Who is User Persona and what the hell is ICP

User Persona = biases + behaviour
Understanding your clients allows you to design and offer better
services, products and experiences as these matche to their expectations.
It is too simplified to think all your clients are alike.
There is no such thing as Average Client.
ICP - Ideal Client Profile
Know your business and your clients to whom it is a perfect match.
Knowing your ICP helps you avoid unhappy clients and churn.
Filter out wrong clients to build up wrong expectations.
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Humans are social creatures, most of us have vivid imagination, we are able to dream and design unknown in our heads. And we can analyze. Creating Personas is combining all these abilities to give specific guidelines to communication, marketing, sales and service people.

Most likely you have a number of Personas among your clients. Some of them will never be happy as you product or service does not support their needs fully! Some groups are tiny enough not to pay attention to these. Some groups are big enough with opposite expectations you have to consider, creating another product or service perhaps. Some issues reveal themselves later.

By having a clear understanding of Personas you are able to forecast what each new idea or feature would provide as a value to your existing clients. It is a tool to validate whether your ideas would work or if your marketing campaign addresses right people.

It is critical for you to understand your Ideal Client Profile to deliver and grow your business. If your clients have biases and needs that match your product or service values – then you make money and keep everyone happy.

Targeting and serving clients not matching your ICP is expensive, nervous, un-fulfilling, hard work with high churn rate. Even when it worked fine you started your market research or business, it is adviseable to re-evaluate your ICP profiles from time to time. The best KPI’s are usually deminishing market shares and leaving clients. We’ve seen also a number so startups where marketing and sales brings big number of clients, yet the churn rate is higher of clients remaining. It means maybe they are targeting wrong clients…

Who is User Persona

Operating with your clients is demanding job and knowing with whom you deal with lets you to make better decision in lots of ways. Lets look at it a bit deeper. 

WHY – Understand your clients to change for better. Better service, better products, better marketing, better income.
Persona is a imaginary fiction person to whom it is really easy to relate to and with whom we have ability to check whether our assumpions fit or not.

HOW – There are lots of approaches on the market. Everyone is trying to describe it with own words and you can google it yourself. What I have learned over the years is that we tend to pick our next clients based on good experiences. We just focus on some criterias and then we try again and again. Instead we could have more systematic approach to it. I’ll give you few examples wht might help you.

TECH – Data is the king. Analyze who are your clients. Which criterias there are, what patterns you see. One could use software for that as well, takes less time, gives faster better results. Ask me, I have some suggestions what tools to use.

ANALOG – Imagine what would they look like, give them name, face, personality. If it’s a person, then you know who it is, what she/he does, how behaves, what is looking for. You can estimate behaviours and reactions.

TYPES – a) Goal directed – when Persona is trying to reach a goal or solve a problem. Usually it is UX question, but once you analyze it together with demographic point of view it all becomes more complex as different demographic groups might act differently. 
b) Role based – when Personas are fulfilling some role related to a job for example. Their motivations may differ from young mother or unemployed person’s. Considering these criterias the generel understanding changes signifficantly.
c) Engaging – or as I’d like to put it, more psychological. There are perhaps lots of matching criterias but few that define that user. And we understand that we are not willing to serve these clients. Or the opposite – this is clearly neglected group of people we can serve.

1. Collect data, dig in database, conduct survey, etc.
2. Form a hypothesis and confirm it with your research team.
3. Establish a final number of Personas you work with. No need to go into micro-details.
4. Describe Personas in level of detail it is clear, understandable and usable.
5. Describe action situations/scenarios where they make decisions.
6. Get acceptance from others that this is it – the real stuff.
7. Update when there are changes happening.

