Marketers and leaders make a lot of sweeping statements about the importance of personalization and targeting. 

Here’s a brief sampling:

  • “We can target the exact prospects we’re looking for in ads.”
  • “Our content must speak to our audiences' pain points to be effective.”
  • “We need to grow with the right kind of customers.”
  • “We don’t want a huge funnel, we want to be targeting only the right kinds of prospects.”
  • Etc. Etc. Etc.

These statements are easy to say. They’re also technically true. But an organization’s ability to achieve each of them requires discipline to define who should be targeted and when. 

This is where many organizations fall short. They fear that limiting their focus to a small sliver of prospects will damage growth. Our experience has been the exact opposite. In fact, focusing on acquiring only ideal customers will lead not only to increased effectiveness in sales and marketing, but better scalability when it comes to service delivery and customer success.

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Enter the ideal customer profile.

The tool of choice for narrowing sales and marketing focus at A Brave New, and many other marketers, is a tool called the ideal customer profile (ICP).  An ICP describes the essential ingredients of your perfect customer. The one you wish you could clone. 

As I mentioned before, a clearly defined ICP benefits all areas of the business. But remember, for it to do so, it must not only be defined, but adhered to by both sales and marketing. The  moment someone relaxes on their targeting requirements, the benefits quickly disappear.

Here are a few of the benefits the ICP provides for each area of the business.

Marketing Benefits

  • Clear and specific ad targeting
  • Insights into the key questions that must be addressed in content and marketing materials
  • An understanding of the roles that must  be targeted to successfully close a deal

Sales Benefits

  • Crystal clear lead qualification standards
  • Matrix to utilize during active prospecting
  • Focus that allows you to build templated sales presentations and process to meet the needs of your ICP

Customer Success Benefits

  • Consistency of customer type and industry that allows you to create a playbook that will work for the majority of potential customers (there will always be some exceptions)
  • Customers that are likely to work well with the company framework because they match the profile of clients that you’ve successfully served in the past

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So, what’s included in an ideal customer profile?

Every ICP is a combination of objective information that you could easily search and find, as well as more subjective information that lives inside of your team’s head. You must include both to get the maximum value out of your ICP

The objective facts

Any ideal customer profile should be targeted by the following elements:

  • Revenue
  • Employee count
  • Geography
  • Industry verticals
  • Product type
  • Sales targets
  • Other requirements you may brainstorm

Once you’ve identified the objective facts, you should be able to search and find 500-1,000 companies that match your criteria using a prospecting tool like Zoominfo or Seamless.ai

Next, it’s time to unpack the subjectives.

The subjectives

Think about the subjective stuff that can’t be found in a simple Google search. These are all the little details that move your ICP beyond a catalog of industry verticals you want to work with to a detailed sketch of the unique type of company that you can successfully serve. We typically think through the following subjective elements:

  • Key roles that must be in place for you to succeed
  • Ideal team makeup and size
  • Philosophies or mindsets that prospective customers must have
  • Organizational pressures or pain points that must exist
  • Buyer’s committee makeup
  • Purchasing power

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How to start building your ICP

If you’re convinced of the value of an ICP, it’s time to get started right away. We recommend a data-centric approach to defining the objective facts and a collaborative approach to the subjective elements.

Data feeds objective facts

The best way to define the measurable aspects of your ideal customer profile is to analyze your customer base and identify what all successful customers have in common. This can be as simple as pulling the data and doing the analysis yourself. Ask questions like:

  • Are successful customers a certain size?
  • Do they typically fall in a specific revenue range? 
  • Where are they typically located? 
  • What industry verticals are they in?

Typically this type of ad hoc analysis will get you 95% towards what you need. But, if you want to get the additional 5% and discover any hidden factors that all of your best customers have in common, bring in an analyst who can do a more detailed dive into all of the available data points to identify those that are the most important. You might be surprised by what you find.

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Drawing out subjective factors

The subjective elements of an ICP are easier to think of but much harder to verify. These are all the elements that come out as you get to know a client but are not immediately apparent during a Google search.

To begin defining these, I recommend gathering together the people who know your customers best for a quick working session. During the session, have a conversation about your 3-5 best customers and discuss the following:

  • Why were you able to be successful with the customer?
  • What about their approach made you a good fit for them?
  • What specifically made your relationship strong?

Having these discussions  will help you identify key commonalities between all of your best customers that need to be present in future customers. Capture them in a list, add them to the objective facts, and you’ll see your ideal customer come into focus.

Once you’ve written down your ICP, roll it out with your team. Be consistent and stick to it. Don’t allow yourself to get distracted by other types of customers that will bog you down and slow your growth. The right kind of growth will follow, growth that can be sustained by sales, marketing, and customer success.

Still doing some research into inbound marketing? Click here to read our guide: Generate the Right Leads, Build Trust, Achieve Breakthrough Growth.

Written by: Josh Dougherty
Category: Strategy
May 13, 2021
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