it important for marketers to understand their customer profiles?
Knowing who you’re talking to when you create content, tailor ads, and design graphics can make the difference between being seen as spam or as a helpful (and welcome) resource.
The customer profiles above all dig into your audience’s job to be done (JTBD) and how they use your product or service to achieve their own goals. This knowledge helps shift focus from what a company wants to talk about to what their customers want to do.
Building out your ideal customer profiles, buyer personas, and user personas helps you understand all the various stakeholders involved in discovering, evaluating, and utilizing your company and services.
When to use ICPs, buyer personas, and user personas in your marketing strategy
After building your three profiles, it’s time to put them to work. Using this specific information to guide your marketing message will hyper-personalize your content. The more relatable your content is, the more people will engage with you.
Use ICPs and buyer personas for lead generation and nurturing
No matter the marketing material you’re crafting, you need your ICP and buyer persona to craft marketing messages for your target audience that isn’t a part of your customer base yet. B2B marketers need to look at both their ICP and buyer personas, while B2C marketers likely only need to look at their buyer personas.
Some examples of lead generation efforts that benefit greatly from customer profiles are:
- Social media ads – When producing photos and writing copy, knowing who you’re talking to will go a long way in crafting a relatable message.
- Lead generation and nurturing email marketing sequences – Your ICP and buyer persona profiles will help you create everything from your welcome emails to conversation-starting emails.
- Your website copy – Your website is meant to convert visitors. Use your target audience profiles to optimize pages built to convert.
- Your top-of-funnel (TOFU) and middle-of-funnel (MOFU) blog content – Another type of content meant to boost brand awareness and convert customers is your TOFU and MOFU blog posts. With these, you should write for your target audience, so keep your ICP and buyer personas in mind as you write to maintain the correct focus.
- External, lead-generation webinars – When building webinars to generate and nurture leads, use your ICP and buyer persona to guide your choice of topics.
Leverage your user personas to engage existing customers
Since your user persona is a profile of your existing customers, use it to create content for your existing customers with the goal to foster relationships, upsell, and get referrals.
Here are some types of content you can craft with your user persona:
- Customer-nurturing sequences – It’s important to continue to nurture your existing customers, even though they’ve already converted. Leverage your user persona to create nurturing sequences that encourage your customers to start conversations with you and think about upgrading or making a referral.
- Creating help documents – Preempt your customers’ inquiries with your user persona and create help documents that answer questions they may have about your products and/or services.
- Exclusive webinars – Keep your customers in mind to develop educational content that’s valuable and memorable.
- Your bottom-of-funnel (BOFU) blog content – Craft your targeted BOFU in a way that speaks to your user persona to upsell or educate.
- Your referral marketing sequence – Encourage your loyal customers to become advocates with messages that appear to be written specifically for them.
At the end of the day, you need to use all three profiles in your marketing strategies to get the best results.
Wrapping up — Utilize customer profiles for more impactful marketing
To sum up, there are three commonly used customer profiles: an ideal customer profile, a buyer persona, and a user persona.
An ideal customer profile is a generalized overview of your dream buyer at an organizational level. It’s often used for ABM and B2B businesses.
A buyer persona is a personalized profile of an individual you’d like to convert, including their goals and JTBD. It’s used in both B2B and B2C businesses.
A user persona is the person who actually uses your product or service. It includes what they like and don’t like about your brand, deal-breakers, motivators, and also their JTBD. A user persona is sometimes the same as your buyer persona, but doesn’t necessarily have to be.
Your customer profiles guide your marketing messages. The more specific your profiles are, the more targeted your messages will be. Don’t miss the chance to gain a new customer because you didn’t understand who they are, their JTBD, and how your company furthers their goals.