Creating an ideal customer profile (ICP) is one of the most important things you can do for your business. Your ICP impacts much more of your business than you may realize. For instance, it affects your overall marketing approach, how you position your product and service, the words you use, and more.
Remember, you get to choose your customers. That is, you choose who you do business with. You don’t have to sit back and allow customers to choose you (though this may work in some cases). Overall, you’ve got to be intentional and know what you want.
To help you with creating your ideal customer profile, we’ve put together this step-by-step guide.
What Exactly is an Ideal Customer Profile?
There is no universal definition of what an ideal customer profile is, as businesses are all different. What is suitable for one company may not be for another. As well, the ICP constantly evolves as a business grows and changes.
An ICP will also differ between a B2B and B2C as these target different customers. Generally speaking, the ICP is the picture of the customer type most likely to want to buy your products and services. They are loyal to your brand and recommend you to others.
The ICP is also likely to include the size of the company, the business they’re in, the activities they carry out, and why they want your product or service. It’s usually based on data from previous companies that have purchased from you.
Why Create an Ideal Customer Profile?
An ideal customer profile is a valuable tool to help you identify the strength of a prospect and establish who you want to do business with. If a new prospect fits your ICP, then it makes sense to invest in selling to them. They are your ideal customer who you want to do business with.
Along with an ICP, you should invest in a content marketing strategy to further help you establish your marketing objectives. Without a content marketing strategy and an ideal customer profile, your marketing efforts can end up scattered. This means you’ll often waste time chasing leads who are never going to buy. And that’s money down the drain.
The more you know exactly who’s going to buy from you, the better. You can target all your marketing towards this and reap the results—a high ROI.
What’s the Difference Between an Ideal Customer Profile and a Buyer Persona?
The ideal customer profile is for B2B sales teams and focuses on the metrics, while a buyer persona is for sales teams that sell directly to consumers. An ICP broadly describes a target market, and a buyer persona describes specific sorts of people (a persona) in that market. It’s heavily psychology-focused as it considers the demographics and psychographics of the individual you’re targeting.
On the other hand, an ICP uses less psychology and more numbers. Both the ICP and the buyer persona, however, are vital tools to have for your marketing.
The ICP should come before the buyer persona. Marketer Lincoln Murphy says, “Persona development has to come after ICP development because you simply cannot know what the personas look like – let alone what marketing channels, pitch, pricing, or messaging to use – until you are clear on your ideal customer profile.”
How Do you Develop an Ideal Customer Profile?
This is a big question—and one which has three key steps which we will discuss in more detail:
- Identify your best customers
- Research your best customers
- Build a profile of your ICP
Step 1: Identify Your Best Customers
Murphy has devised seven characteristics that a B2B company should consider when identifying their best customers:
- Ready to solve a problem they have (they have identified a need)
- Willing to solve the problem (they are keen to buy your product or service)
- Able to solve the problem (they have the money to buy from you)
- Have success potential (they have the networks and skills to help you grow)
- Acquisition efficiency (they have the funds to keep on buying)
- Ascension potential (they are growing and expanding)
- Advocacy potential (they will spread the word about your brand)
Step 2: Research your best customers
Once you’ve identified your company’s best customers, it’s now time to establish what makes them such great customers. The simplest and quickest way is to ask them. Great customers are typically happy to talk to you about why they like your products or services.
Consider customer surveys, polls, questionnaires, and even phone calls. Don’t forget to show your gratitude by offering something in return. It should be mentioned here that just as it’s essential to research and know who your best customers are, it’s also important to understand who your less-than-ideal customers are.
Knowing what you don’t want paves the way for knowing what you want, resulting in better business and marketing. This step paves the way nicely for your buyer persona research and development, which will be needed for step three.
Step 3: Build a Profile of your Ideal Customer
This is essentially building up a behavioral profile of your ICP. You could do it in a spreadsheet or any format that suits you. Experiment to come up with your own template. Through it, you’ll identify patterns that emerge from the various data you already have on your ideal customer like:
- Their pain points
- Their desires
- Their ongoing interaction with your brand
- Their emotional connection with your brand
- Their socioeconomic status
- Their location
Different Characteristics for the Ideal Customer Profile
It’s important to keep in mind that different companies will have different characteristics for an ICP. For instance, a SaaS solution company would focus on success potential over other characteristics.
According to Woodpecker, a company that creates a SaaS solution for lead generation and sales, the characteristics of an ICP differ depending on the point of view. For example, “from the sales point of view, the ideal customer should be eager to buy the product.” However, “From the marketing point of view, the ideal customer should not only feel the value from the product but should be eager to spread the word about the solution.”
I Have my Ideal Customer Profile—Now What?
Once you’ve built your ICP profile, you are now ready to use it. But before you do, your next steps should be creating your buyer personas and your content marketing strategy. These three tools will skyrocket your marketing and take it to the next level.
Once you start using your ICP, start with prospecting. Your ICP enables you to look at new prospects and run them against a checklist. You can see, for instance, how similar they are to companies that have purchased from you in the past.
With this information, you’re ready to market and sell to your ideal customers. You also have clarity around who you don’t want to do business with—your less-than-ideal customers.
Getting clear on your ideal customer allows you to better understand which companies will find value in your brand, what their needs are, and how to connect with them. For more in-depth marketing guidance, book a time with our team.