1. User research
2. Abstract/condense
3. Brainstorm
4. Refine outcomes

1. Fictional name
2. A picture of a fictional person
3. Tagline that sums up the person – who she/he is and is looking for to do
4. Persona group (Consultant, single mother, teacher, student)
5. Job title and related responsibilities
6. Demographics (age, gender, education, etnicity, family status, children, pets, living in city/countryside, in flat/house)
7. Environment physical, social, technological
8. Psychographics (what she/he enjoys/dislikes, tends, prefers, appreciates)
9. Endgoals (Problems, goals and tasks trying to complete)

1. Define the purpose of your service/product/website/training – what you expect the user persona to do.
2. Describe the user – Personal criterias, Professional agendas, Technical level.
3. Motivation – what motivates Persona to do what we hope for.
When trying to design a new website, service or product ask questions that are related to these 3 categories. More questions you aks for, more clear it becomes and more risk-free it is to go on with production. 
4. Does your Customer Journey allows that all to happen without unnecessary hassle?

What the hell is ICP

You could also look at it from the other perspective as business is about making money afterall. Pleasing all clients is a mission impossible. Therefore it is adviseable to know which customers are most profitable for your business.

You can analyze what common criterias your happiest clients share.
Or you can analyze what painpoints you solve having specific skills, knowledge.
In any case aim for the longer Life-Time-Value.

When designing you product or service, always aim for the future. Knowing current painpoints is good, if these last or grow in the future – even better. Take in consideration all possible market expertise you can to design a solid picture of your ICP that is willing to buy your solution to their problem today and in longest possible future.

When Personas are about users then ICP is more about company and technical criterias to meet about benefiting from your product or service. Usually these are defined by:

  • size of the company, 
  • average revenue, 
  • ideal industry or industries, 
  • product/service and/or limitations,
  • tehcnologies used,
  • pain points,
  • legality,
  • location, 
  • etc. 

As client refers more to a business then Persona refers more to a person makin that decision representing a role and a need to solve selection of problems. Even if the Persona is right fit there is a chance that she/he is not your right ICP.

Having a clear expectations of what are these core funtions and features that your product/service has and what of these your client has to use in order to get “best possible experience” to to be your ICP makes your churn rate signifficantly lower. So yes – by attracting wrong personas/clients to sign up with wrong messages may end up having a huge traffic, marketing expense and high churn rate. And it is not bad onboarding, non-qualified tutorial, helping hints or customer support’s fault. It was just poor ICP/Persona description for marketing people who then generated sales funnels and marketing materials.

Who wins - Persona vs ICP

Perhaps the question is not about winning but combining this knowledge. Once you know who are you targeting as ICP then you also understand how you could approach them the best, knowing all possible Personas. 

Not all possible Personas match your Ideal Client Profile, therefore the order always has to be ICP over Persona. Yes, it means some of your “best” clients are actually not your best in terms of bringing money with lowest possible cost. Yet again, you might need nearly 80% of low return clients to attract 20% high return clients. This can be revealed by combined analyz of Personas service portfolios and their Customer Journeys – which are the steps they go through and why they end up being your Ideal Client Profile or eat up your profits.

When Persona is about real people, why they buy then ICP is about clients you want to have to grow and make money.

Right approach would be to have ICP always first, then go deeper with buyer Personas. Remember – you may have different Personas willing to use same product/service for different reasons. Therefore your marketing approach has to consider these details.

Lets wrap it up

Each product or service has usually more than 1 Persona who has specific behaviours and biased thinkings that work for your benefit. You need to identify these. Sooner the better.

Going after wrong clients burns you fast. So focus on right clients who let you grow and make you fly.

Existing Personas are not necessarily your best match in terms of ICP. Paretto principle might have a point here in terms of having your pool of clients with different service portfolios as their Customer Journey defines if they become your ICP or are eating profits. It’s your responsibility to find out and make decisions.

Everything keeps changing. So do ICP and Personas, as companies’ needs and people keep changing. Yeah, some get too old, some are having buying power tomorrow. Look ahead today. Look for trends.

Next steps

  1. Describe your Ideal Client Profile to evaluate with whom you should deal with to make money and keep on growing. 
  2. Define 1-5 Personas for your product or service in your organization or startup. 
  3. Combine your ICP with current Personas and make a decisions necessary to survive/grow.
  4. Change/make policies, filters and guidelines how to prevent wrong clients ending up in your client list. 
  5. Communicate findings to your team and educate them what and how to.
  6. Implement ICP concept from day 1 of you being in charge.
  7. Write me a note what did it change in your organization.


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