There was a time when our agency would do business with anyone who wanted to work with us. It helped ensure that our people had a paycheck at the end of the month, and we were getting a lot of projects that we were good at. What's not to love, right?
But we discovered that many of our good-paying clients were also our worst clients. We bent over backwards for them time and time again to do amazing work, but we weren't enjoying the work and the clients were never fully satisfied. What went wrong?
Don't Do Business with Everyone
Just because someone wants to buy from you, that doesn't mean they should be your customer. They may be the perfect embodiment of your buyer persona, and you may be able to serve their needs—but that doesn't mean you should.
You have an ideal customer who "fits" who you are, what you do, and how you do it. It's those customers, and only those customers, that you should be aiming for in your marketing. This is in our sweet spot—it's one of the services we do best for our clients.
Today I'll introduce you to the Ideal Customer Profile, or ICP. You'll discover:
- What an Ideal Customer Profile is
- How to create an ICP
- How to use an ICP in your B2B marketing
An Ideal Customer Profile Isn't a Buyer Persona
First of all, we're not talking about buyer personas. Although they're related, an ideal customer profile is different. Whereas a buyer persona is customer-centric, the ideal customer profile is marketer-centric. A buyer persona helps you attract the individuals who have certain motivations and pain points, but an ICP helps you to understand the type of organization you should do business with.
In essence, an ICP allows you to benchmark your leads. Is this company worth nurturing? Do they "get" you? Will you be energized working with them, or will they sap your time and energy away from other valuable work you'd rather be doing?
So how do you figure all this out before you start doing business with a new organization? Good question! A strong ideal customer profile will help you quickly identify the bad eggs before you put them in your basket. It'll also help your prospects to self-select out, so you don't have to write that breakup email.
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Creating an Ideal Customer Profile
To create the ideal customer profile, you’ll need to gather some key data about your ideal customers. Visualize your favorite customers as you identify the following:
Key company demographics:
- Company age and/or stage of maturity (start-up, growing, declining)
- Number of employees
- Company infrastructure (franchise, privately held, publicly traded, etc.)
- Geographic area/region
- Number of office locations or sites
- Annual revenue or sales volume
The ideal customer's industry characteristics:
- Industry type (construction, oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, etc.)
- Products or services offered
- Target market (who are their customers?)
- Industry norms and values
The company's needs and pain points:
- Why does this company want or need your product or service?
- What are their specific problems or pain points?
- What do they believe are the solutions to their pain points?
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Put it together
Using the data you gathered about your ideal customers, create a one-page customer profile. Start with a few sentences describing your company and its mission. Next, list the attributes of the customers you want to reach, including:
- Their demographics and other characteristics
- Their values, needs, and pain points
- How they make buying decisions
Describe why your product or service is right for them. Ultimately, a great ideal customer profile clarifies the mutual benefits of your customer relationships: what opportunities you offer them and what opportunities they offer you when they choose your business. Check out The Whole Brain Group’s ideal customer profile as an example.
Using Your ICP
Distribute copies to your staff so that everyone gets a chance to look it over and discuss it. Review your profile at regular intervals to make sure it continues to feel relevant, amending it when necessary. Once you've created your ICP, it's time to put it into action.
Your marketing team should use it to create content that attracts and nurtures your ideal client while helping non-ideal customers to self-select out. Your sales team should use it for lead scoring. Other internal teams should keep it handy, too--for example, project teams that interact with your clients should be able to review their fit as your relationship with them develops.
Finally, although the profile should be treated as an internal document and neither published nor distributed to customers, you might want to share it with referral partners. (If so, make sure it’s worded wisely!)
Reaping the Benefits
Taking the time to define your ideal customer in detail will show you how to speak to them in a way that truly resonates with their needs. Clarifying the characteristics of the customers you’re trying to attract to your business also goes hand in hand with crystallizing your own strengths and goals. As a result, you’ll find yourself attracting the kinds of customers that fit you best—which sets the stage for your success.
Your ideal customer profile is just one element you can use to set the stage for greater marketing ROI. Need help getting your inbound marketing under control? Our personalized service packages can get your marketing in order fast!