Often marketers forego the idealistic for the realistic. We set ourselves achievable goals. We’re rejuvenating expectations. Instead of shooting at the moon, we often shoot at the more likely, but still valuable, stars. This is often what makes marketers great: we know how to maximize profits and minimize losses.
However, there is a time when idealism can work for us. When developing a marketing program, consider building one ideal customer profile. An ideal customer profile is an exercise and a tool to understand your target audience and optimize your marketing efforts.
What is an ideal customer profile?
An ideal customer profile (ICP) is a comprehensive report on your company’s perfect customer. Ideal customer profiles are crucial for account-based marketing (ABM) and targeting corporate customers.
Ideal customer profiles are often used in B2B marketing. They enable marketers and stakeholders to understand the institutional needs of their target market. With an ICP, marketers can customize programs to better meet these needs.
Why use an ideal customer profile?
If you ask any B2B marketer in the world, they could probably tell you that they are a company of a certain size that is in a certain area of the world and has a need for their product.
The problem? Some of these companies that fit this profile are ideal customers, while others are less than ideal. When budgeting your digital marketing efforts, you want to focus on the best match.
With the help of an ICP, B2B marketers can understand the entire customer journey and find a stronger product-customer correspondence.
What is an ideal customer?
For example, suppose you have an extremely high income customer. They are loyal and pay you the equivalent of 50 smaller customers. Great right?
However, they use 80 percent of your server bandwidth. You have half a dozen dedicated account managers. You need customer support around the clock.
Is that your ideal customer? Would you like to replicate this customer 100 times? Or is your ideal customer a bit more manageable so that your company can scale and grow?
It can be easy to have dollar signs in your eyes when thinking of your ideal customer. In this case, it is important not to equate the largest bill with the best value.
An ideal customer is one who is profitable, scalable, and suitable for your business growth over the long term.
How do you create an ICP?
There are six steps to creating an ideal customer profile.
Collect customer data
Start with what you already know. Consult data captured through your CRM, customer data platform, and other analytics tools. This will begin to illustrate the quantitative trends in your target market.
You may want to use a spreadsheet or business intelligence (BI) solution to overlay your customer data. This way you can spot trends and note your “best” customers.
Identify “ideals” in your customer data
As you search your data, keep some traits of your best customers in mind. These can be linked to sales, customer acquisition costs and / or sales cycle length.
Once you have identified the categories, you get specific. Is your top-selling customer $ 10,000 / year or $ 100,000 / year? Were they expensive to buy? Did they have the longest or shortest sales cycle?
If you answer these questions about customer loyalty decisively, you will not get a picture of a customer, but of the ideal customer.
Document customer characteristics and demographic data
Identify the things you can see about your ideal customer. These could be yours:
- greatest decision maker
- Number of employees
- Corporate structure
- Annual sales / share price (if applicable)
- Board structure
Explore the unknown about your ideal customer
You know how your customer interacts with your company. However, that’s a small piece of who they are.
Here are some questions to ask your best customers when creating an ideal customer profile:
- What was the pain point that made you search for our product?
- What are the other weaknesses or immediate needs of your company?
- Who in your company will benefit most from using our product?
- What other B2B solutions does your company use?
- What are the prospects for your company and your industry in the next few years?
Indicate how your company is helping your ideal customer.
So far, you’ve created an ideal target account profile. How do you turn this into an ideal customer profile?
Document how your product serves your ideal customer. Your new understanding of your business should make this exercise clear. How does your product solve the weak points and how will it stay that way in the future?
Document your results in a customer profile.
After completing your research, combine your results in your final customer profile. It should paint an accurate picture of the company you want your product to use. This will guide your digital marketing and sales teams that you want to target.
Ideal customer profile vs. buyer personality
Modern marketing programs are based on buyer personalities or fictional versions of potential customers. If you are selling a manufacturing product, your buying personalities might be “Project Manager Pam” or “Budget Owner Bob”.
Buyer personalities are useful when you use marketing to activate buyers on a personal level. XYZ Manufacturing won’t click your LinkedIn ad or read your blog post, but project manager Pam could.
Ideal customer profiles are zoomed out from the buyer personalities. They are a holistic view of the entire company and not the weak points of the individual decision maker. Ideal customer profiles and buyer personalities are best used together.
How can you use an ICP?
The modern B2B marketing and sales process is based on a real understanding of the target market. An ideal customer profile can influence these sales programs in several ways:
Enhance your account-based marketing
An ideal customer profile serves as a template for a target account list for account-based marketing (ABM). Your account-based marketers can use an ICP as a template for finding prospects.
Improve MQLs & SQLs
Use your ideal customer profile to qualify leads. If a lead is less than 50 percent similar to your ideal customer, you can take it off your funnel. You can also use a rubric to compare leads to your ICP. That way, you focus on leads that have the potential to be your best customers.
Improve your product market adaptation
Your ICP may have revealed that your ideal customer has needs that you are not meeting. This profile can identify gaps in your product market adaptation. These gaps provide opportunities to innovate your product. This can lead to better, longer-term customer relationships.
By creating an ideal customer profile, you can refresh your focus on digital marketing and sales. When you complete this exercise, you can once again focus on getting the best customers to grow your business with.