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When you know your customer’s motivations, frustrations, and aspirations, you have a Customer Persona. When you only know demographics, that’s an Ideal Customer Profile.

What’s the difference between an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) and Customer Personas? Often, the term Customer Persona is used interchangeably with Ideal Customer Profile. But there’s a difference between the two terms, and I’ll define them now.

An Ideal Customer Profile consists of demographic data accumulated from market research. The conclusion from that research is a particular group of people you know want, and can afford, your product or service.

Customer Personas go deeper. You’ve actually interviewed your ideal customers to discover why they want it. You’ve uncovered their motivations, frustrations, and aspirations. Customer Personas are real people you’ve actually interviewed, not just demographics.

I’ve heard it said that customer personas don’t work. When I read articles like that or watch presentations on the subject, I discover the author’s definition of a persona is basic demographic info—ICP stuff—nothing personal, or it’s a completely fictitious person. Well, of course, they don’t work, it’s either limited information or completely made up!

Customer Personas are stories from real customers

When you know your customer’s motivations, frustrations, and aspirations, you now have a Customer Persona. You have a real person, and that makes it a lot easier to communicate with them. You don’t even have to “sell” them. Just start with their problems or end goals and present your solution.

Ideal Customer Profiles make sure your company’s needs are met so you don’t waste resources marketing to people who don’t want or can’t afford your product or service.

Customer Personas come as a result of focusing on the customer’s need. You know what makes them tick and you’ve made sure your solution will satisfy their needs.

A wise company merges their aspirations with that of their customers. But some companies stop at their Ideal Customer Profiles and never get to know their audience which is why it becomes harder for them to grow their revenue.

Frankly, the two terms are too similar. I’d rather call the Customer Personas, Customer Stories instead. It’s their story behind why they buy products and services like yours. With knowledge of their story, you can develop website content that leads to conversions.

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Published: updated on 07/17/2017.
About Neal Chester

Neal Chester is a web designer, teacher, writer, and marketing consultant. He places emphasis on user experience and conversions. Visit his website and connect with him on Linkedin.