Published November 4, 2022

Buyer Personas, Target Market, and ICPs Explained

No matter the business you’re in, it’s crucial that you understand how to market your company to the right people. After all, if you don’t promote your business to the correct demographics, you’ll struggle to get the customers you want (and deserve!)

This article will help you to understand the valuable differences between a target market, a buyer persona, and an ICP, and explain how understanding each of these segments impacts your marketing campaigns so that you can deliver the most value to the right audience and drive more revenue.

Why you need to understand your audience

Let’s say you’ve had a bad day at the office. Two employees have handed in their notice, your veg order is late (again!), the dishwasher is on the fritz, and your KP just called in sick. Not an ideal scenario by any means.

You call your wife to vent, and your conversation is full of frustration and expletives. Next, you call your manager and position your scenario in a professional manner. The same message has gone to two different cohorts, and you’ve tailored your communications to be most impactful for each group.

This is why understanding your audience is important. If you’d communicated to your boss the same way you did to your wife, the message would likely not have been received the way it was intended. The same goes for your marketing. You need to have a deep insight into who you’re speaking to and communicating with for your message to be received the way you intend.

Target market

What is a target market?

A target market is a group of people with shared demographics that will likely be interested in your business. For example, your target market might be as simple and straightforward as “men who like Italian food aged 18-64” or more specific and niche, such as “health-conscious women aged 20-45 who are looking for plant-based alternatives to regular pizza”.

No matter the depth and detail of your target market, what’s most important is that you identify that market that relates strongly to your product or service. There’s no point tailoring your pizza messages to a celiac target audience if you don’t offer a gluten-free option, for example.

Why is understanding target market important?

Marketing is all about delivering the right message, to the right people, at the right time. How will you know who you craft your campaigns for if you don’t know who your target audience is? By understanding your target market, you automatically put yourself in the best position possible for your marketing campaigns to succeed.

Buyer persona

What is a buyer persona?

A buyer persona is a fictional representation of customers within your target market and helps you to get more specific when targeting your marketing campaigns. Of course, you can’t get to know each customer individually, so think of buyer personas as representing different customer groups within your target market, and you’re pretty much there.

Buyer personas are drawn up using deep audience research and insights to create a fictional picture of the different groups. This research is usually performed by your marketing team, but there are plenty of third-party companies that will help you research and build your buyer personas if you’re short on time.

You’ll need to gather information on your target audience’s interests, hobbies, behavioral traits, and key demographics such as age, location, spending power/ income, college degree, and language, and then formulate these into specific personas and groups.

To make things simple and clear, buyer personas usually have names such as Big Pizza Paul or Healthy Helens that represent the specific traits and groups of people. Big Pizza Paul, for example, could represent men who usually order a large pizza and have a lot of disposable income. On the other hand, Healthy Helens represent more health-conscious women.

Why is understanding buyer personas important?

Buyer personas help you to understand your customers better and allow you to tailor your campaigns to best suit your target audience’s needs, wants, and expectations.

For example, let’s say you’re launching a new vegan pizza line. Instead of targeting the launch messaging and campaign materials to all of your customer base, you could send it specifically to your persona group Healthy Helens, whose health-conscious interests and demographics align more with your new launch.

Using this type of strategy ensures that you’re not wasting your campaign budget or marketing resources targeting people who likely won’t be interested in your products and provides those that likely are interested with messaging and campaigns relevant to their interests. 

Ideal customer profile (ICP)

What is an ICP?

An ideal customer profile is a fictitious description of the types of companies that would get the most value from your company’s product.

Wait? Isn’t that a buyer persona?

While the two segments sound very similar, there are powerful differences between the two groups.

An ICP focuses more on the types of businesses that will give your company long-term value. For example, in the pizza industry, this might be Picnic, a supplier, or a POS company. ICPs are typically used more in business-to-business (B2B) activities rather than business-to-customer (B2C). However, understanding ICPs is helpful no matter what industry you find yourself in.

Useful data points and research to look at when building your ICPs are industry, company size, location, business model, estimated revenue, number of employees, pain points, and partners.

Why is building an ICP so powerful?

Focusing your attention on working with businesses that give your company a high return on investment and a long-term partnership will help you save money in the long run. By addressing the types of companies you want to work with, you can begin to target them more effectively.

Whatever marketing campaign you choose to run for your business, make sure that you keep in mind who you’re trying to reach. Utilize buyer personas, target markets, and ICPs to increase the likelihood of your message being received by the right people.